Monday, January 30, 2012

Pointing out holiness

Yesterday in church, Joe preached about the passage in Mark 1 (21-28) in which Jesus is speaking in a synagogue, and he is confronted by an unclean spirit. 

This led Joe into talking about holiness versus sinfulness. He said that most people have an understanding of their sinfulness -- even if they hide that understanding.  It may be that they don't need it to be pointed out to them.  However, what they made need, is their holiness to be pointed out to them.  When we point out their holiness, they will need to deal with their sinfulness without any word from someone else.

Have you pointed out someone's holiness lately?  Have I?  What would it be like to make it our mission to affirm the holiness in the people we meet?  How joyful would that be?

Immensely joyful, I imagine.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Our prayer

Our creator God, hear our prayer.
Holy, holy, holy, we lift our prayer to you.
You live in heaven,
you live among us.
We pray for the change that will bring
heaven to earth.
We pray for reality to be shaped by your will,
instead of our own.

The hope of our church
is that you will come among us.
Heal our families.
Surround our friends with your grace.
Tune our ears to your word
so that we will hear you,
and follow you.
Walk with us, so that justice will flow
and rightousness will stream like living water
in your world.
We pray that your church
will be brought together in unity.
Hear our prayers.

We pray that you will give us
what we need to live.
To live this life, alive.
Hear our cries for forgiveness
and for the ability to forgive.
Give us the strength to resist the
lure of sin.
Give us the courage to repent,
and to turn back to you.

Hear our secret hopes
Our unspoken worries
that move silently
through the crevices of our souls.
Hear these breathless, silent prayers,
unheard by others,
sometimes ignored by our hearts,
sometimes our hearts' deepest desires,
sometimes silenced by our pain or shame.
The echoes of these silent prayers
can be deafening in our lives.
Hear our groaning of our souls.

For the universe is yours,
the power is yours,
and we live our lives,
in your glory.


Friday, January 27, 2012


Yesterday, I posted about the idea that criticism could be a blessing.  After I wrote that, I read a devotional centered about the 1 Corinthians chapter concerning eating meat. 

Paul tells us that knowledge puffs up but love builds up.  Have you ever encountered someone with lots of knowledge and with a ready answer to problems, but without much love?  It is kind of the other side of the coin of yesterday's post.

Being right is not the most important thing.  Loving each other is most important.  So what does that mean?  Does it mean that we are quiet in the face of wrong?  No, of course not.  It might mean, though, that there are times when correction is not necessary.  Do we intend it to be a blessing or only to demonstrate our knowledge?  Is sharing the correction an act of love?  Or not?


Thursday, January 26, 2012


I was reading a blog called The Painted Prayerbook today.  Jan Richardson writes:
But, as Jesus shows us in this passage where we see him healing a man in the grip of a destructive spirit, such a blessing—the blessing that comes in facing the chaos rather than turning away from it, the blessing that comes in naming what is contrary to God’s purposes rather than letting it persist unchecked—makes way for the wholeness we crave. It brings release to what has been bound; it invites and enables and calls us to move with the freedom for which God made us.
So, someone points out to you a part of yourself or your actions that is contrary to God's purposes.  Is it a blessing?

Calling it a blessing is certainly a different way to look at it.  It doesn't often feel like a blessing at the time.  It feels painful and awful. 

Perhaps the blessing can come from how you react.  (And the assumption here is that what someone has pointed out to you actually is contrary to God's purposes.)  Do we see it as constructive criticism that can lead us closer to God?  Do we act to correct what is contrary to God's purposes and move toward wholeness?  If so, then the results can be a blessing. 

I think the comment from the other purpose can be meant as a blessing or not.  What we do with it -- that can bring about the blessing.

And sometimes, the comment -- the actual words themselves -- later are seen as a blessing.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wrong Number, IV

When I look at Jonah, though, I don’t think his problem is a lack of confidence or a lack of desire.  I think Jonah has every confidence that he can go to Ninevah and tell the people there what they are doing wrong, and I imagine he would love to do that!  Jonah was an Israelite, and Israel was conquered by Assyria.  Ninevah is the capitol of Assyria.  You can imagine that Jonah had no love for the people of Ninevah.  His problem is not in telling them what they are doing wrong, and Jonah tells God no (at first) because he knows he can do the job well.  He’s afraid he will do such a good job that the Ninevites will actually repent!  And that God will show them mercy.  Jonah would quickly have said yes to God’s call if he could have controlled the outcome.  Jonah’s reason for saying No is that he was not willing to give up control.  He didn’t trust God enough to surrender everything – even control – to God.

