What is your message?

We all have a message. God has made us each unique and accounted for. We have our own victories and struggles, and we need to be able to own all of it. 

I have tried to write for twenty-four hours and just couldn’t. Sometimes I am just stifled by the world. Many times I just can’t figure out what the heck is wrong with me. If I suffer, I shouldn’t be suffering, I should have joy. I shouldn’t talk about the pain in the world, or the pain I’m feeling. My message should be supplanted by the one you have for me, your ideas of what God has for me. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me on the inside. I know what’s wrong on the outside. God wouldn’t let me write, and well for good reason. I was trying to write someone else’s message. 

The Jennifer Fulwiler show as I have mentioned so many times before is a source of light for me.  It’s inspirational as it is funny, eclectic, deep thoughts through a Christian lens. But it’s real, it’s who God called her to be. I appreciate it for introducing me to people I would otherwise have never known about, but also for the subtle messages that God provides through Jen’s microphone. I listened to the on demand episode from yesterday, and in the midst of the two hours of taking my mind to a secluded island, I found a gem. Jen had this to say after an interview with a local Christian rapper:

“The message that God calls you to put out there, just do it.”

It was like a knock to the head. What? It’s o.k. to be me? I can talk about suffering? I can talk about ugly things?

I had to reflect on that a bit. What is my message? What am I trying to get across?

And that led me to a song that someone gave me when I first found Jesus. He had listened to it himself and told me that when he heard the song, he swore it was written about me. When I was first introduced to it, I listened to it on repeat five hundred and one times because every word of it was sacred. It was the story of my life…

You must listen to it yourself to understand its depth, but its theme is unmistakable. Why do people think there’s something wrong with me because I am me? Because I question? Because I wonder if there’s a God who cares about me?  Did anyone ever consider that this is just the way God made me? Here are a portion of the lyrics:

Maybe this was made for me
For lying on my back in the middle of a field
Maybe that’s a selfish thought
Or maybe there’s a loving God

After hearing Jen’s commentary today, I remembered the song. It has been a rough week and I have felt myself spiritually lying in that field, questioning, while others think that I shouldn’t be. And I realized, that’s ok.

My message through my writing, my talks, my ministry, my conversion has never changed. I can’t help that. I can’t help that I’ve experienced trauma or that I hate being a working mom or that my son has ADHD or that the world sucks. I can’t help that I cry every time I see a homeless person or an abused child. I can’t help that I identify with the suffering and pain of Christ and it’s where I feel closest to him. My message will never change- It’s o.k. not to be o.k.

There are people out there who need to hear that. That it’s o.k. to cry or be an atheist because you believe God killed your mother. Why are we always trying to save people? Why can’t we let them go through whatever they are going through, why are we always stifling suffering?

I realize that the reason I wrestle so much is because people are uncomfortable with suffering. They don’t want to talk about the hard stuff. They don’t want to hear about my sexual abuse or how it effected me, or my son’s disability or how the things I see at work everyday in the criminal justice system affect me. I work in suffering. I am in the business of suffering. And when I read the next report and the next report that comes in about another suicide or rape, I silently close my eyes, and pray. I understand…

I urge you to think about your own message, your uniqueness. The person maybe you think you’re helping but really are alienating. How you may be trying to play the role of Jesus.

Listen to the song…

Why New Year’s resolutions may be Un-Christian of you

Leave, Notes, Paper Ball, Office, Paper, Note, PenIf we are living in communion with Jesus, we understand that we are not living on our own, or at least we are not supposed to anyway. I find that sometimes in my haste and attempt to find the easy way out that I set goals. What I want, what I need. I don’t invite God in, I just simply have ideas in my mind and sometimes begin to work towards them. Until I am making phone calls and setting time aside and joining activities only to realize that I never asked God for his opinion…

Even though God is infused in my life, in my being, I still make the mistake of thinking that it’s my road. I may be walking on it, but he is the paver. And sometimes I find myself echoing HELLO! in the desert with no return response. Ever been there? You’re laughing. Of course you haven’t…

I’ve been making a lot of decisions lately. Decisions about my career, my kids, my schedule and what my priorities are. I am not an addict of illegal substances but an addict when it comes to self-help instruments and the many promises they make. I can do it all, be it all. I can make and achieve any goal that I set my mind to.  I can hear the cheerleaders on the pages as I turn them, until I am reminded it is the Lord that sustains my life (Psalm 54:6)

So I sat back down to think about all of the things I am trying to accomplish (cough cough CONTROL) and the fact that Jesus was never invited to the table. I don’t want to be an attorney anymore, heck I never wanted to be an attorney in the first place. But I have never asked God if that’s what he wanted for me.  My overwhelming desire to be a mom with a flexible schedule has overridden my desire to let God in. Why? Well, because I’m afraid of what He might say.

