Watching From The Sidelines

Superbowl LI was the one to watch, wasn’t it? I’m not a sports fan, but I had an opinion this year. I really wanted the Patriots to win. I watched it on my little kitchen T.V. When all was despair, I left the room. It was too disheartening. But I kept going back. I’d watch, then I’d feel bad and pray to the Lord of heaven to help them, and leave the room again. Why go back? A hopeless situation is just that: without hope. Maybe I thought it could at least become not embarrassing. Not that it should’ve mattered to me.

And then . . . you know that feeling you get when what you thought could never happen happens? I got that feeling. Fist pumps and shouts of woo hoo were actually involved! I can’t imagine the ecstasy true Patriot’s fans were feeling! And I stayed to watch until the very end and watched everything after the end and I was still celebrating in my heart along with everyone else the next day.  Not that I deserved to celebrate. After all, a fair weather fan of anything is just an observer, on the sidelines of the sidelines.

On this weekend the world knows as Easter weekend, new life is welcomed. But for true followers so much more is celebrated! Jesus – the one we saw die on the cross, the one who was buried and whose tomb was sealed with a stone, the one who his enemies thought they’d gotten rid of for good and whose death friends wept over bitterly – became alive again! He rose! From death! To life! And that event – His resurrection – brings with it hope that we will not only resurrect after death, but that our sin is forgiven. Forever. Gone.

And more good news. You’re only on the sidelines if you want to be. C’mon now. Celebrate!

Image: creative commons lic 2.0 www.flickr.comphotoscoconutphotos17041243732 https://www.google.com/search?site=imghp&tbm=isch&q=empty%20tomb&tbs=sur:fmc#imgrc=0VJn5XPu51kjAM:

Witness

 

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We are living during a time of confusion: Confusion about what is right and what is wrong. Confusion about what is true and what is false. Confusion about what is loving and what is hateful and what is neither. Even confusion about the meaning of words. It’s almost as if people have forgotten how to understand and how to reason. How is it possible? How did we get here?

Yet history points its finger and shows us other times of such – we might as well admit it – depravity. Times of dishonesty. Times of conspiracy. Times of complicity. Times of overwhelming wickedness. Times of sin.

Could it be that the crucifixion of Jesus took place during a time when people were willing  to claim a lie was the truth? A time when some people claimed the truth was a lie? A time when the truth was considered ‘hate speech’?  A time of ‘fake news’?

At this time of year, we are the witness.

We follow Jesus through His final hours. We witness how His words were twisted to accuse Him. We watch as people are confused, lose their ability to reason, and succumb to mob psychology. And we begin in the upper room.

Witness the Last Passover Meal

The last supper is a time of communion. Be willing to be uncomfortable; To examine your own heart truthfully and without excuse; To confess your sin: the big sins and the small sins, the sins you committed by doing the wrong thing and the sins you committed by doing nothing at all.

You are in the garden with Jesus. You see His struggle to sacrifice Himself for sin. And you realize the sin is yours.

Witness the Garden of Gethsemane.

After Jesus spent time with his closest disciples at the last supper, after Judas had lied about not betraying Jesus and Jesus had told the truth by affirming that he would, and after they had sung a hymn together, Jesus went to one of His favorite places, the Garden of Gethsemane. It was peaceful and held nature’s fragrance. Jesus spent a lot of time in such a place. He like to pray surrounded by nature.

Some of his friends had come with him, but they fell asleep. Jesus was left alone in the battle of His love of life and will to live –  with His obedience to God and his will to die so we could be saved.

And Judas, a friend who had spent the last 3 years with Jesus, led a contingent of soldiers into that peaceful garden in order to arrest him. Betrayal. It isn’t an ugly word, but it is an ugly action. And it set in motion the most horrible event in history – an event that saved us all.

Witness the trial.

Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

They used the law to break the law.

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

What is truth? That is the question Pilate asked Jesus at his trial. It might have been a sincere question or it might have been a sarcastic comment borne of a time when culture’s understanding of ‘truth’ was fluid, perverted, or situational.

 Witness the mob.

 And now we see citizens who only a few days before had hailed Jesus as king and waved palm branches and shouted  ‘hosanna!’ – turn on him.

