A moment of piracy

white and black selling boat on bed of water during daytime

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened…, and all Jerusalem with him…; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. Matthew 2:1-4

Last week as I was reflecting on the Epiphany, I was intrigued by King Herod as the villain in the story.  The wise men were given unlimited access to the Christ Child, and Herod was denied access.

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.  Matthew 2:12

King Herod was created by God just like everybody else in the story.  So what went wrong? Most of us know King Herod is the ultimate biblical villain, a baby killer. However, there is more to the story.

Herod was born in Palestine.  His father was a soldier who ousted the king and took the throne for himself. His father appointed Herod Governor of Galilee.  When civil war broke out in Rome, Herod first sided with Mark Antony who made him a tetrarch (which is governor of a quadrant of Rome).  When Octavian defeated Mark Antony, and Cleopatra Herod switched his loyalties.  Herod was loyal to Rome and having proven this under Octavian-now Caesar Augustus-, he secured his position as King of the Jews.  Being a distrustful, paranoid, jealous, and brutal man.  He eliminated any opposition or threat to his place of power.  This included killing his wife and two of his sons.

But Herod wasn’t all bad.

There was economic prosperity during his reign of 33 years.  Herod presented himself as the protector of Judaism and hoped to win the favor of the Jews. He encouraged synagogue community development, and in difficult times he suspended taxes and supplied free grain to the people.  He earned his title Herod the Great because of all the building he was responsible for including the rebuilding and beautification of the temple in Jerusalem.

But he was a fearful and paranoid man, and he made a choice to let his fears guide his decisions.

There have been times in my life when I too have made a choice to follow my fears and insecurities.  Recently, as I was listening to a song in my car, a vivid recollection of such a time came flooding back.  The song was “A Pirates look at 40” by Jimmy Buffett.  A friend of mine, a Buffett fan, listened to his music often and so that time in my life is marked by his music.

It was a sad moment as I heard this song and remembered being 18 and how insecure and afraid I was.  I didn’t trust the friendships I had because I didn’t believe I was worthy of such good people.  As a result, I hurt those who were actually in my corner.  By thinking that they had something I didn’t, and not understanding that I had an abundance of my own to offer the relationship, I tried to take what they had for myself.

As I listened to the song, I didn’t stay in the sad moment long.  There has been a great deal of change for me as I grew in confidence and strength of character.  And looking back I am grateful for the time and the memory that had such an impact on my life.  Losing the friendships of those I hurt was a valuable consequence.  In the future, I made better choices.  I began looking at people of strong character and instead of attempting to take what they had I sought to emulate their integrity and fortitude.  In time my desire to read scripture grew.  I studied and learned about love and the genuine character of Christ.  He might have been a threat to Herod, but he also could have healed him.

In the song, Buffett claims to be a victim of fate, but I believe we make choices daily that impact the present and the future as well as how we will remember the past.

Will you recognize the value of past choices as moments of growth?

Will you recognize your value and that you are right now exactly where you should be?

Will you offer that to this day?

 

 

A moment/A gift

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Jacob said, “No, please; if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God—since you have received me with such favor. Please accept my gift that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have everything I want.” So he urged him, and he took it.  Genesis 33:10-12 (NRSV)

I celebrated my 50th birthday this month.   I don’t like making a big deal of my birthdays.  And, though this was a decade birthday and I passed the half-century mark, I thought it would be no different.  But, somehow in spite of my determination to minimize it, this birthday, even as it approached was actually a big deal to me. My mom passed away at 50 from cancer.  I don’t think of myself as a person who worries or frets about things,  but it is interesting how our minds don’t always cooperate with our wills. As I approached my 49th year, I became fearful.  I was afraid for my health and started imagining illnesses. I was worried about my children if they were to lose me too soon, as I lost my mother.  Then, as time went on, I began to accept my vulnerability, and my heart opened to it. I thought of how difficult it must have been for my mother to tell her children goodbye and trust that we would be okay.  I thought of many other relatives who have loved me in my life and are now gone.  I began to ask myself some big questions.  What have I done with my life?  What do I want to do differently, better, or not at all in the minutes, days, weeks, months, or years to come. My 49th year was a bit selfish as I asked myself these questions, but my boundaries became much better defined.

As a result of the past year, the day I actually turned 50, I was overwhelmed by how much I still felt the love of those who have come and gone from my life; grandmothers, aunts, family friends.  In the days around my birthday, I decided to spend time cultivating love within myself and sharing it with everyone I encountered.  Imperfectly, of course, we cannot always be at our best.  But as my intention to love was increased, the love I felt increased.

One of my favorite things to do is taking a hike in the mountains.  With a dear friend and the gift of good weather, I embarked on a walk that took my breath away.  We were surrounded by God’s presence and the beautiful gift of His creation.  It was a perfect day!  Every bend in the path revealed a new breathtaking view.  The longer we walked, the smaller I felt in the vastness of the mountains.  And yet, God’s love for me and all His creation to the most minor detail was more evident than it had been in a long time.

