Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The High Priest’s Servant

This is my second story in the series, “Ignored Characters from the Easter Story”.  Enjoy.

From Luke 22...

While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

But Jesus answered,“No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

Curse those thorn bushes! How long must I walk through this dark, wet forest? My legs are being torn to shreds trying to find my way! There is no moon tonight. It is a very silent night indeed. A man named Judas is leading us through this thickness. His torchlight keeps flickering as he slinks through the trees like a snake; in fact, he reminds me of a snake…dark, sneaky, slippery. We are searching for that man…what is his name? Jesus? Yes. He claims to be the Son of the Most High God! Ha! Who does he think he is?! Blasphemer! What kind of leader has a follower who betrays him for money? A false one! Yes. A false one. We shall see what kind of man he is.

I trudge on, squinting in front of me, groping for the light ahead, the sweat from my brow makes my eyes burn. My mouth is parched; I can barely swallow. The stench of angry men—men on a mission—reaches my nostrils. All I can hear is sandaled feet crunching upon wet gravel…moving, moving…when will we stop moving? I must keep in step with the High Priest. By now, he is likely spewing venom. He will not give his power to that false prophet “king”!

I see the torch clearly now. Judas has stopped. Why have we stopped? Have we found the criminal? He sees him! Judas tells us that he will give his master a kiss. That is how we will know him. Taking a deep breath, then letting out a resigned sigh, Judas goes forth. His hands are shaking. Before he reaches him, the man, Jesus, stops and stares. His eyes display the excruciating pain of the imminent rejection. How can he know already that this disciple is a traitor? “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Judas reels back—almost as if he has been slapped—the kiss unfinished but the deal done. Suddenly, there is commotion amongst Jesus’ followers. I move to front as I hear the rustling of metal. I also raise my sword. I am ready; adrenaline is charging through my veins! I see the unmistakable swoosh of a weapon in the corner of my eye! What is happening here? I thought this man was peaceful!

In an instant, I feel cold metal against my head! My ear! My ear has been cut off! My ear has been cut off! It is lying at my feet. Darkness. Darkness. Darkness closes in around me. Spinning. In and out. Can you hear me? My shoulder receives the rush of blood. If I could just lift my hand to stop the bleeding...oh my head…dizziness…falling…my body hits the ground hard. Everything fades.

What is happening? Who is this man helping me to my feet? I feel as if I have just awakened. I am so confused. I touch my spinning, dust-covered, blood-plastered head. Wait--no blood. My ear is intact. My shoulder is dry. I am standing. I am whole. Was it all a dream? No. Everyone is as they were. Everyone is staring at me. Everyone—including Him—the One who calls Himself the Son of God.

“What did he do?” I ask the High Priest? No one speaks. He has healed my ear! It is soft and cool. A sword had removed it and he touched it and restored my ear! He made me whole again! I am living! He has given me life!

Still they cuff him and seize him. They will still arrest him. My right hand is still on my ear.

He has the power to heal? Could he really be a king? Could he really be Messiah?

I hear him speak softly as we walk. He is not resisting. “When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

Am I a part of this darkness? Have I been the deceived one? Does this man know the way to the light? Is He the Light? Has my restored ear changed my eyes?

I must follow. I must follow him. My heart beats quickly. I am convinced He is Who He says He is. What have I been doing?

I yearn for truth. I yearn for light. He is the Light. I know this now. What am I doing? He really is the Lord! He really is the Lord!

Oh, my Lord! My Lord! Your hands touched my ear but saved my soul.

Will your blood be spilled for me?

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Colt

For Holy Week, I gave myself the task of writing character sketches of the "ignored" characters of the Easter story. And though it may seem a strange way to start, I focus on the colt that Jesus rode on Palm Sunday for our story today. Remember, creative exercises are good for my brain.  Judge lightly.

Use your imagination as we enter into Jerusalem...
Matthew 21...As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethpage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her.  Untie them and bring them to me.  If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away"...

Laboring to carry his Rider towards Jerusalem, the colt stopped and started, braying unhappily.  If the animal had known that he carried a King upon his back, his step would have been lighter, easier, quicker to please.  Yet, the beast stumbled on, unaware of the honor given, knowing not that his Creator sat upon him.

As they entered into the city, the rush of people, the waving of palm branches, the shouting of the villagers frightened the colt, yet the Wise Rider still urged him on;

This One who rode him was kind.

Traveling onward, he felt the Kind Man’s hands upon his sweat-covered neck, and he lifted his head to receive the welcome caress;

This One who rode him was gentle.