It is interesting to me to read about fishing during Jesus’ time.  There were two kinds of nets that fishermen used from their boats.  One of them was a trawl-net.  It was dragged behind the boat, and became like a large bag, collecting fish as the boat moved.  The kind of net that Peter and Andrew were using was smaller.   The fishermen would throw the net from the side of the boat – its operation required skill and talent.  In order to fish like Simon and Andrew were fishing, the fishermen had to be involved.  Even so, it wasn’t like fishing with a pole.  Simon and Andrew had to throw the net – be involved, and yet they couldn’t choose the fish they caught.  The net would catch all kinds of fish, unlike a using a pole and catching one fish at a time. 

Fishing for people – following the call of God – would in some ways be the same.  We have to say yes to being involved – to casting the net -- and yet we have to give up control of the result.  We have to trust God enough to place the outcome in his hands.

Psalm 65, verses 7 and 8, say “On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.”  Doesn’t our response to God come down to trust?  We have to trust him enough to place our faith in his choice – he chooses us and calls us.  We have to trust him enough to follow his lead, even when we would rather do something else.  And – maybe hardest of all -- we have to trust him enough to give up control. 

Whatever our excuses are, our faith leads us to the belief that God is worthy of our trust.   God is calling you today – in some way – to let go of your nets and to immediately follow him.  Will you tell God he has called the wrong number?  Or will you say yes, and follow him?

The following four posts were a sermon I preached this past Sunday.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Wrong Number, III

Sometimes I think I say no to God because he is asking me to do something I just don’t want to do.  There are many “I would rathers” in my life.  I would rather sleep in on Saturday than go to the riverfront and help feed homeless people.  I would rather keep some of my financial earnings for myself than give them to the church.  I would rather watch TV in the evenings than work to prepare a sermon.  It’s true that I would often rather follow my own desires than say yes to the work that God is calling me to do.  Maybe you have had that experience.  And yet, when I say yes to God, I often find that I am blessed beyond my expectations. I wonder if the four men called by Jesus that day had known how their lives would end if they would have said yes to him.  

Much of this is according to tradition, but tradition tells us that Simon Peter was crucified by Nero in Rome and Andrew was crucified in Greece.  The book of Acts tells us that James was killed by Herod.  John was the only disciples who lived a long life, but he was banished to the island of Patmos.  Would they have chosen differently if they had known?  I don’t know, but I imagine if any of the four had been asked at the end of their lives, “Do you regret saying yes to Christ?” none of them would have regretted their decisions.  Every call from God places in front of us an opportunity to trust that God is leading us in the right direction – to trust that his judgment is better than ours, and to trust that we will never regret following his lead.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wrong Number, II

In my church, each week I am responsible for recruiting a lector – a lay person who will read the scripture passage during worship.  I try to ask lots of different people to serve, and I never really know what the answer to my request will be.   One morning I asked Maria (name changed), and her response was, “Oh, I can’t do that.   Ask my husband; he’ll do it, but I could never do that.”   Her response demonstrated a lack of confidence in her abilities.

Do we sometimes hesitate to say yes to God because we don’t think we are good enough, capable enough, righteous enough, talented enough or perfect enough to serve God?

Picture for a moment the events related to us in the passage from the Gospel of Mark. Jesus is walking along shore of the Sea of Galilee, and he calls out to the brothers, Simon and Andrew.   I don’t doubt for a moment that Jesus knew who they were – and that he knew they were not perfect men.   He knew their flaws, he knew their weaknesses.   He knew their sins.   And yet – he called them.   Calls are initiated by God, and he knows us.   He put us together, created our very being, and he knows even the deepest, darkest parts of our souls, and yet HE CALLS US.  He calls us anyway – maybe in spite of who we are, or maybe because of who we are.   William Barclay wrote in his Commentary on the Gospel of Mark, “We should never think so much of what we are as of what Jesus Christ can make us. What can Jesus do in the world through us if we will only trust in his choice of us when he calls?