See how that happened? It was a result of a weak understanding of truth. It was the intelligentsia insisting on their way. It was a result of going along with what everyone else seemed to believe. And it was so very wrong.

They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Jesus was brutally beaten. A cross was put on his shoulders. He carried the instrument of his own death down the street – the way of suffering – while people watched. They watched while he trudged up the hill of Golgotha. There he was crucified.

Witness His final words.

“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.  When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left.  Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’  And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!’  But the other criminal rebuked him.  ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.’  Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me  when you come into your kingdom.’  Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’  From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”

“It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

“Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’

Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’  When he had said this, he breathed his last.”

We are the witnesses. We know what happened. We must tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The verdict comes soon enough.

Youtube video, The Passion of the Christ: <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/OcLZYiePvtU?rel=0&amp;controls=0&amp;showinfo=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>; Scripture references: John 18: 28-40; Luke 23:21; Luke 23: 32-34; Luke 23:39-43; John 19: 25-27; Luke 23: 44-45, Matt. 27:45-46; John 19:28; John 19:30; Luke 23:46

Spin

Who do you listen to? What are your reasons for trusting them? If your life was on the line in a very real and immediate way, would it change who you trusted? It’s a challenge to separate things – wheat from chaff, for instance. Or truth from half-truth. Spin is a word we use to describe the presenting of an incident in such a way that it leads the listener in a certain direction. Sometimes it misleads them entirely. Consider the following:

Immigrants come to the United States to escape difficulties or danger in their homeland or for a fresh start in a land of promise. Terrorists use the mantel of immigration to quietly invade a nation.

President Trump’s administration wants to pause immigration for people from 7 countries that have the most terrorist ties in order to more exhaustively vet them. President Trump’s administration wants to ban Muslim immigrants from the U.S.

Privacy of citizens takes a back seat to gathering intelligence for national security. Privacy of citizens is an important part of living a free life.

The church has lost its influence in the nation (and the world) because it hasn’t kept up with changes in the culture. The church has lost its influence in the nation (and the world) because it has succumbed to the influences of the culture.

What will tomorrow’s news declare? What will be the passionate cry of journalists and actors and preachers and commentators and the guy next door? The news cycle has become the spin cycle and just as dizzying. And while the public becomes faint and nauseated from the spin, the earth spins, too: day and night, week in and week out, season to season, and then . . . then it stops. And the spin: of news, of excuse, of gossip, of the education of all topics, and of what we, individually, say to the God who created us when we pray stops. All of the spin comes to one breathtaking halt. And only Truth remains.

Wheat/chaff reference: Matthew 3:12; Image: Earth_from_space,_hurricaneBy NASAGSFCReto Stöckli, Nazmi El Saleous, and Marit Jentoft-Nilsen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Healing Leaves

There is a tree not far from here,
Hidden from our sight;
And in it’s shadow we will rest,
Darkness changed to light.                                                                                                        
Hardships, heartaches, sad despair,
Their vanquishing control
Will fall away and in their place
The healing of the soul.                                                                                                                   
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb

down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

I’m thinking about healing today, how there’s such a relief when there is no more pain or distress. I’m thinking about the tree that made the terrible, wonderful cross that takes our death and redeems us to life. And I’m thinking of the tree we are promised that will heal the nations. It will heal the nations. Oh, it will heal the nations!                                                                                                     
Poem: CJP; Quote: Revelation 22:1-2; Images: en.wikipedia.org_.png; Pixabay-cc-cross-78000_640.jpg

Melania, Milo, and George

What is it about truth that is so threatening? George Orwell would say, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

He also said “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear” and my favorite, “What can you do against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself, who gives your arguments a fair hearing and then simply persists in his lunacy?”.

We witnessed two bright spots recently in an otherwise dreary pattern of contention, corruption, and chaos.

Our First Lady, Melania Trump, took the stand to introduce President Trump and preceded it with the Lord’s Prayer. That act – praying in public if you’re not a minister asked there for that purpose – is an offense to many. This is the state our nation under God finds itself in during this sifting season. But it was also an act of offense rather than defense. That beautiful woman with a lion’s heart showed more courage than we usually see these days. She didn’t ask anyone’s permission. She took the matter into her own hands and took the gathering before the throne of God, Himself. All nations will answer to God. The sooner we acknowledge that, the better off we’ll be. Hers was a revolutionary act of truth.

