Jesus, sermon

From Confusion to Clarity

“Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar (shin r) and settled there. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.’” 

“The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the LORD said, ‘Come, let us go down, and confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.’

So the LORD scattered them over the face of all the earth, and they abandoned their building project. Therefore the city was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth.”

Who were these people and why would God foil their plans? 

Our first clue is back in Genesis 6, where we learn that the Lord regretted making man on earth.  He didn’t say He regretted making man, He said He regretted making man on earth – where His enemy lurked.

Man had become increasingly corrupt –  wicked is the word my Bible used – and so God wiped them all off the face of the earth.  All except Noah and his wife, their sons and their wives.

But sin is insidious and it survived the flood.

After Noah stepped foot on dry land, he worshipped and then he planted a vineyard. 

When the grapes were ripe he made wine, which he drank.  Perhaps on an empty stomach because he became so drunk that he passed out naked.

His youngest son, Ham, saw his father’s nakedness. 

Here’s where that insidious sin couldn’t resist itself. 

He went and told his two brothers – Shem and Japheth.

“Hey, come look, dad’s passed out naked!,” I’m guessing he said.

It was an honor your father and mother fail.

Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.

When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what Ham had done to him, he cursed him by cursing his son, Canaan.

These people, whose plans God foiled, were the descendants of Ham, Shem and Japheth – wheat mixed with weeds, some obedient and some disobedient.  A field polluted by pride – which is the only sin that keeps you out of heaven.

The location of the city is our second clue as to why God foiled their plan.

Except for Jerusalem, no other city is mentioned in the Bible more often than Babylon.  Scripture refers to it 290 times.   It represents the epitome of evil and rebellion against God. Throughout Scripture Babylon has been Satan’s headquarters and in the end it will again be the seat of his power.

Babylon is first mentioned in Genesis 10 (the chapter right after the nakedness scandal) as one of the cities in the region of Shinar. 

Chapter 10 tells us that Ham was the father of

Cush, Egypt, Put and Canaan.

Cush was the father of Nimrod, who was the first world ruler. The center of his kingdom was Babylon. 

Follow? He was the grandson of Ham – who carried sin onto dry land.

When I was in high school, Nimrod was the name the guy I dated gave to fools – as in, “He’s such a nimrod.”

The first time I read the name in Scripture, I thought he was a good guy.

Genesis 10:9 describes him this way: “Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth, was a mighty hunter before the Lord…”

I thought he was a mighty warrior for God.

But then I took a closer look at his name.  The name Nimrod comes from the Hebrew verb marad, meaning “to rebel.” Therefore, “a mighty hunter before the Lord” means he was a mighty hunter “in God’s face”.

Not a good guy.

The hub and I were in the Upper Peninsula a few summers ago. As we drove through one of its small towns, we were stopped at a traffic light right in front of the town’s high school.  Emblazoned on the side of the school in HUGE letters was “Home of the Nimrods.” I’m guessing they didn’t do a thorough word study before they chose their team name.

So Babel, which became Babylon, was founded by a rebel.

“Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves…”

The people, led by Nimrod, wanted to make their own way to heaven. A way that didn’t involve The Way.  John 14:6

So God confused their language and they had to abandon their plan.  

It reminds me of when God blocked Adam’s access to the tree of life in Genesis 3, and said “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

Rebels aren’t allowed in heaven.

But they will always try to find a back door in.

Rebels want to make a name for themselves…. Which is where our gospel reading comes in.

Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 

Jesus replied, “You still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. None of the words I speak to you are my own; they are the words of the Father who dwells in me and does his works.”

He went on to say “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” 

Did you catch that?  So the Father may be glorified.  Jesus didn’t desire to make a name for Himself, as those tower builders did, His desire was to make a name for His Father.

“If you love me,” He said, “you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, because He abides with you, and He will be in you.”

Just as Adam couldn’t eat from the tree of life and become immortal in his sinful state, the disciples could not become indwelled by the Holy Spirit and thereby receive eternal life in their sinful state.  They wouldn’t be indwelled until the atonement was complete and their sin was washed clean.

Jesus went on to explain that the Holy Spirit would teach them everything they needed when they need it and remind them of all that Jesus had said.

And remind Peter, He did.

“When the day of Pentecost had come, all of the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in their native language. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? In our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’

All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’

But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’”

Sneerers.

Peter’s first response kind of bugs me because the focus of his argument is off:

“Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, listen to me. These men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.”

I’ve had a bit of wine in my day.  On a couple of occasions, way back in college, I’ve even had too much wine.

And on neither of those occasions was I suddenly able to speak another language.

It’s not a matter of them not being drunk because it’s only 9 am.  It’s a matter of the fact that drunkenness does not make you suddenly bi-lingual.

Fortunately, his argument got better:

“What you are hearing,” he explained, “is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams…

Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”

And then his speech became truly inspired.

He laid out God’s whole plan for them.

He quoted David, whose history was very familiar to them.

He spoke of the resurrection:

“‘God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’

Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off.’

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”

That right there is what it is all about.  Clarity for the purpose of salvation.

The Holy Spirit did just what Jesus said He would do:

He reminded Peter of everything Jesus taught.

He convicted the hearers of their sin.

He drew them to salvation in Jesus.

So what can we learn from this?

The Holy Spirit gives us clarity, recall, courage and the ability to lay it all out for people.

Peter, who was once afraid to admit he knew Jesus, now, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, had the courage to casually point out that his hearers had crucified Him.

Like Peter, all we have to do is casually mention the Truth and the Holy Spirit will provide the gentle-yet-effective conviction.  Which is good, because who besides the devil, wants to rub anyone’s nose in anything?

That was then, this is now.

So what was the catalyst for change? What turned the confusion of Genesis 11 into the eye-opening clarity of Acts 2?  What brought us from scattered to unified?

What caused God to shift from blocking the 

way to the tree of life at the very beginning of the Old Testament to leading us back to the tree of life at the very end of the New Testament?

You know the answer: Jesus.

Those who accept that He is The Way, will follow Him right down those golden streets, right past the flaming cherubim, right to the foot of the tree of life.