Five minutes after Maria told me that she could never read scripture in church, she came back up to me and aid, “OK, I’ll do it.” Her confidence in God inspires me.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wrong Number, I

We get our share of telemarketers who call our house. We don’t have caller ID, but I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing who is a friend calling and who is a telemarketer.  When I answer the phone and there is a pause after I say hello, I know that the computer system is pushing my call through to the salesperson, and I hang up.  I can say “no” right away, before a live person comes on the line.  When God calls, are you ever tempted to do that?  Are you ever tempted to say to God – wrong number – call someone else?

One of the lectionary readings for this week is Mark 1:14-20.  It is the call of Simon, Andrew, James and John.

Whenever I read that passage, I am always struck by the vision of the fishermen dropping their nets, immediately, and following Jesus.  It is as if they don’t hesitate – they don’t go home and discuss the decision with any family members – they don’t struggle through their choice– they just do it.  Immediately.  There is nothing in the passage that leads us to believe that Simon, Andrew, James and John were being called by a stranger.  I have to believe they had met Jesus before, that they had heard him preaching or teaching, that in some ways they had already developed some kind of relationship with him.  Even so, Mark doesn’t leave much doubt that their response was excuse-free.  They dropped their nets, left their lives, and followed Jesus.

One of the other lectionary readings for the week comes from the book of Jonah.  For me, in some ways, Jonah – initially --  has an opposite response when compared to the four men in the Mark passage.  God calls Jonah to go and tell the people of Ninevah that they must change their ways or face destruction.  Jonah’s initial reaction – to run the other way – is so much more like my reaction to God’s call sometimes.  I can relate to Jonah.  In response to God’s call, Jonah goes down to Joppa, gets on a boat, goes down into the ocean, and down into the belly of a fish.  Talk about arguing with God – only at Jonah’s lowest point can he finally say “yes” to God – and even that response is reluctant.  And when the people of Ninevah repent, Jonah is disappointed in God’s mercy.

Are we sometimes more like Jonah in our responses to God than we are like Simon or Andrew?  And why is that the case?  I think we can get so wrapped up in our excuses that they become a trap – to use a fisherman’s image – our excuses can become a net to keep us from serving God.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

He is who he is

My son says he has green eyes.  My husband agrees with him, but I think Josh's eyes are hazel. 

The truth is, though, no matter what color I call his eyes or what color he says his eyes are, they are a particular color that is not impacted in the slightest by my perception of the color, by what I call the color, or by how much I insist that I am right.  His eyes are the color they are, independent of my insistence.

I was thinking this morning that the same is true about God.  No matter what I call him, or how I describe him -- no matter how much you or I argue about the "truth" about God -- God is God, and our perception of him does not change who he is or what he does.

Do you think it is the case that sometimes instead of God creating us in his image that we try to re-create God in our own image of who he should be?  He is who he is (sound familiar?), and no matter how much I insist he is a certain way, he is still I Am.

There is much in that to take comfort.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Last week's Friday Five at RevGalBlogPals:
  1. Recommend a favorite worship resource or devotional book. I consistently (if by consistently you understand that I mean "mostly, when I remember to...") use the Upper Room's Disciplines as a devotional resource.  I like it better than the Upper Room because each week is written by one author and has a lectionary theme. 
  2. Recommend a blog that you like to read that you think others might find enjoyable.  My favorite blog is a knitter's blog -- The Yarn Harlot (  I know, if you don't read knitting blogs that you might think I'm exaggerating, but she's hilarious.  
  3. Recommend a fiction book that you think people might like.  I'm currently re-reading (for the umptheeth time) Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  It's one of my very favorites.
  4. Recommend a favorite recipe website. O.k., if you aren't into cooking or food, then just recommend a random website that you find useful, hilarious, mind numbing or thought provoking.   I'm not sure I have a favorite recipe website, but I have started using the Paprika app on my iPhone and iPad. Great recipe tool!
  5. And for the last recommendation--it's bloggers' choice! Make a recommendation for anything!  I'm also reading Reading the Women of the Bible: A New Interpretation of Their Stories by Tikva Frymer-Kensky.  I would highly recommend it.  I'm working my way through it slowly, a chapter at a time, and savoring it. 


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sorrow into Joy

This came in my email today, from Sound Bites:
Your sorrow itself shall be turned into joy. Not the sorrow to be taken away, and joy to be put in its place, but the very sorrow which now grieves you shall be turned into joy. God not only takes away the bitterness and gives sweetness in its place, but turns the bitterness into sweetness itself -- Charles Spurgeon
Your sorrow will be turned into joy.  Have you thought about that before?  What would that mean?  Soured milk into fresh.  Decay into new.