The catechism talks about man seeking to attain his own goal apart from God. This is discussed in the context of the fall. These are the subtle ways the enemy gets us, “Surely you will not die.”  This idea of making goals apart from God, trying to achieve things without asking, moving in a worldly direction without seeking biblical advice. Lucky for me God doesn’t just shut doors, he slams them in my face.

The Holy Spirit is our compass, leading us to where we need to be. The Lord has placed directions there that are illuminated through His son. Prayer brings us step by step to the places we need to be, with fewer detours. Places we should have been in the first place.

I encourage you to take those goals you’ve made and ask the Lord about them. Ask Him to guide you and bless you, and slam doors in your face if necessary. I encourage you to include those goals in your intentions as you pray the rosary. I encourage you to write them down and pray through them, specifically, each one. If He does not answer you one word, you’ll know. 

No one shall appear before me empty handed

Jesus Christ, Rio Janeiro, Christ, StatueWe follow Jesus at a distance- following too close is costly. For everything that we are and everything that we strive to be still has some meaning in the world, as long as we let it. We can tell ourselves that one or two drinks will be o.k. but then we drink ourselves to excess. One night will not lead anywhere. God will rescue me. But if God is the rowboat, we are the oars, and some of us have forgotten how to paddle.

Jesus is not a lot of talk, he is a lot of silence. He does not babble on and on and write you excuses for what it is you want to do. He is a mystery in this world, completely not of it, and therefore not a partaker in its sin. 

We come empty-handed to God expecting magic tricks. If I pray enough, If I read enough scripture things will surely change for me. But the bible is not a wand and our words to heaven are not hocus pocus. Change from within is a slow process and we have to come with something, something to leave behind and sacrifice on His holy altar.

Nobody thinks much about sacrifice, it is counter-cultural. But Jesus is counter-cultural. If Jesus walks left, we should be walking right. The journey is dirty. It is too much to leave what we have and be with Him. We love our addiction more than we love Him. We are addicted to our own selves and the selfishness that it produces.

You don’t have to leave the world to follow Him, well not in a physical sense anyway. But yes you will have to leave the world. That includes your pride, your drugs, your definitions of what is acceptable behavior, your just this one time, your excuses, your holding onto the world. The drink may go down smooth, but Jesus refused it for you. He felt his pain.

The gospel is harsh. It is not a neat package or clean or money raining down from heaven. It is not undefined. There is no confusion about what it says, the world confuses that. It is bright lines. You don’t like it because it’s not easy. You don’t like it because it is speaking directly to you. You don’t like it because it requires you to sacrifice the very thing that you love, and you love it more than you love him, so you follow Him at a distance.

“the whole world  (which) is in the power of the evil one” makes man’s life a battle.” (Catechism 409, 1 John 5:19).

You’ll never get anywhere if you can’t touch him; if you are sitting down with the servants to see the outcome. (Matthew 26:58). The gospel is not a show in high-definition. 

“Peter was following him at a distance as far as the high priest’s courtyard, and going inside he sat down with the servants to see the outcome.” Matthew 26:58

God’s Voice

WillowTree

The earth melts at the sound of God’s voice

And rejoices as his whisper soothes

Those who pursue his solace

For once we walk the road of choice

Toward God, we can hear him everywhere.

His sparkling sound speaks precious truths;

It matters little the time or place.

The branch hears the Spirit pray;

From the Vine all sustenance conveys

For life is found there.

 

Thank you to Melissa for the inspiration for this post

The Path of Thorns

There’s no way he can worm his way out of this one! We were able to catch this woman dead to rights in the middle of adultery. I can’t wait to see the look on his face when we present her to him. If he excuses her, he will have violated the Law of Moses, and if he condemns her, he will prove that he is just like us. It’s the perfect setup! Finally, we can expose him for the fraud he is.

When we arrived at the Temple grounds, this Jesus fellow was teaching some more of his nonsense to a gathering crowd. Oh are they in for a surprise!

“Teacher,” one of my colleagues interrupted as we burst on the scene, “This woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” As he finished his statement, I reached down and picked up the nearest rock signaling for the crowd to follow suit.