Those whose pride insists on finding its own way will see their plans foiled.

Our collect this morning is about spreading the gospel abroad.

Last night, while I was reading an e-book on health, I came across a story which gets to the heart of the gospel and today’s dichotomy pretty well: 

“A man was given a tour of both Heaven and Hell, so he could intelligently select his final destination. The Devil was given first chance, so he started the “prospect” with a tour of Hell. The first glance was a surprising one because all occupants were seated at a banquet table loaded with every food imaginable, including meat from every corner of the globe, fruits and vegetables and every delicacy known to man. With justification, the Devil pointed out that no one could ask for more. 

However, when the man looked carefully at the people he did not find a single smile. He heard no music nor did he see any indication of the gaiety generally associated with such a feast. The people at the table looked dull and listless and were literally skin and bones.

The tourist noticed that each person had a fork strapped to the left arm and a knife strapped to the right arm. Each had a four-foot handle which made it impossible to eat. So, with food of every kind right in front of them, they were starving.

Next stop was Heaven, where the tourist saw a scene identical in every respect – same foods, knives and forks with those four-foot handles. However, the inhabitants of Heaven were laughing, singing, and having a great time. They were well fed and in excellent health.

The tourist was puzzled for a moment. He wondered how conditions could be so similar and yet produce such different results. The people in Hell were starving and miserable, while the people in heaven were well-fed and happy. Then, he noticed the reason.

Each person in Hell had been trying to feed himself. A knife and fork with a four-foot handle made this impossible.

Each person in Heaven was feeding the one across the table from him and was being fed by the one sitting on the opposite side. By helping one another, they helped themselves.” (Zig Zigler, See You at the Top)

Though the topic of the e-booklet was physical wellness, I’ll apply Zig’s story to our spiritual wellness. 

We are all at a great banquet table and we are all seated across from Jesus.  

Pride insists on feeding itself, but humility says, “Feed us, Lord” and humility is well fed.

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Rest in Peace Sweet Dixie

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I don’t know whether all dogs go to heaven, but I know for certain that my Dixie Lou is sniffing its fields.

James wrote, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.”

And in the end, every gift that comes down from heaven returns to its Giver.

And Dixie was certainly a gift.

I’ve often said it.

The hub has, too.

A purely delightful gift.

See you later sweetheart.

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sermon

So that we might declare His praise.

The book of Isaiah is a microcosm of the Bible as a whole.  There are 66 books in the Bible, and there are 66 chapters in Isaiah.

That’s kind of cool.

The first 39 chapters of Isaiah can be compared to the 39 books of the OT, with their emphasis on the holiness and justice of God.

The last 27 chapters correspond to the 27 books of the NT.  They portray God’s glory, compassion and favor.

For 35 long, agonizing chapters, Isaiah prophesied condemnation and future captivity.  And then, after a 3 chapter parentheses (in which he told the story of King Hezekiah’s sin, sickness and stay of execution), Isaiah began to speak prophesies of comfort and hope.

Our reading this morning, is among the prophesies of hope.

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick.

These two verses are usually taught as one event – when God parted the Red Sea and drowned Pharaoh’s army.  But the Septuagint reads differently:

For thus says the Lord, the one making a way in the sea
and a path in strong water;
The one leading chariots and horse and a mighty multitude.
They were gone to sleep, but they shall rise up;
They were extinguished as flax being extinguished.

According to the Septuagint, the Lord is the one leading the chariots and horse and a mighty multitude, they don’t belong to Pharaoh. And in the future they will rise again. So perhaps Isaiah is referring to separate events – giving  separate examples of how God has acted on their behalf in the past.

When Israel and Syria were at war back in Elisha’s day, the King of Syria endeavored to capture Elisha by sending his armies to Elisha’s hometown.  The armies surrounded the city by night.  Elisha’s servant awoke the next morning terrified and exclaimed, “On no! What should we do?”

Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

There are many stories in the OT of God winning battles for the Israelites with his mighty multitude.

But in the gloom of the first 39 chapters of Isaiah, God was no longer fighting their battles.  It was as if his armies had gone to sleep.

Now came the Lord’s assurance that He would once again arise and fight for them.

Not only would He deliver them from future captivity and protect them in battle…

“Behold I am about to do a new thing.”

Since this last 27 chapters of Isaiah are full of Messianic prophesies, that “new thing” on one level, is Jesus – a spiritual stream in the desert.

But the new thing would also be life lush with His presence.  He would once again be their God. Where they once languished in the consequences of their rebellion, they would now thrive.

Have you felt the winds of change blowing?  Have you ever perceived in your spirit that God was about to do a new thing in your life?  About to set your feet in a spacious place? Water the parched places and cause you to flourish?

Why does He do that?

The answer is in the final line of our passage: 

So that we might declare His praise.

That’s the line that jumped out at me as I prepared to preach.

It’s all about declaring His praise.

He acts on our behalf for His fame, not ours.

We bloom to show the skill of the Gardner, not to show off ourselves.

I used to ride my bike around Kensington Park regularly with Mr. Wright.

Not Mr. Right, Mr. W-r-i-g-h-t.

He was a biking buddy whom I barely knew.  But I liked riding with him because he pushed me to ride faster than I would on my own.

After one exhilarating ride, we caught our breath at a picnic table beside the lake.  He pulled snacks out of his bike bag and told me that right after he was baptized as a young man, someone prophesied all kinds of greatness over him.  And it kind of messed him up. Sent him chasing after fame. And now there he sat,15 years later, a math teacher at a prep school, eating apple wedges and cheese slices and telling his story.

“I kept waiting for greatness to happen,” he said, “discontented with ordinary life.  But now I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll always just be a math teacher.”

Just a math teacher? I thought, Isn’t there greatness in impacting the lives of students?

I read a social media post written by a young woman.  She wondered, “Why don’t they ever prophesy that you’ll be a great wife and mother? Why isn’t that enough?”

Beware prophesies of greatness.  They tickle itching ears. They reel us in and get us hooked.

