Crossing the Desert

My efforts at storytelling lately have been strained, even nonexistent. I know the Author of my stories has not changed or gone away. I only know that my own well of creativity has dried up and I am like the dry bones that Ezekiel saw in the desert. dry-bones-live

Sometimes we need to go through a desert to reach the land of milk and honey. That doesn’t mean that we stop searching for nourishment or that we lay down and weep until the dry bones become dust. No. The Giver of Life is still walking beside us, whether we feel him or not. My goal is to keep walking, keep seeking him, keep following him until it is time to cross the river to the land of Promise.

In seeking him, I have been reading others words and stories. The book I am reading now contains the story of the Israelites as they prepare to leave Egypt, bondage and the life they have always known. Before them is the harshness of the desert. Although it happened many thousands of years ago, it is still the story of my today. I need to find new ways to commune with my God. I need to deepen my faith and intensify my search, not because my God had gone anywhere, but because I have lost sight of the one who Loves me.

As I read, seek, and stumble my way across my own desert, I will choose to trust that My God, the God of Issac, Abraham, and Joseph, and the God of John, Peter, and Paul, will not leave me. Instead, he will see me through the valley of dry bones and lead me to the mountain top of his blessing.

sequoia national park - 3

Coming to Your House!

coming to your houseThis Sunday is Easter, the day we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. It is a time of reflection, joy and renewal. It is also a time when many of us gather for a special meal either with family, friends or both. Jesus shared a meal with his friends before he offered up his life. He shared a meal later as well before he was taken up to heaven on the clouds.

In fact, Jesus shared meals with his friends and followers many times through his ministry. His first miracle was performed at a wedding. Twice he fed thousands of people with food that would have been sufficient for one. He ate with religious leaders and social outcasts.

We often thinking of him teaching on the hillsides or in the temple, we think of his miracles and debates with the Pharisees. Jesus like to eat. He liked to hang out with friends and relax. It is a part of him that we often forget.

I have written my own imagined account of the day he met Zacchaeus, the short tax collector. I am offering it free for this Easter weekend. In it, you can meet Jesus just days before his final triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VB0PBR0

 

‘Catch’ My Newest Story

After a short hiatus in January to recover from the marathon of story writing in November and December, I have a new e-short out on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TEE1HZK

Caught! Is my take on the story of the woman caught in adultery. Found only in the Gospel of John, it is a tale of forgiveness and second chances like only Jesus can provide. The dramatic scene on the steps of the Temple has been told and retold in words and art through the centuries.

I think the words that ring loudest are those of Jesus.

‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Jn 8:7

What an example of love and compassion! Of all those in the Temple watching, Jesus was the only one qualified to judge. He alone was sinless. Yet he chose to forgive and offer a second chance at life.

‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’    ‘Then neither do I condemn you. go and leave your life of sin.’ Jn 8:10,11b

Perhaps we should remember those words before we judge and condemn those around us. Sin is sin, none bigger or smaller than any other. Adultery is no different than lying, or gossip, or envy. Are there any of us who can claim to perfectly keep all 10 Commandments?

No.

So before you pick up a stone to cast or a finger to point, remember that Jesus alone is worthy to judge. He loves all of us enough to die for us. Can you say the same?

Caught!

Caught!

Faith through Disappointment

God, why did you let this happen to me? I did everything I was supposed to, I prayed, I trusted, I ignored my doubts thinking you would take care of it. But you didn’t.sad portrait

Do you trust me?

. . . yes . . .

Do you really trust me?

. . . most of the time . . .

I tapped you on the shoulder about tithing recently.

Well, yeah, but Lord, you know how things are right now . . . we can’t pay our bills each month. I tried to tithe, I put in $20, I know that is 1% instead of 10%, but even so, a week and 1/2 later we bounced 3 checks.

Do you trust me to take care of you?

You always have. I know we won’t starve or get kicked out of our home.

Is that trusting me or your family, since it is their house you live in?

Ok, good point, but still . . . You know this thing I prayed for, it would have helped financially, I was planning on tithing from it. It would have made things easier for a while.

Would it?

You know it would. I could have paid off some bills, put some aside for the kids school activities, gone to that writers conference. Maybe even have some left for Christmas shopping, well no, it probably wouldn’t have lasted that long. None of those things are bad, so why didn’t you let me have it?

No, none of those things are bad.

Then why didn’t you let me?

Do you trust me?

So we’re back to that. Lord, you know, even better than I do, that I struggle with that. I’ve prayed about that too, you know. Trust is hard . . . especially when good things I pray for don’t happen.

Just sayin’.

So you would trust me if I let you have your way?

Well, yeah, I guess.

I have given it to you before, with extra. Did it help you trust and bring you closer to me? Or did it give you security to keep going your own way?

But I didn’t pray about it those times . . . Ok, I guess it kept me secure . . . kept the status quo.

Do you trust me?