All this is the backdrop for the gift I was given two days later.  My husband, knowing how much I don’t like too much attention, wanted to do something special for my 50th.  A sweet friend shared an idea, and my husband pulled it off.

At lunch with family and friends, he presented a wrapped shoe box.  If you have ever tried to gift wrap a shoebox you know this in itself is impressive!  When I lifted the lid and lifted the layers of tissue, I was overwhelmed.  The box was full of cards, notes, and emails.  The first was a copy of the email he sent to many of our friends and family explaining why I wasn’t having a big party, and requesting that they share a birthday note to me.  I couldn’t even finish the email request without tears, and in a restaurant by the way.  My husband kindly took a handful of the funny ones, and we passed them around the table with laughter.  Thank you to all my friends who understand and appreciate my humor and who in turn share theirs!  It has been two weeks, and I have not yet made it through the whole box.  I read one at a time allowing a moment for the tears of joy and for the love of friends and family to soak in.

I share all this as an expression of gratitude to my dear friends and family.  I would be lost without you!  Thank you for your gift to me!  Also, because I know it is not easy, I share this to encourage those who are afraid.

Love.

You are beloved.

Be vulnerable.

Allow love to soak in deeply.

Love heals the past, enriches the present and is our greatest gift to the future.

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
and the pleasantness of a friend
springs from their heartfelt advice.  Proverbs 27:8-10 (NIV)

 

A moment of loneliness

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by Shelby Cruse

Genesis 2:18   the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”

 

 

 

There are 7 billion people in this world, and yet loneliness is becoming more and more common.  It has been reported that the average number of close friends Americans share has dropped from 3 to 2.  And the number of people in America with no close friends has tripled since 1985.   If you are one of these people, who suffer from loneliness you are not alone.

Interestingly loneliness is not a term used in the Bible, although the word alone occurs 195 times in the NRSV version.  Being alone is often a good thing and does not imply loneliness. Jesus had 12 close friends, and of those 12, Peter, Andrew, James and John were held even closer.  Even with this intimate group of friends always around he still often chose to be alone with God, which is still not alone and would not be lonely. These 12 men were called to friendship and set out to bring others into this fold.

Isaiah 41:10  do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Improve social skills–Practicing social skills can be very scary especially for the introvert.  But practice anyway.  Speak to at least 2-3 people a day if possible.  Smile, make eye contact and say ” Hi, how are you?” They may reply with a simple “fine.” However, it is the smile and the eye contact that will have the real impact on your loneliness level.  Asking others questions takes the focus off of you and offers it to the other person.  You are now thinking of someone else, and loneliness is moved aside even if only for a moment.

Increase social interaction–Put yourself in places where you can meet other people.  Even the seemingly superficial act of asking “How are you?” as I have said can have an impact.  If you can find ways to increase the questions, you will have more interaction.  Ask for help finding something in a store.  People love to be helpful, and you are offering them a chance to feel needed, and show they care.

Avoid negative thinking–Not all of the conversations you open will have a positive impact but keep your feelings neutral.  The smile and the eye contact you offer will be the thing most remembered and what you said will be forgotten very quickly.  Unless by chance, you said something very positive to a lonely person and made their day. That they will remember and you have done a very good thing!  Try to have a positive impact on everyone you encounter today.  It is a win-win!

Seek support systems–Look for groups that share your interests and join them.  I once said to someone,  “Close friends aren’t made they just are.”  It did not take me long after to realize that was not even close to accurate.  Friends are made, by seeking people with whom you have commonality.  By taking an interest in them and what interests them.  By noticing their low times and offering encouragement.  By sharing in their joys and laughter.  When you do this for others, you just might find that it comes right back to you.

Remember you are never alone–We were created in Love, by Love, for Love.  Open your heart to the Love of God and offer it to others.  It is the Love I feel from God and for God that pushed me to write.  It is my Love for His people that prompted me to send it out.  When I have moments of loneliness, I think of you.  You warm my heart.

​A moment of friendship

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Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.  Proverbs 18:24

 

Friend,

There is a place in my heart where you live,

Like a warm ember,

Lighting the darkness,

Warming the winter,

Soothing my spirit,

Reminding me, I am not alone.

There is a place in my heart,

In which time, distance and details are lost.

Flashes of memory

Brighten my thoughts,

Turn the corners of my mouth,

And ease my day,

There is a place in my life where you live,

Like a blazing fire,

Filled with crackling laughter,

And bright flickering smiles.

Darkness as a backdrop

only makes the joy brighter.

And when we part.

The ember,

A bit larger,

A bit brighter,

A bit warmer,

Glows.

Until next time…

Alana