Sweating drops of blood

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I freaked out the other night.  Didn’t dare go to sleep.  Too scared to go to sleep.  Yet sometime in the early hours I must have dropped-off.

I have seen a few blogs leading up to this-almost-Easter remark how the bible tells us that Jesus sweated drops of blood.  I have no idea how you sweat drops of blood.  Never have and hope I never will.  Never wanted to emulate that element of God Soft Hands Jesus .

But I get the imagery.  That he was freaked out.  Scared.  Terrified beyond scared.

In these times where death stalks silently … without regard for power or privilege – irrelevant to age or health – with and without apparent logic … I get the reality of facing death.  A painful death.  A death where saving my life might be judged less than saving another.  A death where I will be alone of family and friends.  Will be buried without fanfare or closure.  May even become a statistic.  Probably a painful blot more than “normal” on the lives of those I love.

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This Easter we each face death no matter how complacent of our own immortality.  A death unlike the story books.  No concerned family around the bed.  No quiet conversations of comfort.  No tender looks and gentle touch.  No dignity.  Nothing of how we imagine our final breath and words to be.  If you have read the accounts of death by Covid19 they are not a death I would wish on anyone.

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The cross I was taught was fact.

Now I care not whether fact or fiction – real or imagery.  This Easter I begin to understand a little better.  Better than from the comfort of a polished pew in a heated sanctuary surrounded by like-minded (and healthy) congregants.  Each of us with a shiny silver nail as a prompt to enter the rose-tinted sentiment-imagination of death by cross.  A death that was also a “respiratory illness”.  Of lungs that collapsed as breathing became something he used to do.

We are well into the annual debt-fest of Easter.

But this Easter I feel no noble sacrifice.  I sense no honour or dignity.  I have no gratitude or debt.  This Easter I look up and see me and see you.  All of us caught up in something we wish we were not.  All part of a journey beyond our control.  This Easter I see a man not God.  This Easter I see friend not distant deity.

This Easter I care not if it’s a master-plan of foretold prophecy … no interest in debate of a PLAN A or PLAN B … no annual pining to feel even a little of what “our Lord” suffered “for me”.  This year I wonder whether any of that really matters – whether so much of this “rose-tinted and sentimental” bible teaching really matters.  This Easter I crave not the immortality of eternity in some imagined “heaven”.  I pray not for the “second-coming” to save me from all of this.   Right now I see no “sin-filled world” wallowing in its own depravity – about to get the come-uppance “they” deserve (and which I as a good Christian will escape).

This Easter I pray for one more day – lots of “one more” days – right here with those I love in this world that is precious and resilient – a world so beautiful and forgiving of our thoughtlessness.  Right now I want to be with those I love rather than in separate homes.  I want to hug the lady I love rather than have to keep half a house distant.  I pine for the touch of skin on mine: a handshake – a hug – a cuddle – a rough-house … For the breath of a grandchild on my face – even the snot of a toddler to wipe clean – and oddly a nappy to change – I imagine not really caring if that mug of tea was mine or yours.

Sweating drops of blood.

Mine?  Freaking out and not daring to go to sleep for a few hours.  And yet …

Perhaps this Easter my connection is closer than ever.  Perhaps this Easter I need no shiny nail – no like-minded congregants to surround me.  Perhaps this Easter I “get” a little better what the bible invites me to get.

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This world is beautiful.  This world is home.  This world is precious.  This world has everything I desire. 

This world is a world I wouldn’t choose to exit.  This world – and this virus – cares not what I believe nor which religion I claim nor the future I teach nor those I label as good or bad.

This virus is teaching me – maybe all of us – just how much we are ALL connected whether we choose to or not.  How we are ALL the same no matter how much we protest we are not.  How Love really IS the greatest of these – and just how living in the moment of a touch or a breath or a glance CAN BE the eternity of “heaven” I never usually notice.  This Easter I feel closer to my immediate AND global family than ever.

And isn’t THAT the real message of Easter?

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Day 89- Will you change after this mile?

Are you ready to Change? Join me in a guided audio meditation to God’s peace

http://www.spreaker.com/user/melissazpresser/a-guided-meditation

On the Pilgrim Road

A Meditation

Good morning everyone,

The Holy Spirit moved me this morning to write and record  this writing as a  meditation for all of you. Enjoy and God bless you!

As for me, I know that my vindicator lives, and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust. This will happen when my skin has been stripped off, and from my flesh I will see God.

Job 19:25-26

What does God have to allow in order for you to see Him? How far will you take it? The loss of a job, a friend or even facing your own mortality? Can we be faithful to God even unto death? Do we really believe in the resurrection?

