Saturday, October 15, 2011

More than I can handle

It seems all of us have had someone say something that has made a lasting impact on our lives.  It may have been a parent, a teacher, pastor, friend, a line in a movie, or something overheard from a total stranger.

This week’s blog topic is “A not-so-well-known Bible verse that impacted you.”  For me, there are several.  One is Ecclesiastes 9:4

"Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!"

Then there is Ephesians 4:29 –

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Ouch.  Not as touchy-feely as the live dog.  If you can’t say something nice …
And of course, a favorite of many people:

"God will never give you more than you handle."
(Hold on … I’m still looking for the chapter/verse reference on this one …)

You know what?  That’s not in the Bible!  The idea that “God will never give us more than we can handle” is actually a mis-quote of a verse that has a different theme to it.  It’s not so much about handling what God gives us, and all about resisting temptation:  
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1Corinthians 10:13-14)
Think about it – if God never gave us "more than we can handle" then why do people – Christians and “heathens” alike – have eating disorders?  Extra-marital affairs?  Turn to drugs?  Alcohol?  Self-injury?  Suicide?  Did God create a human race full of weaklings? 

In a word, Yes. If we did not have weaknesses in our lives, we would all be perfect.  We would have nothing to offer each other because no one would have need for anything.  We’d be equal with God, and have no need for Him.  The apostle Paul said it this way: 
"In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." - 2Corinthians 12:7-9
In reading these verses, I am reminded times that I've gotten into a jam in my life because of choices that I made and the consequences of those choices. Whether the problem was with finances, relationships, taking care of my body, or anything else, I was convinced that since I, in effect, set the chain of events into motion that got me to that point, it would be up to me to act upon more decisions to get myself out.

But guess what? In the area of life where I made the bad decisions, I was weak. If I weren't weak, I would have used better judgment and not be in such a mess. I was told by someone years ago, “If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got." Trying to fix my weaknesses on my own would likely result in more poor decisions, and being stuck with no "out" in sight.

The ways God shows His grace in our lives are not always touchy-feely-warm-fuzzy-puppydog moments.  Quite often they are very humbling and sometimes painful, especially in areas where we do not want to admit God has given us more than we can handle.  By surrendering our weakness to God and asking for his help and letting God be the awesome God that he truly is, we can then attest to His power in our lives. We can say to those around us, "I was weak in this area of my life, and couldn't change it on my own. When I allowed Jesus into my life I gave my weakness over to him. It's through His power and grace that this area has changed my life for the better. And it couldn't have happened any other way."

I don't know about you, but I'm actually thankful for my weaknesses. That opens up more opportunities to see God at work in my life!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Message about prayer ...

Hello, everybody. God here. Thought I’d check in with all of you this evening. I’ve been hearing your prayers – all of them – and have been answering them, too. I know some of you don’t quite believe that I’ve been hearing and listening. And there are a few of you who have been praying, with the first words out of your heart are “God, if you’re there …” Surprise! I AM here!

I’ve heard the prayers that you’ve memorized since childhood, “God is great, God is good, Thank you, God, for our food.”

You’re welcome. It makes me happy that you enjoy it – just do so in moderation, of course.

I’ve heard you saying the prayer that my Son taught his followers while he was here on earth:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory


I usually hear you saying that in church or in a group setting. Next time you say it, can you try putting some thought and heart into it? Just sayin’ …

But you know, the prayers that intrigue me the most are the ones I hear that are somewhat out of the blue. Believe me, I do hear them, and I do act upon them according to my will. One time when one of you ladies was upset with the life-mate who you chose, I heard you ask me to keep you from strangling him in your sleep. No matter how much you think he deserved it, do you really think I was going to allow you, my beloved, to hurt another one of my children?

And you, I remember you asking for your company to receive an order for whatever it is you make, I think it’s aircraft? You know, you are not birds, but you still figured out how to fly. But that’s another story for another day. You wanted your company to have work for you and others to do so you could continue to be employed. I could have said “no.” I’ve said “no” to many other requests such as yours. But there’s something about how you believed in me. You had to wait a while and learn a little bit of patience, but I said “yes.” I was pleased when you remembered that it was Me who arranged for the order.

And then there is you, sitting in the coffee house. You’ve had a couple of rough years lately, and through those times you’ve learned to have some faith in me. It wasn’t easy at first, but in time you did learn that I can be trusted. When I gave you an unexpected blessing, though, you doubted that I could give you such a wonderful gift. You went so far as to ask, “What did I do to deserve this? I’m afraid God’s going to take it away from me. Can God be that cruel?”

Wake up and smell that coffee in front of you! I love you. The very essence of my being is love. I am not so cruel as to tease you with something good, only to make you miserable. But remember, life is not all teddy bears and roses. Even though the blessings I give are good, the world is not perfect, and has not been for centuries. Disasters strike, people make mistakes, even do evil things. The human body is subject to disease and decay and death. Love anyway. Embrace the gift called “today.”

I know that not all of you feel confident enough to come directly to me with your problems. That’s why there is an army of you out there who pray for them. I hear your prayers, too.

The soldiers who preserve your freedom – I do protect them. There are some I choose to bring home to me. I know you do not understand now, and your tears are many. (I know – I am collecting them in a jar up here.) Your soldier is now at ease, in My eternal presence.

Your loved ones who are sick – I hear those prayers too. It grieves me, too, to watch them suffer the way they do. I have not forgotten about them.

For the nations – Turn to me. Humble yourselves and pray. I will hear you, and I will heal your land.

My beloved, I want to hear all of your requests. Talk to me from your hearts. Talk to me alone, or in a group with others. Talk to me when you do not know the words to say. My Spirit will intercede on your behalf. Trust me, I will know how to answer your request according to what is in the best interest for my Kingdom as a whole.

Pray. Listen. And pray some more.

That is all … carry on …

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Family Portrait

Not long ago I attended a writer's faire, where I heard a speaker say, "If you write a page a day, at the end of a year you will have a novel."  No, I thought, in my case I would have 365 pages of disconnected drivel. 

This is a sampling of my disconnected drivel that came out of the 500 Words challenge.  It happens to be in line with this week's Topical Blogger's subject of "Family Portraits."  Enjoy!