Can you imagine a bitter relationship changed to one of joy?  It isn't that terrible experiences would be removed -- it's that terrible experiences would be turned into ones of joy.

It's hard to imagine.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Forgiveness and Restoration

As I was preparing the Sunday school lesson I taught today, about Joseph and the restoration of the relationship with his brothers, it was bothering me that Joseph was "playing around" with his brothers.   He accused them of spying, put them in jail, sent them home,, kept the second oldest in jail, made them bring their youngest brother back with, accused him of stealing a silver cup -- he just didn't behave well.

It was a lesson about restoration and forgiveness, and yet Joseph didn't act in a forgiving way until the very end. It seemed to me if the lesson was about forgiveness, then I didn't know what to do with all the manipulation.

But as I was teaching it, I realized that Joseph's reaction just makes him more human.  It had to work toward the restoraton.  He is not perfect, and neither are we.  And yet, God can bring us to a point of understanding that allows us to let go and to forgive.

We can be forgiving, even though we are not perfect.  And through us, God can change the world.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012


What is a remnant?  The Sunday school lesson I'm working on for tomorrow is called "God Preserves a Remnant."  Think about a remnants table at a fabric store.  It’s full of bits and pieces of fabric – odd yardage, leftovers from what someone else wanted.  Usually they are on sale, because no one really wants the leftovers.

Until the time comes when someone comes along and chooses the remnant.  I don’t want to take this analogy too far, but it’s kind of a restoration.  In the buyer’s imagination, what has been found to be useless to one person is restored to usefulness and acceptability by the imagination of someone else.

God specializes in remnants.  None of us are the perfect piece of fabric, with the exact pattern, ready to be use in perfect condition for God’s plan.  But in us he sees potential.  He sees how he can re-create us from what we were to what we can become.

And because of that, we are called to a ministry of remnants, too.  We are called to forgiveness and reconciliation, because we have been forgiven and re-created by God.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Battle in your Head

I'm still reading (and enjoying) Gabaldon's The Scottish Prisoner.  As John is walking to a place where he anticipates a confrontation, he thinks to himself, "Trying to fight a battle in your head was pointless and did nothing but fret the nerves and exhaust the energies."

It rang true with me, and, since I am reading this book on Kindle, I can see how many people have highlighted this passage -- 27.  Twenty seven doesn't sound like a lot, but in my experience, that is a high number of highlights for one passage of text.

Does it ring true with you?  I know that I often have battles with people in my mind.  I argue, I reason, I invite arguments that will never happen, and I plan what I would say.  Of course, I never (rarely) say those things except in my mind.

Christ warns us about committing sins in our minds.  We think that is ludicrous -- how can we control what we think?  And yet, I know that even though an argument with someone has only been in my mind, it still affects my relationship with that person.  It changes how I see them, it alters what they say to me. 

This is probably something I need to work on -- developing a place of grace in my mind rather than a place of confrontation.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Every person, a gift?

I was in a meeting yesterday, and the leader of the meeting said (and I'm paraphrasing) that each person we encounter is bringing us a gift.  If we look hard enough and are open enough to the gift, then we will find it.  The person may not even be aware that he/she is giving us a gift, but the gift is given nevertheless.

What would life be like if we found a gift from God in each person we met, every day?  That's not just the people who are generous, or kind, or loving, or full of grace, but also the grumpy ones, the mean ones, the thoughtless ones.  What gifts do they give us?

Do we trust enough in God to look for those gifts?  Do we believe enough to have faith that God could touch us, even through the guy honking his horn at us on the interstate?  Do we see the gifts from the negative woman in the waiting room?  Are we open to receive gifts from God, even from unlikely places and people?

And -- and -- are we willing to let God touch other people -- even those who make us made, or who hurt us, or who we are angry with -- are we willing to let God touch them through us?  Can we be gift bearers to everyone? 

How does it feel to know that God is doing it, even if we don't like it?  What would we think if we knew how we have blessed the person who we argue with in our minds? 

Every person, a gift.  Can you watch for it and be thankful for it?  Can I?  And how will that change our relationship to that person? 


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Joyful Attitude

This image is of a bluebird.  Not a very good picture, I admit it, but it is so rare to see a bluebird that I'm posting it anyway. 