They remind me of when Satan tempted Jesus by taking him to the peak of a very high mountain. He showed Jesus the nations of the world and all their glory. “I’ll give it all to you,” he said, “if you will only kneel and worship me.”

But Jesus wasn’t seeking personal glory, His mission was to glorify His Father.

Though the prospect of personal greatness is intoxicating, if it is your personal greatness that is being prophesied, and not God’s greatness, then the prophesy is false.

Our mission is to glory God.

He makes a way for us in the desert, He causes us to flourish for His praise.

Paul said, “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: to mind your own business and work with your hands, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

Lead a quiet life teaching math, rearing children, doing small things with great love.

Small things with great love brings us to our gospel reading.

It was six days before the Passover.  Since the raising of Lazarus, Jesus had been living quietly at Ephraim with His disciples. Now it was time for His public entry into Jerusalem. He would enter as both king and lamb, fulfilling both the prophecy of God’s promised King and the promised redemption pictured in the Passover celebration.

The crowds in Jerusalem for Passover were so great it was impossible to book enough rooms for Jesus and His entourage.  Bethany was close enough to Jerusalem to be appropriate for pilgrims’ lodging, so they headed there.

When Jesus and His disciples arrived in Bethany, His friends held a dinner for them.  After raising Lazarus from the dead the way He did,  Jesus was a celebrity, a local hero.  So of course they held a dinner in His honor.

Back when Lazarus died, in those moments before Jesus raised him, it was Martha who demonstrated unwavering trust in Jesus.

Now it was her sister Mary’s turn.  Mary had been the quiet, meditative sister, preferring to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him.  But now she dropped her reserve and unabashedly poured out her love.

Perhaps she felt the winds of change blowing, perhaps she realized His end was near, perhaps she sensed His grief.  The political tide was turning against Him and she wanted Him to know He had her support.

So she poured pure nard over His feet.

Matthew and Mark said she poured it first over His head, from an alabaster jar.  Then she let down her long hair that, in Jewish custom, would have always been bound in public.

She poured on his feet the most precious ointment possible as a token of honor and worship and then she lovingly and intimately dried His feet with her hair.

This vulnerable expression of love surely touched Jesus deeply.

This small thing done with great love.

The men around the table may have been uncomfortable as Mary knelt before Jesus and loosened her hair.  They may have been speechless. But as the fragrance filled the house,  Judas broke the silence.

“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” He demanded.

As if he cared about the poor.

Jesus didn’t call Judas out for embezzlement, as John did parenthetically, He called him out for harassment.

In Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts, Jesus said, “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

It’s the only time Jesus ever used the word beautiful.  And He used it to describe an action.  Beautiful had nothing to do with how Mary looked, it had everything to do with how she loved.

According to John,  Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

It’s wonderful to care about global poverty and injustice, but don’t overlook the need right in front of you.

Jesus’s grief – His impending blood, sweat and tears – was the need right in front of them that day, and Mary seems to be the only one who perceived it.

We always have the poor with us.

When Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah way back at the beginning of His ministry, when He proclaimed His mission, He didn’t say anything about alleviating poverty.  

He said He came to set prisoners and the oppressed free.  He came to restore the sight of the blind.  He came to proclaim good news to the poor – the good news that they have a Savior.

But He didn’t wave a wand and make everyone rich.  Even though His Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

Jesus was concerned with spiritual poverty.  That has always been the greatest need standing in front of Him.

Perhaps He isn’t concerned with physical poverty because it has purpose.

It keeps us reliant on God.     

I met a woman who suffered horrific things at the hands of her father.  So horrific that they left her emotionally disabled.  Her physician father was a member of a satanic cult. Horrific things were done.  Her mother finally left him and now they were living on a small disability check.  Money was very tight.  

The woman came to Bible study one morning rejoicing.  She and her mother had gone to buy groceries the day before.  They stood in the checkout line with a dilemma: If they bought the toilet paper they needed, they wouldn’t have enough to buy all the essential groceries they needed.  They put the toilet paper back. 

On the way home the woman spotted something laying on the shoulder of the road in front of them.  It was toilet paper!  They pulled over and scooped up their gift from God.

She came into Bible study rejoicing the next day as though she had received a million dollars.  Of course she did – it’s the same thrill whether God gifts you with a 4 pack of toilet paper or with a million bucks because the thrill isn’t in the value of the gift, it’s in the fact that God sees you. And cares.

When was the last time you had the thrill of knowing that God sees you?

Take a second and say thanks.

Gotthold Lessing said, “A single grateful thought toward heaven is the most complete prayer.”

Poverty also gives those who have been gifted an opportunity to express compassion and generosity.  A privilege that we will only have here on earth.

And the beauty of it is, everyone – no matter how physically poor – has been gifted with something to share.  We all have compassion to give, love to lavish. 

So what are we waiting for? Are we waiting until we get to heaven to exercise compassion and generosity?  By then it will be too late.  There’s no need for generosity and compassion there.

Now is our chance to do small and beautiful things with great love.

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,

but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,

for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 9:23-24

Amen.

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Jesus, life

With God as our Father.

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let There Be Peace on Earth
The peace that was meant to be

With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Remember when we were allowed to sing songs like that in school?

My tone-deaf, little elementary school heart would sing every word with gusto.

I thought back to those tender days this morning, curled up on my sofa with the first snow of the season falling, scrolling facebook with one hand and holding a hot cup of coffee (cream, cinnamon and the slightest drizzle of maple syrup) in the other.

Someone posted this:

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I smiled.

Hard to do when they are in your face, I thought as I scrolled by, but amen.

Then came this, posted by the same woman:

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And I smiled at her second offering of peace and goodwill.

Yes, I thought, it’s not a matter of whether you are a democrat or a republican, it’s not a matter of how you voted, it’s a matter of whether or not you have the love of God in your heart. People in each camp do, people in each camp don’t.

And then my heart grew heavy.

“Nope. None of that,” her own daughter wrote. “Racist, misogynist or xenophobe, and/or vote for people who are intolerant of diversity? I don’t need you in my life. I especially don’t need you in my children’s lives. I will not normalize intolerance. Hate does not get a seat at the table.”