Molly likes breakfast time.  Her whole family has breakfast together – Mommy, Daddy, and her brother Bobby.  Her favorite doll Pansy also sits at the breakfast table.  Molly usually has a bowl of Loopiloos with milk for breakfast.  But today was Saturday.  On Saturday, Mommy makes pancakes.  Daddy helps her cut the pancakes so she can eat them easier.  She likes to pour her own syrup, but sometimes needs Daddy to help her.  Molly eats two pancakes.  Pansy does not eat pancakes.  She does not like them.

This morning Daddy made an announcement.  “Today we are going to a studio to have a family picture taken, for a gift for Grammy and Grampa!” 

“YAAYYY!!!”  Bobby and Molly like to do things for Grammy and Grampa.  And going to a studio sounded like an adventure. 

“Can Pansy come too?”  Pansy and Molly went everywhere together. 

Mommy said, “We will be wearing white shirts and blue jeans for the picture.  Molly’s dress does not match our clothes, but she can come and watch us have our picture taken.”  Molly was glad Pansy would not have to be left alone at home.  Pansy smiled, too.

After the breakfast dishes were washed and put away, the family got dressed in their blue jeans and white shirts, and went to the studio.  The studio had many, many pictures on the walls.  There were pictures of babies, children, families, soccer teams, and more.  Molly’s favorites were the pictures of weddings.  “The bride is always very beautiful,” she told Pansy.  “Someday I will be a bride, and you will be in my wedding!”

Bobby heard what Molly said.  “Brides are stupid!” he said, and pulled her hair.


Daddy gave Bobby a stern look.  The look that says “You’re in trouble!”  Bobby stepped away from Molly and Pansy.  Pansy was watching Bobby.  She did not want him to pull her hair too.

Next, a man brought Mommy, Daddy, Bobby, Molly and Pansy into a room with fancy lights and special places for them to sit. “My name is Robert.  I will be taking your pictures today.  Daddy told me your names when you arrived.  But, Molly, I do not know your friend’s name.”

“Oh!  Her name is Pansy.  But Mommy says her dress does not match us, so she can’t be in the picture.  Can she sit next to you and watch?”

“Of course she can.”  Robert carefully placed Pansy on a work chair.  Her lacy socks poked out from under her pink flowery dress.  That made Bobby giggle.

“Molly and Bobby, you sit on this special bench.  Keep your hands in your laps, OK?  And Daddy, you stand behind Bobby.  Mommy, you stand behind Molly.”

Robert told the family how to tilt their heads just-so, so that they had the perfect pose for Grammy and Grampa’s picture.  Pansy’s head was tilted just-so, too.

“Look straight at the camera and say Cheese!  One, Two, Three!"


**FLASH**  The light from the camera was very bright! 

Robert showed Daddy and Mommy the picture.  Molly and Bobby wanted to see it too.   Everybody thought it was a very nice picture.  Daddy ordered pictures for his desk, for the hallway at home, and a special one to give to Grammy and Grampa.

A few days later, Grammy and Grampa came to visit Molly’s house.  “Grammy!  Grampa!  We went to a studio and Robert took a picture of the whole family!”

Grammy admired the picture.  “I see you and Bobby and Mommy and Daddy, but where is Pansy?” 

“She could not be in the picture because Mommy said her clothes did not match ours,” Molly explained.  “But she came and watched.”

Mommy said to Grampa, “And look, everybody in the picture has their eyes open, and we’re all smiling!”

Grampa smiled, too.  “You must have all learned that from Pansy.”  He gave Molly a hug and said, “Pansy’s quite the friend you have there.”

Molly and Pansy both blushed.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What is hell, exactly?

Tragedy.  Disease.  Killer heat waves.  Natural disasters.  Terrorist attacks.  Horrible circumstances.  Chocolate chip cookies without a cold glass of milk.  War.  Sitting through the movie “Creature.”  What do all of these things have in common? 

People say they are hell. 

While unpleasant things make our lives miserable, even hellish, they themselves are not hell.  We’ve all heard or been taught that when we die we either go to heaven, or to hell.  The difference between heaven and hell, to break it down to the simplest explanation, is this:  heaven is where God is; hell is where God is not.

To understand the nature of that, let’s take a look at the nature of God.  Yes, God is the Creator of the universe, knows all, has ultimate control, can do great and marvelous things.  And the purest description of God is found in the apostle John’s first epistle. 

God is love.

Heaven is where God (love) is; hell is where God (love) is not.

Have you ever imagined your life without love?  Any and all contact with family would be cut off.  No one would call you by your given name.  No one would smile at you, wave at you, hear your cries for help.  And you would treat others the same.  Imagine the loneliness, the emptiness, the anguish you would feel.  And not for a few days.  This bottomless pit of despair lasts forever.  Eternally.  Without the slightest glimmer of hope of escaping this … hell.

You may be thinking, “Gee, Mary, that’s pretty dismal.  But God always shows up in your posts, right?  When’s Jesus going to come in and save us?”

This is about hell, dear reader.  God does not show up.  Jesus can’t save you now.  Oh, they’re watching you, alright.  With broken hearts, because it’s too late for them to do anything.  You had your chances.  Jesus told you He is the way, and Him alone.  Others even tried to tell you, but you would not listen.  The street preacher.  The friend who invited you to church.  The “Holy Roller” TV channel you paused on for a minute while you were channel surfing.  The time when you heard a child singing “Jesus loves me this I know” or “Oh, how I love Jesus, because He first loved me.”  Didn’t any of those tug on your heart?  Not even a little bit?  Yet you chose not to let that tug pull you into the arms of the One who was executed by having nails driven into his hands and feet, all to give you a way out.  You could have had love.  But you chose hell.

Hell is where love is not.

“But Mary, I’m a ‘good enough’ person.  Are you saying that’s not enough for me to get into heaven?” 

Remember what I said about “heaven is where God is”?  God is in charge of heaven, wouldn’t you agree?  Then God is the one who decides who gets in.  If it were my house, I’d be the one to decide who gets into my place.  Even though there are lots of people in the world who are honest, trustworthy, etc., if I don’t know you, if I don’t have some sort of relationship with you, whether you’re a friend or someone to do some work on my house, sorry bub, you are not welcome.  Same with God.  If you don’t have a relationship with God, you are not welcome in heaven.  You are shut out.  You are left in an existence where God is not.