I was in a waiting room today with a woman who was more negative than anyone else I've met recently.  No matter what anyone said, no matter what comment was made on the television, her reaction was a negative one.

When I got in the car to drive to my next destination, the radio announcer said, "We need to adapt a joyful attitude."  Too bad she couldn't tell the lady in the waiting room that.

I believe in God.  I don't believe in the magic of a positive attitude -- I don't believe that if we just are optimistic, that nothing bad will happen.  I do believe, though, that a joyful, optimistic attitude can make our lives easier to live, and more enjoyable to walk through.

I think that joyful attitude would include the following:
  • There is enough worry for today without borrowing it from tomorrow.  Face and manage the problems for today, but let tomorrow's problem wait until tomorrow. Most of the time (not always, but most of the time), what we worry about doesn't happen.
  • Assume that you don't have all of the information you think you have.  Usually we don't know everything, and sometimes what we don't know makes a huge difference in reality.
  • When the time comes, deal with whatever it is (this is the hardest one for me).  You'll feel better once you've tackled the problem.
  • Pray about it.  Don't forget.
  • Forgive people, even when they don't ask for forgiveness, even when they don't act regretful, even if the other person never knows you have forgiven them, or even that they hurt you.  Forgive and let go.
  • Apologize.  Even if you think the other person did something wrong.  You probably did something wrong, too.  Even if you didn't do anything wrong, you are sorry for the break in the relationship.  Apologies build bridges and repair rifts in a relationship.  Sometimes the healing is more important than the rightness. (maybe always?). 
  • Find the positive in the situation.  Find the humor.  Find the story you will tell your friends. 
  • Sometimes, just walk away. Disengage.
  • Forgive yourself.
  • Move closer to God, for there you will find joy.

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Monday, January 09, 2012

Hospitality from who we are

Today in a meeting we were talking about hospitality, and the people around the table were sharing experiences they had had receiving hospitality. Mark said that hospitality comes from who we are.

We kind of let that remark pass by unnoticed, but I think it is very true. Hospitality comes from who we are. Perhaps the best way to prepare to share hospitality is to define, for ourselves, who we are.

So much else is like that as well. In order to act as the church, we need to discover who we are. When our actions are born from who we are, they are genuine and authentic.

When a church says, "I am welcoming - that is part of what makes me who I am," then its actions will be one of a welcoming church, if the members understand their identity and are willing to let it give birth to their actions.

I've experienced true hospitality, and I've experience patronizing hospitality, and there is defiantly a difference.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Different Shoes

This evening we got ready and went to the mall.   I had changed clothes after church, so before we left the house, I went to my closet pulled out a black loafer and its mate.  At least, that's what I thought I had done.  I did pull out a black loafer, but not its mate.

When we were going up the escalator at Sears, I looked down, and found that I was wearing one black loafer and one brown loafer.  These shoes were obviously -- very obviously -- different shoes.  I think a mother and her daughter in the restroom were laughing at me.  I had to tell the clerk we working with in the appliance department what I had done so that she didn't think I was just crazy.

My guys really got a kick out of my mismatched shoes.  Steve took a picture; Josh laughed and laughed.

So funny.  Right.

So, does Christianity ever make us stand out like that.  Do we sometimes feel as if people are pointing and laughing?  I wonder if perhaps it should make us that self-conscious  Shouldn't, at least sometimes, our faith be so radical that other people notice how different we are, and perhaps how illogical we are?

Aren't there times when being a Christians should feel like wearing two different shoes?

Friday, January 06, 2012


Have you ever heard of a fridstool?  I hadn't either.  I am currently reading The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon.  One of the protagonists, Jamie, is looking for a quiet place to be alone, and he is reminded of something a nun had told him:
A fridstool is a seat of refuge, of sanctuary. Churches—English churches—often have one, for the use of persons seeking sanctuary, though I must say, they aren’t used as often these days as in former centuries.” She waved a hand knobbed with rheumatism and took another drink. “As I no longer have my cell as a place of private retirement, I was obliged to find a fridstool. And I think I have chosen well,” she added...
Do you ever feel as if you need a fridstool?  I do. 

A quiet, secluded place gives my mind room to think.  It gives my spirit time to be quiet.  Sometimes my fridstool is in my car.  Sometimes it is the chair I have sitting in my office near the window, where I can read a devotional and have a few moments of prayer.  Sometimes finding a fridstool requires that I leave my office and walk down to the chapel in the chuch where I work.