A second bright spot was the attack on Milo Yiannapoulos, a gay conservative apologist – not the attack, but his response to it. The attack led to a publisher dropping his book deal and cancellation of an important speaking engagement. Because his life is in the public eye, there are numerous tapes of his comments, stopdonaldtrumpac.refutations, sharp wit, and dark humor. Stopdonaldtrumppac.com found some things he had said and twisted them to mean something else. This is the same group that once tweeted “we hate white children”. Lovely people. The accusation was meant to keep him from speaking out. We’ve become used to attacks and condemnations without conscience, but this one was, frankly, from hell, itself. * **

However, I am taking a stand for this man with whom I don’t have much in common, but who is amazingly gifted. Milo has faced much criticism and opposition over at least the last few years. Why? He tells the truth, brutally sometimes and eloquently other times. To accuse someone who has been sexually abused of pedophilia is one of the most hateful things I can think of. This group and others taking up the war cry struck at him with skillful timing. And Milo stepped up and displayed more strength than his accusers might imagine in anyone, including themselves. He publicly acknowledged the abuse perpetrated on him from age 13. (Think for a minute how harsh and despairing that is for a boy on the cusp manhood.) He rejected the accusation of pedophilia and voiced his disgust with such things. He apologized for any hurt those who have been sexually abused felt from his careless words. He refused to see himself as a victim and encouraged others to not see themselves as victims either. (Well that’s refreshing.) And he resigned from his job in order to spare his employer trouble. His clear, immediate, and rather gracious response is something to emulate. He didn’t once raise his voice during his press conference though those there were no doubt happy with his uncomfortable situation. He did what he does so well. He articulately spoke the truth.

Consider these three people. I don’t suppose I would have liked George Orwell personally, but his words are worth thought from everyone regardless of politics. I don’t know whether any of the three I mention here has a relationship with Jesus or if they want one. *** The thing about truth is that it’s true regardless of who says it. And here’s one more truth: The real conflict here isn’t about politics or even about free speech. The war isn’t one of words only. It’s a battle for truth, a war for souls, a battle between heaven and hell. Satan takes no prisoners. His native language is lies. If you fight him from one side, he’ll come at you from the other before you can catch your breath. You don’t have to agree with me or even believe there are such things. But in this time of universal deceit, we need courageous people who tell the truth regardless of the fallout. There’s more at stake than this world dreams of.

* I believe all sexual perversion is wrong, including homosexuality and child sexual abuse. I also believe all sin, seen and unseen, is wrong. (It seems to me that some sin is more detrimental than others depending on how many people are affected, how long they are affected, and the degree to which the person sinning is intentional.) However, all sin, known to others or not, is an affront to our Creator and acts as a death sentence without Christ’s redemption.

** There is a very real concern about pedophilia in this population; but not by this particular person.

*** I hope they do, because their bravery is something He would approve.

Quote: Partial quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of”.

Behind the Post

Did your grandma clip things out of the newspaper or magazine and send them to you? Does your aunt still do that? How about your mom?

I was chatting with someone about this just the other day. I come from a long line of clippers. Over a lifetime I’ve gotten more clippings and articles than I can count. Whether or not I agreed with them, I dutifully read them, knowing that the one who took the time to send it thought it important enough to take that time to get it to me. Okay. Sometimes I just scanned them. I know I’m not the only one.letter-216722_640 public domain

The thing is, clipping an article and sending it to someone is a way of saying, “Here. I think this is worthwhile. Maybe your day/week/life will be somehow enriched by these words.” Maybe it’s even saying, “I love you.”  And the person receiving it sighs, maybe rolls his eyes, glances at it, keeps it for a short period of time and then throws it away.

Enter Facebook. Let’s pause and take a sip of coffee first. Nicely done.

Sharing thoughts, beliefs, and information is an imperfect effort. No matter how or when, we really don’t perfectly understand each other very often. But we keep trying anyway. And now we’re living in a time when our lives are very much affected by what’s going on around us. Think what you wish, but I really don’t think things are going to get better. They are going to get worse. They are going to get more heated because time is short and Jesus is simply waiting to hear “Now”. Putting our hands to our ears won’t change that. Withdrawing from the news won’t change it. Neither will puppy posts. Okay, puppy posts might change it for a minute.