These are all difficult questions to answer as our faith is on proud display. Your life at this very moment is like an art show, what is your canvas displaying?

Sit with…

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Be Happy, God will understand

I recently listened to an interview I found by happenstance of an old acquaintance.  I had always admired her brilliance and tenacity, her quiet way and her commitment to her religion. I don’t think it is important for purposes of this story to tell you what religion she is, it is enough to know that she was devout and humble all at the same time. 

I don’t know what made me think of her, but I was curious to see what she was up to. Last I had seen, she had the perfect career and perfect life, still devout and lovely. But this interview was different. It was many years later and life was not so perfect. Her religion had not changed , but her life had. So she was quick to meld her words to fit her life’s circumstances. My God would understand this, and He would understand that. I have to make myself happy and I cannot worry about what other people think. I was perplexed. Her God had remained the same, her devotion the same, but her life had not. So she fit her God into her life’s circumstances to ascribe to a “Be Happy God will understand” theory which completely blew my mind.

These thoughts were not unlike so many I have heard and areas which Paul has recently explored on Just Me Being Curious where he discusses openly the hypocritical Christian and their unconscious quest to use the bible as a weapon. Paul goes into an in-depth discussion of whether the bible is fiction and other deep-rooted and tough questions, but the message is deeper than that. While my old acquaintance sings a song of “Be Happy God will understand” the song that Paul’s talking about is more along the lines of “The only way to believe is the way I do.” Both schools of thought though steeped in religion are cloaked in secularism. Twisting our way into what “we” believe is right or wrong based on our own selfish notions. What bothered me about the interview was not the fact that she was still devout to her God. What bothered me was that she had made God devout to her.

This is a continued thought in our culture, in our world, where we make God just ours. The bible or Quran or Torah can have only that person’s interpretations, and there is no other room. It is this way or that, no room for exploration or understanding. It is the reason that modern-day religion is more secular than it is anything else.

I look to those who have criticized Mother Teresa’s care for the dying. She a Catholic, speaking to them and praying with them in their own religion, their familiar God. Restoring their dignity in the last breath with a comfort each individual will understand. She has played a great role for me in understanding the human person and Jesus, and the dynamic that exists between the two.

You see if we were really Christians, people would know. We wouldn’t make God live in a bible, or on an altar, or in a Sunday sermon, we would let Him live in us. It’s not a matter of conversion, it is a matter of being. I don’t seek to convert anyone other than myself to be the love that Jesus is or was. I don’t subscribe to the “Be happy God will understand theory” because taken in context that is a selfish way to be. The only way for me to live is ensuring that I am doing my best to invest my happiness in you. More like, “Be happy, invest that happiness, because I acknowledge Lord that it comes from you.”

When we get outside of ourselves and realize that God is much bigger than a t-shirt or a slogan, the real work begins. Because if we’ve discovered that life is not about our own self-satisfaction but rather attending to the needs of someone who will never be able to repay us, following Jesus gets real.

If you ask me if I’m a hypocrite I’ll tell you yes, that I am working on it. If you ask me if I’ll convert you, I’ll tell you I’m too busy working on myself. If you want me to show you God, I’ll try my best. But it will probably involve a cup of coffee, admitting who and what I am and asking for your forgiveness.

Religion … thought for the day

Forms of the word

Dictionary: θρησκεία, ας, ἡ

Greek transliteration:  thrēskeia

Simplified transliteration:  threskeia

Frequency in New Testament:  4

Gloss:  religion, worship

Definition:  religious worship, Col. 2:18; religion, a religious system, Acts 26:5; religion, piety, Jas. 1:26, 27*

Greek-English Concordance for θρησκεία

Acts 26:5
for they have known from the first, if they are willing to go on record, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest party of our religious (thrēskeias | θρησκείας | gen sg fem) system.

Colossians 2:18
Let no one rob you of your prize, insisting on self-abasement and the worship (thrēskeia | θρησκείᾳ | dat sg fem) of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up with empty notions by his earthly way of thinking.

James 1:26
If someone thinks that he is religious, yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion (thrēskeia | θρησκεία | nom sg fem) is worthless.

James 1:27
Religion (thrēskeia | θρησκεία | nom sg fem) that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their time of trouble, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Bill Mounce

 

Matthew Mark Luke John??

Nada. Zilch. Nein. No.

Seems Jesus never used the word. Not like we do. Not like we like to. Not like we like to own the word.

Not like we all seem to mean God or Church or Love or Compassion – just with a different spelling.  Not like that.

From what I can see.