At first, Jesus looked like he had been caught off guard, but instead of fumbling for an answer, he just took a deep breath, let it out, and then knelt down to the ground. He began to draw in the sand as the watching crowd drew in a little closer to see what he might be revealing. Does he think that we’re so naive? Hah! Look at him, acting so calm and collected like he has all the answers. He’s just stalling for time!

As I glanced at what he was drawing, however, a chill suddenly shot up my spine and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. Everyone else seemed oblivious, but somehow I knew from the first few strokes what it was—a cross!

Did he know? Had he overheard? It was only an idle comment. My colleagues and I had been discussing this Jesus character a few days earlier. I jokingly made the suggestion that we could set him up so the Romans would crucify him. Had someone told him? Had he been lurking somewhere in the shadows? Or….was he….was he really from God? My heart sank and sweat began to soak my brow as I realized we may have made a terrible mistake.

Just then, one of my colleagues began demanding an answer from Jesus. Jesus stood to his feet, closed his eyes, and let out another long sigh as though he was deeply saddened. Then, he opened his eyes and looked in my direction. At first, my heart began to race, but as I looked into his face, he had a rather remorseful look about him. I couldn’t hold the gaze for long though so I looked away—right to the ground where the completed cross had been drawn. No one else seemed to have noticed since my colleague’s outburst. I began to tremble as my grip tightened on the stone in my hand. It was only a brief moment, but it felt like an eternity tormented by the situation.

“Alright,” Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.” This time a bolt of lightning rushed up my spine. I was certain of it now; somehow he knew what I had said. As I hesitantly looked back up, unsure of what to do now, Jesus was looking directly at me. At first I wanted to slink to the back of the crowd, but I noticed that his demeanor had changed—now, he had the most loving expression on his face that I had ever seen. It was like he was saying that it was okay, that he wasn’t angry with me—that…that he was letting me off the hook! Again, his gaze was too pure to look at for long and tears began to well up in my eyes. As I looked down to the stone in my trembling hand, a million thoughts raced through my mind. Why would he just let me off the hook like that? Why didn’t he seek revenge? Why didn’t he tell the crowd the truth—that we….that I had suggested he be setup and crucified? How….how could he just forgive me like that? Is this how our Father really is—loving us even at our worse? What can I do now? Oh God, this is such a mess!

As all these thoughts echoed in my head, tears trickled down my face and splashed against the parched stones. What have I done!? What have I been doing with my life!? The weight of the stone began to increase exponentially. I remorsefully dropped it from my shaking hand, and it hit the ground with a loud thud. I didn’t know what to do, but I could no longer stay there. As I made my way through the crowd, I heard the people murmuring to each other. My compatriots, though, seemed quiet, but I didn’t turn back to see what their reaction was. Then, one by one, I began to hear other thuds as I was making my way out of the crowd. Others were leaving the scene right behind me, but I didn’t turn back to look. Instead, I began to disgracefully run. I ran without stopping through the streets until I reached the residence I maintained there. I rushed to my quiet place and fell to my knees, sobbing uncontrollably.

“God, please forgive me!” I yelled repeatedly. I knew I wasn’t supposed to say his name out loud, but I no longer cared if anyone overheard. My position among the religious teachers was probably forfeit already, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back anyway. Perhaps I should just move back to my hometown. At least my family is still there, and they didn’t have to witness the events of today.

As I sat there weeping, a sense of immense peace came over me that I couldn’t quite explain. I felt that somehow everything was going to be alright.


Jesus and I had a few beautiful conversations after that. I found myself drawn to his loving presence though often his words were so counter to everything I’d been taught to believe. I tried to convince him to stay away from Jerusalem, but he kept assuring me that everything was going to turn out exactly as it was supposed to. I also tried to find the woman that we had condemned to stoning, but she seemed to have disappeared—and asking around was getting me into more and more trouble. Jesus assured me that everything was going to be okay with her also, and that she had her own road to travel. I tried to trust him at his word, but it’s hard to let go of the control I thought I had for so long.

I never returned to my position in Jerusalem, though I often pleaded with some of my former colleagues to abandon their pursuance of Jesus. I spoke with Herod also insisting that Jesus really was the Messiah—the Son of God! I even petitioned Pontius Pilate not to give in to the Sanhedrin, but all was to no avail.