This blog post isn’t about the snarky and sometimes kind-of funny posts or the obnoxious why-would-anyone-write-much-less-share posts or the downright mean posts. I am writing about articles that float around the internet cloud and somehow find their way to your newsfeed. They are articles you love and articles you hate. Depending on who your friends are you get a lot of clippings. A downpour of clippings. A torrent of clippings. Folks get tired of the clippings. They’re getting bleary-eyed from the clippings. I’d like to take this moment to remind you, and myself, too, what those likes or shares or posts represent. They represent time your friend took to read something and (admittedly short) time they took to share it. Maybe you think it’s a decent article. Perhaps you shake your head and look at the ceiling. Or more likely still, you just scroll right on by. Why should you care what they think or what they’ve learned or thought about? But let’s remember what’s behind the effort: “Here. I think this is worthwhile. Maybe your day/week/life will be somehow enriched by these words. I love you.”

Image: letter-216722_640-public-domain.jpg

That Thing You Do

Sometimes life hands you things you don’t recognize for the gifts they are until you’ve done all the other things that appealed to you on some level and required work to achieve, but weren’t quite the things that made the most sense for you to do. God must shout down gift publicdomainpictures.netto us, “Look in front of you! No, not there – here, in front of you!” Then in our wisdom, we smile and thank Him for helping us there, not here. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s just a little funny. It’s not like we can’t enjoy a myriad of journeys. That’s part of the delight of life.

According to a sweet woman who, though shrinking, is still ten feet tall (my mother), when I was four I used to prop up my brothers’ piano music and play it in another key. I didn’t yet read music. It wasn’t until I had my fourth child that it occurred to me that I might write music. I’ll tell that story another time.

I’m writing this for two reasons. First, though you can’t see it, I have been working on my music. Still. Just slowly. And, boy, am I having fun – fun with the music and amazed at how I put an extra 16th beat in numerous measures for one of the songs. I didn’t say I was great. I said I was doing something that’s fairly natural to me. It’s probably even more natural to someone else, but – people – we work with what we have! 🙂 The first children’s musical I wrote was published with Meriwether Publishing – who sold it to Christian Publishers, https://www.christianpub.com/default.aspx?pg=ab&afn=Connie&aln=Pease . I still get a royalty check every year. It’s the little musical that could. For now, though, I’m going to keep closer control and so I am publishing with JW Pepper on MyScore. You can look there, http://www.jwpepper.com/myscore/comemessiah, for my musicals. My children’s musical, Come, Messiah! is already available as is the sheet music for Softly Now He ComesWhither will be ready for purchase (if the Good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, as they say) in another week or two. Or three.

Secondly, and more importantly, is just to say to you: You know that thing you do that makes time pass more quickly than you can imagine? The thing that seems to not hold much value because it’s just fun (for you)? Or interesting? The thing that grabs you and doesn’t let you go? Do that.

Maybe you’ll hear God shouting, “Look in front of you! No, not there – here, in front of you!” And you can smile and thank Him and . . . do it.

image: publicdomainpictures.net

Graphic

Back in the day I had three delightful little girls who loved pink and purple and twirly skirts. Into their lives came a little brother who changed Barbies’ nice little town into one of dinosaurs lurking around every corner. They all grew up. Tastes have refined, but in some respects things haven’t changed all that much.

“I think they need a little grunge.”

We were walking amidst the greatest mess I’ve ever seen in Walmart. Truly. It was like walking down Bourban Street during Mardis Gras. It was December 23rd. I was just there as a support person for my son who thus far in his life is following the stereotypical man plan of Christmas shopping at the last minute.

Grunge wasn’t his first choice, but that choice was impossible to manage here in the place of the great unwashed with its low price guarantee. I suggested and he considered leggings in wild colors, and we sorted through them (why do things come in every size but the one you need?). I could kind of see it, though in my heart of hearts had to acknowledge it might be a stretch for the three sisters for whom he shopped. We trudged out of the store shortly thereafter.

On to the next place. Thank heavens there are only half a million stores in the city. He was resolute about his choice of gift. He knew exactly what he was looking for. I could hardly question it. After all, what do I know? I was giving socks and epsom salts to relatives.