It an be a place or a time; it can be for serious study, prayer or it can be for leisure reading.  It can be for just a time of quiet.  Whatever you need -- whatever time alone means to you, try to find your fridstool.

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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Saying Yes, Saying No

I read this today in a blog comment:  A yes is only a yes if a no is possible.

The quote was in a comment to blog post concerning a book written by an author who believes that a hierarchical marriage structure is Biblical.  Can a wife really say yes to a husband if he is in absolute authority?  If her no is not possible then her yes is not really a yes at all.

Think about that.  And think about its implications and how it can lead to situations in which the wife is abused or assaulted. 

In a related thought, think about David and Bathsheba.  Did she really commit adultery?  Could she have said no to King David?  If she could not have said no, then would her yes had been real?  The New Interpreter's Bible goes so far as to call the intercourse between David and Bathsheba rape.

Stretching the point even more (to a point completely unrelated to the other two ideas), it follows that if God desires us to say yes to him, then he had to grant us the ability to say no.  A loving response from us to God is only possible because he has given us free will.  We can say yes only because we can say no.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2012


I was at the movies earlier this week and saw a preview of the movie Lorax -- an adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book. I emailed myself this quote for future use: "It's not about what it is; it's about what it can become."

We spend a whole lot of time evaluating who we are, what we have done, what others have done, mistakes, wasted time, and flaws. We use all of that information to make value judgments about ourselves and others. And then we think that God does the same thing.

It's not about who we are; it's about who we can become.

God loves us now, today, as we are. And he can see who we can become, through his grace.

It's about transformation, re-creation, re-birth. it's about potential. It's about who we were created to be, not about the fact that we aren't there yet.

If we realize that, then we can reach for what is possible, opening ourselves up to what God can do, instead of judging what is potential based only on present reality.

It's not about who we are; it's about who we can become.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Is there anything excellent?

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

At dinner on New Year's Day, we were discussing the surveys that car repair shops ask you to complete to rate the service they have provided.  One of the members of our family stated that he saves the "excellent" column for service that is extraordinary or outstanding.

I wonder how often we do that in life.  How often do we withhold affirmation or praise because someone has not been "perfect" in our eyes.  Do we search for the excellence in what they are done?  Do we have the attitude that we can find what is worthy to be praised in the work they have done or do we assume that they can do better?

What would be the fruit of our affirmation and encouragement?


Monday, January 02, 2012

Breakfasts with the Wise Men, Part III

Continued from yesterday...

Two days later, very early in the morning, as the sun was just beginning to rise, Abid and the wise men were awakened by a pounding on the door of their rooms.  Abid struggled to his feet and opened the door a crack.  A man, dressed in dark robes, stood there.  “King Herod has sent me to bring the men of the start to the palace.  They must come now!”

So it was that the three wise men (with Abid standing close by) and King Herod shared breakfast.

The normally jovial and talkative men were silent in the presence of the King.  Herod was handsome, well groomed and finely dressed.  Gold and jewels adorned his hands, glinting in the dimness of morning as he dipped bread into the cheese.  There was something about him – something unsettling.  As Abid watched the four men, the word “evil” came into his mind.   Herod smiled at the three wise men, but their hearts beat a fast, hard rhythm in his presence. 

Herod said, “You have come to find the child who is to be born as King of the Jews.”

Melchior answered, “Yes, we have.”

Herod selected a piece of fruit, and sliced it open with his knife.  Red juice squirted from its depths and ran across the linen of the cloth that covered the table.  “Good.  That is excellent.”  He bit into the fruit, obviously enjoying its tartness.  “I have spoken with my own wise men, and they have told me this child is to be found in Bethlehem.   You are to go there.  And once you have found the child, come back to me.”  He reached for another slice of fruit, flicking out a seed with his immaculate nail.  “I wish to know this child, and I will go and worship him as well.”  Once again he smiled.

Very soon after that, the three wise men, along with Abid, found themselves in the courtyard of the house where they had been staying, stunned. 

Clearing his throat, Balthazar said, “I told you he would be born in Bethlehem,” but his words were weak, not full of his usual arrogance.

Caspar said, his voice aching with disbelief, “We told him when the star appeared.  He will know the date of the child’s birth.  What will we do?”