Now…here he is—the Messiah…our Savior—-beaten and bloody, forced to make the trek to Golgotha bearing his own cross. Tears streamed down my face as he stumbled onward, hardly able to carry the weight. I felt powerless. Is this really the path he was destined to take?

And then….he collapsed.

My heart sank as I thought of all the anguish he had already endured. I looked up to see some of my old colleagues across the way. Some looked smugly satisfied at the scene, though others looked troubled, like deep down they knew this whole charade was wrong. Was it happening to them too? Were they becoming remorseful at what was going on? Was Jesus’ love breaking through to them also?

As one of the soldiers prodded Jesus to get him on his feet again, I could no longer stand there and do nothing. As I stepped out, Nicodemus grabbed my arm and whispered harshly, “Simon, what are you doing!? You’re going to get yourself in trouble with the Romans—and the Sanhedrin—and Herod! Think about your family back in Cyrene!” As I looked at Nicodemus, tears dripping from my face, his eyes too begin to swell as he could no longer hold back the pain in his own heart. He sighed remorsefully then nodded as he loosened his grip on my arm.

As I stepped out, I placed my hands together and upright in front of me to show the Romans I had no weapons or intent of violence. I immediately caught the attention of one of the soldiers. He began to ready his spear, but then realized my composure. For a moment, he seemed a bit perplexed. He looked back to the other soldiers that were still attending to Jesus. After a brief moment’s thought, he looked at me and nodded. “You,” he stated loudly enough to catch the attention of the other guards, “come and carry this man’s cross.”

Relieved that he understood, I walked over to Jesus and placed his arm across my back and his cross on my shoulder. We then, slowly, made the agonizing trek onward to Golgotha.

Wood and Stone

This is absolutely the worse day of my life—and probably the last! I can’t believe I was caught in the middle of the act. I’m struggling to cover myself as the religious teachers and Pharisees are dragging me through the street. They seem almost smug as they talk about a teacher they are taking me before. If they are this merciless, I can only imagine how this teacher will judge me.

As they toss me into the dirt, I see a crowd gathered, still somewhat perplexed by the intrusion. The men who drug me here then turned to the teacher and stated my offense—caught in the very act of adultery!

“The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” one of the Pharisees demanded.

The teacher seemed like he was in mid-sentence before the interruption, mouth still poised as though he was ready to continue his teaching. Instead, he sighed deeply as he looked to the man that had asked the question. The teacher seemed greatly disappointed, but not with me—he seemed disappointed with them!

Suddenly my mind was a buzz. Who was this teacher? Why was he disappointed with them? Perhaps they should have brought my lover along also….and how did they know what we were doing?

The crowd began searching for stones as the teacher was looking at the religious leaders with an expression of great sadness across his face. Then, he simply bent down and, of all things, started doodling in the sand! What he was writing didn’t seem to have any meaning, yet the crowd was focusing on the patch of dirt intently as though some great wisdom was going to manifest itself from the dust. It was then I noticed that all of the attention had been taken off of me—everyone was focused on him instead! He…he was taking all my guilt and shame onto himself!

Yet, it wasn’t long before one of the Pharisees began demanding again that the teacher give them an answer. The teacher slowly stood up, closed his eyes, and let out another long, disappointed sigh.

“Alright,” he said with sorrow as he opened his eyes again and looked at an elder at the head of the crowd, “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.” As the teacher looked compassionately at him, tears began to well up in the elder’s eyes. He averted them to the stone in his hand, focusing on it as though he was thinking back to some deeply traumatic event. As tears began to stream down his face, he dropped his stone and slowly turned to make his way through the crowd and away from the scene. As he was walking through the crowd, others looked stunned at the elder’s tears and began similarly looking at their stones. One by one, they began sorrowfully dropping their stones to the ground and walking away. A few in the crowd looked to the religious leaders still remaining who at first seemed infuriated, but then remorse seemed to slowly overtake them as well as though they were the ones who were naked and exposed. One by one, they too began to slip away.

When I looked back to the teacher, he was again doodling in the sand. This time, though, what he was drawing began looking slightly more familiar—three crosses like the Romans used to crucify people. For some reason, tears began to well up in my eyes also.

He then stopped doodling and looked at me with a deeply compassionate gaze and said, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” I was sure there was a glimpse of a smile as he asked.

I struggled to find words as the entire situation had twisted so much. As I looked around again, I timidly said, “No one, Lord.”

“Neither do I condemn you,” he replied as his face burst into a warm, radiant smile, “go, and from now on sin no more.”

