“She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to listen to hear what Paul said.” ~ Acts 16:14
I reflect on our Lord’s final hours. Jesus wore a crown of thorns twisted together by the soldiers who arrested Him, as well as a purple robe. “King of the Jews” Pilate labeled Him, though the Jews did not claim such. Is He my King of all of me? Is He your King? Why thorns for a crown? Probably to mock Him and bring Him more physical pain.
What kind of thorns brought such anguish to Him? Scholars say possibly those thorns were of Jujube, Sarcopoterium, Hawthorns, or Euphorbia milii? Jujube origins are of the Orient, with one legendary tree known as the “Tree of Knowledge”. Thorny, but most likely not crafted into a crown for our Jesus at Golgatha near Jerusalem. Sarcopoterium naturally grows in the Mediterranean, is in the rose family, and thorny. Hawthorns or “thornapple” another member of the rose family, used as a barrier for all animals but grows too far north to be of Jesus’ crown. Euphorbia milii is native to Madagascar; more of southern origins. A sturdy perennial with stout gray thorns and oval leaves. It sprawls with vinelike stems and can grow seven feet in length. Milky poison oozes from inside the vine irritating the skin and eyes. The thorns became another weapon used on our Jesus.
And why a purple robe? Purple symbolizes wealth, prestige, royalty, and luxury. Again, Jesus became what others needed of Him. That day He became the “King of the Jews”. He was later stripped of that purple cloth. Lydia, a wealthy Gentile woman from Philippi made purple dyes and textiles. She was the first European convert to Christianity. Like Jesus, Lydia became what others needed of her. She invited Paul and Jesus’ disciples to stay at her home while they ministered to the Philippians. “Lydia challenges us to reflect on our role of being prepared for the moment, seeking something bigger than ourselves, and being willing to invite others to experience what we have experienced,” writes Aimee Laramore. The life of Jesus continues in Lydia, you, and I.
“Generosity is not best experienced in one act or one exchange, but in life-long learning, leading, and loving one another.” ~ Aimee Laramore
Some days I feel people just don’t even give a damn. Other days it hurts to see those you love in pain, physical or emotional anguish. I holler out, “God, where is Your mercy, Your justice.” Then other days when the flood waters rise, it is hard to see God in it. We prayed for rain after 100+ degree temps and no rain for days this scorching summer. We got it alright in one stormy night of 8 -12 inches of rain. Destruction surrounds us and the local news captures the next devastating story of the flash floods. One person dead. 10 puppies from a stray rescue facility drown. Basements and houses fill with water. Businesses close. No flood insurance for most. Is this the Noah’s ark story being told again, I wonder? I attended the funeral service for my uncle this week. A man wrongly accused the latter days of his life. My cousin cried. Many of us shed our own tears, crying for mercy.
The pastor who shared at my uncle’s eulogy reminded us of the beautiful Japanese art form that is made from broken fragments. Nothing is wasted, everything made beautiful it its time. Ravishing lavish love, this is what I want. Flooding in. It’s what we all want. People will fail, just living this life will disappoint, but God does not. His love is perfect. Let Him fill that emptiness you feel with His perfect love. The anxiety about your present-day situation will subside. Feeling overwhelmed is real . . . Stop now. Pray. Count your blessings. Your cup will overflow with His love. Families, neighbors, and the community have come and will come together to help those in need. People and pets are rescued. Officials and first responders care and continue to share the burden. Jesus is carrying you. He cares.
“May mercy, peace, and love be lavished on you!” ~ Jude 1:2
Just one word. The right word. The ebb and flow of one right word with its syllables, pronunciation, and perfect timing. It drops into a pool of water, and ripples through wave after wave until it returns to you, refreshing and uplifting. Like that of karma, the spiritual principle of cause and effect. Holy scriptures tell us, “Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, so will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.”
I had an interview today for a half-time position desired with the local library. I am semi-retired. The income from this job I seek will assist with my daughter’s medical needs, treatments not covered by insurance. So, plenty of pressure. After answering their questions, the best I could, the managers asked if I had any questions for them. I hope my three questions were appropriate. An old proverb says, “Whoever speaks a word at an opportune time is like apples of gold on beds of silver.” I am feeling insecure about one question I asked the managers of the local library, whether it was appropriate during this interview. I asked about security at the library. Maybe the timing was not appropriate? I suppose because of my past experiences, this is a concern of mine. A person never quite gets over assault, extra vigilant anywhere she goes, even at the local library. Apparently, somebody else has been concerned about security at the library because I learned they have a security officer stationed there in the afternoons and evenings to deter possible crime.
