​A moment for walking

person wearing blue denim jacket while walking on foggy road

“Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” Mark 2:8-12

Why were they so amazed? People get up and walk all the time.

Many years ago I was told by someone, “You don’t reward someone for doing what they are supposed to do.”  When I heard this, I was at first taken aback, but then I somewhat bought into the idea. Recently this perspective has been brought to my attention again, and I realize how much my viewpoint has matured.  I now know, there is no love, dignity, honor, or faith, in that statement.

We are not all equally capable of everything.  We are each made up of strengths and weaknesses.  Sometimes our weaknesses get the best of us, and we become convinced that that is all we are.  Jesus, in this story of healing, first addressed the inner-weakness in the person brought to him by saying “Your sins are forgiven.”  All the things that make you feel less than worthy, all the things you have done that make you feel ashamed, all the things you are that you are not proud of.  They are gone, now get up and walk.

Letting go of our “sins” is difficult if not impossible on our own.  We often need a formal release from the guilt or punishment we inflict on ourselves or others.   We are not given an explanation of what this man’s sins were.  Jesus does not list them and then check them off.  He incontrovertibly says “the past is the past now go forward.”  What a gift to have such release!

Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  Mark 2:3-5 

For a person who is mentally paralyzed by sin, shame, depression or fear, healing is complicated.   The person who needs healing must let down all the preconceived notions of self-sufficiency and allow others to lead them to the place where healing can begin.  This act in weakness is also a moment of considerable strength.  It is a moment of humility for the individual, and yet it takes courage to acknowledge the need for help and to receive it.  Those with the strength to help must treat this person and this moment with love, dignity, honor, and faith.  The barriers of judgment and pride must be removed, and openness to love and healing must take its place.  In this story, Jesus saw not only the faith of the man but also the faith of his companions.   A moment of unity in the desire to encounter Christ produced a perfect reward for everyone.

“they were all amazed and glorified God”

When was the last time you were amazed?

Take a moment today to celebrate the simple acts of others.  It might be more difficult for them than you know.

 

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 of unlimited access

silhouette of trees and mountain under blue starry sky
Photo by Sindre Strøm on Pexels.com

For me, this week is the best part of Christmas.  The advertisements are slowing down, the need to shop has all but stopped, and most of the returns and exchanges have been made.  And with a deep and glorious sigh, I now have time, time to rest in the Christmas season which will not officially end until January 6th.  Growing up in New Orleans I think I took Epiphany traditions for granted.  January 6 was an important day! It was, sadly,  time to take down the Christmas decorations, but it also marked the beginning of Carnival season and my favorite treat the King Cake.  Over time, as with many traditions, the significance of Epiphany has developed into something much more precious.

It is during this time that we reflect on the Magi, also known as the Wise Men, and the Star of Bethlehem.   The wise men, traveling across the desert, saw a star.   Knowing the Old Testament prophecies, understanding the stars, and recognizing that this one was new and in motion, they would have been compelled to investigate.  Faithful to the promises made in history they would seek the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Savior.

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.   Matthew 2:10 (NRSV)

As they entered the house and saw the child with his mother Mary, their reverence and adoration brought them to their knees.  So much hope led them to this place, and in this moment they were given a miraculous gift.

The gift of unlimited access to the love of God was given.

In my mind, it is as if time stood still.  King Herod, the wily and efficient ruler and a cruel tyrant, is forgotten and all the love that is God radiates in the room where the Christ child rests in his mother’s arms.

If we are wise, faithful to the promises and follow the light, we too are given unlimited access to the love of God.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
    and a light for my path.   Psalm 119:105 (NLT) 

January 5th “Twelfth Night” by tradition I will add the “Three Kings” to my nativity in preparation for Epiphany.  I will pause and contemplate the power in the moment when they saw the star, in the moment when they first laid eyes on the child, the Messiah, who was promised to the people of God, and in the moment when they fell to their knees and worshiped him.   I will take out my Bible, and I will remember that we to have been given a guiding light.   I will recognize that we too have been given unlimited access to the Love of God.  I will let time stand still for a moment, and I will offer my reverence, adoration, and gratitude to, Christ, Emanuel, God with us.

A moment of longing

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 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:15-16

I recently had a conversation with my thirteen-year-old son that given his permission I want to share with you.  As we were driving home one evening, he was feeling nostalgic about his cousin’s former home and all his good memories there.   It was a sad moment with longing for the way things were and wishing they had not changed.  I mentioned to him that it seemed he liked the sadness of the memory and that often it seems he enjoys melancholy thoughts.  He agreed with me and said, “I don’t know why.”  I was about to move into a lesson moment of how that is not healthy, and he should focus on the good things, but I stopped myself.  Instead, I told him the story of when at four-years-old he told me he didn’t want to turn five.  “I like being four,” he said.   I then told him of the time when he was eight and while watching a father and son play together looked up at me and said, “I can’t wait to be a dad.”

It was a wonder-full discussion.  Longing for the cherished moments in our lives is a good thing that we should not cast aside too quickly.   It is an expression of gratitude for the people and places, for the moment and the memory.  It is okay to be pensive at times.  But we should not stay there.   We must also remember that the past was not perfect, there is always a blending of joys and sorrows.  We can use the joy and love in those moments to carry us through difficult times to come.  Those moments enable us to anticipate the future with hope.

Those moments that we long to return to were leading us to new adventures, in new places, with new people.  We cannot go back in time, but we can take the joy and love of those moments into the future with us. Our future will be richer than the past for the experiences of love and connection we bring into it.  If we remember each day to connect and build relationships with each other and with our Creator, we will continually be led toward something better.

The following day on our drive home he asked me, “Is it weird that I am a little excited about dying?  I kinda can’t wait to see what heaven is like.”  A moment of melancholy transformed into a moment of hope for a future in the city that is prepared for him.

I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.  Philippians 3:13-14

Can you recall a moment from the past that was so cherished you would like to return to it?  Can you move past that into a thought of anticipation for a moment that is yet to come?