“But I thought God loves me.”

He does!  He wants to have that relationship with you, so you don’t get shut out of heaven!  But your being “good enough” won’t do it.  No one is “good enough.”  Everyone falls short of the perfection that God requires of us.  That “falling short” is called sin.  The only way sin can be made right with God is by death.  Yet God still loves you and me and wants that relationship.  He’d rather have you alive than dead. 

What’s a deity to do?  

He’ll tell us what to do, that’s what!  The Bible, God’s instruction manual and love letter to us, makes it clear.  About ¾ of the way through the Bible there is this section called Paul’s letter to the Romans.  I’ll pull out the good stuff for you.  Remember – it’s not Mary from the Prairie saying what needs to be done – it’s in the Bible.

  • All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. (Romans 3:23)
  • Sin pays off with death.  But God’s gift is eternal life given by Jesus Christ our Lord.  (Romans 3:23)
  • But God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful.  (Romans 5:8)
  • So you will be saved, if you honestly say, “Jesus is Lord,” and if you believe with all your heart that God raised him from death.  (Romans 10:9)

Do you see it?  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.”  You get to spend eternity in the presence of love, in heaven, where God is.

It’s like a “get out of hell free” card!  The catch?  You have to accept Jesus as Lord before your body dies. 

Once you’re in hell, the offer is void.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why I love Jesus

There is a popular hymn that is taught in Sunday school classes all over America.  As I type the words, and as you read them, we can hear young children singing, “Oh, how I love Jesus, because He first loved me!”  Yes, Jesus loves me, and I love Jesus. 

Bible verses such as “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), “God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), and the assurance of pardon in 1John 1:9, the promise of forgiveness and restoration to a right standing with God when we confess our sins (“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us of all unrighteousness”)  do not begin to scratch the surface of why Jesus is worthy of my love.  Nor do they adequately explain why I love Him.  To be honest, I don’t think anything can, but I will try.
It is one thing to love Jesus because of what I learned as a child.  When I was growing up, I believed in Jesus and knew who He is.  I knew He was the Son of God, that He died on a cross for my sins, was buried, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven.  I knew I was supposed to love Jesus, but I loved Him as though he were a family member whom I had never met.  I knew about Him, but nothing more.  It was not until I was in my mid-20’s that my knowledge of Jesus started to become a relationship with the Son of the Living God.   Love takes on a whole new depth and dimension when it is experienced in a deeply personal way. 

There have been many times throughout the years when I have encountered Jesus in ways that have deeply touched me.  The “Jesus Encounter” that most profoundly ignited my love for the Lord is rooted in a time when I saw myself as insignificant to others and to the world around me.  You may say I was having a “pity-party”; I would say it was more like a “pity-palooza.”  In the midst of my feeling lonely and isolated, Jesus used a story being told on a radio broadcast at that very moment to change my heart.  The story was similar to the widow who dropped the two copper coins in the offering box (Luke 21:1-4).  I realized that no matter how low I see myself, I still have value.  I have a purpose.  I have a valuable contribution to make. 
Jesus first loved me.  God sent Jesus so by believing in Him, I would have eternal life.  Jesus died on a cross as payment for my sins, even though I did not deserve such mercy.  When I confess my sins I am forgiven, and I have right standing with God because of Jesus.  Through Jesus I have value, and have a contribution to make that will glorify God.  These are reasons why I love Jesus!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Aw, Fudge!

I love the autumn months. It’s my favorite time of year, really. Not necessarily because of the change of seasons. In California, there is not much change of season to begin with. It’s not because children are returning to school and all the projects that go with it. And I am not a Halloween fan. Football has its merits, but that’s not what makes the season special.

The reason fall is so much fun has much to do with the food factor. Coffee houses are stirring up their Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Cappuccinos, the sweet-spicy fragrance of apple pie will soon fill the air, and the deeper into autumn and closer to the holidays, the more people will try their hand at cookies and candies. (All this is in addition to the annual October 5 National Holiday in celebration of the day I was born!)

Believe it or not, I have actually taken to making food to share with others. From my own kitchen. Yes, she-who-burns-soup and sets-toaster-ovens-on-fire has found a flame-free method of making fudge! Not just ordinary fudge – Nutella Feel-Good Fudge! According to legend, this variety of sweet chocolaty nuttiness has certain medicinal benefits. There is a report of a lady who underwent knee surgery and was told she would never return to normal activity again. (OK, I’m exaggerating just a little. She was given a six week recovery period.) After eating this amazing concoction, she returned to work and her full range of activities after a mere 2 ½ hours after surgery! (Exaggerating again. It was more like two weeks.)*

You too can benefit from this amazing concoction. Take my word for it – the recipe for Nutella Feel-Good Fudge is simple and fast, and easy to clean-up. Otherwise I would have nothing to do with the preparation of this wonder of wonderful wonders. Here is what you need, and what you do:

What you need:
1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 bag of chopped hazelnuts
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
½ jar (or so) of Nutella
8” x 8” pan, buttered on the sides so the fudge doesn’t become one with the pan

What you do: Empty the bag of chocolate chips, the bag of hazelnuts, the can of sweetened condensed milk, and the ½ jar (or so) of Nutella into a glass mixing bowl. Stir all this stuff together, then cook it on high in the microwave for 1 ½ minutes. If it’s not completely melted, cook it for a minute or so more. When everything is melted together, pour the goo into your pan. Chill the fudge in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or until it sets. Cut it into bite-size pieces.

If you want to be stingy and keep the fudge all to yourself, that’s up to you. But you keep your friends longer when you share this goodness with them.