Wait, where’s your tolerance for diversity of opinion?

Isn’t normalizing intolerance exactly what you’re doing, exactly what you’re modeling for your children?

Does this mean your mom doesn’t get a seat at your table?

It sounds like she hates her mom, who likely didn’t vote as she did.

Yet I know her mom would not deny her a seat at her table.

Which brought my thoughts back to Mother Teresa.

I felt achingly sad:

For the mom whose Shalom and was met with anger.

For me.

For all of us.

I kept scrolling.

Another lovely woman posted this:

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Lots of people are getting an “F” these days.

I’m not getting an “F”,” I can hear you huff, “because mine is the morally superior view.”

It’s not about views, it’s about behavior.

It’s about a lack of respect for others; it’s about hate for those you deem morally inferior; it’s about the unforgiveness you harbor in your heart.  There’s no “A” in that.

Resist the urge to tell me about anyone else’s heart (which you cannot possibly know), and exam yours.  Take the log out of your eye so you can see clearly.

Loving your enemy is the high road.  That’s where love travels.

There is no love in prideful claims of moral superiority.

There is no peace in them either.

I would love for there to be peace on earth, and there will be.

But first there will be increasing strife.

In telling His disciples about the end times, Jesus said:

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Mark 13:12

I would love for it to begin with me, but it won’t, it didn’t.

It began with a humble birth in a barn and it ended with a humble death on a cross.

Jesus won our peace – quietly, humbly, respectfully.

As I was pondering all this, my heart grew much heavier.

My daughter called.

She didn’t want me to be alarmed if I checked “Find My Friends” and saw her at the hospital.

She left work and was on her way there because someone close to her attempted suicide this morning, is on life support and is not expected to make it.

I hung up the phone and sobbed.

The ache in my heart became almost unbearable.

There are people who are hurting so much that they attempt to take their own lives and there are people huddled in hospital waiting rooms with broken hearts and there are people who take their morally superior attitudes online and post angry comments.

Shalom.

I recently learned a richer meaning of the word “shalom”.   It’s more than an absence of hostility, it’s a state of wellness.  In A Life Beyond Amazing, Dr. David Jeremiah wrote, “Its basic meaning is ‘to be whole, or safe, or sound.’ Shalom designates a condition in which life can best be lived. It is the concept of integrity; body, soul and spirit are in alignment. In shalom, you have more than the absence of hostility. You have a quality of life that nurtures peace.

Oh that we would all have a quality of life that nurtures peace.

Ever since I read that definition, I’ve been praying shalom over everything – the election, Dixie’s belly…

Just now I am praying shalom over the young man on life support: a miraculous recovery, solid ground going forward, wellness of body, soul and spirit.

I’m praying safe and sound over his shattered parents, siblings, children and all who love him. I’m asking for the peace that is beyond our understanding; that seems so impossible at times like these.

I’m praying shalom over my own heavy heart.

I’m praying His kingdom come, His will be done here on this messed up earth as it is in heaven.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Job

The very beginning of Job chapter 1 tells us that  Job was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 

He had such a healthy fear of God that when his sons held family feasts to celebrate their birthdays, he would get up early the next morning and sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them – just in case one of them sinned and cursed God in their hearts.

That’s the kind of man he was – He sacrificed for his children – acted as their priest – every single time they feasted.

Meanwhile in heaven, the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan showed up. 

The Lord asked Satan, “Where have you been?”

“I’ve been surveying the earth.”

“Have you seen Job? There is no one on earth as blameless and upright as he.”

“Of course he’s blameless and upright,” Satan hissed, “You’ve given him nothing but protection and blessings. Take it all away and he will curse you to your face.”

“Go ahead then, take everything I’ve given him,” the Lord replied,  “but don’t lay a finger on his body.”

So when Job’s sons and daughters were gathered at the oldest brother’s house feasting and drinking wine, a messenger came to Job and cried, “All of your oxen and donkeys have been stolen and all of your ranch hands have been killed!”

Another messenger came: “Fire has fallen from heaven and burned up all your sheep and shepherds!’

A third messenger reported, “Raiders have made off with all your camels and all their caretakers have been killed!”

Yet another messenger hurried in with horrific news, “The roof of your son’s house has collapsed and all your sons and daughters are dead!”

Job tore his robe and shaved his head, fell to the ground in worship and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”

“In all this,” Scripture says,  “Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”

Satan basically accused Job of loving God for His money.

But when the money was gone, when his children and his employees and his livestock –  all his wealth – were gone,  Job continued to praise.

You would think that Job’s praise would have shut the accuser up – proved that Job loved God for who He is and not for what He could give him.

Except the accuser doesn’t shut up.  We all have first hand knowledge of that.

Instead of shutting up, he showed up at another angelic staff meeting.

Again the Lord said to him, “Where have you come from?”

Again Satan answered, “I’ve been out surveying the earth.” 

Apparently that’s what he does.  Peter said he prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

“Did you see Job?,” the Lord asked,  “he still maintains his integrity, even though you incited me to ruin him for no reason.”

Integrity is an important word to this story.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines integrity as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.”  The second definition is “the state of being whole and undivided.”  It’s to have all parts of your life integrated and consistent.  To be the same on the inside and the outside, in public and in private.

Even after all of his tragic losses, Job remained consistent and God was proud of him.

“Anyone can maintain their integrity after losing their stuff,” the accuser spat, “but strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

“Very well, take his health, too; but you must spare his life.”

So Satan afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.

And there was nothing for Job to do but sit among the ashes scraping himself with a piece of broken pottery. Remember the itchy misery of chicken pox?

Seeing him sitting there, his wife had had enough. “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

But Job was committed to God in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. 

He replied to his wife.

“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

Again Scripture reports, “In all his suffering he did not sin in what he said.”

Four of Job’s friends heard what happened and went to comfort him.

When they saw him from a distance, they hardly recognized him; they began to weep, they tore their robes, sprinkled dust on their heads and got down in the ashes with him. 

For seven days and nights they sat with him and no one said a word because they saw how great his suffering was.

And then, after seven silent days,  Job opened his mouth and wondered why he had ever been born.