For a moment, I felt as though I didn’t want to go. It was so beautiful here in his presence, and I truly felt free of sin. As he gently smiled again at me, reality snapped back and I realized that I was at the Temple half nude. I quickly stood and hurried back to my home.


For some time after that encounter, I wondered just who he was, and why he had told me to “sin no more.” Sure, I had never committed adultery again, but how is it possible to never sin again? Later, I heard someone proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom has come near!”—Just turn around, the kingdom is right here! These words seemed to penetrate to the depths of my soul, and it flourished again reminiscent of when I was in the teacher’s presence. Yet, I still felt unable to break totally free of sin, and I still felt too ashamed that I would be recognized in public if I began to seek answers.

As I was again turning over these things in my head, I reached the outskirts of the city to dispose of my refuse. I was relieved that it was unusually dark that day, making it less likely that I would be recognized on my journey. As I looked, I could barely make out the silhouettes of three crosses on the top of the hill. Suddenly my heart stopped and I felt I couldn’t breathe as I remembered the teacher’s drawing in the sand. I dropped everything I was carrying and ran frantically up the hill. The soldiers standing guard looked at each other perplexed as I hesitantly approached the battered body on the middle cross. It…it was him….the teacher who had saved me from being stoned not long ago. Just above his head was a sign, “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.”

The teacher…was Jesus—the one they say is the Messiah. Suddenly, what was happening washed over me like a tidal wave. Just like he had taken away my guilt and shame, he was now taking away the guilt and shame of the entire world! He was freeing everyone to “sin no more.”

I fell to my knees and began to sob uncontrollably. “This isn’t right!” I screamed aloud repeatedly as I rocked and moaned—the King taking our place….taking my place….As I again gazed up to him, he had opened his eyes and was looking in my direction. There was still such passion in his demeanor, and for a brief second, I almost thought I saw the glimmer of a smile as he was looking at me. Then, he took one last agonizing breath and said, “It is finished…”

Neighbor

Ridiculous! There’s no way those dirty, filthy outsiders can be considered my neighbor!

I had heard of this Jesus fellow’s teachings, so I wanted to test him to see if he really knew the Law, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

In turn, he asked me what was written in the Law, but I knew the answer to this one! Most people just think it’s hundreds of rules to be holy, but I’ve studied the deeper meaning.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” I recited confidently with pride in my knowledge.

“You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” Jesus stated bluntly.

Wait, he just agreed with my conclusion? What is he trying to get at? Is he implying that I’m not loving God or my neighbor? Exactly who does he think I’m not loving that I should be?

“And who is my neighbor?” I retorted. I knew he couldn’t possible expect me to love those horrid Roman invaders or all these other outsiders invading our lands.

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho,” he began. Okay, I know that path well. It’s a rather long cliff that circles down south and then back around north to Jericho.

“and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.” he continued. Yep, I knew it, those filthy robbers, I bet they were Samaritans. Those good for nothing outsiders. They need to be driven from our land.

A slight smile creased Jesus’ face as he continued his story. Was he responding to what I was thinking? Did my expression give away my thoughts?

“Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.” he said, still with a slight grin on his face. Well of course the priest couldn’t help—he has a duty to the Temple! He must remain ritually clean so he can perform the constant task of cleansing sin. If he were to touch the bloodied man, he would be doing a great disservice to the rest of Israel by shirking his sin management duties….Wait! How did the priest pass on the “other side?!” There is no “other side” on the path to Jericho! It’s a sheer cliff!

Again, Jesus with the smiling! What’s he thinking?!

“So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” he continued, still with a slight smile across his face. Yeah, of course the Levite couldn’t help either. He too would become ritually unclean and would not be able to perform his duties to the Temple and the priests….Wait! Again with the “other side” business! Does he not know the path to Jericho, or is he being intentionally facetious?! Maybe I should correct him…

Jesus, though, interrupted my thoughts as he continued, “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was.” What?! Why is he including Samaritan filth in this story?! I guess he’s going to show how cruel the Samaritan is by comparison. The priest and Levite at least had legitimate reasons for not helping. This evil Samaritan will probably torture the poor guy some more just for the fun of it.

Jesus continued on though, again interrupting my derailed thoughts, “and when he saw him, he had compassion.” He glanced in my direction, again with a grin. I could feel my blood begin to boil! How dare he say such a thing! A Samaritan of all people having compassion. He didn’t even mention the priest or Levite having compassion—they just passed right on by, avoiding the victim! As my anger continued to rise, Jesus went on to explain that the Samaritan bound up the victim’s wounds, took him to an inn, paid for his stay, and offered to cover any other expenses!

