Jesus on the side of the road

And then there was the time

Jesus walked up to the man

on the corner.

You know the one.

The guy with the cardboard sign

that says

“Homeless. Please help.”

Or “Will work for food.”

And Jesus

(well not really that Jesus,

but a Jesus,

like a Santa Claus,

someone who is said
“yes, I’ll take on that role”

walks right up, not even in a car

like everybody else in a hurry

on their way to their job,

or the Kroger,

or Starbucks

but never here,

always on the move –  

that Jesus walks right up

and sees the man on the corner

 the leper, the blind man, the lost sheep

and looks him in the eyes and says

”Hey. What do you need?”

And he says

money,

 or home,

or a job,

but really he’s saying

Healing.

Freedom.

Grace.

He’s saying he needs to be

released from this prison

without bars

he found himself in,

or maybe locked himself in.

He forgets.

And Jesus reaches out a hand and says

do you believe you can be healed

(do you think there is hope for you

or have you given up already)

and the man hears the music beneath the words,

sees the light peeking out from the clouds

that have rained on his parade

for so long he wonders

why he keeps showing up

and thinks

maybe,

today is the day

that I no longer have to define myself

as homeless,

or chronically ill,

or abused by my parents,

or widowed

but instead

as a precious child

of God

chosen, and  loved, and whole.

And the healing happens,

right there on that corner,

with all those cars rushing by.

And then Jesus disappears,

 this latter-day Jesus,

this vagabond messiah

and the man

is still there,

on the side of the road,

still homeless,

still divorced,

still without a job,

but now he’s awake

 and he thinks

is this what healing looks like?

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Psalm 37 for people in a hurry.

(You can get the gist of Psalm 37 by just reading the first lines of each stanza, up until lines 35-38.  Then the whole stanza is necessary to understand the meaning. )

Do not be agitated by evildoers…

Trust in the Lord and do what is good…

5 Commit your way to the Lord…

Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him…

Refrain from anger and give up your rage…

10 A little while, and the wicked person will be no more…

12 The wicked person schemes against the righteous…

14 The wicked have drawn the sword and strung the bow…

16 The little that the righteous man has is better
than the abundance of many wicked people.

18 The Lord watches over the blameless all their days…

20 But the wicked will perish…

21 The wicked man borrows and does not repay,
but the righteous one is gracious and giving.

23 A man’s steps are established by the Lord,
and He takes pleasure in his way.

25 I have been young and now I am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned…

27 Turn away from evil and do what is good…

30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom…

32 The wicked one lies in wait for the righteous…

34 Wait for the Lord and keep His way…

35 I have seen a wicked, violent man
well-rooted like a flourishing native tree.
36 Then I passed by and noticed he was gone;
I searched for him, but he could not be found.

37 Watch the blameless and observe the upright,
for the man of peace will have a future.
38 But transgressors will all be eliminated;
the future of the wicked will be destroyed.

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord,
their refuge in a time of distress.

(translation from the Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Are you ready for Christmas?

People say to me, “Are you ready for Christmas?” and I wonder what they mean. This is a very stripped down Christmas this year. Cards are sent. Watching A Christmas Carol. Tree is finally up (no decorations). Gifts have been given (handmade). Less is more, I’m learning.

Jim Carrey says “No holiday should manipulate you to the point where you’re going into debt just to show someone you love them.”

Interrupted while reading

This is a fairly normal occurrence – I’m reading a book while eating my lunch. People (usually guys) think that they have to comment on it. It happened last Friday, when an older lady felt it necessary to then tell me that she only reads the Bible and Christian fiction. (I was reading a science-fiction book, which usually makes people like her twitch) Instead of letting her “witness” to me (because I’ve seen this play out before that way), I turned it around and said that I can find goodness in everything I read, because God is everywhere. That kind of short-circuited her head.

She has no idea who I am, that I have written several non-fiction Christ-based books. This kind of blind “witnessing” is something that Jesus never did.

In general, the guys use this as an opportunity to hit on me. The ladies use it as an opportunity to “witness”. Both don’t get that I’m not buying what they are selling – for the first, I’m married. For the second, I’m already a member of the club.

But either way, it is rude, on many levels. It just isn’t a good way to start a conversation or a relationship.

I’m thinking of coming up with a script like “Yeah, isn’t it strange that total strangers think it is OK to interrupt someone who is minding her own business, reading a book?”

Is reading in public such an anomaly that it requires comment?