And then, what to my wondering eyes should appear . . . not a miracle, but a sweet surprise. On Christmas this year graphic tees were unwrapped and immediately and delightedly donned. Truly delightedly.johnny-cash-shirt-httpswww-google-comsearchsiteimghptbmischqjohnny%20cash%20shirttbssurfmc

So if you see a young woman who usually looks fairly put together walking around in a Red Hot Chili Peppers graphic tee, just remember she has a brother who gave her the perfect present. Take that, Barbie.

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Images: http://www.sears.com/young-men-s-graphic-t-shirt-johnny-cash/p-043VA71329312P?sid=IDx01192011x000001&gclid=Cj0KEQiAhZPDBRCz642XqYOCpb8BEiQANUcwT_6M1i1uzOBg3biUeR9JxKJGmkSKBlBBHUTFBAmdnDgaAivM8P8HAQ&gclsrc=aw.ds; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ARHCP_Logo.svg; https://c1.staticflickr.com/7/6038/6238053350_5caa82f469_b.jpg

One Gift

She’d turned it over in her mind for months. She was allowed to give one gift. Cost was no object, but it was the only gift she would be allowed to give ever again. Just one gift.

She’d gotten the message in her mailbox on a sweltering August day. The envelope was sealed with gold leaf and the writing was in excellent calligraphy. Choose a gift for the letter writer’s choice of recipient. She might never know who, might never meet the person, but would know he received the gift. At first, she’d dismissed it as someone’s effort to amuse himself. Maybe it was some sort of game show, and she was the only one not in on the joke. Why her? Why had she been singled out? She wasn’t anyone special. But as the days cooled and no other message arrived, she began to consider the project. If this was a real offer – responsibility, really – she shouldn’t pass on it. One gift. Any amount of money could be spent and would be made available as required.

Money no object? She could dismiss the usual gifts of clothing or nearly anything else found in the mall. Technology? Now there was an idea. A person could do things with the newest gadget. But technology was always changing. Who would want something that would be obsolete within a year or two? Ditto for vehicles of all kinds.

She didn’t dismiss books as readily as someone else might. A book – the right book – could elevate thinking. Why, it could change a life if a person took the author’s premise to heart. Maybe she could give a first edition. Hmm.

Real estate was a great alternative. You can’t go wrong with real estate despite market trends, because that was just it. If the price fell, it could as easily rise after enough time. A house? Maybe an estate. What was she thinking?! She could buy an entire island. Who wouldn’t want their own private island? No one she could think of.

She could arrange for tuition and room and board at a university. Of course, not knowing the recipient, she couldn’t be certain such a thing would be appreciated nor even useful.

Or a vacation somewhere! Really. Didn’t everyone need, or, at least, want a vacation? France, Greece, Paris in the spring . . .

She supposed she could buy stock. Didn’t rich people do that type of thing? Stock could make someone a millionaire. Or not.

Days and weeks passed. She researched. She wandered around the neighborhood wondering about the letter-writer and then thinking about the gift recipient. Leaves changed color and fell. Icy weather settled in. She sipped cocoa and looked out the window, thinking. Wondering. Turning it over in her mind. One gift. Only one and then, never again.

And it was Christmas Eve, the date given to reveal her choice. Despite the crunchy snow underfoot, she walked to the mailbox and deposited her choice within. It was a small manila envelope with two 2-inch symbols and a letter inside. It read:

Dear Gift Recipient:

I’ve spent a lot of time – make that an enormous amount of time – wondering what to give you. I finally concluded that, of all the things available the world over, my choice is the best one. It’s small and great at the same time.

I hope you like it. I hope you will accept it.

Cost: Me – nothing. Him – everything. You – pending.

 

baby-jesus-artinatal2012-04-httpbaltyra-com20121225apakah-arti-natal-bagi-kitacomment-page-4                                             german_-_crucifix_pendant_-_walters_44425httpscommons-wikimedia-orgwikifilegerman_-_crucifix_pendant_-_walters_44425-jpg

Images: baby-Jesus-artinatal2012-04-httpbaltyra.com20121225apakah-arti-natal-bagi-kitacomment-page-4.jpg; German_-_Crucifix_Pendant_-_Walters_44425httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwikiFileGerman_-_Crucifix_Pendant_-_Walters_44425.jpg.jpg