Once he broke the silence, his friend, Eliphaz, dared to speak.

“Think how you have instructed many,
how you have always strengthened and supported those who stumble
But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged;
Shouldn’t you be confident in your piety, 
shouldn’t your blameless ways be your hope?”

Eliphaz started well, with words we all want to hear in our distress – “You’re a good person, you don’t deserve this.”

My dad spoke those words to me over the phone when my first husband left. “You are a fine Christian woman, you don’t deserve this.”  And, bless his compassionate heart, he left it that.

But Eliphaz’s words of comfort quickly turned to condemnation.

“Or maybe you’re not so blameless… in my experience,” he continued, “you reap what you sow.”

“So even though it appears that you’re an upstanding citizen on the outside, there must be some hidden sin on the inside. 

Only the wicked suffer, after all, and you’re suffering, therefore you must be wicked.”

Then, to his faulty logic Eliphaz added a spiritual gut punch:

“A word was secretly brought to me,
my ears caught a whisper of it.
Amid disquieting dreams in the night,
when deep sleep falls on people,
fear and trembling seized me
and made all my bones shake.

A spirit glided past my face,
and the hair on my body stood on end.
It stopped,
but I could not tell what it was.

A form stood before my eyes,
and I heard a hushed voice:
‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God?
Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker?”

Eliphaz assumed that the presence that came into his room and gave him insight was God, but I don’t think it was.

Because God doesn’t accuse.  The accuser accuses.

And God doesn’t twist the truth.

The twister of truth twists the truth.

Job never claimed to be more righteous than God, to be more pure than his Maker.  Job’s words and actions clearly showed that he knew his humble position.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.”

“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

He sacrificed for his children after every party for crying out loud, you can’t get more aware of your need for atonement than that.

Job never claimed to be more righteous than God yet here’s the snake in the dark shadows of Eliphaz’s bedroom hissing and twisting and accusing and planting seeds of condemnation.

You gotta’ feel for Job.  He has lost everything, he’s covered in itchy, oozy sores and now his “friend” is saying that he brought it all on himself.  Hinting that the problem might be his self-righteousness.

It’s ironic that the accuser would plant that particular prejudice against Job in Eliphaz’s mind when the whole reason he got booted from heaven was because he wanted to be above God.

When we point a finger at another, we’re pointing three back at ourselves.

Job replied, “Seriously?  That’s how you are going to respond to the magnitude of my suffering? Give me specific examples of my sin and self-righteousness and I’ll be quiet. But don’t make accusations without proof, my integrity is at stake.”

And then, because his friend got into his head, Job turned his attention to God.

“What is mankind that you make so much of us,
that you give us so much attention,(scrutinize us so closely)
and test us at every moment?

Will you never look away from me,
or let me alone even for an instant?
If I have sinned, tell me what I have done,
you who see everything we do.”

For the next 3 chapters Job lamented his misery and wondered what he did wrong. Have you ever been there?  I have.  When my first husband left.

Eliphaz (with Satan’s help) played into Job’s fear of offending God, he exploited his fastidiousness, leaving  Job crushed under the weight of what he thinks is God’s condemning gaze.

But what Job and his friends don’t know is what transpired in heaven between God and Satan.

Job’s confusion and Eliphaz’s condemnation are all based on a lack of information.

That’s something we should remember when we are in the midst of a spiritual struggle – or a relationship struggle or a work situation:

When things don’t add up, there is more to the equation.

His second friend, Bildad spoke up.

“How long will you maintain your innocence when clearly you are lying?
God doesn’t pervert justice, therefore if you are suffering it must be warranted.

Case in point, your children.  Clearly they all sinned or they wouldn’t all be dead.

But if you will seek God earnestly and confess
And if you are pure and upright,
He will restore you to your prosperous state.”

OMG.  His children were all crushed under the roof of his eldest son’s house at a birthday party and this “friend” is saying it was because of their sin?

If I were Job, and if I weren’t weak with fever and grief, I might have grabbed Bildad’s neck.

Instead Job answered, 

“Indeed, I know that I should plead with God,
But how can mere mortals prove their innocence before God? 

His wisdom is profound, his power is vast.
Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?

Though I were innocent, I could not answer him;
I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.

If it is a matter of strength, he is mighty!
And if it is a matter of justice, who can challenge him?

Even if I were innocent, my mouth would condemn me;
if I were blameless, it would pronounce me guilty.”

Then Zophar, jumped on the condemnation bandwagon:

He, too, had been listening to Job with prejudiced ears. He too was offended by Job’s claim of innocence. 

What all three friends failed to hear is that when Job claimed to be innocent, he wasn’t claiming to be perfect or more righteous than God.

He was saying that he didn’t do anything to warrant complete devastation.

It’s like when some friends from my young marrieds Sunday school class called after my husband left wondering what I did.  Some were looking for scandal, some were looking for rhyme and reason – assurance that a random abandonment wouldn’t happen to them.

When I answered, “I didn’t do anything.” I didn’t mean I was perfect or blameless, I meant I didn’t do anything to warrant being abandoned – I didn’t have an affair, for example – as one of my callers had.  By Job’s friends’ logic her husband should have been gone, not mine.

Zophar said, “Do you really think you’re going to win this argument when it’s three against one and you are clearly wrong because you’re the one covered in sores?

I won’t sit back and listen to you mock God.
You say to God, ‘My beliefs are flawless
and I am pure in your sight.’

Oh, how I wish that God would speak,
that he would open his lips against you.”

Do you ever wish God would open His mouth and speak against someone when you are convinced that you are right and he/she is wrong?

Be careful with that because God did eventually open his mouth and speak against someone, but it wasn’t Job!

“Surely he recognizes deceivers,” Zophar continued,
“and when he sees evil, he takes note.

Yet if you devote your heart to him
and stretch out your hands to him,
if you put away the sin that is in your hand
then, free of fault, you will lift up your face;
you will stand firm and without fear.”

“THERE IS NO SIN IN MY HAND!”

Job was sick of the pat, spiritual answers that didn’t apply to his situation. He was sick of judgment parading as concern.  He was sick of insult being heaped on his injury.

