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Scary, New Life. Should It Be?

Duckling swimming.
New life and Spring are synonyms. How do you feel about new life this Easter? Photo by Jen Healy on Pexels.com

98.4? Woah didn’t expect that temperature.

It’s been that high before. Hasn’t it?

Or is this a miracle of a late adulthood pregnancy? Are we ready for a new life?

The thought of intermittent sleep patterns, a personalized seat on the thrill ride of inflation, the trials of a new copywriting business, homeschooling, plus, a new baby added into that life equation seems to leave a sense of bewilderment.

“Nothing is impossible with God.”

Luke 1:24

I can’t play the God ‘won’t give me anything more than I can handle’ Ace of Spades out of my hand any longer. Not after this Lent 2022. Can you? Like an Easter Lily, he’s opened me to new possibilities.

Is there anything God’s grace won’t allow me to handle? His spirit at work through your body loving imperfect people can leave you exhausted, yet it’s all still possible.

At my bank teller job when I was made to work Sundays and holidays, I didn’t want to go in. I wanted to help my wife with housekeeping, spend time with my son, invest Sundays in self-improvement and talent development, and even sit down, relax, and watch a close NFL game.

But I gave that up for a job, a job that barely tipped the financial provider scale.

It was then, I knew, with all my cares and feelings about my job left in God’s hands, God would make my scheduled time pass in meaningful ways. Still, I knew in my gut this position was a temporary life assignment. I couldn’t escape the question, “Why am I here?”

Anytime you work on the grounds of a Walmart, you ask yourself, “why am I here?” This job made me sick with sorrow. I went to college for nine years, and this is the best position I can land?

Mary of Magdala came while it was still dark and saw the stone removed from the tomb.

John 20:1

The women at the tomb and the apostles, John and Peter felt a similar bewilderment and sorrow sickness. Resurrection signs were all there; clouded by the shadows of sorrow their eyes were not gifted to see God at work. Each locked in their cell of grief and shock, they didn’t realize their life’s transformational journey was just over the bend.

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there.

John 20:6

Jesus had burglarized death, stolen the porcelain of loss from its cupboards, and took its prize possessions of regret and finality. Now, the only thing left of humanity’s fear was shed bandages on a cave floor. What happened three days before was a tragedy! Yet, what was happening now was an adventure.

Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.

John 20:8

No, John didn’t know what was going on. Realization of the resurrection would come later. Our God was showing off. He loves to do that, you know?

Still, Peter and John felt a new life chapter unraveling.

And together they were ready to let it lead them.

Morsels for Meditation:

How do you feel about new life this Easter?

Synchronicity for Seconds:  

How in the past 24 hours have you found new life? What has it shown you?

P.S.: In case you were wondering, there’s no pregnancy. I discovered that afterward. Enjoy your Easter.

High Place Phenomenon? Your Link to Judas or Jesus?

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More like Judas or Jesus? Suicidal or Savior? The answer’s in the motive. Photo by Kelly L on Pexels.com

Would she?

The cute girl in Ms. Muhl’s English class?

Would she come to my funeral?

If I….

Jumped?

A remnant thought from teenage life. I remember it popped into my head as I stood by the fourth-floor guide rail at Town East Mall with a glance downward.

The experience of ‘the jump’ is called suicide ideation or high place phenomenon. It’s common. Some estimates calculate it in as high as 30% of the world’s population. Others report it as low as 8-10%.

Is that Satan’s ‘in-door’ and the death from the jump his ‘out’?

Curious?

Interpreters of this phenomenon aren’t sure. One group says this points to suicidal tendencies. The other? It says the opposite. That group claims feelings of ‘the jump’ signal a strong will to live. After all, you didn’t look and leap; you only looked.

So, does the spirit of Judas live in you if you want to jump? Or does Jesus?

Mt 26:14-25

“But woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”

-Matthew 26:24

Ah, the Judas question. The person of whom it says, (He) would’ve been better never born. Deep topic if you think about it. The light that came into the world in Judas’s personality would be better snuffed out forever? In one act, all the good he did in his life disintegrated.

In recent years, the personality of Judas has been interpreted as a misguided soul. He ratted Jesus out, they claim so that Jesus would become the general in the Hebrew world legacy. Jesus needed a push to the limelight and Judas gave him that. Right?

The Christ had all power, why couldn’t that be used to regain the kingdom of the Jews and make it safe from Roman rule. Correct?

A scene too that’s been explored in art is the meeting of Jesus’s mother, Mary, and Judas’s mother. The pair talk. They dote on their sons’ memory and then touch on their fatality. Such a stage dives into the complexity of both Passion Play characters and perplexes your heart.

After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.

John 13:27

But Scripture is clear. Judas let Satan enter him through a thought.

What was that thought?

Jealousy?

Hurt?

Pride?

False heroism?

You don’t know. But what you do know is Judas opened the door and Satan entered. And was it after he had communion?

This leads you to see the potential of humanity. Will you be like Judas or Jesus for the rest of Holy Week? With each choice no matter how small the matter, you decide.

Morsels for Meditation: Review how you’ve acted and thought this Lenten season. Do you side with Jesus or Judas? Why?

Synchronicity for Seconds: In the past 24 hours, have you been more Judas than Jesus or vice versa?

The Bond of Cross-fated Failures

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Picture of Crucifix. At times, short-run disastrous situations create long-run benefits. The cross-fated always do.  Photo by Pexels.com. Set image for the Life From Front Pew reflection entitled, Bond of Cross-fated Failures
At times, short-run disastrous situations create long-run benefits. The cross-fated always do. Photo by Patricia McCarty on Pexels.com

“I never touched a child!” The human resources agent for the public school system sneered.

They were wrong! So wrong! They misled me and I thought the matter had settled. Reprimanded, I didn’t even know what I did. With rolled sleeves, I was ready to get back into the classroom. And now they’ve called again to interrogate me.

Here he was. Bearded with a mustache, a man embittered with the southern drawl of superiority. Somebody who didn’t even know me, and I didn’t want to know. I concluded fast my principal and vice-principal set me up void of a warning.

Blindsided. I was so confused. “Touch a kid?” I looked at the man from the administration building. What did he mean? It was obvious a middle school student had told a story at my expense. But all were in persecution mode. The child’s parents wanted my crown on their Corelle dish.

But I didn’t do anything wrong. “So, what did touch a kid mean?” My bewildered face screamed I don’t know. But no one would tell me.

But you are trying to kill me because my word has no room among you.

John 8:37

Jn 8:31-42

Jesus is in a like situation in today’s gospel. Only this is no angry eighth-grader or her parents. Not someone who tells stories so she can play volleyball. Nope, these people want to end Jesus.

No eighth-grader grazed Jesus’s hand. No defiant teen ran through his outstretched arm when he had told his students to sit and wait in their seats.

No volleyball player jumped on her phone to tell the story of unwanted touch without any responsibility for her action.

Jesus didn’t need to know the specifics either. He felt the evil in the situation. Jesus read their thoughts; they were out for blood, not extracurricular privileges.

Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father!”

John 8:41

Yet, I empathize and unite with Jesus. I’ve felt the sting of a death sentence. This persecution is ripe to pick at the security of Christ. Still, Jesus lets them know they’ve misunderstood. Aloud, he tells them of their real Father, the origin of lies.

“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31

And this truth is too much for the leaders of the Jewish church to take in. His righteous words have no hold on their heart.