 

(my thanks to The Smiling Pilgrim, “Verse of the Day”)

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

I will meet you

20160514_070935The challenges of motherhood are many, but it is who I am. I never asked God to make me famous, rich or powerful. I never asked him for a big house or lots of friends. I grew up with a sense of knowing, what I now know is my vocation, motherhood. There was never anything I wanted more than that. But I had a sense from a young age that would be a struggle. The Holy Spirit was present and alive to me ever before I knew who Jesus Christ was, and even though I was not a believer in Christ, I knew God and saw His hand in my life. So when I struggled to have children I found it a curse, cruel, a God that didn’t hear my shouts for mercy, my Hannah prayers, my desperation.

For those that have not grappled with infertility, I am glad for you. Out of all the things I have contended with in my life, this by far was the greatest fight for my soul. I wanted children like I wanted water, it wasn’t a choice, it was a necessity.

After several opinions, I stumbled across a doctor willing to help me. His name was Dr. Christie, I can’t make this stuff up. I was not a believer in Christ at the time but even I as a Jewish girl recognized the name. It was subtle. God doesn’t bulldoze his way through, He glides gently. It was one of a series of small whispers, God’s call to me. Subtle.

Dr. Christie was my third opinion. I came armed and prepared with my research and data. I had by this time diagnosed myself. I had come from a doctor who told me I’d never have children unless I paid him $25,000. The world of infertility is legalized extortion. I told myself that this time around with this doctor, I would put him to the test.

But he wasn’t like the others. He was quiet, kind… unassuming. At the time he was working in a small infertility office. He had been at the job exactly one week.  The specialist that owned the practice brought him on. That specialist was booked up for six months. But not Dr. Christie- he was available right away.

I hesitated to make the appointment. The words “he’s wide open because he’s new” are not usually a good sign. But something drew me in. I knew it was his name.

I sat down with the good doctor. He was visibly nervous. He had just moved his whole life to Florida and he was a true southern boy, accent and all. But his presence was calming to me. We spoke, and he rattled off his diagnosis- the same one I had come up with. I told him he was hired. He told me he couldn’t guarantee me anything, but that I was a good candidate for an alternative to IVF.  He told me with a smile that he had a good feeling.

We started the process, Shlomi and I. It was a perpetual wave of emotions. We started out with pills, then moved on when I told Dr.Christie that I was ready to go for it, full force. He smiled again. He knew why.

More drugs this time in the form of shots. What an emotional time. Your husband injecting you in the hopes for a baby. He was so gentle. I would cry out of sheer emotional pain. It wasn’t the needle that hurt me, it was the reminder of the needle that hurt me. But Shlomi was there encouraging me, telling me, I was going to be a mother, He was sure of it.  Another subtle reminder. Another subtle reminder of Jesus.

Several months, lots of drugs, emotions high and the blood test that changed my life. A call from Dr. Christie. I was on edge. I had been pregnant twice before and lost those within a couple of weeks. I closed my eyes.

I was pregnant, and he had a suspicion that it was multiples.

I felt the sting of the needle, unsure of God, could He be this cruel? It was my birthday, 2008.

7 weeks in I entered the room. There were three. Shlomi, Dr. Christie and me. Dr. Christie had inadvertently become an inextricable part of my journey. I trusted him. And before I looked up to see the ultrasound, to hope for a baby and not an empty sac or no heartbeat, I looked over at Dr. Christie. He told me he had a good feeling.

And there it was. His good feeling on a screen. His instinct. My pain. The needles. My husband’s confidence in God. And my husband was an atheist at best. Two sacs. Two heartbeats. Two babies in my belly. That is when I knew God had not left me. That is the moment I knew that God had not forgotten me, my destiny, to be a mother. And He didn’t stop there. Three months after I delivered my twins I found out I was pregnant with my third. No drugs or doctors or needles. God filled my belly. Why? The first prayer I ever prayed from my heart that I understood, not in Hebrew.

God I want another baby. Please God give me another baby, and He did. 

Although my third was not the result of any intervention, I only trusted Dr. Christie. With my condition, I knew there was a high chance I’d lose this one too. And I couldn’t, I couldn’t lose this one. And he happily agreed to monitor me for Meadow’s first 12 weeks of life. He was there when I heard her heartbeat too. I knew it was a miracle. Only God could do that…

I believe I was destined for the cross, destined for Christ. I believe God chose me before I ever chose Him. I believe God picked my vocation and filled my belly with three babies. I believe in divine providence and its many and numerous gifts. I believe He dresses me in sacred vestments. I believe His altar is wherever He meets you.

Exodus 30:6, “This altar you are to place in front of the veil that hangs before the ark of the covenant where I will meet you.”