Stepping across the coat-strewn road, the donkey yielded to the soft words of the Gentle-man as He quietly commanded “Stop”.  Amidst voices, “Hosanna!” “God, save us!” he felt his Rider descend. 

And now, this Man, this Master, was leading him through streets of the burgeoning town. 

Who was this Man they honored here? 

Who was this Grace-full Leader? 

Could He be of Majesty? 

Could He be a King? 

Kings were not gentle, nor humble.  This Man was both of these.  Kings sat upon horses and chariots; this Man, upon unsaddled beast. Kings spoke with volume, conceit; this Man was serene in His power.  Kings wore fine robes and crowns on their heads, this Man, just a coat and His tears.

Today, now, greatly admired, this Man would soon be rejected. The tears of this sorrow fell freely.

And the colt, un-tethered, un-hindered--now honored—bowed down to show his respect.  This Man who had chosen to ride like the lowly had come from on High to save those He loved.  But love is not what He found. 

The colt sauntered steady and the Servant climbed on him.  This Man he now wanted to please.  The step of this donkey was now firmer, now quicker, now prouder—all now without complaint.  His job was important, so worthy, so awesome…

 For he carried the King of all Kings!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I Can't

I can’t protect them.

My two younger kids got in a car accident on the way to school this week.  They are fine, but my “what-ifs” made me crazy realizing...

I can’t protect them.

My older daughter drove to Chicago a few days ago and she had never driven in the city.  I tried not to panic when I received no word of her arrival because it was becoming increasingly clear…

I can’t protect them.

The same daughter that drove safely to Chicago got on a plane to China to spend nine days with strangers in a foreign country and I kept waking last night to check on her 13-hour flight, all the while realizing…

I can’t protect them.

My first-born is living at home this semester and stays out late with friends sometimes.  For some reason, I can’t sleep until I know he is safe in his bed even though I never know where he is when he is away at college.  I’m trying not to mother him so much and it’s hard for me to admit…

I can’t protect them.

When my children were all little and under my watchful hawk-eye, I reveled in the fact that I could protect them.  I took precautions to keep them within the realm of my indulgent care.  I established boundaries so they would not suffer bodily harm.  My “mother bear” instincts made my adrenaline rush when I sensed danger nearby, and my intuition about negative influences assured that I was being the gatekeeper for their impressionable minds.  I was secure when I knew of their whereabouts and kept close tabs on their adventures outdoors.  I did all of these things because I loved them intensely and my love drove me to protect them. 

My love still drives me to protect them. 

But I can’t.

I can’t protect them.  I need to let them go.  I need to learn to fully trust my God—their God—to take care of my babies now.

This is so hard for me.  My mother-bear tendencies still run on high gear.  My ears are still attuned to those small noises in the night.  My mind is still aware of all the dangers in their worlds.  And my arms still long to tuck them in their safe, warm beds.

But they are growing up and experiencing life on their own terms—not mine.  God has designed a whole lifetime for them and they are excited to experience it.  He knows the plans He has for them and he is fully aware of the challenges they will face.  He sees them all the time—even when they are in a crushed car or on an over-the-ocean plane ride.  And He loves them intensely—just like me.

Over the years, I have learned to trust the Father with my own life.  He has shown Himself faithful and reliable.  He is always there when I need Him.  And I know that nothing can pluck me from His hand.  Now, in this new season of life, I must consciously decide that I can trust Him with my children’s lives.  Ultimately, He is the One in control and I know that my level of anxiety decreases as my confidence in the all-knowing Father increases.

He must become greater; I must become less.

I can’t protect them.  But He can.  And He knows what He’s doing even if it looks scary or wrong to me.  His good is not my good because His ways are higher than mine.  And if His definition of “protection” for my kids sometimes looks like danger or loss to me, I must accept it from His hand.  His purposes will prevail even if I choose not to trust Him, so I have decided to submit…and to trust…and to stop grieving Him with my need to control.  My worrying offends the One who took Himself out from the protection of His own heavenly Father to experience pain and sorrow and suffering for me.  My doubt pierces the heart of the One who gave His life to protect me from Hell. 

He wants what’s best for me—and for my kids.  I need to choose to believe that. 

And I need to learn to rest in His all-knowing arms. 

I can’t protect them…but He can.  And it’s only in Him that they are truly safe.

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. 

Psalm 4:8

Friday, March 8, 2013

Declaration of Dismay (by Shay)

My sweet third-born is 17 today!!  Because of that, I decided to make her my guest blogger!  As an assignment for school, Shay was to write a “declaration” about anything she wished based on the structure of the Declaration of Independence.  Shay choose to evaluate American society.  Check out her observations—both entertaining and insightful. 

