Just Breathe

I had finally gotten the chance to sit down and put my feet up when my son said, “Mommy your hair feels cool.”  Unfortunately his hand was on my leg and not my head. This innocent statement reminded me of yet something else I hadn’t been able to accomplish.

Taking care of me.

Friends told me I needed a spa day; to be pampered, wrapped in a soft white robe and catered to, doled upon and massaged.  Others suggested I get away and have a vacation all alone so I could re-group and come home refreshed.

I knew exactly what I needed to do.

I needed to breathe.

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Being a mom of 4 sons can be draining.  Besides feeling invisible, my speech became staccato, filled with unfinished sentences, “Don’t do that you’ll…,” and “You’re going to get…,” and then “It’s going to break…, Would you just stop!”  Sons can be very impulsive, not taking a moment to consider consequences of their actions. I was constantly on my toes, ready for action and I felt my job was to keep them from harm or harming others.

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For the most part that was true.

Looking back I realize I was on the front lines of battle, my own personal mission field. Truly, what could be better than to raise 4 men to be strong in the Lord and to follow in His footsteps? My mission opportunity was in my own home and I didn’t even realize it.

Mission field workers need to be prepared. You need to have ammunition. You need to have strength, endurance, perseverance.

And you need to breathe.

Jesus laid out the directive of being refreshed. Many times He broke away to be alone and to pray.  I should have put down the vacuum and dust rag, broke out my bible and tried to absorb some of His Words of refreshment.  Shoes by the door, baskets of laundry, and spider webs along the ceiling should have been ignored, instead I should have sat and basked in prayer.

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My children are older now (PRAISE GOD!!!). I’m in the process of allowing myself time to relax, to refresh, and to breathe.  My fervent prayer is that you do the same.

 

Malchus-Healed to Believe

“I’m telling you the truth! My ear was in the dirt!”

Sitting in a local tavern, two men began discussing recent events. Everyone seemed to be at odds, choosing sides either to believe the man called Jesus was the Messiah or they declared he was a criminal.

For the last three years news of Jesus and His band of disciples spread like wildfire. Water turned into wine, people raised from the dead, and small amounts of food being multiplied to satisfy thousands were just some of the stories flying around.

Malchus paid no attention to the stories. How could they be true? He was busy advancing within the palace guard and remained focused on the jobs set before him. He wanted to make a name for himself and draw the attention of the king.

He had been in the court when Judas came telling the guard how they could arrest Jesus. Malchus became excited hoping he would be chosen for the team who would arrest this man claiming to be the Messiah. His desire came true when he heard his name called by the chief guard.

As a servant of the high priest, arresting prisoners was a part of the job, a normal course of events, nothing to write home about. But this arrest was going to be different. Arresting Jesus was definitely different, he could feel it.

Anticipating a fight, the large army of soldiers armed themselves for battle. Horses were saddled. Shields and swords were gathered as adrenaline pumped through their blood. Led by Judas the army headed to Gethsemane, the quiet place where Jesus and His followers were said to be praying.

The next moments would be forever etched in Malchus mind.

“Greetings, Rabbi!”, Judas said and then kissed Jesus.

“Friend, do what you came for,” replied Jesus.

Confusion invaded the solitude. Soldiers advanced, grabbed Jesus and He was arrested.  Jesus never uttered a word, never resisted. The expected fight never happened disappointing the army. Time seemed to stop, everyone just stood there.

Glinting metal caught Malchus eye as he turned his head toward the disciple named Peter. The sword came down faster than he could move out of its way. Cold steel came down hitting the side of his head forcing Malchus to his knees. Pain wretched his body. Blood pulsed from the side of his head. Malchus brought both hands to his head as he fell to his knees. He pried his eyes open to see his ear laying on the ground in the dirt.

Jesus, spoke. His words cut through the hysteria like a knife.

“No more of this!” Jesus said. Jesus reached out His hand, touched Malchus’ wound and instantly healed him.

Pain disappeared. Blood stopped flowing. Malchus’ heart continued to race. He couldn’t comprehend what just happened.

Time slowed to a crawl as Jesus met Malchus’ eyes. Malchus felt frozen. Jesus seemed to be looking into his very soul. Then, like a wave, Malchus felt love, indescribable love, flooding into his heart from this man who is said to be a criminal, Jesus.

Slowly Malchus rose to his feet.

The soldiers yanked Jesus to his feet and led him away.

The disciples fled in fear.

Malchus was left alone.

Malchus tried to gather his senses as he walked home. Thoughts bounced around his head as he tried to make sense of it all. Breaking it down step by step; the guard gathered to arrest a criminal named Jesus, Judas kissed Him, the guards arrested Jesus, his ear was cut off. Then Jesus, this man who was supposed to be a criminal, touched him and healed him.