*The claims of Nutella Feel-Good Fudge as a healing catalyst have not been officially endorsed by the FDA. But who cares? It still makes for a good story.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

True Imitation

probably not comparing the
same versions of the $5 bill
but you get the gist.
I work at a place where quite a bit of money changes hands on a daily basis. 
They call me the “money-mama.”  I’m the one responsible for making sure the employees can make change for a $100 bill on a $6 transaction first thing in the morning.  I’m the one who makes sure all the big bucks are accounted for at the end of the day, and I’m the one who gives those same big bucks a send-off to the bank vault on a daily basis.  If there is one thing I’ve learned from handling so many Benjamins, Grants, Jacksons, Hamiltons, Lincolns, and Washingtons, it’s this:

I can usually spot a counterfeit at first glance.
The authentic bills all have identical characteristics, such as color, feel, and size.  Yet they are all different.  Bills that have been in circulation for a while are more worn, some may be a bit faded, and some may have a birthday greeting or short grocery list written on them.  The brand new ones are very crisp, almost to the point of giving you a paper cut, like the brand new $5’s from the bank that no one in my office likes to count.  All the bills of the same denomination have the same value, whether they are old or new.  Side by side the bills appear the same, yet they are each unique in that they have their own distinct serial number. 
Unless you have a counterfeit.  (Why someone would go to the time and trouble just for a counterfeit $5 is hard for me to comprehend.  But I’ve seen them …) If you are not aware the $5 is a fake, you might flip when you find out it’s a phony and its value has vanished.  The bill is nothing more than an imitation.
But imitation is not always a bad thing.  Jesus told his disciples on several occasions to do what He did – make more disciples by teaching others what Jesus had taught them.  He even had a heart-to-heart with eleven of the twelve men that were with him at the Last Supper.  He made it clear to them how others would know that they were having an encounter with his disciples. 
“You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35, CEV)

Keep in mind that John, James, Peter, and the other eight just spent three years following Jesus.  They had a pretty solid understanding of what brand of love Jesus was talking about.  But discipleship does not stop with the first bunch of followers somebody has.  These men had a job to do – they had to teach others, and teach them to teach others, and so on and so on.  The next generation did not necessarily see Jesus in action.  So Paul took the time to make it clear to the next group of up-and-coming disciples:
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Another follower of Jesus who lived centuries later, John Wesley, helps his generation, and future ones, by explaining it this way: 

“Be ye therefore followers - Imitators. Of God - In forgiving and loving. O how much more honourable and more happy, to be an imitator of God, than of Homer, Virgil, or Alexander the Great!” – (John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes)

John Wesley is not talking about Homer Simpson here.  He’s talking about great thinkers, philosophers, political leaders and military conquerors.  To put it in today’s terminology, God wants us to imitate the way He (and Jesus) loves and forgives others.  Imitating God is honorable – more honorable than imitating world leaders, or athletes, or celebrities, or even other church leaders. 
Of course, you don’t want to be called out as a phony follower.  That’s where the practice of discipleship comes in.  Find a mentor – someone who is a living imitation of Christ, who learned from a mentor who himself/herself is an imitation of Christ – and learn how to imitate them.  But don’t let it stop there.  Teach someone else how to imitate the One you are striving to imitate. 

I’ll close with this story.  It goes with what I’ve been talking about, sort of.  At least I think it is amusing …
When I was in my early 20's I was invited to my best friend’s house for a small dinner party. It was her first apartment, and she was excited about cooking for company, and all that. She decided to cook Roast Beef for her guests. As I was helping her prepare the meal, something about the way she prepared the roast caught my attention. I asked her, “Aren’t you supposed to cut the ends off?”

“What?” she asked.

I repeated the question. “Aren’t you supposed to cut the ends off the roast beef?  My mom always does.”

“Why would she do that?” She looked at me as though I was a crazy person, more so than the usual "Mary, you're crazy" look. Since I've never really been a kitchen person I did not have an answer to that, and just let her continue what she was doing.

The next time my mom cooked a roast, I asked her why she cuts the ends off when she prepares it. “Well, that’s the way your Nana did it. I learned it from her.”
The next time I was at my grandmother's place I decided to get the answer once and for all to this deepest ponder of my life.  “Nana, when you used to cook roast beef, why did you always cut the ends off?  Was it to make it more tender, or to cook more evenly?”

Nana put her hand on top of mine and smiled at me. “Honey, it’s because the pan wasn’t big enough!” 

And such is the Coble School of Cooking.  The best, being imitated by the best of what's left.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Light of the world

Hong Kong's Symphony of Lights
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” - Matthew 5:14-16

A couple of months ago I decided to do an experiment. Not out of boredom, but for a purpose. It was blog writing time. Pastor Chris and I belong to a group where we blog on the same topic every week. His is; mine is The topic for that particular week was, “What is seen in the light.” My experiment was to shut off the lights and put on a blindfold, then write my post, typing blindfolded. Here are some of my reflections of my time in the absence of light.
My vision has failed me. I rely solely on my remaining senses to make sense of my world. Smell – fragrance? Odor? It’s always been here; I never noticed, never needed to notice.

Hearing? I hear the tick-toc-tic-oc of the clock on the wall behind me. The time on its face is useless to me; I cannot comprehend what the hands on the clock are saying to me.

Touch. The slight raises on the F and J keys of my keyboard assured me that I was typing words, not gibberish, on my computer, although I did have some interesting typos.

Taste? The dryness of my mouth. The taste of anxiety. Perhaps even fear.

The air in the room had a coldness to it, a coldness that ought not be present. Such is the air of being without light. Of darkness. Of self-imposed blindness.

I have spent about 30 minutes or so blindfolded. I could not see light, or what is normally seen in the light.

Then I felt a little bit brave. I moved my desk chair to the middle of the room. I spun myself around several times. After I got over the dizziness I stood up and tried to find my way in the dark. Usually I can get around my house without thinking about it, because I know what’s where. But making my way while blindfolded was not as easy as you might think. What made it hard?

I had no point of reference. I did not know where I was or which direction I was facing. Consequently, I had a heightened awareness of my surroundings because of the obstacles I could not see, such as doorways – I did not want to walk smack into a wall. I had some boxes with items going to the Goodwill around the house, some with the lid flaps hanging open. And of course the coffee table. That hurts enough when you bump into it in the light!

Without light the world around us does not make much sense. The Bible tells us in 1John 1:5, God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. And what physical light is to our physical eyes, that it allows us to understand the world around us and make our way in the world, so is God to our spiritual eyes.

God is not an “accidental” God. Everything He does has a plan and a purpose to it. We’ve all heard that before, or maybe you told it to someone else at one time or another. Quite often we hear those words at times of our lives when we have trouble even seeing God, such as when we experience severe illness. Or loss of a loved one. Or find ourselves consumed with worry, or disappointment, or guilt.