Jesus and I both told our crowds to stop, and both rebelled. It was clear that this manipulative teenager was lying. But this fabrication had to happen, or my writing career wouldn’t exist.

This half-true story spurred a chain of events that forced my exit from public education. It had to occur, so I could resurrect as a writer.

My last teaching failure brought my career’s figurative death sentence. But Jesus’s leadership confrontation uncovered a literal death sentence. Yet that cross-fated failure led to our salvation. In both instances, from the darkness came the light.

Morsels for Meditation:

Tell about a time when you did nothing wrong and yet someone treated you as if you did. How does that experience help you bond with Christ?

Synchronicity for Seconds: In the past 24 hours, how have you been or seen the innocent slain either figuratively or literally? How can that lead you closer to Jesus?

Whys Will Reply

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Cork bulletin board with push-pinned index cards. The predominant card says, We start from why. Picture from Pexels. Photo Credit: Polina Zimmerman. It tops a Lenten 2022 blogpost, Whys Will Reply on Life From Front Pew website.
When you get up out of bed, what’s your why? Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

Jn 5:17-30

“What is your why?”

Author and optimist, Simon Sinek asks business owners and now all people this billion-dollar question. Answered, this question taps into the limbic part of your brain. That’s where a union of both your emotions and your logic lives. Your trust zone.

Cradled snug and soft in this recliner of a network of neurons lies your passion.

That’s what makes you jump up out of bed each morning and look forward to tomorrow. 

What’s your motivation? 

Money? Fame? Power? Pride? Love? What?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

John 10:10 NRSV

My answer? It seems contradictory but it’s growth in serious play. I wake up each day with the hope that I can use my creative gifts to make things better. Situations, people around me, myself, perspectives, I long to make them more. But I want to do so as only I can and in the spirit of fun.

My top-shelf me is genuine, self-expressive yet active within a spirit of serious play.  Still, this passion is aimed at self-improvement and my creation of a better world.

I light up when my actions bring joy, insight, help, or guidance to myself or others. Together, we get better. To make someone’s day, coax a smile, send a kind word, share an inspirational thought.. that is why I breathe oxygen.  

“My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”

John 5:17 NAB

In today’s gospel, Jesus shares his why.

Why does he wake up each day?  His explanation is simple, please the Father. His aim each day is to do what the Father asks him to do.

There is freedom in such simplicity.

Jesus

Understands

Difficulty,

God,

Mary,

ego,

Nonconformity,

and

Tests. 

Has anyone ever spelled judgment out another way?

Jesus’s job is to judge the world. How does he respond to this assignment? He follows the Father’s lead; he gives life.

When the time of judgment comes, he upsets the crowd with his, don’t expect much to change, remark. Those who did good things will keep at it. They’re not ones to stop, pick up their paycheck, put a down payment on some cumulus real estate, and invest in harp lessons.  

The righteous will continue to give life to themselves and others around them.

Their why will feed and guide them.

Jesus’s warning is for those who did/do harmful acts to themselves and others without repentance. Such people choose the opposite of life.

Jesus tells them, Look out, Everything’s about to change! Time and blessing will disappear, and material or ego-centric-linked whys will vanish.

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 

-Matthew 7:1-3

But will it be God who judges them? Jesus?  Then, who judges them?

Their why will reply through their given measure of mercy.

Morsels for Meditation:

Given the opportunity, have I judged more than given life? Why?

Synchronicity for Seconds:

In the past twenty-four hours, how have I given life to myself or others around me? How have I not given it?

Headlong Hurts Backfire

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A man sitting on high cliff edge with feet dangling. City by sea is underneath.  Picture captioned, Sometimes following Jesus's example feels like falling off a cliff of faith. Photo credit: M Venter on pexels.com. This was the image for the Life from the Front Pew post entitled Headlong Hurts Backfire.
Sometimes following Jesus’s example feels like falling off a cliff of faith. Photo by M Venter on Pexels.com

“Why don’t we kill Mr.S?” It wasn’t a joke. 

A passed note with my ‘death sentence’. Two boys, 7th graders. They didn’t know any better, right? They were what 12?  

Yet, I began to question,

“Why was I their death threat target?” 

In my nightmares came the answer, accountability. I held the kids, my students kickin’ and screamin’ accountable. 

Through white slips of paper? 

A hand-sized pad of paper and carboned copy copies. I was told to make them sign this mini-form for each offense. To force a misbehaving kid to sign a paper.  Like the two-page detention slips..I wonder…who comes up with this stuff?

My tremor, lack of dexterity when upset, and my tendency to go to enforcement extremes liquefied the ingredients for a disaster. 

Years later, posted on Facebook, I spotted a snapped pic of me as I wrote out these citations. Under the digital photo, an ex-student captioned, “doing what he loved.” 

I wrote underneath that comment, “So misunderstood.” Then, I erased it. It wasn’t my job to defend myself. Mine was to hold my students accountable. This was her misinterpretation. 

She, someone as a student, I felt I knew, praised, and loved. Years later, her verbal hatchets still oozed fresh blood all over the walls of words on Facebook. (Topic for a future post.)

So misunderstood.

And they rose up and thrust him out of the city; and they brought him to the brow of the hill, whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.
Luke 4:29, Douay Rhiems

In today’s gospel, Jesus encounters the same response from his audience. The chief priests and scribes couldn’t take his criticism or claims of ignored accountability. 

Jesus’s criticism wasn’t their white noise. But Jesus’s motive wasn’t to smite them or insult them. It was tough love.

Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart; for I am gracious and merciful.

Joel 2:12-13

And tough love can be misunderstood. 

Thrown headlong off a cliff misunderstood. 

Jesus wished, prayed, they would turn over, repent.  He only wanted them to be whole, to be healed, to be servants for his chosen people (not vice versa). 

It seemed to backfire. Have you ever felt that? Share if you dare. 

Morsel for Meditation:  In the past, how have you been misunderstood?  When did you misunderstand someone? Compare. 

Synchronicity for Seconds: How in the past 24 hours have you felt misunderstood?  What were your motives behind your misunderstood actions?

P.S.: I know that this reading doesn’t fall on Wednesday. I guess the Holy Spirit felt it best fit our purpose of Life from the Front Pew. Next week back to the Wednesday Lenten reading reflections. Apologies. Shalom. LFFP

  

King of the Mountain

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Picture of a bluejeaned leg with a man's hiking boot sunk in a puddle of sand. It steps inside a puddle to make a muddy footprint. The caption reads: The cooperative or competitive stance, what's your life plan? Photo by Athena on Pexels.com For lifefromfrontpew third Wednesday 2022 Lenten reflection.
The cooperative or competitive stance, what’s your life plan? Photo by Athena on Pexels.com

Third Wednesday 2022 Lenten Reflection

Face first. I stared at the orange dirt. I pulled myself from the sand. Fresh footsteps. Minutes ago, the sand had rained into my neighbor’s front yard. The departed dump truck called the kids on my block into prompt action.

I now counted six feet from where I fell and the mountain top. We, neighborhood kids, were smart and determined. All of us knew if we rushed the brute at the summit all at once, we would knock him off balance.

Then, someone new would be king.

But who?

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes,
and they will condemn him to death,
and hand him over to the Gentiles
to be mocked and scourged and crucified,
and he will be raised on the third day.”