 He replied to Zophar,

“You are miserable comforters, all of you!”

Tell me something I don’t know, something that will actually help.

What’s your problem that you insist I admit to some grave sin?

“I also could speak like you,
if you were in my place;
I could make fine speeches against you
and shake my head at you.
But I wouldn’t, I would speak words of comfort and encouragement.”

They all knew that was true because that was the first thing Eliphaz said when the silence was broken – “you’ve always strengthened and lifted up the faltering.”

Yet on him they heaped condemnation – all because the accuser whispered in Eliphaz’s ear and took control of the narrative.  If Eliphaz hadn’t been the first to speak would the others have been so quick to pile on?

Job, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar went ‘round and around for 28 chapters.  It’s a long thread.

Job turned his thoughts to the good old days:

“when people listened to him expectantly,
waiting in silence for his counsel.
For his words to fall gently on their ears.

To the days when people were thrilled to receive his smile, when the light of his face was precious to them.

Back to the days when he dwelt as a king among his troops;
When he was like one who comforts mourners.”

When he was treated with respect.

“But now,” he said, “my skin grows black and peels;
my body burns with fever.”

And after lamenting for quite awhile more, the words of Job ended.

Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar’s words ended, too.  There was no point in arguing with Job since he was clearly right in his own eyes and not willing to repent.

Young Elihu, who had been silent up until now, was angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had failed to refute Job, and yet had condemned him.  They could produce no solid evidence against him but they still convicted him – all because of their faulty understanding of his situation, their prejudices against him and their limited understanding of God.  

(If you give each friend’s arguments a close reading, you will see their particular prejudices and jealousies bubble to the surface.)

Elihu started by saying something similar to what Eliphaz said:

“God speaks in various ways,
though no one perceives it.

In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on people
as they slumber in their beds,
he may speak in their ears
and terrify them with warnings,
to turn them from wrongdoing
and keep them from pride,”

Remember when Zophar claimed God gave him insight in his restless sleep?

This is different.  Here Elihu is saying God speaks to us about us in order to save us from sin.

He doesn’t whisper to us about the behavior of others so we can accuse and condemn.

In so doing, Elihu added salvation and redemption to the equation.

But then Elihu makes an arrogant statement, even as he accuses Job of thinking he’s perfect.

“Be assured that my words are not false;
one who has perfect knowledge is with you.”

Elihu is confident that he has perfect knowledge when he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about – implying that  Job’s problem is he won’t confess his sin and cry for mercy.

“God is wooing you from the jaws of distress.
But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked;
judgment and justice have taken hold of you.”

And then Elihu reveals his particular prejudice:

“Be careful that no one entices you by riches;
do not let a large bribe turn you aside.

Would your wealth or even all your mighty efforts
sustain you so you would not be in distress?

Do not long for the night,
to drag people away from their homes.

Beware of turning to evil,
which you seem to prefer to affliction.” 

Elihu seems to assume that Job’s hidden sin has something to do with his wealth, with ill-gotten gain.  But if wealth were Job’s problem his story would not have ended as it does.

All this angst, all these accusations, all these prejudices surfaced because Satan couldn’t stand that a human would actually, sincerely want to please God.

It’s all the more maddening because Job was humble to begin with.  It wasn’t until he was forced defend himself against the accusations of his friends that he became puffed up.  And annoyed.

Elihu’s speech was closer to the truth about God than E’s, B’s or Z’s because he recognized God’s focus on redemption where they others were focused on judgment, but he was wrong about Job.  And he didn’t have perfect knowledge of the situation because he didn’t know the whole equation.

The only one who knew the truth about Job was God.

Job suffered because Satan accused God at an angelic gathering.  Just as Jesus suffered because Satan accused God at the base of a fruit tree.  It had nothing to do with Job.

When His disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Sometimes our suffering has nothing to do with us.

But in the midst of our suffering, when things don’t add up, we assume that God is angry with us.  We flail around trying to figure out why, beg Him to tell us what we did.  But if the answer isn’t obvious, then maybe we didn’t do anything wrong.

It’s interesting that when God finally spoke, He didn’t tell Job about the wager in heaven, He didn’t address Job’s suffering at all.  Instead He asked Job a series of questions all designed to help him understand mercy. 

To ask for mercy is to look up and beg, to be merciful is to stoop down and bestow kindness.

It’s a positional thing.

Job kept insisting that he had done nothing wrong but the need for mercy isn’t a matter of whether or not you’ve done something wrong, it’s simply a matter of humbly recognizing your size.

A carpenter ant looks up under the shadow of the sole of my shoe and begs for mercy, not because it did anything wrong, but because it is aware that it is small and I am big enough to squash it like a bug. (Actually, if it is in my house it did do something wrong, but if it’s outside, I won’t squash it, even though I can.)

Mercy is recognizing that God can do anything He wants, and trusting that what He wants is good.

God’s questions to Job also revealed Him as a powerful, genius Creator.

Job responded,

“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

You asked, ‘Who is this who obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.

Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

Remember how at the beginning of the book God bragged about Job to Satan – called him upright and blameless?  God wasn’t nitpicking Job’s imperfections, as Job assumed, He was saying, “What about that Job, huh?” Like a proud Papa.

And now Job understood that God isn’t sitting in heaven judging, just waiting for us to mess up so He can pound the gavel.  He’s a Creator who sits in heaven and delights in His creation.  And who cares enough to stoop down in kindness and explain it to us.

After the Lord spoke to Job He said to Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. Now go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. 

See how God reiterated that Job’s friends were the ones who were wrong?  Perhaps because of Zophar’s wish that God would open his mouth and set  Job straight.

Notice something else here:  God doesn’t give the silent treatment, we don’t have to flail around wondering why He’s angry or if He’s angry.  He was angry with Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar and He said so.  And He said why.  And then He offered them the way of restoration.  Throughout the Old Testament God’s people would anger Him, He would send prophets to point out their sin, they would repent and be blessed.

Nowadays He sends the Holy Spirit.

So stop flailing.