I am not saying that it was part of God’s original plan that we go through dark times. In our Wednesday night adult Bible study, we have been going through the book of Isaiah. In our studies, we have seen time and time again where God has pronounced judgment on the people of Israel and her enemies. And time and time again there are prophecies of judgment to come in the end-times. And when God hands down judgment against the people who do not follow Him, you can count on it not being a good thing. But God does not “want” to hand down these hard consequences on the people. His desire is to be in a relationship with us, God as our Abba-Father to us, His beloved children. We see evidence of that by his offer of salvation through Jesus Christ, and His grace and mercy to those who repent and turn back to Him.

But if God’s original plan is for us to be in fellowship with Him, and if God is all-powerful enough to bring down judgment on people – which he does not “want” to do because He loves His people – then certainly God is powerful enough to restrain evil in the world. So why doesn’t He? Why doesn’t God prevent bad things such as evil and disease and death from happening in the first place?

To answer that question, let’s go back to the first place.

We read in the Bible that God is love. When God created Adam and Eve, He created them in His image. This included giving them the ability to love. God also knew that love that is forced or given out of duty, and not out of a heartfelt desire, is not really love. So instead of God giving Adam and Eve a sense of “obligation” to love and obey, He gave them the “freedom” to choose to love and obey. Life lived under “freedom” gives us the ability to choose our actions, attitudes and responses to others and to God, but does not mean we are independent of them – we are still accountable for what we choose to do. If God wanted to head off evil from the beginning, he would not have given Adam and Eve the freedom to choose their responses. While it would have prevented them giving in to temptation, it would also have meant that their relationship with God would have robotic, love would have been given out of obligation, and truly would not have been love at all. For God “not” to give freedom for us to choose our responses would have been contrary to God’s very nature of being love itself.

Of course, we all know the story from there. God with His infinite love gave the first man and the first woman the freedom to eat whatever wanted, with one exception. Satan enters in, does what Satan does best. He causes Eve to doubt God, deceives Eve, Eve makes the fatal choice of doing the one thing she was told not to do, and Adam does likewise. The couple was banished from Eden into an imperfect world, a world susceptible to evil, disease, death and natural disaster from that point in time, forward. For them it was as if their world had turned instantly from the safety and familiarity of what they knew in the light, to total darkness.

The Scriptures have many references to Jesus - and the powers of evil - using the metaphor of light and darkness. Jesus says in John 3:19-21, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done hasbeen done through God.”

I brought my Nook e-book reader device from home. Some of you might be familiar with these. You can download books and read them, without having the bulk and weight of a book to carry with you or to keep on your bookshelf. Since I like to read when I eat, I have a sheet of plastic over my screen to protect it from getting damaged or scratched. As you can see, I’ve been a pretty sloppy eater lately, with all the fudge, secret sauce, salsa and donut crumbs on the screen protector. If I tried to read through all the gunk on the protector, I would not be able to see much of what is actually on the screen because the gunk is hiding what is there. In our own lives, the light we have that comes from Jesus and powered by the Holy Spirit shines brightly, but when we allow our lives to be covered with things that take our focus from God, things such as worry, guilt, gossip, addiction or sin – that’s like trying to
read a book through a dirty screen protector. The light of Jesus exposes the gunk in our lives.

So how does our gunk get removed so Jesus' light is seen through us?

You know how it is said that Jesus is the answer? This is one of those questions.

How does our gunk get removed?    JESUS!

(Good. You’re still with me.)

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” You see that? When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, not only are we no longer walking in darkness, we are no longer walking alone! This reminds me of an experience I had at a family retreat not long ago. In this exercise I had to go through a human obstacle course. There were people paired up to make different kinds of obstacles. I was supposed to do things such as go over people lying on the ground; under a “London Bridge” made by junior high school students; and through “hoops” made by a match-up of a third-grader and her grandmother. Oh, and I had to do it all with my eyes closed. But I was paired up with a guide to instruct me how to deal with each challenge.
Most of the pairs who went through the course attempted to get through each part, with people twisting and bending to get through some of the tight spaces. Some did pretty well, and some had a little trouble. Me? My guide was a wise experienced man named Bob. When we came to a very difficult obstacle, Bob did not tell me how to get through it. He simply said, “We’re not going to do that one. Walk to your left and go around it.” I never even knew what it was!

And that is how it is when we follow Jesus. We walk in the light, with Jesus as our guide, to help us through the obstacles of life. And although we may have difficulties along the way, as long as we choose to stay in the light and do not stray into the darkness, Jesus often shields us from problems that we would be unable to handle on our own.

We also have the light of life. We are told in Matthew 5:14-15, we “are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

So what does it look like for someone who walked in darkness, and was led by Jesus to come out of that darkness and let Jesus’ light of life shine through him? One example of such a life is Tullian Tchividjian, the grandson of a very well-known preacher.

Tullian grew up in a loving, nurturing Christian home. All through his life, he never doubted the existence of God, never disbelieved in the authority of the Bible and the reality of Jesus and the cross. He just simply wanted to have fun and live his life the way he wanted to live it without anyone telling him what to do. His great fear was if he surrendered his life over to the Lord, God would strip him of all of the fun and excitement that this world has to offer.

When Tullian was a teenager, he was rebellious to the point where it was tearing his family apart. His parents did everything they could for him: private schools and counseling, but nothing worked. One night after an intense argument with his parents, his dad told him to leave. In fact, the argument was so heated that it frightened Tullian’s younger brother to the point where he called 9-1-1. Tullian did leave the house – in the back of a police car. As Tullian said years later in an interview, “So there I am in my mom and dad’s driveway, sitting in the back of the police car looking out the back window at my mom who is weeping, literally watching her 16-year-old son sitting in the back end of a police car getting ready to be taken away. I felt no remorse. I felt no regret. In fact I was actually happy and pleased with my achievements. I was free to live every young guy’s dream.” And for Tullian that meant surfing.

He stayed with families of friends until he got kicked out of their homes too. He dropped out of high school, worked in restaurants and construction, stole from his employers, and spent all his money - not on rent and paying bills, but on drugs, alcohol, and girls. During this time, he met a girl named Kim who became a positive influence in his life.