“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” Jesus stated now solemn at my disposition.

I was now fuming with disgust and refused to even say the name aloud. “The one who showed mercy.” I sneered, unintentionally displaying the anger that had been building inside me.

Jesus nodded and a huge, beautiful smile erupted across his face. Suddenly my heart melted as all my anger faded away in his loving presence. I felt the tears begin to well up as his warmth gently penetrated through my core.

“You go,” he stated softly in the midst of his loving gaze, “and do likewise.”

Suddenly, it all made sense. I knew the Law, and even the deeper meaning of loving God and neighbor, but I still didn’t quite get it! Not until he showed me—my neighbor is everyone. I’ve always labeled and categorized, only loving those that I was taught I should…while hating everyone else. Yet, the Samaritan was a neighbor whereas the priest and Levite, though they were trying to uphold the laws of cleanliness, failed the spirit of the law—love!

But why would Jesus do that? I was trying to trap him, but instead of revenge, he loved me into an entirely new reality! Anyone else would have destroyed me had they gotten the upper-hand. But he…he loved me instead and showed me how to truly live—how to truly love my neighbor!

It’s true what they’ve all said—it has to be! He really is the Messiah! He really is going to change our world!

Life

I couldn’t believe it! It was really him—the teacher everyone’s been talking about. I wasn’t sure if he really was the Messiah, but from what I’d heard, he had wisdom far beyond even the Pharisees.

I approached him quickly before he set out again. Kneeling, I asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to live life to the fullest?”

“Why do you call me good?” he responded.

What?! Isn’t he good though? I thought being good is what having a full life is all about.

“No one is good except God alone.” he clarified, perceiving I was a bit perplexed. This only further stumped me though. Sensing my confusion, he continued, “If you want to live a fulfilling life, keep the commandments.” Yes, the commandments—then I’m on the right track!

“Teacher, I’ve observed the commandments all my life. Is there something I’m missing?” I replied, trying to sound humble but also acknowledge that I was meeting the standards of righteousness.

Then he looked at me with the most loving gaze I’d ever seen. My heart was as light as a feather and for a moment, nothing else in the world mattered—I was at complete peace. I felt what was coming next was going to be wisdom far beyond my reckoning. I knew that whatever he had to say, it would be the beginnings of the life I’d always sought.

“If you want to be perfect—sell everything you have, give the money to the poor, and come and follow me. Then, you’ll have treasure in the kingdom.” he stated.

What?! Did he just raise the bar on me?! That’s not fair! I’ve observed the Law, I’ve been good, I’ve given money to the poor already! Why should I have to give up everything?

I felt a deep sadness creeping in. I didn’t understand. Everything I’d worked to achieve—am I to just give it all away? How am I to survive?

As I walked away with my head hung low, I heard the teacher make a statement to his followers, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom!”

This seemed to be a kick when I was already down. My heart felt like it had been shattered into a million tiny pieces. All that I’d done to build a good life was totally disregarded.

“Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!” the teacher continued, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God!”

This time, I couldn’t help but to look back. I saw the disciples all with stunned looks on their faces like the teacher had just grown a second head. Then….I looked back to him. Our eyes locked, and he was beaming with the most radiant, loving smile I had ever seen. My heart melted all over again, and I felt the tears welling up inside of me though I couldn’t consciously explain why.

“Then who can be saved?!” one of the disciples asked astonished—the question I was still fumbling to form in my mind.

The teacher’s loving gaze turned back to me, then he answered, “For man—it is impossible, but not for God. With God, all things are possible!”

For a few moments, that statement caused me to pause, knowing there was some deeper meaning just below the surface. Suddenly, it hit me like a ton of bricks, piercing me to my very core. Of course! I’d been going about it all wrong! I’d been trying to earn the good life through my own works. I was trying to buy my way into this kingdom he was presenting. But…but…it’s impossible by my works to enter the kingdom—it’s by him! He’s the One! He’s the Messiah—God’s promise to us for entry into life! It’s all beautifully upside-down. All my possessions are worthless in his kingdom!

Beginning to have some inkling now of how to truly live, the teacher, still looking in my direction, nodded with a grace-filled smile as though he knew my very thoughts. As I departed, the conversation continued between the teacher and the disciples, who still seemed somewhat perplexed. Yet, for me, I felt everlasting life was truly beginning!