Mt 20:17

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus explains a similar behavior pattern will be his ruin. He tells the apostles that like the king of the mountain, the rush of the priests and scribes will send him his death sentence.

Persecution and pain lined Jesus’s path to his resurrection. His honesty didn’t resonate. After Jesus explains his death summons, James’s and John’s mom asked Jesus for the political favor? 

Clueless, she wanted her sons to be next in line if Jesus should fail. Kings in wait of the holy mountain.

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.

Mt 20: 27

Lesson time! Jesus wishes for his followers to choose the cooperative rather than the competitive lifestyle. With his cited scenario, Jesus flips his disciples’ power paradigm on its rear.

His way of powerful powerlessness echoes.

Serve, Help. Sacrifice. Give.

This is the goal post for true greatness. 

Do we play like we believe that?

Morsel for Meditation: Jesus showed his apostles a cooperative and competitive lifestyle. But he encouraged his followers to choose the cooperative brand. What have you chosen as your lifestyle default? Why?

Synchronicity for Seconds: Harmonious actions spread God’s love and God’s will the fastest. How in the past twenty-four hours have you experienced this cooperation? How about a lifestyle of competition?

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Et tu, Jonah?

Lent 2022: Second Wednesday

Jon 3:1-10

Generosity can even be found in our Lenten deserts. Image of desert. A US soldier giving a gift to two small children.
Even in the desert, you can be generous. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

Jonah 3:10

“Oh, Thank you, God.  Now I have a nice shade so I can watch you get ‘em.  I did my part. Now, you sic ‘em while I sip my lemonade and enjoy the show.”

“Wait?”

“They’re not suffering?  You’re buying that sackcloth and ashes thing?”

“Come, on, God. Can’t you see they’re playin’ you?”

Those are the thoughts I would expect to hear in my head as I internalized the Jonah story.

But they weren’t.

I’d never wish harm to come on anyone else. Would I?

As I read Jonah’s story, I thought his dialog would be far from me. It wasn’t.

The Quick Trip: Thank You to How Dare You!

Flashback. 2010. Forced into a lay-off. No income.  My friend Jimmy offered me a rope, a job as a college instructor. My dream hit center stage. We had to give up much. But I so wanted this chance. I knew I’d be good at this.

Thank you, thank you, Jimmy!

2014.

Close your mouth, Jimmy. I know Myrna’s our friend and she needs a job, but….

What about my three promised classes?  Forget her. I need my security. I need to know I can make my bills.

Hands off! That’s mine.

Same old generous Jimmy?

But, ouch! What happened to grateful Jeff?

Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.

Luke 11:29

Lk 11:29-32

Timelessness of God as Life

It is easy to look at the Old Testament as foreign history, but Jonah’s story spoke a timeless tale.

I stumbled into my mistake as I mulled over this gospel passage above.

Jesus preached as I discovered, thanks to Emmett Fox, number one of God’s seven aspects. Generosity doesn’t make the top seven, but it lies like branches under number 1.

God is life. Where life is fruitfulness follows.

Your need for control can kill life’s fruit. That’s what I did with my fear of not enough. I zapped my energy. Selfishness obliterated the plan of the Universe, the natural law of generosity.

My fear tuned in to the frequency of scarcity, not abundance.  I had one idea where my income would come from that semester. But what if God had a better plan? Then that semester, I missed living in harmony with my God’s will.

That’s one way the gospel beats down my front door today.  Jesus taught the church leaders this aspect of God. 

Hear him teach it even now?

Your God is life.

Morsels for Meditation:  So, God is life. What does that mean to you?  How does this change the way you look at your life? Plans? Fortunes? Misfortunes?

Synchronicity for Seconds:  How in the past twenty-four hours have you felt God as life?

2022 Lenten Launch: Buster Browns, Five Star Reviews, and Irony in Forgiveness

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Ever notice someone's shoes and their ties for forgiveness? caption next to a  pair of hi-top ash grey Nikes with burnt orange soles and Nike decals.
Ever notice someone’s shoes and their ties to forgiveness? Photo by Mnz on Pexels.com

“It must be my new shoes. It’s my Buster Browns!” 

John Thorne shouted, surprised by his ability to control the soccer ball on the practice field. He was born to play center forward. And this skill in elementary school made him the star of our playground.

Later, John Thorne on our soccer team with his same talent became a ball hog. He seldom passed as he tried to score all on his alone.

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Mt 6:5

Likewise, the Pharisees were gifted speakers. Over time, their familiarity with God in prayer became so fluent that they could put on a show for the crowds.

Although in the gospel reading, Jesus explains to his listeners that he’s unimpressed. Our Lord gets in the face of the uppity ups of the Jewish Church and doesn’t blink.

Then, Jesus pushes deeper.

He reveals people’s validation shouldn’t be in their talents, material things, or the company they keep. Rather, true validation hides in a relationship of divine sonship. And within a personal depth of sorrow for wrongdoing, someone can find God’s mercy and compassion.

Return to me with your whole heart with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Joel 2:12

Today, I realized my need for forgiveness as a closet prayer. No need for press coverage. Not necessary to have a partner or group pray for or with me. Public apologies shouldn’t be the norm.

Jesus challenges his listeners to fight against this outer need for acceptance. Turn off the need to entertain others with personal drama or spectacle. He advises instead,

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. Mt 6:6

This verse never seemed to refer to forgiveness until I heard that pointed out in today’s homily. Before, the inner room allusion felt like a general statement about prayer. Yet at noon my gut got out a fluorescent yellow pen. Prayers for repentance are private prayers, it highlighted.

I felt the refrigerator light of revelation pop on, and my relationship with Jesus and his expectations of my prayer lightened. The hidden life includes self-forgiveness.

  • If I mistake my shoes for God’s gift of agility
  • Turn my speaking talent into a treasure grabber
  • Sell my personal moments as 5-star performances on YouTube

If I fall into any of these temptations, I can always find in the inner room of my heart God, ready to guide me, change me, and restore me on his path of righteousness. Yet the cost is a massive puncture wound to my ego. To find and receive forgiveness, I must learn how to give it away esp. when someone hurts me.

The irony here is striking when my hurt matches someone else’s wound.

Morsels for Meditation:

When and where do you most often pray your prayers of repentance?

Synchronicity for Seconds:

In these past twenty-four hours, how have I lived or not lived through the irony of forgiveness?

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The Be Life

The Be Life: Thoughts on Advent onto Christmas

Today Jesus came to be life and to show us how to be that life. Photo by Josh Willink on Pexels.com

Matthew 1: 18-25.

“Now this is how the birth of Jesus came to be.”

Be and do, two incompatible ways of life? 

My business coach seemed to think so.  He dropped this bomb yesterday. He taught me you can be rich, and you can be poor, but you can’t do rich and you can’t do poor.

  • The poor do things that continue their poverty
  • As the rich do things that safeguard their riches
  • You can think poor
  • You can think rich

That’s your freedom.

By thought and not what you do is how you become rich or poor.

Do is the incarnation of thought.

This is what Jesus taught us when he came to Earth.

  • He came to be the Son of God
  • He came to be our best friend
  • He came to be our savior

Our language gives him away.

And today he came to be, to be life!

  • His birth in a tomb-like cave foretold he would die and rise.
  • His swaddled clothes pointed to his eventual burial.
  • Frankincense and myrrh were for bodily burial preparation.