During his early 20’s, Tullian reconciled with his parents, and started to make some changes in his life. He was living responsibly, holding down a job, paying the bills, earning an honest living. He said, “I felt like I was stumbling through life blindfolded, without direction or understanding. Life made no sense. I decided there had to be more to who I was than what I was experiencing.” He came to his knees one night in his apartment and knew something had to change. God was making that very clear in his life.

Something else was happening in Tullian during that time. He says, “My affections started to change, and my behavior started to change. I started loving the things I use to hate and hating the things I use to love. And I started pursuing the things I use to run away from and running away from the things I use to pursue. It was then that I knew an internal revolution had taken place. I had been saved." And it was because of Jesus.

Kim had also given her life to Jesus, and later became Tullian’s wife. They were married by Tullian’s grandfather, the Reverend Billy Graham.

Tullian only had a GED, but that did not stop him from going on to seminary and graduate school. He now pastors Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His light shines bright like a city on a hill, as he shares his grandfather’s passion see all come to Jesus Christ.

He says, "I wanted to shout from the housetops to the whole world what God had done for me. I still have to pinch myself sometimes when I think about where I was 15 years ago and where God has brought me and the opportunities He’s given me to proclaim the gospel in both word and deed."

Coming out of a life of darkness is not easy to do on our own. In fact, it can only be done by following Jesus, who gives us the light of life. Once we have that light, let it shine brightly before men so that they may see our good works and give glory to God!


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Special Gifts

Gifts.  We’ve all given some, and we’ve all received some.  Birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, re-gifts.  Some of my favorite gifts to receive – and to give – are the ones given for just cause – “just ‘cause” you are loved by somebody.  Whatever the occasion, the giver usually puts some thought behind what gift he chooses for the recipient.  I know when I give a gift, whether it is a book or clothes or flowers or food, I am particularly blessed to know that the person I give it to will use it to benefit himself and/or others.

Not long ago some members of my church went through a study series on Spiritual Gifts.  In one part of the study everybody had the opportunity to take a personal Spiritual Gifts Assessment.  This assessment was a questionnaire designed to reveal some areas where God has blessed each of us individually with strengths that we can use in our lives, such as wisdom, creative ability, teaching, intercession (praying for others), healing, helping where there is a need. 

The concept of Spiritual Gifts is no “new-agey” thing.  It has been around since the days of the New Testament.  Paul talks about it in his first letter to the church of Corinth: 

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.  To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.  The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing.  He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy.  He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit.  Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said.  It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts.  He alone decides which gift each person should have. (1Corinthians 12:7-11 NLT)

Paul is not the only apostle who has browsed the Spiritual Gifts Catalog.  Peter’s been looking in there as well:

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.  Do you have the gift of speaking?  Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you.  Do you have the gift of helping others?  Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. (1Peter 4:10-11 NLT)

God gives us these gifts, not because it is our birthday or some other special occasion.  He gives them out of “just cause”.  And just as any giver of gifts, He gives them for us to use not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others as well. 

When I completed my Spiritual Gifts Assessment, it revealed that I had strengths in creative ability, knowledge, wisdom, and shepherding (guiding others in ministry).  Not a huge surprise to me.  In fact, the gifts God has given to you will usually coincide with things you already are somewhat good at and like to do.  Many of us use our gifts and abilities already, but do we use them to the full potential and purpose that God has in store for us?

This makes me think of a story that I was reminded of not long ago.  The story of the Eagle and the Prairie Chicken.

There once was a mother eagle who dropped her unhatched egg into the nest of a prairie chicken. After a time, the egg hatched, and the eaglet grew up fully believing that she was a prairie chicken. How could she have known any better? She copied her prairie chicken mother and siblings in all their movements. To feed herself, she scratched in the dirt for worms and grubs as all prairie chickens do. One would never know by her behavior that she was not a prairie chicken although she looked nothing like the rest of her family.

One day, while scratching for worms with the rest of the prairie chickens, she turned her eyes toward the heavens. Her heart filled with unexplainable rapture and a strange longing as she watched an eagle soar on the wind. She dared to voice her admiration of the eagle out loud to the rest of the group.

"Well, of course, we all know that the eagle soars! But you are just a prairie chicken. Prairie chickens do not fly and never will. Don't even think about it."

The eagle, who thought she was a prairie chicken, believed what was told to her. She stifled the strange longing inside of her and never let herself wonder again why she must stay on the ground with the other prairie chickens.

God created you and equipped you to soar like an eagle.  Don’t settle for believing you are not worth more than a prairie chicken life.  Use the unique gifts that your Creator has thoughtfully and purposefully chosen for you.  If you are not sure where to begin, start by taking a Spiritual Gifts Assessment.  Then find someone – for example, a pastor, a mentor, or even me – who is willing to explore the possible ways you can use those gifts to share with others in a way that will bless the One who gave them to you.  If you are interested in discovering your Spiritual Gifts, I would love to talk further with you.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

That's rich!

That’s Rich!
When you hear that phrase, different things could come to mind.  For me, the first thoughts are Chocolate, Cheesecake, Cappuccino.  Or you might think of people, such as that “Little” guy who does impersonations.  That’s Rich!  And of course there’s what it costs to fill up a gas tank nowadays – too rich for my blood! 
There’s another meaning to the phrase “That’s Rich.”  I looked it up on  It means, “when someone criticizes you for something that they themselves do,” or “when someone has the audacity to reprimand you when they are much worse than you.”  Very much like when adults tell kids not to smoke cigarettes while they themselves are lighting one up, or seeing the traffic court judge – the one who rolled his eyes when you said the picture from the red-light camera wasn’t you – at the DMV to get his own license reinstated after a DUI.  If you were to use “proper” language to express something “that’s rich” you might choose the word “hypocrite” to convey the same thought.
Hypocrite.  I found the word in the Webster’s.  It says, “One who feigns to be what he is not; one who has the form of godliness without the power, or who assumes an appearance of piety and virtue, when he is destitute of true religion.”  In other words, someone who gives the appearance of being “holier than thou” when he’s not. And you know what else? I didn’t see my picture next to the word.  I won’t say whose picture I saw there – he wouldn’t believe it if I told him anyway.  After all, nobody ever sees themselves as a hypocrite. 
As I was looking up all these definitions on the internet, drinking a Dr Pepper out of the 2 liter bottle and downing my Dollar Menu dinner, a younger family member IM’d me on Facebook.  We had a lengthy conversation about her desire to eat more nutritiously, and also about a couple of financial goals she has.  I made a point of mentioning some things that addresses both goals.  Things such as planning menus ahead of time for the week; cutting out the sodas; shopping from a list – if it’s not on the list you don’t purchase it; making it a priority to eat meals at your kitchen table with family; eliminating distractions such as TV and computers. It makes me feel good that she thinks so highly of me.  I hope she takes my advice to heart and actually follows it.  She’s young and smart and talented. If she’s diligent, she may even be rich someday!
And wouldn’t it be rich if that picture next to the word “hypocrite” started to look a little bit like me….