None of this made any sense. How could this healer be a criminal? Why didn’t Jesus fight back or resist arrest? Why did all of Jesus’ followers run away? What the heck just happened?

Now, two days later, he still had no answers. He would have asked Jesus questions, but He was dead. Jesus had been crucified between two other criminals.

Malchus held the tankard of ale in his hands as he tried to sort through the last few days’ events. His friend tried hard not to roll his eyes as he listened to the story. Obviously, Malchus was crazy. Finishing their drinks they parted company. Maybe a good night’s sleep would help settle his thoughts.

Sunday morning Malchus woke. Without thinking he touched his ear finding it still healed. He didn’t have to be at the palace guard until Monday so he decided to take a walk.  Mindlessly he walked through the town while he relived the strange events in his mind.

His walk brought him a short distance from a tomb.

The sound of weeping snapped him out of his stupor. He spied a weeping woman prostrate in front of a tomb with a large rock next to the opening. A man stood before the woman.  Malchus overheard him say, “Mary.”

Wait a minute! That man? That man was Jesus! He wasn’t dead! He was alive!

Malchus fell to his knees. Truth stood before him hitting him harder than the blow of the sword.

Jesus was alive.

He was not dead.

The man, thought to be a criminal, was the long-awaited Messiah. He had been healed by the Son of God.

Malchus heart softened to accept the seed of faith planted in his soul.

Life Lesson: learned?

 

I was standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes when my 6 year old son bolted through the door, ran past me into the bathroom and turned on the water. Intrigued I asked, “Chris, what are you doing?”

“I’m washing my hands Mom,” he replied.

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My heart rejoiced! One of the life lessons we had been trying to teach our kids had actually broke through the wall of resistance.

As I began to thank God for this wonderful accomplishment, 4 year old Billy rushed in and joined Chris in the bathroom. Water continued to flow. Once again I asked, “What are you guys doing in the bathroom?”  Seemingly annoyed they answered, “Mom, we’re washing our hands!”

I was so happy I began to sing! Both boys had learned this very important lesson of cleanliness.  Hope rose. Maybe bath time wouldn’t be such a monumental task.  As I finished washing the dishes, I began to dry my hands and I looked out the window.

Chief, our 130 lb German Wire Hair Pointer, looked strange. His black curly almost hair-like coat looked wet. His fur seemed to be stuck to his body.

Confused I asked, “Boys, why does Chief look wet?”

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After a few moments of intense silence I heard, “We painted him.”

“Painted him? What did you ‘paint’ him with?” I asked as my heart rate increased.

“The stuff Dad has in the big metal can behind the little shed,” Billy answered.

All singing ceased. I put down the towel and rushed into the bathroom. The boys’ hands looked like they were coated with something similar to bacon fat. They were desperately trying to get the substance off their hands but the cold water and bar soap wasn’t working.

I called my husband. “Rob, what is in the big metal can behind the little shed?”

“Why do you want to know?” Rob asked.

“Please just answer the question,” I replied, obviously annoyed.

“Axle grease,” Rob said.

After explaining what happened, Rob told me Dawn dish soap would be the only thing to break down the grease and clean everyone up.

Cleaning the boys hands wasn’t easy but washing grease off the 130 lb. dog? Well, that was another story!

I thought the boys had absorbed a life-lesson but instead they were being mischievous. Even though they had no desire to intentionally hurt him, they had covered our innocent dog with grease.  This act caused Chief to endure a bath he didn’t deserve or enjoy.

This is a simplistic picture of what Jesus has done for you and me.

 Romans 3: 10-11 (NIV) 10 As it is written:“There is no one righteous, not even one;11 there is no one who understands;  there is no one who seeks God. 

We sin and we have no power to redeem ourselves.

Ephesians 1:7-10  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

 

Because we cannot save ourselves, Jesus willingly takes our sins upon Himself.

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2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

This intentional act caused Jesus to endure humiliation, arrest, conviction, torture, crucifixion, and death. Then defeating death, He paves the way for us to be with Him for eternity.

Jesus did nothing to deserve the wrath He endured on our behalf.

Don’t dumb this statement down! We deserve death. Jesus experienced death so we don’t have to.

And He did it all because He loves us.

John 17:24 NIV “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

Take a moment and absorb this fact.

Never forget the price paid on your behalf.

 

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2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (NIV) 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

 

 

 

 

From the Seed of Trust Grows Faith

“What do you mean? Why do we all have to go to your house?”

Rahab gathered her family together and was begging them to listen to her. Her story was preposterous, but these days were tense, everyone in the town knew they were on the brink of a siege.

Her family knew full-well of her “profession” and didn’t want to be associated with it. They didn’t discuss this apple who seemed to have fallen so far away from their family tree.  Now Rahab was spinning this unbelievable story about these “special” men who had come to her house.

Normally only men “visited”  Rahab’s house and usually under the cover of night. The women who lived there did so out of necessity; having to support themselves in some way.  But these two male visitors were different, sent by Joshua, on a mission to spy out their land.