God’s promise was made when Jesus came to Earth. But the promise was kept when he destroyed the power of death.

Jesus did this when he took your sin and mine and nailed it to a tree.

And today after his Resurrection and Advent, he wants ‘to be’ with you and me.

He wants us to come, reflect the Be Life.

Morsel for Meditation:

How have you reflected the Be Life?

Synchronicity for Seconds:

In the past twenty-four hours, how have you helped someone be?   

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Enemies and Promises

God teaches us to love our enemies…who wants mine for practice? Photo by Julias Torten und Tu00f6rtchen on Pexels.com

Luke 1: 67-79

Enemies steal. Until now, I’ve been without one enemy. I’ve had people I didn’t like or who didn’t like me. But that’s different. A manipulator, someone who tricks you into work with nothing in return.. well, that’s enemy material.

“Through the prophets of old he promised he would save us from our enemies.”

In the gospel, God promises to save you from your enemies.

  • Well, God what happened?
  • Fall asleep on the job?

So, like me it’s natural to be skeptical of Project Enemy Elimination.

“In the tender compassion of our God from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness…”

Mercy?

Yeah, I don’t see an Enemy Escape Plan.

For God had to make a choice. He could come as love, or he could come as power.  His decision, the Incarnation is today’s celebration. God came to this planet as life-giving love. So, how will this love save us from our enemies?

  • His love doesn’t get them to choke on a Pringle
  • Or burn them into ashes
  • Zero in floods on their home
  • Aim tornadoes toward their homeland
  • Guide hurricanes through their workplace

Love doesn’t do those hurtful things!

I’m a goner.

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for his has come to his people to set them free.”

Yet Zechariah talks about a universal enemy of freedom.

Sin.

God promises a forgiveness that conquers it.

Serious sin is the ultimate divider. Jesus showed us how to live with inner peace. Sin destroys inner peace, eternal friendship, and even divine sonship and daughter-ship.

Jesus’s love took your sin and nailed it to a tree. And his advent has called you. Pay attention.

Watch.

Morsel for Meditation:

How have you watched Jesus become love in your life?

Synchronicity for Seconds:

In the past twenty-four hours, how have you felt unconditional love?

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The Heart’s Great Superpower

Our heart is filled with superpowers we should learn to cherish. Photo by ATC Comm Photo on Pexels.com

Luke 1:57-66.

If you were given a superpower…

How many times have you been asked this question?

Millions?

Still, some saints shared a superpower that was mind-blowing, bilocation. This gift of multiple presence was given to Padre Pio and other superheroes of the faith. One such heroine was Mary Agreda. This Spanish nun bilocated to visit New Mexican natives during the Era of Exploration.

Yet it was God’s love that pulled her presence there.

In a sense my heart bilocated from July 21st through December 15th of this year. I felt I was in two places at once, here with my family and in an extended hours coffee shop to catch up with an old, dear friend.

“He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed.”

A similar connection took place in today’s gospel. Both Elizabeth and Zechariah chose the same name for their son. This was the name the angel told Zechariah to give him.

But the Zechariah’s son’s name was a signal flare to his community. Biblical names were often excellent character-related predictors. John was no exception.

“What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”

John comes from the Hebrew word Yohanan.  This means graced by God.” and it personifies God’s strength, intelligence, and kindness.

-Paraphrased from link

John’s name and its promise were sealed tight in the heart of this community.

And although, he could not and you and I cannot bilocate, our hearts can love in two places at once. That’s the heart’s great superpower.

Cherish it.

Morsel for Meditation:

Reflect on a time when your heart used one of its many superpowers.

Synchronicity for Seconds:

How have you been led by your heart in the past twenty-four hours?

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Balanced Humility

True humility is balanced to show God and others your real and ideal self. Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

Luke 1:46-56.

The fog has rolled in and it’s unsafe to take a morning walk.  You sit still and wait. Now the fog is thicker than it was thirty minutes ago when you saw the horizon to the East clear but clouded to the West. 

It seems today the cold air from the last couple of days has met the warm air on the way.  That’s fogged up the whole neighborhood.

There’s much to learn from the natural world in this moment that connects to today’s gospel.

“My spirit rejoices in God my savior for he has looked upon his lowly servant.”

The chilly air like Mary sinks to its rightful place.  She realizes that it is God who is great and understands that without him this savior delivery would be a lost cause for humanity. Mary’s gut tells her Jesus will save her too.

“From this day all generations shall call me blessed.”

The word humility comes from humus that is translated as ‘from the Earth’.  Mary is a reflection of this statement because she’s certain the God who grows inside her has blessed her.  And because of God she is great among all women.

“The shown the strength of his arm and scattered the proud in their deceit.”

God is not fooled by outward appearance or empty promises. 

What he wants is a relationship with those who allow themselves to be filled with his spirit.  God’s style is to fill the lowly, the hungry, merciful, faithful, and the humble.  He does not shield himself from anyone.

But he aims his game changer, his love and mercy, to those who most need it and who will receive it.

“..for he remembered his promise of mercy, the promise made to our fathers…”

Promises made.  God brought Jesus into the world at the appointed time of Mary and Joseph’s lifespan.

God will always love the Jewish people. 

We are as St. Paul says, grafted into their vine and from it, connected to God. Yet, he came forever, not for the liberty of one nation. So, we reflect Mary’s gratefulness and marvel at God’s playbook.

True humility is that balancing act of being real and ideal.

Morsels for Meditation:

Think of a moment of true humility in your walk as a Christian.

Synchronicity for Seconds:

In past twenty-four hours, how have you heard the genuine call to humility?

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Mortal Reminders

As ambitious goals aren’t met, fate often says, God’s plans for you are bigger. Photo by Yan Krukov on Pexels.com

Luke 1:39-45

They felt like dew drops on the steering wheel. 

But they weren’t.

They were reminders that I wasn’t in the right place. No matter how I worked, success with these kids crept away from me. 

Late nights?

I poured hours into my job and found no answer. Too much work.

Oh, the sickness I felt with the seven-eleven sign in my rear-view mirror. I knew this campus wasn’t my long-term fate.

To be a sixth-grade teacher for these kids was a dream ripped out of my fingers.

I wasn’t strong enough to hold it together. I had lost so much weight. I missed my son.

I heard my destiny’s rejection and closed my eyes and ears.

“You’re not good enough.”

“Blessed are you who believed what was spoken to you would be fulfilled.”

Mary’s heard the opposite. Afterall, it’s Mary’s voice that causes John’s inner womb celebration. What it must’ve felt like as the two babies recognized each other. How did Mary’s tone cause such a dance?  Elizabeth is sure; it’s Mary’s belief.

Her greeting invites John to dance. Elizabeth recognizes it. This is the part of the equation of utmost importance. Destiny called and Mary answered with a perfect yes.

“Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

Mary was more than good enough. And I was too.  I was only in the wrong place.

She was at her best, and I was at my worst.

Reminders of mortal tragedy and triumph.

Morsels for Meditation:

When in your lifetime did you feel human, far from divine?

Synchronicity for Seconds:

In the past twenty-four hours, reflect on when you felt limitations either in body or mind.

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The Devil in Fear and Doubt

Fear and doubt can be natural or unnatural it all depends on the reason behind the response. Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

Luke 1:26-28

“How did we make it?”

My wife shrugged.

“It’s God.”