Melchior answered.  “We will go to Bethlehem, and we will find the child.  We will warn his parents.”

And what will we tell Herod when we come back this way?” asked Caspar.

 "I don’t know, but we’ll think of something.”

 The three men spent several hours together in the courtyard, recalling all that they had read in the prophecies and stories on their scrolls.  They talked about what the man at the Temple had told them and they remembered the desperation of the king to hear about this King of the Jews who had been born. 

Melchior said, “I am not a Jew.  Why is it that I feel as if the birth of this tiny child in the far away country will make a difference in my life?”

Caspar answered, “The man at the temple said that he would bring salvation to everyone – even to the gentiles.  I find that I believe him.”

Balthazar said, “We must go today and find this child.  No delay.  Abid!  Pack our bags!”  All three had failed to notice that Abid was already packing, and that he had brought the camels from their stalls.  Balthazar sighed, “I just wish I had brought a better gift.”

The other two men nodded, remembering with shame their reluctance to bring their best.

Abid stepped forward, carrying the trunk that contained their gifts.  He wordlessly opened it, revealing the three items inside.  The three men stepped forward to look inside.  Caspar reached out and picked up the purple silk bag full of coins.  Opening it, he found a wealth of God.  Melchior recognized the small box of frankincense he had hidden to protect it from thieves.  And Balthazar saw the ornate jar that contained the finest myrrh, set aside for his own burial.  All three of them lifted their eyes and looked at Abid.  “Why did you bring these?”

Abid explained, “For the past many years, you have been talking about a babe to be born, who would be the salvation of the world.  You convinced me it was true!  I knew at some point you would start to believe it, too, and that the truth would change your minds about what gifts to bring.”

Feeling a little ashamed, and a little put out with their servant, but glad of his service, the three men returned the gifts to the trunk and left Jerusalem, to follow a star and worship a king.


Sunday, January 01, 2012

Breakfasts with the Wise Men, Part II

Continued from yesterday...

The journey to Jerusalem was long.  It involved many smelly, spitting camels, hot days and cold nights.  No one really talks about it now, but Abid remembers it – every detail of it.  And for years and years, he told his grandchildren about it.  “Did I ever tell you the story…..”  And his grandchildren would roll their eyes and squirm.

When the caravan reached Jerusalem, the wise men were tired, and they had begun to lose their excitement for the search.  Abid found them a place to stay, and settled them in.  He found a place for the camels to sleep, and he unpacked all of the rugs, blankets, food, clothes, books and starcharts that the wise men had insisted on bringing with them.  During his work, he became familiar with town of Jerusalem, so when Balthazar woke up the next morning, and declared, “We must go to the Temple!  There will be people at the Temple who can help us!” Abid knew just where to take them.

As they approached the Temple, the three men stood stunned by its glory.  The platform area upon which it was built was enormous, and the temple itself was covered in gold.  Caspar muttered, “Herod has outdone himself.  Surely Rome will notice this.” 

The crowds were thick, but Melchior noticed a man standing close by.   “Sir, I wonder if you would answer some questions for me.”

The older man, bent with age, but with wisdom in his eyes, said, “What can I help you with?”

“We,” he began, indicating his friends, “have come from Babylon…”  The other two men cleared their throats, “Yes, yes, and Arabia and Persia,’ he added, to please his friends.  “We have studied the stars, and we have read the prophecies.  We come to Jerusalem because we believe that that a child-king is to be born here.  We come to see him.  Do you know anything about this?”

The man nodded his head.  “Yes, my God has spoken to me about this child.  He will be born soon, and he will be the salvation of all people.”

Excited, Balthazar said, “What do you know of him?” 

"This child is from God.  The fate of all of us rest upon him.  He will be light to the Jews and to the Gentiles.  He will be the light of salvation for even you.  When you find him, you should bow down and worship him”

“Yes, yes,” said Caspar inpatiently, “but where can we find him?”

“I, too, am waiting for him.  God has promised that I will see him, but I do not know where to tell you to look.”  Disappointed, the men started to leave, but the man placed his hand on Melchior’s robe.  “Be careful.  Not everyone will welcome this child.”   

The wise men thanked the man and walked away, but Abid stood, stunned by what he had heard.   He quietly said, “Salvation?  Even for me?”

The man, whose name was Simeon, said, “Yes, and even for me.”

To be continued tomorrow...


Poetry from 2011