The best thing we can do for a suffering friend is to keep what we think we know to ourselves and simply ask God to tell the person what they need to know.  Because He is the only one who can truly nail it. 

After Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. (Obviously his problem wasn’t his wealth.) All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

 I’d have a really hard time accepting the fair weather comfort and consolation – at my dinner table – of those who mocked me when I was down, but God was gracious enough to restore Job’s good will toward men.

The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. In addition to his restored wealth, he also had seven sons and three daughters. 

Notice, the daughters are named and the sons are not.

Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

Did you catch that? 

Now that Job saw God clearly, he did what he hadn’t done before, he gave his daughters an inheritance along with his sons.

Seeing God clearly causes the traditions of men to yield to the heart of God.

After this,  Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 

And so Job died, old and full of years.

Job was seeing God with shiny new spiritual eyes and Bartimaeus wasn’t seeing a thing.

Our Gospel reading today tells us he was sitting along the roadside on the outskirts of Jericho when Jesus and His following went by.   When Bartimaeus heard that it was Jesus, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 

Bartimaeus didn’t ask Jesus why he was blind, he asked for mercy. That was the lesson Job needed to learn:  Knowing why doesn’t make you see, the mercy of God does. 

There’s humility in a request for mercy.  There’s no accusation of wrong-doing, there’s no demand for fairness, just a humble request from the powerless to the all-powerful.

Many sternly ordered Bartimaeus to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 

Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”  Mercy can take many forms – the provision of a seeing eye dog, the invention of braille, friends to assist…

“I want to see!”

And see he did.

When you need mercy, speak up even when others tell you to pipe down.  Be specific about what you want God to do for you.

We could spend a bit of time on the Hebrews passage comparing  Job’s atoning sacrifices for his children party after party with  Jesus’s one sacrifice for every party past, present and future.  I could point out that Jesus is the Redeemer  Job longed for in chapter 19, and the Mediator he longed for in chapters 9, 25 and 33.  But I’d rather end with a personal story so I’ll answer Job’s question from earlier: “How can mere mortals prove their innocence before God?”

We don’t have to.  We have an eternal Mediator who lives to plead our case.

A Mediator who talks us through things and helps us make sense of it all.  He’s talked me through a few hard things.

Back when my first husband left me all those years ago and my so-called friends were breaking my heart – after much Job-like lamenting and Job-like confusion, God finally spoke and said, “You can choose to believe what your circumstances say about my love for you, or you can choose to believe what I say about my love for you.”

It was a defining moment.

Seventeen years later came another defining moment.  My daughter had just gone off to college when a sudden fall set off a string of strange neurological symptoms that baffled a string of doctors.  I sat on my sofa day after day trying to distract my fearful thoughts by watching movies as I waited to die.  It occurred to me that maybe God didn’t care about me as much as I thought He did.  Perhaps I had been foolish to think He cared about me at all.  I teetered between hope and despair until He finally reminded me of His defining moment.  The question of whether or not He loves us, whether or not He cares about us, was answered once and for all the minute He said yes to the cross.

Let that sink in:  The question of whether or not He loves us, whether or not He cares about us, was answered “yes” once and for all the minute He said yes to the cross.

“Okay,” I thought a few weeks later as I was washing my tear-streaked face, “He loves us.  But does He love me?”  I had always felt special to Him because I loved Him so much, but maybe I wasn’t.

As I grabbed the hand towel He reminded me of the day He called my name.  He reminded me of the following night when He revealed Himself to me.  It was a glorious revealing.  He called me into His family knowing that I would let Him down, knowing that I would let myself and others down, knowing every bit of my past, present and future, He adopted me.  

“Why would I call you into a relationship with Me and show Myself to you, only to abandon you?,” He asked.

 I love it when He reasons with me.  

He reminded me of everything I love about His character, His plans, His stick-to-itiveness.  He wouldn’t adopt me as His child and then turn His back on me.  He isn’t a bad parent.  He finishes the good work He begins in us.  He accomplishes His purposes.  He isn’t lazy or distracted.

“But Christians sometimes die in their prime, when their ministries are thriving and there is still work to be done,” I countered.  “So there is no guarantee I will recover.”

“If you don’t recover, it won’t be because I don’t care or because I am not paying attention or because I am unable.  It will be because it is time to come home.  And if it is your time and my will, you will have peace.”

I thought of the palpable peace He gave my sister as she battled cancer and faced death.  I realized that it wasn’t God who was trying to kill me, it was the author of fear.  If there is fear, then God’s hand is not in it.  And since the presence of fear proved the strange illness was from the devil’s hand and not God’s, I was going to be okay because God is stronger.  God loves us.  God loves me.  I rested in that and I recovered.

Job’s defining moment came when he resolved, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” 

Peter’s defining moment came not with words, but with action.  After he denied Christ thrice, after he threw his best friend under the bus to save his own skin, he got back up and walked with Him.  Not as one who was just barely forgiven, but as one who was amazing. (See Acts 2:14-41)

Those are the moments the Holy Spirit illuminates when I am struggling.

If you are suffering and wondering what you did wrong, wondering whether God still cares or ever cared, I’m here to say, of course He cares.  Of course He loves you. If nothing makes sense ask Him what’s missing from the equation.

Our defining moments, as tough and heartbreaking and scary as they are, are designed to bring us to the place where we “come to know and believe the love God has for us.”  1 John 4:16a

Does God see you in your suffering?  Does He love you?  Remember your adoption day? That was the day He answered “Yes!”  Forever.

Beth Moore shared a sweet moment she had with God:

He said to her:  “Don’t say, ‘I love you’ to Me.  Say, ‘I love you, too.’  Because I am always saying it first.”

No matter what is going on in your life, He is always saying it first.  Amen.

Job 42:1-6, 10-17
Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22)
Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 10:46-52

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life

Public Opinion

I took a YouGov survey this morning. The first several questions dealt with sexual harassment in general. The next few dealt with the specific allegations made against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

One question asked whether or not he did what he was accused of doing.

I immediately ruled out the choices at both ends of the spectrum – “He definitely did it” and “He definitely did not do it.”