We both agreed and reflected. The math didn’t make sense.

Out of work and my salary of $28K, we had no sooner moved into our own home when Jennifer got her pink slip. And somehow, even with the commute to Waxahachie, we never went without.

“But she was deeply troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”

Mary must’ve felt like us faced with huge expectations.

“Nothing is impossible with God.”

This was her mantra as the baby grew in her womb. Still, she was human. Jesus’s person was part Mary, part God. What a responsibility!

Imagine if you were asked to teach Jesus how to pray.  

That was what Mary’s yes meant. And that’s not all.

Mary is often compared to Eve. She is called the second Eve, as Jesus is called the second Adam.  Yet Mary wasn’t tempted by a serpent. 

She was enticed by a much fiercer enemy, fear and doubt.  So, Mary, unlike Eve, attacks her doubt by her honest question to the angel.

Her question was the exact opposite of Zechariah’s.  Although they both were in doubt, Mary’s response makes all the difference. Mary accepts her fate.

“I’m the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be unto me according to your word.”

The devil in fear and doubt struck at her heel. Only she doesn’t break, instead, she believes in God’s promise.

Morsel for Mediation:

In life, how have you believed in spite of doubt?

Synchronicity for Seconds:

In the past twenty-four hours, how have you doubted anyone or anything? How have you shown trust?

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A Muse by the Jig

Have you ever danced for God? Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

Luke 1:39-45

What do I write? 

As I read the gospel today, I waited. The bridge builder, the inspirer, the Muse of muses, the Holy Spirit came to fill me. He helped me see the hidden connections. Often, I miss these with my casual reads of the events before Christmas.

Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice.”

In today’s readings, the Holy Spirit acted the same.  Mary sped to a town in Judah.  There, she finds acceptance in the arms of her cousin Elizabeth.  This contrasts with all the suspecting eyes, insults, and stuck-up noses of her hometown.

Yet the Holy Spirit is the Muse who fills both Mary and Elizabeth with words of praise. In unbelievable fashion, the recognition moment takes place as the unborn John and Jesus meet.

And how does it happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

The anticipation of both Mary and Elizabeth for their sons’ greatness is clear in the speeches both women gave.  Yet both addressed praise to God and honor to Mary.

Look at the womb dance. John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb is better translated as danced a jig. This is a throwback to King David when he danced before tabernacle in the temple.

The Old Testament points to the New Testament when the greeting sounded in Mary’s ears. Yes, Mary has a baby growing inside her. Elizabeth and Mary’s meeting was like the opening act’s introduction of the headliner.  Wonderful things were on the way.

Morsel for Meditation:

How have you danced before God?

Synchronicity for Seconds:

In the past twenty-four hours, how have you helped or praised someone?

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Real Role Calls

God wants you to be real with him and ideal to others. So you can grieve, gripe, and forgive. Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

As a member of the Syblik family, it’s hard to admit we’ve got enemies.  My brother Ron was part of an intervention for a loved one that went bad in a hurry.  As a result, there are people at my extended family’s church who turn the other way when they see them.

As far as I’m concerned, it was a big misunderstanding and a mistake.

Nonetheless, a lot of good people got hurt.

Sometimes well-intentioned people make bad choices. Then at other times, the opposite is true.  That’s why there’s always a chance for forgiveness and reconciliation.

If you look at this list of Jesus’s heritage, there’s a lot to munch on.  This lineage of do-gooders, black sheep, and mistake-makers reveal much about humanity.  No matter how much these people tried to toss a pebble in the gears of God’s plan, he always found a how and the why to move forward. 

Think of this role call of broken humanity, heroes, and villains. Modern family feuds like Israelis vs. Arabs, and past ones like the Samaritans vs. Jews happened because of the choices of these people. And it seems the bad outweighed the good until John the Baptist shined in his moment.

Somehow, despite the real mistakes, God paved a real way for his son to come into the world.

Morsels for Meditation:

Who in your family are the lost, black sheep in your extended family? How can you fill the role of Christ or John for them?

Synchronicity for Seconds:

In the past twenty-four hours, have you filled the role of real parent, sibling, child, or friend to others? Why?

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Pitch and Delivery

Luke 7:18b-23.

“It melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” 

This slogan is gold to a copywriter?  Your pitch in this business is everything. The delivery, the drama, the hesitation, they all must find their balance in your offer. But above all, the buyer and reader must feel you understand them as individuals. 

They must read your copy and say, “Finally, someone gets me!”

“John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’”

In today’s gospel John the Baptist reminds us as believers doubts are natural. John who in such dramatic tradition chose and baptized our Lord begins to wonder if he has made a mistake.

I know I often forget that the prophets were people with insecurities. They too rode the roller coaster that leads to belief and self-confidence.  It’s plain Jesus had tremendous potential to fill the Savior role. 

But something tugged on John’s heart.

And that urged him to send his followers for confirmation.

You and I should unveil our insecurities also that need reassurance.

“…the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear, the dead are raised,
the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” 

God can handle this honesty.

Plus, Jesus doesn’t say, I am he, nor does he scold John for his doubt. Rather, he describes the scene. Christ knew that this play-by-play of healings would give John the answer he needed to hear.

It’s almost as if Jesus knew the copywriter’s bible.

Lead. Show. Let them draw their own conclusion.

“The poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

As a result, John then knew he had made the right pitch. For Jesus’s actions brought the full prophecies of the Messiah to life, the perfect delivery.

Morsels for Meditation:

What doubts and insecurities do I hide?  Why?

Synchronicity for Seconds:

In the past twenty-four hours, how has God sent you a message where you reacted, he really gets me?

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Terrible Branding Moments

Gospel of Luke 7:24-30.

Catch the wave, fits as a brand for Coke. But today’s reading’s brand for God, well….. Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

Sign me up!  I want to join the reality TV show of Be John the Baptist.  Yea. I get to be poor. 

Reallly?  Wow.

Don’t you want a staple diet of insects?  Oh, if you could only be clothed in the latest fashionable, itchy camel hair. What a story to tell the grandkids!  Forget walking uphill to school in six feet of snow both ways. This is the keeper.

“What did you go into the desert to see a reed shaken in the wind?”

Yet that’s what Jesus does in today’s reading. He dives into a terrible branding move. At least in our experience. He tells the crowds that this unattractive lifestyle of John is the one through which God will work his press release campaign for his son.

“Then, what did you go out to see a prophet?  Yes, I tell you and more than a prophet…”

I can’t imagine “Repent, you brood of vipers!” on a bumper sticker.  But hey that’s God’s will. Those who God wanted to reach were driven to conversion by John’s frankness.  Yet those who wanted to reject John’s message and reject Christ’s had the freedom to do just that.

“Yet the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he…”

You and I have a job to do. It was our choice to receive John’s baptism of repentance. So, you and I are mini-John the Baptists.  We lead others to him. But because you and I are baptized with Jesus’s baptism of water and blood, we are more than little Johns.  More than followers of the way, we are little Christs.        

Morsels for Meditation:

How have you been John the Baptist in the past?  How have you been a Christian or a little christ?

Synchronicity for Seconds:

How have you in the past twenty-four hours stepped into the sandals of John the Baptist? Jesus?

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On Second Thought

Will thoughtful recollections lead into moments for personal greatness or tragedy? You Decide.

Listen. Our second thoughts can be gifts to get it right. Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

12/14/2021

Matthew 21:28-32.