The Church as We Know Her

Recently, God started revealing another aspect of this Christian walk that I couldn’t quite figure out for some time. A simple statement someone mentioned opened up a beautiful perspective on the “why.” First, I wanted to explain a little of the background, relevant as to how I’ve come to see things.

It appears many Christian organizations are adamant about defending their stances while claiming Biblical backing. Mostly though, this backing seems skewed. One example (of many), when Paul speaks about deacons and overseers, the requirements wouldn’t be terribly hard for the majority of “laity” today. Yet many in a congregation are relegated to participating in a weekly ritual instead of becoming deacons and overseers as new fellowships form. The requirements have now been elevated beyond the reach of most laypeople. Instead of a spreading, there is a containment in deference to building a ministry upwards instead of letting it flow outwards.

What we see in the early church is an out-flowing as congregations spreaded from house to house and new overseers and deacons became needed to serve these new fellowships. These weren’t paid positions, and they didn’t require the purchasing of buildings and other worldly assets. Instead, any money voluntarily given was used for those who needed it—whether that was inside or outside of that specific congregation. In comparison, much of our money today goes to keeping the machinery running instead of helping others. The small percentage that may go to others is paltry in comparison to the potential impact we could be having in our world.

However, even though the format we’ve established today may (arguably) not be Biblical, there is, admittedly, some movement of the Holy Spirit—if only on rare occasion. This is upheld as irrefutable proof that “our” ministry is right and that if we continue to repeat the same things over and over, the Holy Spirit will continue to move in the same way. In other words, it would seem that we seek containment and control of the Holy Spirit within our doctrinal confines, even though this may not be our conscious intent. We seek to market God to others in the setting and way we’ve predefined, setting limits as to how the Holy Spirit is allowed to work in our world.

This brings me to the question that has been on my mind for some time, but I couldn’t quite resolve—If our modern church entity wasn’t Jesus’ intent (according to how he describes her in the Bible), why do we see an occasional movement within these institutions? I’m not necessarily speaking of an emotionally charged movement (I have honestly never been able to relate to those being such a heavily introverted thinker), but a tangible spiritual awakening of souls when they encounter Jesus “face to face.”

The answer was so simple yet so profound when I came across it—If someone is truly seeking healing (or salvation, or whatever terms we may use), Jesus heals them where they are at, regardless of the faulty systems we create to try to contain his movements. In contrast, Jesus healed me after I had been outside of what we know today as church for over 11 years!

Suddenly, another aspect of the Bible began to crystallize for me. Like Israel demanding a king when they already had God as their Sovereign, we tend to believe we are in need of a hierarchical clergy system when we already have Jesus as our direct High Priest and Shepherd. Our systems only seem to increase the gap between us and Father by eclipsing the direct relationship that was established by the Son in his incarnation and through the victory of the cross. Yet still, this doesn’t stop the Holy Spirit from working. God still works through our broken systems to bring about healing to those who believe that is where healing can be found—even if it furthers our often misguided agendas. Jesus is concerned first and foremost with bringing restoration to the broken in hopes that they will see the beauty of living in his kingdom—the kingdom that isn’t constructed by human hands.

So why don’t we all just participate in the system we have even though it’s imperfect? I’ve come to believe, through no small amount of pain, that some may be called into those systems where God leads them, as was I for a time. Likewise, I believe some may be called outside of those systems, again, where God leads them, as I now have been. However, it would seem our systems do more to inhibit the gospel—the kingdom brought near by Jesus—from spreading in the world than they do to advance it. Likewise, we get a dichotomy of in versus out that only serves to harm our witness to the watching world—where we are called to love one another. So many hurting people are seeing how much professed Christians hate each other, partially because of our “in” or “out” statuses and partially because of our rigidness. These battered souls are choosing instead to pass altogether on seeking healing if it only seeks to convert them to a “side” in that same conflict.

Our call is to humbly embrace our “in” or “out” brothers and sisters and allow those who need healing to follow the Holy Spirit to a place they can find just that. Perhaps we need more fluidity to move with the Holy Spirit as it moves like the wind to where those in need reside. Instead, the dogmas we’ve created, both inside and out, serve as walls that we are continually hindered by. This not only hurts our witness, but it keeps us from truly loving each other on a deeper, spiritual level.

This is a rough lesson God has been walking me through over the past 2.5 years on the outside, and there are still plenty of snares and diversions that seek to drag me away from pursing such love for others. Still, I believe Jesus’ Church will survive and become stronger regardless of our human attempts to bend her to our worldly agendas—whether those reside inside or outside of an institution.