The ebb and flow of one wrong word is like a boomerang cutting everything it touches. It abruptly comes back to you, can cut you like a knife. Hopefully this is not the case for my question asked at the interview, maybe not the best time and it may have costed my job offer. But wrong words spoken in gossip are a boomerang, cuts the heart and life of the people who hear the gossip, shredding the relationships of the victim as well as the gossipers. It destroys families, friends, and communities. Do not let your words haunt you, hang you, behead you. Choose words wisely. If an apology is necessary, make it right while you have today as there are no guarantees for tomorrow. Let the droplet of a kind word permeate into the souls of those hear it, and the refreshment of that word will return to you wave after wave after wave. The ebb and flow of one right word.
Many of us live for a fleeting moment and pleasure. I know I have been guilty of such. We get so wrapped up into this earthly life, some days it is just surviving and other days on top of the world. Distractions like the idle chasing of butterflies, that bowl of ice cream x 3, another sugary coffee drink, the I-phone or computer screen. Momentary pleasures of a smoke or two, alcoholic drink of choice, the betting game until you win, another frivolous purchase, or floating high on a mind-altering drug without a care in the world, all these possible addictions mask the cold hard truths of life, pain, and depression. Like the painting Ship of Fools by Carl Dobsky, our doom may be just a few feet away.
Yesterday’s Gospel reading was about the woman caught in adultery and how Jesus extended grace to her but warned her “sin no more”. The priest opened the homily with “we all have been caught with the hand in the cookie jar.” Either by stealing, gossiping, gazing at internet porn, cheating on your taxes, telling untruths, slacking on the job, etc. The priest brought up an interesting question, what about the man, why was not he brought before judgement like the woman? The priest suggested that the adulterous man ran faster than the accusers. Any case he will still stand before God’s judgement. God looks for a repented heart, that is where you make a round-about change in direction from the wrongdoing.
The grace of God covers our sins when we confess them to Him. Addictions make it difficult to truly repent, but it is possible by calling on Him for strength. It is a day-by-day battle, for some minute-by-minute journey. Insecurities and unmet needs can lead us the wrong direction. Justifications can set in. I remember the day many years ago I had to choose what direction I was to take, to continue hanging around bad company, or take a different path with the mocking and ridicule to follow. I am so happy Jesus led me His Way. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life …” (John 14:6) Jesus tells each of us.
Looking back, how I have changed with each year that passed. Not just with the added wrinkles, grays, pounds, aches, and pains in the natural aging process, but in each encounter with my God, His people, and creation. Our loving God uses every situation and person in our lives to shape us. At times I have been in solitude, absent of friendships due to illness, death, and the unkindness of others. There have been good and not so good people throughout my life. Even in the most difficult and dark times, God was present. He gave and continues to give me guidance on how to live life more Christ-like despite others. I trust Him. There is no secret from Him. God knows the secrets of my heart and the sins of my life. I draw on the grace of Jesus Christ with my imperfections as I pour out my heart to Him. To all women, I encourage you to do the same. And join a women’s group. Not just any group but one where you are accepted as a prized rose, and encouraged to grow. “Other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown,” the Bible tells us. Have open discussions, share holy scriptures and prayers, encourage fearlessness in fearful circumstances, and genuine friendships are planted in the garden. Avoid weedy worthless gossip, emotional games, and comparisons. No pretensions, be fully yourself. This season I have been surrounded by fearless women, and seeds are being planted in good soil. I am thankful.
Sad, hurt, fear, worry. Sometimes the world seems to surround you with gloom and doom that you can barely breathe. Take in a bloom or two on your walk today. Pleasing fragrance. Eye candy. Snip one to add to the bud vase on your windowsill. You don’t have your own flower garden? Buy a potted daisy or mum for the kitchen. Subtle power over the stench and ugliness of this world, even on a rainy, dark day where one bad thing after another happens. Present day. Be authentic. No airs. No plots. Be true. To yourself. Be you, the person God made you before the world taints. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ Emerson. Bloom today.
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength,” Corrie Ten Boom is quoted. What keeps you from enjoying this present moment? Is it worry about meeting bills or a sick loved one? Too many projects to accomplish in the day, maybe well into those night hours? If you read carefully the quoted words above, strength is found in “today”. “Today” is a mighty word. Literally means “on the day”, “at this day”, “from-day”, “in day” in several languages. Present day, present moment.
Maybe today is not so good. In physical pain. Hurting on the inside. A relationship needs to be patched of its differences. Saying “goodbye” to a beloved friend or family pet. Present moment seems to be a challenge.
These are lyrics by Randy Sparks and made known by John Denver’s voice:
Today, while the blossoms still cling to the vine I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine
A million tomorrows shall all pass away ‘Ere I forget all the joy that is mine, today
I can’t be contented with yesterday’s glory I can’t live on promises winter to spring Today is my moment, now is my story I’ll laugh and I’ll cry and I’ll sing
Today, while the blossoms still cling to the vine I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine A million tomorrows shall all pass away ‘Ere I forget all the joy that is mine, today
Embrace the full of joy of TODAY despite all the rest…God’s blessings are yours always.