I wasn’t actually there so there is no way I could be definite one way or the other.

There’s no way anyone could.

I might not even be able to be definite if I were there, given that alcohol was involved and memories – especially old memories – are unreliable. Just ask any group of adult siblings how things went down in their family when they were growing up.

So, just as I always toss out options that include the words “always” and “never” when taking a test,  I tossed out “definitely did” and “definitely did not.”

That left me with “probably did” and “probably did not.”

In considering those choices I had nothing to go on but the testimony I heard, my life experience and my knowledge of human nature.

Regular people, I discovered young, aren’t above invoking political slander.

I was at a party in a cool apartment above a hip restaurant across from the campus of the university I was attending when I came face to face with this reality.  The party was a gathering of those of us who worked on the campus newspaper.

I was standing near the kitchen when Keith, the host of the party, walked by.

“Here,” he said, handing me his joint, “hold this while I answer the door.”

Before I could respond, the joint was in my hand and someone was snapping a picture of me. I think it was Mark Somebody.

“Now you can never run for anything,” he said.

I looked at him dumfounded. “You know I don’t smoke,” I said.

“It doesn’t matter,” he shrugged.

My fellow SNOOZER (State News-er) was willing to lie about me at some point in my future.  A budding journalist was willing to lie and I was aghast.

Any honest person will admit that political slander has happened on both sides, case in point: the swiftboating of John Kerry.

People will lie and exploit the vulnerable to promote a political agenda.

Just ask Sarah Weddington.

“The ends justify the means,” they say.

People lie to make themselves appear more sympathetic.

Just ask Norma McCorvey (when you get to heaven).

God rest her soul.

The Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion was steeped in a lie.

So my life experience tells me that people do lie, even under oath, even when its supremely important.

And the Bible backs up my life experience.

Otherwise there would have been no need for God to make His ninth commandment.

(I’m assuming you know it.)

Judge a tree by its fruit.

That’s what Jesus said.

So I took a minute before choosing my answer to look at Judge Kavanaugh’s fruit.

I considered the testimony of friends and former female clerks in his court, how they said he always acted professionally and treated them with respect.

I thought about his young daughter suggesting to her sister that they “pray for the woman” and I thought about the idiom that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, since we are talking about fruit.

Redemption.

I thought about rookie mistakes, growth, maturity, and redemption.

I dated a boy in high school who broke up with me because I wouldn’t have sex with him.   I ran into him at a party several months later.  In his drunkenness, he tried hard to take advantage of me.

I know nothing about his life now, but if I learned that for the last 40 years he has been a fine man with fine children and a fine reputation, I would believe it and rejoice that he outgrew his youthful foolishness. I’d chalk his high school behavior up to a rookie mistake – to a young man trying to measure up to society’s definition of being a man just as I chalk my own high school stupidity up to me trying to measure up to society’s definition of what it meant to be a woman.

But I wouldn’t give the same benefit of the doubt to the 30-year-old high school teacher who molested me.

Unless he gave one heck of a God-glorifying testimony.

And had one heck of a bushel of good fruit.

So, did Justice Kavanaugh do the things he was alleged to have done?

I checked the box for “Probably not.”

But after listening to the heartwarming speech President Trump made just before Justice Kavanaugh was publicly sworn in – the speech in which he said to Justice Kavanaugh something along the lines of, “Under a historic amount of scrutiny, you were found innocent.” – I realized that I’m an idiot.

And I wish I could go back and change my answer to “Definitely did not do it.”

Because that’s what the presumption of innocence is all about.

I can presume someone is definitely innocent – even if I wasn’t there – unless and until the evidence proves them guilty.

Thank God for that.

God bless you Justice Kavanaugh.

 

 

 

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the friends

Learning Curve

It was just about a year ago that an ultrasound revealed a recurrence of cancer.  Little Dixers had two enlarged lymph nodes.

Her oncologist recommended radiation but radiation, I discovered, is a brutal proposition.

So I opted to have the nodes surgically removed instead.

And then I met with the oncologist who treated Bebe for a second opinion.

The new oncologist proposed managing the cancer as a chronic disease using Traditional Chinese Medicine, gentle chemo and diet.

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That was the road we decided to take.

So instead of spending my time online writing my blog and reading yours, I spent most of the first few months learning all about ketogenic diets while trying and failing to monitor her ketone and glucose levels.  She’s been on a ketogenic diet ever since, but I still have no idea what her levels are.

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At the same time that Dixie’s cancer recurred, my mom was having symptoms.

Her surgeon was sure that it was cancer, but the results of the biopsy were inconclusive.

So she was sent to the top infectious disease doc in our area.

She bounced from test to test, specialist to specialist, likely cancer to not likely cancer and back again.

So I did what we do in my family, I took to the internet in pursuit of a diagnosis.

We’re a family of puzzle solvers.

But no one ever did solve it – not any of us, not the docs.

A year later, my mom seems fine – finer than most 88-year-olds.

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And Dixie is doing well, too.

So in honor of the first day of Autumn, my daughter and I took her to Marshbank Park for some fresh air, exercise and mental stimulation.

Because all those things are good for dogs.

The hub wasn’t with us because he was making the long drive home from Canada – where he spent all last week catching 19 inch smallies.

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(Just wanted to show you the picture he sent.)

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We did two loops along the water and through the woods.

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Who knows, this might have been the first time Dixie has seen a lake in her 12 years.

If that last pic looks vaguely familiar, you might be remembering the photo I took of Bebe at the same park two Septembers ago.

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Sweet little Bebe, God rest her soul.

So that’s why I haven’t been around much these past 11 months.

I’ve been learning, learning learning by reading, reading, reading.  And these old eyes can only take so much screen time.

If Dixie’s ultrasound this week confirms that she is stable I might be around a bit more.

This morning the hub and I skipped church to go to a couple of Farmers Markets and fully enjoy another crisp, sunny, glorious day.

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Going to the Market always involves Ned’s Travel Burger.

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It’s fun to bebop with the hub. Good to have him home.

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Home now watching the PGA Tour Championship while Dixers takes a nap.

Happy Sunday.

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