Leaves fell from everywhere into the yard. As soon as I picked one pile up, another one appeared.  I felt as if I had a never-ending basket of unfolded laundry. Once I had the yard under control, my parents visited me.  They handed me something wrapped in aluminum foil for my wages.

I unwrapped the foil to find half of a small Arby’s roast beef sandwich.

It wasn’t enough to fill my belly, and I was mad.  I threw the tiny sandwich on the floor.  Then, I thought better of it. I was so hungry.  I sat down on the kitchen floor, searched for the sandwich, and soon I gobbled it up.  Tears stung my cheeks. I felt famished and ashamed.

“The son said, I will not, but afterwards he changed his mind and went.”

Today’s gospel storyline struck me as odd. Jesus implies he invited everyone to holiness. Yet world history changed when sinners turned away from God’s design for their lives. Their rejection made the Jewish people God’s lifeline to his people.

Over time though, sinners starved for wholeness like I did for the sandwich. Soon, they took John up on his invite to repent.

“He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir’ but didn’t go.”

Yet the Jewish Church leaders wouldn’t follow their lead. Why? Were they too proud to stand in line with everybody else?  Jesus won’t let that happen unchallenged.

Morsels for Meditation:

How do you feel when others around you act as if they are superior to another person?

Synchronicity for Seconds:

In the past twenty-four hours, share a time when you were affected by God’s behavioral pet peeve of haughtiness.

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Jesus Christ and the Streisand Effect

Careful. Watch out for your castles of safety are built on eroded sands. Photo by Julia Volk on Pexels.com

Matthew 21:23-27

Once a California environmental photographer in an erosion study leaked a photo of Barbra Streisand’s mansion. Streisand sued the photographer for this violation of her privacy. Her attempt to withhold her mansion’s location from public eyes, backfired.  Today, this impact is known as the “Streisand Effect.”   

“By what authority are you doing these things?”

The first century Jewish Church was likewise in the same place. After harsh criticisms of its structure, procedures, and staff, the organization had a suppression plan put in place.  This would control the public relational damage from the words of Jesus Christ.

“And who gave you this authority?”

The plan was simple, ask Jesus, who do you think you are telling us what we can and can’t do? But they choose to disguise their intention and ask of the authority for all the things that Jesus had done.

They had him.  If he answered their question in line with their prediction, they could crush his public support. After all, they warned him, only god forgives someone’s sins.  

“I shall ask you one question, if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by whose authority I do these things.

But Jesus blows them away with his counter question.  He’s shows by this, he’s not here to play public relation games, and his not here to launch a business strategy. The chief priests have played nice but now, Christ went for their temple business.

“Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

And when the Pharisees act in damage control. Jesus gives them a question that can’t figure out how to answer.   

Morsels for Meditation:

Have you ever tried to keep something private from public eyes? Why?

Synchronicity for Seconds:

In the past twenty-for hours how has God impressed you with his wisdom and intelligence?

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Secret Weapon

Small back lit face seen behind a veil. It reminds us the secrets esp. God's secrets are very powerful weapons.
Click, and listen on the go!
Our repentant heart is God’s secret weapon. Photo by Charles Parker on Pexels.com

Hall of fame coach, Tom Landry use to say, offense wins football games, but defense wins championships.  Yet, both sides of the team, in the end, help mark a tally in the win column.

“Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none.”

In today’s Gospel, Mark presents his readers with the core of John the Baptist’s teachings.  These sensible behavior guidelines focus on the golden rule.  Jesus also challenged others to love one another in radical ways.

But John preached because he imagined the advent of the wrath of God.  He steps into the sandals of his cultural gloom and doom predecessors. Little did he know that Jesus’s ministry was to be more an invasion of the heart than that from a foreign entity.

“I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.”

John the Baptist’s humility is inspirational. John knows his mission is to pump the people up and prep them for the big speaker. 

  • He’s the opening act prior to the headliner
  • The cartoon appeasement before the blockbuster motion picture
  • The pregame before the athletic event of the century. 

And he’s okay with that.

“What should we do?”

What’s notable is that Jesus and John preached the good news. Yet, they got to that message via different routes. Repentance is the standard they want their audiences to reach.  In this state, your heart is God’s secret weapon in his playbook.

Morsels for Meditation:

How have you changed your life in small ways with the message of repentance?

Synchronicity for Seconds:

In the past twenty-four hours, how have you heard the call of repentance?

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Mountain Men and Dots

Amazing how we can see the mountaintop but miss its point. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Matthew 17:9a, 10-13

The view from the top of Mt. Kruzivek took my breath away. But the valley was shrouded in darkness.  As I looked down, I thought about the guide who had brought us to the top of this peak.  Near the summit, he experienced a sort of call to return home. He knew inside it was an invitation to help an addicted friend.

He left for the airport even though there was a slim chance his love would be enough.  To break a drug addiction feels impossible. Yet, he still had to try.

“As they were coming down from the mountain, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”

Like the disciples, we too had seen a magnificent scene that had dazzled our eyes and tamed our wild hearts.  On the way down from Mt. Tabor and the vision of the Transfiguration, the disciples couldn’t resist a discussion of who Elijah was to them in their own faith.

The person we thought about on our return trip was our guide.  We would never see him again, but he taught us volumes.

Before we could go to the crest of a holy mountain, we had to check our packs.  Our guide’s felt empty. He had one more heart to carry.

“Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.”

This guide’s behavior resembled Jesus today with his apostles.  He was a best friend. Someone who would help them figure out what they had missed. And be with them as they connect the dots.

Morsel for Meditation:

Who has helped you figure something out?  Was it right in front of you too?  What did he/she do that helped you understand?  

Synchronicity for Seconds:

In the past twenty-four hours, how have you met someone who taught you how to love with sacrifice?

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A Child’s Game

 

Sometimes we need to let go of expectation games with others. Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

12/10/2021

Matthew 11:16-19

A Child’s Game

“Just let me see the end of it.” My son demanded as I stopped the Christmas movie marathon for the night. He didn’t care for my explanation that we all needed to get to bed. Such is autism combined with the egocentrism of teenage life.

There was zero consideration for my wife and her need for rest. It was all about my son. 

He grew frustrated.

We didn’t play along.

“We played the flute for you, but you didn’t dance, we sang a dirge you didn’t mourn.”

In Matthew today Jesus expressed his frustration. He wanted to teach the crowds, but they didn’t want to listen.  They expected a magic show or a speech to raise their spirits, maybe a plot to overthrow the oppressiveness of Roman rule.

But Jesus doesn’t give them what they want.

Their thirst for sensationalism or charismatic leadership is left unsatisfied.  Unable to be pleased, they grow fickle like a child bored of some toy. Yet Jesus and John refuse to play the part the crowds want them to play. 

“To what shall I compare this generation?”

So, Jesus compares them to children who play both wedding and funeral games.  The gathered crowds, like the children, expect each scenario to meet their expectations. They don’t. 

“But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

Jesus wanted them to look inside themselves. He wished to teach them about wisdom, self-awareness, repentance, and love for their neighbor. Yet the crowds aren’t ready to buy into his sermon and change their hearts.

Morsel for Meditation:

How have I responded with fickleness to what the Lord wants to teach me?

Synchronicity for Seconds:

In the past twenty-four hours, how have I met fickleness in myself or others?  What did I learn from these scenarios to better myself?