Monday, July 18, 2011

This little light......

All throughout history God has used people to do things for Him.  Even today God still uses people, presenting opportunities to all of us to tell others of His love for the world. His call may be subtle, such as simply noticing that someone needs help opening a door to enter or exit a building.  It may be a bit stronger.  He may but a burden on your heart to help people at the freeway offramps by offering them a snack bar or a piece of fruit to eat. You may feel prompted to bless others by sending a note of encouragement in the mail to someone you know is going through a struggle.  Or, you may be in a position where you can financially support an organization or cause that is close to your heart. These are all little things that just about everybody can do.  And for many people, that is enough, and that’s OK.  You are fulfilling what God is calling you to do at that particular time in your life.  
But for some others, doing these things may be just barely enough to appease our conscience.  For Susan Finch, giving a blanket to a homeless man was not enough.  Susan had been involved in raising money for a local women’s shelter in Laguna Beach, but wanted to do more.  When she tried to volunteer, she found out it required a lot of training.  Her time was limited due to owning a retail business and she was unable to help the shelter.  But she was determined to find a way.

Susan’s mother had an idea one day to make blankets for unwed mothers, and asked Susan to help sew them.  Susan used her connections with local picture framers through her art gallery and asked for their fabric remnants, and ended up with a pile of odd blue, black, and off-white fabric.  Right then, a lightbulb came on.  Susan had the idea for combining her love for quilts, children and helping others, rounded up a few locals with a similar passion, and Binky Patrol was born.  Not long afterward, an article was written in Susan’s local newspaper.  The story reached the staff member of a well-known national talk show, and within hours after airing, Susan received hundreds of phone calls from all over the country from people wanting to know how they could help. Over the past 15 years Binky Patrol went from a sign-up sheet with five volunteers, to over 100 chapters and thousands of people who have volunteered in one way or another.  In fact, our own ministry that gives blankets to the hospitals, WomenShelter, and police and fire departments started out as a Binky Patrol chapter. 

Binky Patrol didn't grow to what it is today because Susan set out to do something big. It is because of the thousands of volunteers, many of whom do just a little bit, that adds up to a whole lot.  No matter what God is calling you to do, no matter how small it may seem, it is not in any way insignificant. God can still use you, and wants to.  Jesus tells us, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”  The good works we do, even the little hold-the-door-open things, are like a light in that city.  Let your light shine!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What's the difference?

I have been cleaning out areas of my house and garage lately that have not seen light in quite some time.  I found some items of obvious sentimental value - high school yearbooks; a set of collector plates that my mother gave to me; a journal that I started writing when I was in 8th grade.  I also found some unusual items belonging to my ex-husband - some ugly neckties, a whoopie-cushion or two, a box of MAD magazines from the 60's and 70's, just to mention a few. 

I also came across a letter wrtitten about five or six years ago by a friend who was questioning whether or not God is what people say that He is. Because of some run-ins with over-zealous Christians, he was turning to a belief, which I will not name, with more differences than similarities to Christianity.  He went on to quote George Harrison, saying, "All religions are branches of one big tree. It doesn't matter what you call Him just as long as you call."  Apparently, according to my freind's conclusions, it doesn't make a difference what you believe, as long as you believe in something.  What makes one religion more "right" than another? 

It seems I've been asked that question in one form or another several times in the past month or so.  I can't speak for every belief out there.  I can only speak to what I know. What sets Christianity apart is how it views salvation and entry into eternal life. 

Have you ever pondered why God would allow you to enter into heaven?  Your answer may be something like, "I've lived a good life, haven't killed anyone, gave money to missions, helped out at church" and whatnot.  It's as though you are saying God keeps a score card of sorts, and if our score at the end of our life is good enough then God lets us in.  But there's an inherent problem with that thinking.  How do we know if we're good enough?  Is my "good enough" good enough to be "good enough" for you?  If it's not, then how can God be a fair, just God?

The truth is, good enough isn't good enough. Even King Solomon, a man who had wisdom, wealth and women beyond imagination, recognized that no one was good enough. He wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes, "Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins."  For a God whose standard is perfection, what hope do we have for spending eternity in His heaven?

Some faiths believe in reincarnation. A do-over. Another chance to get it right. Which we won't, because again, there is no one who is righteous, no one who never sins.  Some folks speak of a penance they have to do, a purification process of sorts, to add good points to offset the bad score you got for your sins.  Who decides how many "points" of penance you have to do to offset a certain sin?  Look at Adam and Eve. You could say that all of mankind has been doing penance for their sin in the Garden of Eden, and after how many thousands of years we still don't have enough points to make it right with God.

My friends and fellow ponderers, if you have not yet figured out, the point of Christianity is not accumulating points.  God knows we'll never ever have enough.  And because He knows, He gives us what sets Christianity apart from other religions.  He has mercy on us, and gives us grace.

Mercy? Grace? Who are they? 

Not Who.  What.  Simply stated, Mercy is not receiving a punishment we deserve.  Grace is a gift we do not deserve.  Let me try to explain.

Let's say that you and I were best friends through high school and college. After college you went on to law school, became very successful, and are now a judge.  On the other hand, I wasn't such the angel you once believed me to be.  I got into some serious trouble with the law, and ended up a defendant in your courtroom.  You knew I was guilty of what I was charged with; I knew I was guilty of that and even more.  As a judge, it is your job to hand down a punishment for what I did even though it was a punishment I could not afford to pay (say, a fine of $100,000).  But the penalty was a just penalty, because the wrongdoing warranted that kind of punishment.