(And after you are done reading, get off the computer and be productive!)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for humans to break the bonds which have connected them with the couch, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to stop exercising laziness.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created able with certain undeniable aspirations that among these are passion, progress, and productivity. However, these desires are forgotten, when idleness is instituted among Men, deriving their just notions away from productivity-- whenever any form of procrastination, such as Facebook, Netflix, or Pinterest, becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new aspirations, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their success and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that productivity shall not be sacrificed for the sake of momentary entertainment; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. Such has been the patient sufferance of The American population; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former way of life. The history of the American way of life is a history of repeated wasted time and unfulfilled potentials, all having in direct object the establishment of Productivity over lethargy. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

We Have invented gadgets that encourage laziness by minimizing our daily work, and doing the simplest of activities us.

We have electronic toothbrushes that brush our teeth for us.

We have walkways in airports that move so we don’t have too.

We Have buttons on our steering wheels so we don’t have to stretch to the dashboard.

We have blankets with armholes so we don’t have to hold them up on our own.

We have calculators so we no longer have to do simple arithmetic.

We have cars that can park all by themselves.

We have Google so that we never have to wonder.

We have garage doors that open themselves.

We have pre-made sandwiches with the crust already cut off.

We fast food and T.V dinners.

We have Velcro so we don’t have to tie our shoes.

We have u, idk,and k because it’s too hard to write out you, I don’t know, and okay.

We have spell check so that we never have to learn to spell.

We have ice Cream cones that rotate so our tongues don’t have to and cups that automatically stir up our chocolate milk.

We have television for constant entertainment.

We have Facebook for constant procrastination.

We have everything we need without work or struggle.

We have chairs named after the offense itself.

We have robbed ourselves from noticing the beauty of natural life.

We have robbed ourselves from the joy of satisfaction and hard work.

We, therefore, the people of America, in appealing to our fellow peers for the rectitude of our intentions, solemnly publish and declare, that we are, and of Right ought to be free from the bonds wasted time and wasted potential; and that we are free to live lives full of purpose, we have full Power to take action, and live life to the fullest.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Massage from Jesus

Hey y’all!  Sorry I’ve been missing for a while.  I just returned from a warm and sunny trip to wonderful Cancun, Mexico.  Brent and I stayed at a beautiful resort and read millions of books and lay in the sun for hours on end.

And I got a massage from Jesus. 

Now, it wasn’t the Jesus that you and I are both thinking of, but nonetheless, I thought it was pretty cool that Jesus was my masseuse—even if he was a short 20-year-old Mexican boy.   And I got to pondering that, as Americans, we all want a massage from Jesus, don’t ya think?  We want that touch from our Savior, but only if it feels good to us—only if it is soothing to our spirits.  If the hand of God hurts our ego or makes us uncomfortable in any way, we want to get out from under the pressure. And we beg God to stop. 

That’s kind of my life lately—lots of uncomfortable pressure from Jesus hand to conform me to His image.  And, I’ve not been a great participant.  In fact, I’ve pretty much been kicking and screaming to Him about how uncomfortable my situation is and wishing He would just stop the whole refining thing because I’m seeing just how ugly and sinful and proud I really am.  And that, my friends, feels like a kick in the seat of my pants, not a relaxing massage.

But, if I would be still for a while and sit at Jesus feet, I might just remember His promise that  “He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6).  And I just might recall that this whole completion thing requires me to change.  And then I might realize that this changing of myself will actually be good because it will make me reflect Jesus more and more…and Tori less and less.   Haven’t I read somewhere that suffering produces      
perseverance and perseverance produces character and character produces hope (maybe in Romans 5:3-4)?  And isn’t hope exactly what I need when I am feeling God’s heavy hand?  I think so.

And though I’d rather have a massage from Jesus, the pressure He has allowed in my life lately is ultimately so much better.  Slowly, but surely, with His ever-skillful hands, He is molding and making me into who He intends me to be.  

Sometimes it’s hard for me to keep all this in perspective.  Sometimes I just see to the end of my day, not to the end of all days.  But God has long vision.  He sees how our trials in this life will conform us to His image and help us truly understand our enormous need for a Savior.

Bottom line?

We need to quit our bellyachin’.

We need to trust Him when we’re struggling.

And we need to stop begging for a massage from Jesus.

  And all the people said,   

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter until the full bright of day.

Proverbs 4:18