Lost Hope

Rocky beamed will glee, as did we all, when Josh said, “That is enough.”

We were having a lively discussion (again) about who was the best of us when Josh commented about how the greatest among us would be like him, a servant. We barely had time to consider this when Josh turned solemnly to Rocky and started talking about how Satan was going to sift him like wheat.

A hush fell over the room and Rocky’s face glowed red as he began to work up a nervous sweat. Suddenly he blurted out, “I’m ready to go with you to prison and death!” We all echoed Rocky’s sentiment, yet Josh stated that Rocky would deny him three times before the rooster crowed at dawn.

Before we had time to contemplate this, Josh, looking a bit saddened, began to talk about how he had sent us out before. Now thinking about it, when we returned then, we were argu….discussing who was the greatest and Josh brought a child before us to illustrate.

Josh interrupted my thought derailment with a question, “You didn’t take money, or luggage, or even shoes when I sent you out before yet all was provided, correct?”

We all just set there, unsure of what to say or where he was going with this or if he was just asking a rhetorical question.

“But now,” Josh continued, “you need these things. Go ahead, sell your coat and buy a gun if you don’t have one.”

With this, a rush of exhilaration brushed through the room. It was time at long last! The revolution was about to begin! The invaders of our country were about to be thrown out! The corrupt government and the religious scoundrels were about to be overturned! Finally, it was time!

Someone blurted out excitedly, “Look Josh, we have two guns right here!”

But Josh, looking a bit distraught, sighed almost sadly, “That is enough….”

We all just set there a bit confused as Josh stood up to walk out. What did he mean by the two guns being enough? Is that all this coup would take? Was he going to use his powers to end things swiftly? Was he going to call up his Dad to send in his troops?

Or…did he mean something else? Was he tired of that discussion? Was he trying to make a point? Was he telling us to stop thinking that way?

“That is enough….,” That one phrase still echoes heavy in my head and through my heart today.

Once we realized Josh had exited the room, we quickly rose to follow him. It seemed we were all hoping that what Josh meant was that the revolution was about to commence. We followed him by moonlight to one of his normal digs. He stopped us at the entrance to the garden and said, “Pray so you don’t give in to temptation.”

Huh? Was he referencing what we were all thinking? Was he saying that our revolution wasn’t about to start?

Josh walked a bit further and collapsed to the ground. I heard him begin to pray aloud with increasing intensity. He sounded like he didn’t want to lead the revolt. I was jostled back and forth between hope and despair. Was he really who we’d been expecting? Was he the one that was going to lead us into our new golden age? I thought I saw a figure clothed in white with Josh comforting him as he began to pray more earnestly, blood dripping from his brow.

The next thing I remember is Josh poking me and telling me to wake up and pray so that I wouldn’t fall into temptation. Had I really fallen asleep? How long had I been out?

Just then, I saw something that snapped me awake. A crowd was approaching in the dead of night. And of all people, Judy was leading them! Was this reinforcements for the revolt? Had Judy been gathering together our army while we were here? Was this what Josh told him to go do? But then I saw he had priests and their bodyguards with him. Before I could consider what was going on, Judy leaned in and kissed Josh.

“You would betray me with a kiss?” Josh asked as Judy looked away ashamedly. What was going on? Did he give up on Josh leading the revolt? I mean, we all had our doubts, but we would never sell out Josh like this!

Rocky caught wise to what was going on quick. He drew his pistol and fired it from the hip right towards one of the priest’s servants. The bullet ripped the servant’s ear clean off of his head. We all began to search for any weapon we could find. I could hardly believe it myself, the revolution was starting! Finally we would have our revenge for all of those years of being oppressed! Finally we would be able to take back our country at the barrel of a gun—with Josh leading the charge!

“Put you gun away!” Josh exclaimed,  “Don’t you know that those who live by the gun, die by the gun?” We all froze stiff not knowing what to think as Josh reached down, cleaned off the servant’s ear, and reattached it to his head. Josh spoke some more to the priests and bodyguards, but my head was spinning so much that I couldn’t focus on what he was saying.

In the midst of my confusion, Josh responded to their question with a resounding, “I AM he.” The priests and bodyguards all fell to the ground with only that pronouncement! I was startled myself as my hope began to rise again. Perhaps Josh didn’t want us to fight at all but just follow him along as he overthrew those in power and struck down the outsiders by himself.