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Cooperation, Not Competition

We see much of a world in competition, but Jesus shows us there’s cooperation to those who go deeper.
Photo by football wife on Pexels.com

Matthew 11:11-15.

12/9/2021

As he walked down the middle of the street and I stopped, he had to show off in front of his friend. He told me to do horrible things to myself.

It was his best defense, a profane slur. He, of course, was a kid, and I was an adult who just wanted to drive his wife and infant through the street to the stop sign.

This kid dared me to hurt him.

He saw me as a threat.

But I had pulled him over to talk to him out of righteous anger. I thought he was my student in school. It was a case of misunderstood messages and mistaken identities.

“Amen I say to you, among those born of women three is none greater than John the Baptist;”

Jesus suffers in the same way in today’s gospel.  He brought a new idea with his advent, the idea of God’s eternal grace as a gift for Man. In this passage, he talks about the dream.

“Yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

He preached about the fulfillment of the age. This meant that through the grace of Jesus’s sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension, humanity would be greater than even John the Baptist. But Christ’s dream to share this surprise fizzles as the crowd begins to compare him to John.

“And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come.”

Crowds continued their confusion for they had mistaken each’s leader’s motive. They see Jesus and John as competitive, striking contrasts, instead of their messages and missions as two complementary colors in the same composition.

Morsels for Meditation:

How often do you see competition, not cooperation in your own family?

Synchronicity for Seconds:

In the past twenty-four hours, what circumstances have taught you about the need for cooperation?

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Headstrong Lamb

Sometimes the headstrong lamb inside you isn’t easily tamed. Photo by Paul Seling on Pexels.com

12/7/2021

Matthew 18:12-14

Headstrong Lamb

Sometimes I think, God, you’ve got the wrong guy.  Because here lately, I’m always in trouble.  And I’ve got a huge conscience. Trust and belief are hard enough… but obedience?  Let’s say I’ve wandered so much God has a collar around my neck.

Anyone who finds me, read the tag: if lost call owner.

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go search for the stray?”

So, if I were in the crowd when Jesus said the above, I’d yell out, “Hey nobody does that! We don’t leave ninety-nine of anything unguarded and play Super Shepherd in the woods.  That’s like risking $99 to add one more and have an equal hundred. 

You don’t do that for one renegade, headstrong lamb. That’s insane.”

Notice the parable doesn’t say the shepherd put his flock in a pen or asked his brother shepherd to babysit?

No, it says the sheepherder left the flock unprotected in the hills and went off to play Super Shepherd.

“And if he finds it, amen, I say to you he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that didn’t stray.”

As a headstrong lamb, I often think I know what’s best for me.  Then, I’m surprised by guilt when it doesn’t work out.

Yet as I repent, Jesus goes to find me and rejoices like he’s won the lottery every single time.

“It is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.”

Jesus made me to do hard things.  I’m designed for adventures in holiness. Risks of the heart should be the norm, not the exception.

Morsels for Meditation:  Have you ever been a headstrong lamb?  How?  What did you learn from your experience?

Synchronicity for Seconds:  In the past twenty-four hours, how have you risked for something or someone?

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Don’t Focus on the Boxes

Don’t Focus on the Boxes

Often we put our attention into the wrong things. Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

12/6/2021

Luke 5:17-26                                                                                                                               

Often, I give myself to things that don’t deserve my attention.  As a writer, it is easy to get trapped by the temptation to produce a near-perfect product.  But in doing this, I leave less time for the things that really matter.

“Who but God alone can forgive sins?”

In Luke today, Jesus is on tour healing the masses. Yet instead of praises the Pharisees and scribes entertain their suspicions. 

In their minds, they have checked off all the boxes on their worksheets and Jesus’s actions don’t fit.

  • He isn’t kosher with their Old Testament ideals of a prophet
  • Jesus challenges their authority at every turn
  • And what he does say to them hurts

Jesus shattered their molds.  As they say, only God can forgive sins.

“What are you thinking in your hearts?”

In truth, Jesus tells me as he tells the Pharisees, you’re wasting your time.  Your focus is on the boxes, not the person. Guilty, I tuck my draft away as I fixate on the sound of words and ignore my audience’s needs.

“We have seen incredible things today.”

Still, in the end, like the Pharisees, I’m taken by the awe of God.  Perfect word pictures still show up in my rough drafts and finished essays, this polish wows audiences. Plus, conversations and actions reveal I’m a part of something greater.

Morsels for Meditation:  Lately, how have you missed God’s invitations to grow into a deeper relationship with Him?

Synchronicity for Seconds:  How have you focused on how someone doesn’t fit your expectations? How have you lost sight of how you can be love to them in the past twenty-four hours?

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Faith’s Newest Spin

12/3/2021

Jesus always is able to put a new spin on faith for you. Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Reflection based on Matthew 9:2731

“I’m not feeling so good.” My teenage son grabbed his side and frowned.

“Do you need a doctor?”  My wife’s crisis antennae piqued. This was no tummy ache.

Later, he winced when the doctor pressed his side.  She readied my wife for an emergency hospital trip.

“It’s his appendix.”

I explained to the admitting hospital nurse. My eyes were hopeful and yet I was afraid. Had I waited too long at the clinic? His agony increased.  We were out of options except faith.

“Two men followed Jesus, crying out, Son of David, have pity on us.”

Likewise in the gospel the two blind men followed Jesus and cried, “Have pity on us!”  But it wasn’t time, like us they waited in a lengthy line of patients.

At last, they caught up with their divine doctor, Jesus Christ.  Unlike our physician, Jesus asked a single background question. “Do you believe I can do this?”

Yes, Lord.” they said to him.”

Like my wife and I the blind men trusted God, but they lacked our healer of modern medicine.

The sonogram confirmed a rupture in the appendix, the doctors set us down and told us the procedure. He was to be out forty-five minutes.

To many this is a scary, but we were terrified. My wife lost her grandmother in the operating room.

“Let it be done for you according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened.”

Yet Jesus doesn’t say you’re cured to his patients. He adds a new spin. Personal faith would affect the intensity of the outcome.

Morsels for Meditation: If personal faith affects outcomes, what is my responsibility to bolster that faith?

Synchronicity for Seconds: In the past twenty-four hours how have I met people or been in circumstances that increased my faith or lessened it?

No Gated Community Saves

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Image from pexels.com.  It shows the curved at top rusted wrought iron gate closed. Between it's bars you can glimpse a foggy cemetery.  This image has a caption: Often we put our trust and interest in are the things that can't ultimately save us.
Often we put our trust and interest in things that can’t ultimately save us. Photo by KoolShooters on Pexels.com

No Gated Community Saves

12/2/2021

Reflection on the Reading from Matthew 7:21, 24-27

I had one of the worst jobs ever.  I had to pull the gate.

“The bank is closed!”

“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Customers would plead, beg. They’d tell stories that would break the coldest of hearts.

Without money, how could they take care of themselves?

It felt as if a way to rationalize away any personal responsibility.

“But only the one who does the will of my Father.”

Over time, I grew skilled in apathy.

So many times, customers had taken advantage of their place in our branch after hours. They’d demand hours of extra service.

So often and so fast they switched roles from the beggar at the gates to the master of the house.

So, with maturity I learned to be unmoved as I heard the many reasons for their lateness. For I let my coworkers down when I opened the gate; they too wanted to go home and rest with their families.