Yes, Lord.

Do you know how much I love you?

Yes, I never doubted that.

Do you know what I want for you?

Not specifically, can you drop me a hint?

In general, what do I want for you?

Well, I guess you want for me to have a good life . . . I know you don’t promise wealth or even perfect health, but I know you want me to have a life of trust, faith and peace.

. . . I guess I have a long way to go.

Do you sometimes take good things from your kids so that they can have better things later.

Yeah, I guess. *sigh* I’m still disappointed.

I know you are.

. . . *sigh* . . .

I love you, child.

I know, but God . . .

Yes.

Are you sure it is going to be Ok?

Trust me.double rainbow

I’ll keep working on it. Thanks God.

 

 

Embracing the Chains

singing treeI went for a walk in the woods last fall and came upon an old maple tree that I fell in love with. It looked like it was singing praise to its creator. I took a picture of it and keep it on my wall near my computer. This spring I returned to those woods and found my friend the singing tree, it still looked happy and green with the promise of new life. But this time, I  approached the tree from a different angle, and noticed something new. At the base of this happy tree was a tangle of barbed wire. The rusted wire had likely used the tree as a convenient support as it kept some farmer’s cows safely contained. The fence had disappeared with no other sign of posts or wire in sight. Why had this mess of barbed wire stayed? Because the tree had grown around it. It had embraced the chains that had once bound it.

We all have chains that try to tie us down, to fence us in, to strangle us. For some of us it is poverty, for some it is sorrow, fear or resentment. Many of us have survived sickness, addiction, abuse and injustice. We all have chains, but what will we choose to do with them?

Christ came to earth to break those chains. He came to set us free and give us life in abundance if we accept his gift.

A few months ago, I believe God sent me a picture during worship at church. We were singing ‘Break these chains’ and I saw myself in a dark dungeon with my wrists shackled and chained to the wall above my head. I had given up and hung my head in despair. Christ stood before me. He had broken my chains. The thing that bound me was nothing but shadowy illusion. It was my own fear and doubt that kept me chained in that dungeon. Jesus was imploring me to step away, to follow him into a life of hope and joy. I would like to say that I have shaken the chains and left that dark place, but I am still battling those fears. I just know now that He is with me and will not give up. embracing the chains4

It was after that moment with God that I found the tree that rejoices despite its chains. Jesus has set us free of the chains, the wire embracing the chains2surrounding the tree had been cut away from other posts long since gone, but the scars remain. The scars of our past, of our present don’t go away. They help to make us who we are. It is up to us to embrace the chains, the scars they leave behind and the God who is bigger than all that would hold us back.

I choose to acknowledge my weakness and fear. I choose to let God work through them. I choose to not let the fear and doubt hold me back, but will grow around them and beyond them. It will not be easy, the barbs in the wire hurts, but I choose to leave the dungeon and find the hope that Jesus promised.

 

embracing the chains3embracing the chains1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thomas’ Doubt Part two

124 Thomas walked without seeing. He did not stop until he was beyond the walls of Jerusalem. The road climbed under his feet and a sickly smell of decay made him lift his head.

Why had he come here to this horrible place? The upright sections of three crosses speared up into the darkening sky. The setting sun lit them with a fiery glow painting dark stains on the wood. Thomas forced himself forward to the foot of the middle upright as he had not had the courage to do when Jesus had hung there. Although three days had passed, the smell of blood and death lingered.

“Lord, You said you were going to leave us. You said we would know the way. But, Lord, I don’t know the way. Must I allow myself to be killed as you were?” Thomas reached out a trembling hand and touched the blood soaked wood. He realized he had been hoping for some lingering sense of the Lord. Something to give him direction and hope. But there was nothing. Nothing except an empty piece of wood. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me.

“How am I to trust, Lord? You are no longer here, You would not even allow us to fight to protect You. You said you had come to save the world, but I do not feel saved, Lord. I feel lost.” Thomas let his fingers fall away from the splintered wood. Jesus was not here, there was no reason to stay. He turned away and headed toward the nearby garden. His steps slowed to a stop still many paces from the tomb. The last rays of the sun had faded into darkness and the rising moon, just past full, had yet to reach this shadowed place.

Thomas found himself shivering although the night was not yet cold. The mouth of the tomb gaped wide like a giant’s hungry mouth. Thomas paused. The only sound was that of his own harsh breathing. Something rustled in the brush behind him. Thomas whirled, but nothing was there.

“Lord, are you there?”

Only when the words were spoken did Thomas realize that he had been hoping that Mary and John were right. Hoping that Jesus was alive. There was no answer in the darkness. He pulled his outer cloak tight around his shoulders against the chill night air. He watched in silence as the moon cast silver shadows through the quiet garden. He was watching still when dawn showed pink and gold in the East.

“Lord, are you here?”

There was no sound but that of birds singing their joyful greeting to the sun. Thomas rose stiffly from his seat. With weary steps he returned to the upper room. His Lord, his friend was gone.

