​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 in the mirror

mirror

But be doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.  James 1:22-24

As I was putting on my makeup this morning, I remembered that as a child our bathroom had a three-way mirror.  With the end mirrors spread wide you could see only the surface, however, if you pulled the end mirrors together, you could see infinite images of yourself.   Spiritual reflection can be a bit like looking into that mirror.  Looking only at the surface, you might focus on the perceived imperfections and be critical.   Pull in the sides, and you will see deeply, so deeply you may lose focus on what is real and true.  There is, however, that perfect angle, the angle where the end mirrors are pulled into just the right place, and you can see all sides of yourself.  Without distortion, you can see a clear reflection of who you are.  Even if only for a moment hold onto that clarity, it is a gift.

For me, scripture is the guide I use to set the angles.  Scripture gives me the guidance to go deep into my spiritual search while keeping the image of myself from getting too deep and distorted.  The words in James remind me to look, see, reflect and then go back out and live.  Live with and into that perfect clear image of myself.  Perfect does not mean flawless, but perfect as I am created in the image of God, who knows me from all angles and loves me deeply.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Take a moment today to look into the mirror at as many angles as your mirror will allow.   Look into the flaws and the flawless parts of who you are and know that God loves you from every angle.

Peace,

Alana

 

A moment for Shelby

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It all began with the mental health unit in my eighth-grade health class at Hamilton Middle School. I had self-diagnosed myself with depression and anxiety earlier that year and had been assuming I was mentally ill since I was in elementary school. Besides researching coping mechanisms online, I had never done anything about either issue. Yet, for some reason, reading signs and symptoms in a textbook impacted me more than the repetitive results of severe depression I received from free online tests. I was tired. I found no pleasure in things I used to enjoy. I was hateful towards myself and others. I blamed myself. I didn’t sleep. I was impulsively hurting myself when upset. I was only thirteen, and I had been struggling for years. Reading all those terms on a page given to me by a teacher hit me harder than my ‘perfect score’ online in twenty different tests. It was a real problem. I needed to do something about it.
Two obstacles prevented me from reaching out to my family. The first was fear. I imagined two extremes and each equally terrified me. I thought they would blow me off, tell me I was being overdramatic, and say that everyone goes through this. Maybe I was just weak. I was also concerned they would take it to the other extreme. Lock me up in an institute and throw away the key because no one wants a crazy daughter. The other aspect that was hampering my cry for help was the concept of how to even begin the conversation.
“Hi, I’m so depressed and anxious I can’t sleep or eat. Could you maybe put me in counseling or on medication, so you won’t have to pay for my funeral?”
However, Mrs. Feight had given me an opportunity to talk to them when she handed me that sheet of paper. I never thought to thank her until I put it all down on paper.
Sitting at the kitchen counter, I could feel myself shaking. It was a common occurrence for me until I received anti-anxiety medication. It was worse than usual as my mother turned around to look at me in the midst of her cooking dinner.
“Do you need something?”
“Could you help me study for my health test?”
“Sure. Give me a second.”
The classic case of waiting for her to stop cooking changed from annoying to dread-inspiring. The longer she kept cooking, the more I desired running away. I could just go study in my room. Sizzles and warm smells from the stove-top made my stomach turn. I wasn’t going to be able to eat regardless.
“Ok,” she announced while wiping her hands dry. “Do you have a study guide?”
“Yes, ma’am. Could you quiz me in the blue room?”
My home’s little island paradise was in the room beside the kitchen, separated by double glass doors. It was the only room in the house that was painted blue, and we had filled it with succulents, grasses, and two trees acquired from my mother’s friend. It was a safe place. My mother sat on the cream-colored couch with her back to the bright windows, and I kneeled on the rug. She began to quiz me, and my stomach dropped to my feet when she read the question I had been waiting for.
“What are the ten signs of depression?” I easily listed them, and my mom looked into my eyes with concern as I finished.
“Blames self or others, low mood, thoughts of death, irritable, pessimistic, low energy, sleeping issues, eating issues, loss of interest, trouble concentrating and remembering.”
My abdomen was twisted into irreversible knots as I watched her try to compose her thoughts into words.
“Shelby,” she began slowly. “Did you realize you have most of these symptoms?” Against my will, I began to tear up. My mother always made me cry. I could hold them back around anyone else, but the environment her presence surrounded me in always bought my emotions out.
“I have all of them.” A weight lifted, and another put on my chest. Now she knew. Now I waited for the response. Luckily for me, neither of my two imagined outcomes came true. Instead, she asked me what kind of person she should look for to be my therapist if I thought therapy would help. We sat in the sunlight, surrounded by windows and green plants. I felt safe and terrified all at once, but I’ve always been glad that it happened. I’m very grateful for the way she handled my problems at that moment. No one is perfect, but the time I needed her the most, she was.

Shelby