“Everyone who listens to my words and doesn’t act on them…builds on sand.”

Jesus paints a picture with the same colors. There is a responsibility in discipleship. Many want to explain it away as my customers did. But the story of the wise man who built on rock hammers home his point.

We have a duty to be our best selves for God and man. It is the fool who lives for himself and/or for man. I can live behind the gated community of my own neglect for only so long. The tornadoes and floods of trials are on their way.

Morsel for Meditation: How have I dodged my personal responsibility in the past?

Synchronicity for Seconds:  In the past twenty-four hours, reflect on an event or person who taught you more about personal responsibility.

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The Reason Behind the Clean Dish

When you live life from the front pew get ready for love followed closely by service. Photo by jamie he on Pexels.com

12/1/2021

Reflections on Matthew 15:29-37

Let’s get real. I hate to wash dirty dishes and do laundry. Stacks of dirty dishes and piles of unfolded laundry intimidate me. If I had a superpower, I’d snap my fingers and have the dishes and laundry done.

I imagine that scenario as the gospel story talks of Jesus’s power to heal. He took tremendous suffering and irritation away from the lives of scores of sick people.

“They placed them at his feet, and he cured them.”

For three days!

What if Jesus did all my laundry and dishes for that long? The gratitude in my heart would soar. I’d want to help. Of course, but he’d refuse.

“And they have nothing to eat…I’m afraid they will collapse along the way.”

Incredible! The mute speak, the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, and the deformed heal.  Still restored, they’re weak.

  • Was it because they waited in long lines?
  • Were the sick and sick’s caregivers exhausted from the limitations of life in their condition?
  • Was loyalty to Jesus why they didn’t leave?

Readers are left to guess. 

“How many loaves do you have?”

But that’s when he invites us into his magic. He overwhelms his leadership committee with a monumental task-find food.

It’s as if after Jesus washes my dishes, he says “Ok, I gave you clean dishes for a reason. Feed them.”

Disciples stumped. Goodbye comfort zone. Hello stress.

Fast-forward to the end, I see Jesus’s heart.  He wants me to bring all I have into a situation and trust. Then, expect miracles.

Morsels for mediation:  How do I react when Jesus invites me to risk my comfort for the benefit of others?

Synchronicity for Seconds:  In the past twenty-four hours how have I been asked to leave my comfort zone through a person, event, or circumstance? Was I my best-self in that space? Why? 

A Different Kind of Love and First Sight

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Photo by Emma Bauso on Pexels.com When did you first experience love at first sight?

A Different Kind of Love and First Sight

11/30/2021

Reflections on Matthew 4:18-22

Do you believe in love at first sight? I didn’t until the day I met my wife. Now, I can read your thoughts. I walked into the room and saw my wife and just had to be with her. But that’s not what happened or what I’m going to share.

Instead, it was my wife. She saw me and that second, she knew she wanted to be with me.  That right there is an amazing gift.

“Jesus was walking by the Sea…he saw two brothers…and saw two other brothers.”

Matthew’s gospel is a similar scene. These brothers cast nets and kick back to relax.  They see Jesus.  How many thoughts must have been in Christ’s head!  He wants to take these four brothers out of stands and off their practice field of life.  He sees their potential. And he’s ready to take them out of a life of leisure and take their show on the road with him.

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Jesus’s choice of apostles isn’t based on qualifications, talents, gifts, or even gear. It was love.  Love chose them. He just met them and knew. And Jesus was aware they weren’t equipped for the jobs he wanted to groom them for. It didn’t matter. He just wanted to be with them.

“He called them and at once they left their nets…immediately they left their boats and followed him.”

They do have a mutual curiosity and awe for one another, a love that brothers’ share, and each has the right heart, a teachable one.

Morsels for Meditation: In what ways have I experienced love at first sight as Jesus did in this reading?

Synchronicity for Seconds: In the past twenty-four hours what event or person taught me more about how to experience a deeper love for someone or some thing?

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Insurance and Centurion Eyes

11/29/2021

Reflection on Matthew 8:5-11

Darkened skies broke open. Icy hail poured like pachinko, small metal balls onto the roof of my car.

I watched on as the beautiful silver coat on my Camry was pelted with a barrage of B-B-like dents.

A strange calmness overcame me.

I stepped outside and heard the ping sound. I felt a removed appreciation for the situation. I wasn’t worried. A couple days later, my car would look untouched, like new.

“Lord I am not worthy to have you enter my roof only say the word and my servant will be healed.”

In today’s gospel, the roman commander is dressed to impress Jesus. But it’s not his uniform that wows Our Lord. Rather it’s his trust. The roman soldier acts as I did with my full coverage auto protection.

Trouble may come but it’s a temporary setback. The commander’s servant is ill, but he understands it isn’t forever.

“I say to one, “Go,” and he goes. “Do this.” And he does it.”

He has knit himself a habit of trust. He knows Jesus by reputation and experienced faith in people’s ability by practice with his authority. Once Jesus is in charge of his request, He believes his servant will recover. Jesus’s word is his bond and proof. The centurion’s unphased by the inconvenience of sick servants.

Jesus though streams a new ray of sunshine through my overcast skies too. Christ reveals our attitude affects our fate. If I could ask in prayer for something and believe I’ve already received it, I would see with centurion eyes. 

These same eyes invited into my prayer life could amaze my Lord and change me.

Morsels for Meditation: Have you ever prayed with the belief that you’ve already received what you requested?  How else can you amaze Jesus?

Synchronicity for Seconds:  In the past twenty-four hours think of an event, circumstance, or person that taught you about true faith and confidence.

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Advent 2021 Kick-off: Life Lessons from Mud Soccer

Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com You can learn much from soccer but throw in some mud and watch out.

Life Lessons from Mud Soccer

Reflection on Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

In-between the side of the two brick houses sat a pool of fresh mud.

Splat!

The soccer ball landed in the slop. Dirt exploded to cover everyone like a sky filled with fireworks. We slid, slipped, dove, did all we could to get to the ball, but it was a fingertip out of our leg reach.

At last, our team got up with the ball. The player planted set to shoot for the go ahead score. The kick tossed him off balance and he ended up with a face full of mud.  

  • Who would make the decisive play to break the scoreless tie?  
  • We weren’t sure. 
  • We only knew to keep fighting.

“When these signs begin to happen stand erect and raise your heads.”

Likewise, Jesus’s disciples hear the same message. 

When you’re in the mud of life you must stand and fight on.

They couldn’t look to nature to know when the battle was over. They couldn’t worry about the what ifs.  Until the ref blew the whistle, Jesus told his team to continue the struggle.

“Do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life or they will surprise (you) like a trap.”

But Jesus adds a shot of wisdom through our goal posts. Distractions are as much a trap as trials. 

Plus, he explains distraction and trial will forever surround you.  The remedy is vigilance and prayer. It is my focus, effort, and desire for help that will move the ball in the direction of my goal.

Morsel for Meditation: How have I become drunken or anxious about life? What can I do to fix this?

Synchronicity for Seconds: What is one distraction from the past twenty-four hours that had a significant effect on your day? Why?

If you enjoyed this meditation then sign up for my Advent 2021 readings bookmark. Tune in tomorrow for more details. That way you can get the exclusive to live life from the front pew and snag a pretty snazzy Advent bookmark.