Rahab had heard how the Lord of these men had dried up the Red Sea. She heard how Sihon and Og, two Amorite kings and more this Lord had completely destroyed. Now these men of God were here, in her land; Rahab knew things were going to get ugly.

They asked only for a place to hide.  The men needed protection.  They were being hunted by the king of Jericho who wanted them dead.  Rahab hid them on the roof of her house, covered them with flax and gave them instructions not to move.

The king of Jericho sent a threatening message to Rahab, “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”

Rahab began her necessary lie, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” The kings messengers left heading down the road Rahab pointed to.

Thoughts flew through her head as she prepared a place for the spies to spend the night. What was she going to do?  She needed protection for her and her family when the fighting broke out.

Rahab pleaded with the men, “I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. “ She continued, “Now then please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you.”

The men, grateful for the protection and the hospitality of Rahab, assured her, “Our lives for your lives!”

Could Rahab trust the promise of these strangers? Trusting men was not her forte’.  But did she have a choice?

Plans were made and the course set for the coming days. Rahab was relieved, yet still anxious because there was so much that still had to be done; the first of which was to getting her entire family to believe her and to come to her home.

After great pleading, Rahab’s family came to her house and were spared. Three days passed. The pursuers gave up and went back to the king of Jericho without their spoils.

Trust gave birth to righteousness; faith was born. Rahab was relieved yet still anxious-there was so much that had to be done.  The first of which was to get her family on-board with this plan and then to get them all to her house.

Story based on Joshua 2

Listen

Sometimes things are not as they seem.

When I was 3 years old we lived in an apartment building in Brooklyn. In the morning, after my older sister left for school, Mom and I would go to the laundry mat together.  Mom would sort the dark clothes from lights, towels from socks as I wandered around the washers and dryers singing silly little songs

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The owner of the establishment was a kind man and had been there for years. He often spoke with me and I remember feeling very comfortable around him.  One day he asked me if I wanted to see something special. I ran back to my mother and excitedly asked, “Mom, can I go and play with the man’s organ?”

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Mom froze as time seemed to stop. Mom didn’t answer right away.  She gathered her wits, calmly took my hand and gently said, “Show me what you mean. Take me to this man.”

The look on my mother’s face spoke volumes as we stood before the laundry mat owner. She asked me to repeat my request made moments before.  The man’s face immediately relaxed showing a feeling of understanding as he led both of us to the back room.

Being the manager required spending long hours in the building sometimes with nothing to do. He had a small church organ in his office. Playing music while the washers washed and the dryers dried made time fly by and gave him ample opportunity to practice.  He only wanted to show me the organ and for both of us to enjoy the music he played.

How often have I jumped to wrong conclusions? How many times have I misinterpreted statements and not allowed someone to explain themselves?  Why do I choose not to listen but instead fashion my response while someone attempts to defend their actions?

Mom did it right. She listened to me, asked me to show her what I meant, and then she listened as the laundry mat owner explained himself.

I am grateful for my mom and the many examples of goodness she showed me. I pray that I can do likewise and to teach my children to do the same.

 

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Hope in Her Name

She loved him. She believed in him. Her heart was broken because she loved him and now he was dead.  There had been such hope, such promise, as he spoke and taught them the ways of God.  He said to believe.  He said to trust.  He said everything was going to be okay.

She witnessed the beatings.  She heard his sentence. The sound of the nails pounding into his hands and feet would never leave her. Her anguish burst through her chest as she watched him struggling with that wretched wooden cross.

As she walked toward the tomb, she wrestled with the terrible memories of the last few days. Feet dragging in the sand, arms hanging limp at her sides, she felt emotionally exhausted.  Tears spilled from her eyes and hope seemed so very far away.

As she reached the tomb, her heart began to race. She saw the stone had already been moved.  “They have taken him!  They have stolen his body! ” Anguish increased as she fell to her knees in sorrow.

Through her tears she saw a man who asked, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Without thinking she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”

Hope was restored when he said her name. “Mary.”

Story based on John 20:1-18

 

Desperate to Touch the Master

She bled for seven years. Seven long years. None of the doctors could heal her. There was no treatment, no answer, no way to make things better.  The very same liquid, when poured on the altar in the Holy Place was considered a worthy sacrifice; but when it poured from her body it classified her as unworthy, unclean, untouchable creating a wall of isolation around her.

She heard the news. She listened to the stories. She hoped they were true.  All she had to do was to make her way through the crowd and get near him.  People gazed at her as she wondering why she was in public in her condition.  She pretended not to hear the mumbling pulsing in her ears. She pushed her way through the throng; she kept focused on the goal, focused on the master. Nothing would get in her way now.

Hope flowed through her as her fingertips touched the hem of his garment.

Luke 8  47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”