Before I could finish forming another thought though, Josh was being escorted away in handcuffs. It was then I began to wonder just what his plan was. I had always assumed that he would conquer by force and restore our nation to its’ rightful place. But now…he was walking away shackled…

What was going on?!


As the next few days passed, I could think of nothing else to do but return to my former job. When Josh was captured, we all scattered and it seems we were, fortunately, forgotten about by the authorities.

From what I heard, Josh didn’t have much to say at his trial, and I couldn’t bear to go to the execution. I mean, I didn’t want the soldiers to recognize me or I could have been executed too…and what good would that have done?

Still, I feel…I know…that I failed him—that I should have done more. But what?! Even when we tried, he told us to stay our hand. There had to be something we could have done, but if not with a gun, what? Pray?! Josh did a whole lot of that, and even with all the power he had, he was still executed.

Perhaps I should count myself lucky and just keep my mouth shut and my head down from now on. I can’t possibly see how our world will be changed anytime soon now that Josh is gone….

The “Body of Christ”

Leonardo's BodyImagine… standing in the Pulpit, facing your congregation, and saying…

“YOU… are… the body of Christ.”

<< pause >>

“You… ARE… the body of Christ.”

<< pause >>

“You… are… THE BODY of CHRIST!”

<< pause >>

“Now… how’s that going for you? And Him?”


I was vehemently struck with this awareness this morning during Church.

God created All. Man fell. God established (re-established) a caretaking intimate relationship with man again throughout the Old Testament (or tried to, despite our best efforts). Man refused to draw close to God through embracing the Law and letting God mold his heart. God then became Man in Jesus, and embraced all the Law, absorbed into Himself all “cosmic disorder”, and personally fed all of that into the maw of disorder’s most horrendous product… Death. The Father then raised Him from the dead, destroying Death in the process, and Jesus returned to heaven in His Union with The Father. In that reunion, the way was paved for His Essence, His Spirit, His (literally) “Breath” to come among us, into us, and take possession of our abode, our temple, our lives… when we allow.

How incredible is all that?

What’s more, Jesus has “translated” us from the worldly kingdom of darkness, to His Kingdom, the Kingdom of Light.

So, when we yield to Him, when we say “Yes, Lord!” adopting Him as fully Lord of our lives, He not only “signs the Title Deed” of the house, but He Himself takes residence, assigns a Kingdom Address to the dwelling, and calls us “HIS Body”.

Is this true of the Church Universal? Yes.

Is this true of the Church? Yes.

Is this true of the Local Church? Yes.

Is this true where “two or three are gathered”? Yes.

AND

This is true, as attested time and time again throughout Acts and the Epistles, of the INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN.

So… let me ask again… “How’s that going for you? And Him?”


We could spend weeks on exactly how this all plays out, and I encourage those here who preach or teach to do so. But for here, for now, I just want to suggest a couple ideas.

If we are the “body appointed” for the use of Jesus Christ in our own lives, our own universe, is there any reason to think Jesus would do anything radically different in THIS body, than He did in the one borne by Mary? Or than He instructed through the Disciple/Companion/Friends in the Gospels? I think not.

So… with the utmost simplicity, what is Jesus trying to do here, now, today through your body (or mine, for that matter)?

Well, what did Jesus do with THAT body, the first time around? Simply put…  here’s the key passage:

 

7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Philip *said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus *said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. 12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. 15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” [John 14]

In short, then, Jesus did the Father’s will, spoke the Father’s words, and did the Father’s works.

Too simple? Hard to get a grasp on? OK, then how about His instructions to the Disciple/Companion/Friends?

16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28]

AND

12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. [John 15]

Still too broad? Not specific enough as to “mechanics”? As to the “how, precisely, do we DO that?” Well, that brings us back around to the Sermon on the Mount for a set of instructions on how to do this, in detail.  Matthew 5:48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (And “perfect” here as in “finished” or “nothing broken, nothing missing”.)


Your denomination doesn’t matter, nor does your race, age, sex, occupation or education. If, and only if, you dare to accept Jesus Christ, at face value, as “Lord of your life”… then He has need of you, your arms, legs, lips, relationships, family and environment… through which to continue to build His Kingdom. The massive up-side of all this is… the grace given, the grace received, and the grace flowing through “His body” (you, me, him, her, them)… carries with it Life, Love, Truth, Joy, Beauty, and every other good thing of which He is author.

So… “How’s all that going for you? And Him?”