Sunday meditation 4-22-18

Once a week isn’t enough to show that I love God, to remind me that I am a servant of God. But it isn’t just at a church service that you do that – but life. The church service should give you fuel and marching orders – and the rest of the time you are out in the field – working – planting seeds of hope and love, and reaping joy.

It is where you put into practice what you learned.

I like what monasteries do – you meet at least three times a day to pray. This reminds me of how AA works – you go to as many meetings as often as you would have gotten drunk. So now that you are sober, you pray instead. This keeps you from slipping into sin (of whatever sort) and you stay on the path. It keeps you on the wagon, on the Way.

Sin and addiction are closely related – and are cured the same way. Turn away from your own way of doing things, because those obviously weren’t working. Turn away from the world’s ways of “fixing” problems, which often end up causing more. Turn towards God – the One who is the true Healer. Work out your problems by yoking with God.

Hope for the future

I have been very anxious about the future – about getting older and needing help. I do not have children or a close family (“distant” isn’t just in miles). There is nobody on the horizon that I can count on to help me when I get older, if my husband dies before me. Or, say we are both old, and both need help. Who will help us?

I have long thought that there should be some sort of community, like a convent or a monastery, where people live and work and die together, as a kind of adopted family. But how to go about making that happen? People value their privacy and independence. People are wary of “religion”, yet it is a good center to a community.
We humans were not made to be alone. We lie to ourselves when we think we can do it all. We are not designed that way.

I have researched “co-housing” and similar communities. But I’m nearly 50. I take care of myself, but how long will it be until I need help? One broken bone, one car accident, and things change quickly. The system needs to be in place before that.

I love how religious people who live in community (monks and nuns) spend their lives together. They don’t go away to a nursing home – that facility is part of the property. It is an expected part of life. They don’t pretend that illness and death isn’t going to happen. I think it makes it easier to know that you won’t be tended by strangers – your own adopted family is taking care of you. Your home is there, with them, not shuffled away into some forgotten facility.

My recent Bible readings speak to the answer –

Psalm 142
I cry aloud to the LORD;
I plead aloud to the LORD for mercy.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I reveal my trouble to Him.
Although my spirit is weak within me,
You know my way.
Along this path I travel
they have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see:[a]
no one stands up for me;
there is no refuge for me;
no one cares about me.
I cry to You, LORD;
I say, “You are my shelter,
my portion in the land of the living.”
Listen to my cry,
for I am very weak.
Rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
Free me from prison
so that I can praise Your name.
The righteous will gather around me
because You deal generously with me.

Isaiah 51:12-14
“I am the One who comforts you.
Who are you that you should fear man who dies,
or a son of man who is given up like grass?
But you have forgotten the LORD, your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth.
You are in constant dread all day long
because of the fury of the oppressor,
who has set himself to destroy.
But where is the fury of the oppressor?
The prisoner is soon to be set free;
he will not die and go to the Pit,
and his food will not be lacking.”

They tell me to wait – that God’s idea of time is not my idea. They remind me that Abraham waited 30 years after he was promised an heir – long after he and his wife were past childbearing years. They remind me that I need to put God first and everything else will fall into place.

(Bible translations are HCSB)

As far as the East is from the West

As far as the East is from the West

Today, January 25th, 2018 is the feast of the conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. What does “conversion” mean? In Christianity, it means “repentance and change to a godly life”. It is very closely related to the Hebrew concept of “teshuvah”, which is often unfortunately translated as “repentance”. A better way of translating it would be “a turning” – to turn away from sin, and to turn towards God.

What are you following? Or better, WHO are you following? Which way are you headed? What direction are you pointed? What is in front of you?

Consider this verse from Psalms –

As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed
our transgressions from us.
– Psalm 103:12

And now consider this quote –
“When a person stands facing the east, that person needs but a turning about to face west. Likewise, a sinner needs but a slight mental turning-about to be far removed from one’s transgressions.” – Rabbi Nathan David Sidlovtzer (19th century Hasidic rabbi)

How far apart is the East from the West? A long distance, you’d think. Yet, really, the only difference between East and West is direction. If you turn around, you are facing the other direction.
It isn’t about distance, but direction.
Our sins are removed from us in that turning towards God.

It isn’t about how far away we are from our sinful past, but what direction we are pointed. It doesn’t matter if you have been sober for an hour or a decade – it matters that you are on the right path.
Every time we turn towards God, our slate is wiped clean. We get a second chance.

(Inspired by Hasidic rabbi Nathan David Sidlovtzer’s quote “It is only one step to turn from east to west. Likewise a sinner needs but a slight mental turning-about to be far removed from his transgressions, east to west.”)