You dismiss the court, go back to your chambers and take off your robe. After careful consideration, you make an unexpected move.  Because it broke your heart to see me, your friend, standing guilty before you and sentenced to a penalty I could not afford to serve on my own, you make an offer to pay my debt in full, and hand me a check for $100,000, from your personal account. No strings attached.

I am offered mercy - I am not required to pay the fine myself.
I am offered grace - You offered the gift of paying my penalty with no expectation of anything in return.
Justice is served - the penalty is paid.

Outrageous story? Never happen in a million years?  Ponder the thought again, my friends, because it happened. 

The apostle Paul says it in his God-inspired letter to the Christians in Rome:  "The payment for sin is death. But God gives us the free gift of life forever in Christ Jesus our Lord." 

You see, God (our judge) knew that the penalty for our wrongdoings (the death penalty) was a price we could not pay.  Jesus' death on the cross was God's "$100,000 check" that God gave us as payment for our sins. 

We are offered mercy - Jesus paid the penalty for us.
We are offered grace - We gain eternal life in God's heaven.
God's justice is served - the penalty has been paid.

Why would God do this? 

Why?  Because He loves us!  Paul didn't tell the Romans that they were under a death penalty and leave it at that.  He says more:

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5:6-11, NLT)
Whether this scenario works is up to us, the ones who stand before the Judge.  We have the choice of accepting this free gift, by simply believing that Jesus died to pay for our wrongdoings so we could live. Or, we can choose to not believe, and keep trying to achieve a good enough score on our celestial score-cards and never attain a high enough score to impress God.

There are, of course, many other differences between different faiths.  If you take the time to follow the branches you find they are not all of the same tree.  Through faith in Jesus and what He did for us by his death and resurrection (by the way, no other diety can make the claim of being raised from the dead - Buddha and Mohammad are still dead) we can call out to the Living God who will hear and answer us when we call.

Monday, May 23, 2011

What is seen in the light

picture by frail0124
The other night I decided to do an experiment.  Not out of boredom, but for a purpose.  It’s blog writing time.  On several occasions in the past I’ve asked for input from my Facebook friends as research for whatever topic I’m focused on.  This time I decided to do my own research for a change.  The topic for the week?  What is seen in the light.  My research experiment?  Shut off the lights and put on a blindfold, then write my post. 

Yes, fellow ponderer, I typed blindfolded.  And I did pretty well, too.  I say that not to boast; it’s because I have used my typing skills almost daily over the past manymany years, and I don’t like having to go back and edit any more than what is necessary.  Here are some of my reflections of my time in the absence of light.  I have left out some of what I wrote, simply because the thought was too random, or the flow of thoughts didn’t make sense or repeated what had already been said.  However, I have not edited for spelling or typing errors, except where I have added a clarification in (parentheses and italics).


Darkness.  Confusion.  How did I become this way?  Mind darting, but nothing to see, nowhere of safety to turnb. (turn)

Unsure of my surroundings, I do not know what isbehind me, next to me, hovering near me.

My vision having failed me, I rely solely on my remaining senses to make sense of my world.  Smell – fragrance? Odor?  It’s always been here; I never noticed, never needed to notice. 

Hearing? The tick-toc-tic-oc of the clock on the wall behind me. The time on its face, useless to me; I cannot read the hands, am unaware of w    cannot comprehend what they are saying to me.

Touch.  The slight raises on the F and J keys assure me that I am typing words, not gibberish, on my compu8ter.  Many tyupos, I am sure, but not pure gibberish.

Taste? The dryness of my mout. The taste of anxiety. Perhaps even fear.

The air in the room  has a coldness to it, a coldness that ought not be present.  Such is the air of being without light. Of darkness.  Of bself-imposed blindness.

I have spent the pasat 30 minutes or so blindfolded. I can see no light.  I cannot see what is seen in the light.

I had my office chair in the middle of the room.  I spun myself around several times.  After I got over the dizziness I stood==.  My objective? To find my way in the dark.  What made it hard? 

I had no point of reference.  I did not know where I was; where I was heading.
I –Walking through my house I have had a heightened awareness of my surroundings.  Not because of what I could see. --, but because of the obstacles I could not see.  The doorways, the moving boxes scattered throughout the house, some with box flaps hanging open.  The coffee table.

There is a light in the room near me, yet I cannot see it.  Because I have been cut off from it, ithe light means very little to me.  It is meaningle
Light is meaningless, until I surrender my blindness to it.
Jesus is meaningless to those who do not surrender their blindness to him.

How long?  How long must I stay blinded? When will I see light?

“Jesus said to the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“I want to see.”

Jesus healed the blind nman at the city gate. Bartimaeus.

Jesus and his disciples went to Jericho.  And as they were leaving, they were followed by a large crowd.  A blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus son of Timaeus was sitting beside the road.  When he heard that it was Jesus from Nazareth, he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”  Many people told the man to stop, but he shouted even louder, “Son of David, have pity on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him over!”  They called out to the blind man and said, “Don’t be afraid!  Come on!  He is calling for you.”  The man threw off his coat as he jumped up and ran to Jesus.

Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”  The blind man answered, “Master, I want to see!”

Jesus told him, “You may go.  Your eyes are healed because of your faith.”  Right away the man could see, and he went down the road with Jesus.
--Mark 10:46-52

Jesus is asl=king, “Mary, what do you want me to do for you  What blindness do you want me to remove?”

Jesus, my experiment and reflections are showing me how lost and alonde I am without you, when I place myself in self-imposed darkness.  Like Bartimaeus, I want to see.  More than seeing, I want to help others to see.  To help them to see their darkness, to bring them into light.  My physical darkness is easy to change, to turn around, to repent of.  Once I make that change the light next to me will then mean something, make sense.  Spiritual darkness, emotional darkness, is not total, unless it iss chosen.  Jesus, You are light of the world. You tell us that we too are the light of the world. I want you to help me to help someone in darkness to make sense of Your Light.

But Lord, that means revisiting the darkness (my darkness).  I didn’t like it there.  I don’t like going back.

“I was there with you. You did not see me; I did not make sense to you. Yet I was there. DARKNESS COULD NOT EXTINGUISH ME. Their darkness cannot extinguish me either.”

I still am wearing a blindfold.  Yet I know there is a light next to me.
And the light somehow makes sense in the dark.


Now, unblindfolded, I see. 
What is seen in the light is making sense.