Thomas raised dazed eyes, heavy from lack of sleep, to the occupants within the room. Gone were the sober expressions and tears of sorrow. In their place were songs and laughter, dancing and joy. Thomas stepped into the room, the crash of the door silencing the laughter.

“Have you all gone mad? Are you possessed that you can sing and laugh when your hearts should be grieving?”

“But we haven’t lost anything.” John rushed up and clasped Thomas in a close embrace. “My brother, Jesus is alive and I have seen him. Right in this very room.”

Thomas pulled away from the hug. His eyes scanned the room. Each face he saw stared back at him, glowing with happiness. “How can this be?”

“It is true. After you left last night, Jesus appeared in this room, even though the door was locked.” Peter came to Thomas and laid a strong hand on his shoulder. “If you had stayed with us, you would have seen him, too.”

Guilt and sorrow flooded Thomas’ heart. He had gone out and followed the path of Jesus’ last journey from cross to grave only to find emptiness. He shook his head. “No.” His voice rose in denial of the false hope. “No, I don’t believe it. Jesus is dead. Until I see the nail marks in his hand and place my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it!”

Thomas stormed to a dark corner of the room and pulled his cloak over his head. He did his best to block out the sounds of joy. Finally, tears wetting his beard, he fell asleep.

For the next week, Thomas kept himself apart from the others. He spoke to no one, turning away when one of the others tried to speak to him. When the Sabbath came again, Thomas had sunk deep into despair, made darker by the joy around him.

If only I was crazy, too. How I, too, long for words of comfort. The other disciples and followers of Jesus had gathered in the room and preparing to break bread together. They repeated the words that Jesus had spoken during their last supper together. Thomas unfolded himself from his corner. Do this in remembrance of Me. Thomas would remember with the others. Perhaps within memory, he could gain some measure of peace.

Suddenly the air was filled with strange perfume. Thomas looked up to see the other disciples faces light up with expectation. Thomas turned and looked toward the locked door. It remained closed. With a flicker of color, Jesus stood before him.

Bread fell from nerveless fingers. Thomas felt his jaw go slack as his knees gave way from under him. Jesus stood before him. Jesus was Alive.

“Peace be with you.” The words flowed over Thomas’s broken heart like a soothing balm. Jesus looked into his eyes and showed the scars in his hands. “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”

Thomas winced, his own words piercing his soul like knives. He closed his eyes, attempting to shut out his humiliation. For a long time, no one spoke. When he opened his eyes once more, Jesus was staring at him. There was no anger or condemnation there. only love. Tears began to fall from Thomas’ eyes.

“Stop doubting and believe.” Jesus’ beloved voice echoed through the room. The power of it shivered through the air.

My Lord, and my God.” Peace rose up in Thomas’ heart. All the doubts and fears that had plagued him for days fell away.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.” Thomas bowed his head, accepting the gentle rebuke. All his life he had believed only what he could see with his eyes, touch with his hands and hear with his ears. Now, when he had not been able to believe, he was shown. but if his Lord, his God, could conquer the hold of Death itself, how could he not believe that anything is possible.

Now we know that Thomas did indeed stop doubting. After he received his portion of the Holy Spirit, he traveled far, preaching and teaching. Tradition tells us that he established Christ’s Church in India where he is still revered for his faith. From doubt, Thomas’ belief grew into a solid foundation, never to be shaken again.

 

 

 

Thomas’ Doubt

cloudscape1Bitterness coated Thomas’ tongue. He stood in the room where just days ago he and his friends had celebrated the Passover with Jesus. Although his Lord had seemed melancholy and spoke of betrayal and denial, Thomas would never have predicted later events. No one could have. Unable to be still, he paced from door to window and back again.

Andrew approached him, but Thomas turned away. He did not have the patience to hear the man’s gentle consolation again. For three years they had followed the man he had come to believe was the Messiah. Thomas had left a good carpentry business to follow Jesus’ calling. He had left his family and friends to wander homeless with a man who had challenged authority and flirted with death. Now the authorities and death had caught him and Thomas was an outlaw. He should never have left home.

Guilt seeped through the bitterness. No, he was glad to have left. No matter how badly things had turned out, he had seen things and done things that were beyond belief. He paused in his pacing and from the shelter of the shadows looked out the latticed window. A squad of Roman soldiers marched by in close formation, their spears and shield held ready.

Three days after laying Jesus’ body in the ground, the city still huddled in fear. People cleaning up the rubble left from the earthquake still stole glances at the sky which had gone dark for hours not so long ago. Pharisees and Sadducees refused to leave the temple or perform their normal duties. There were whispers of the Great Veil tearing from top to bottom and the Holy of Holies open to everyone’s view.  God was surely angry at the death of Jesus.

Cheerful humming broke into Thomas’ dark thoughts. He watched as Mary the Magdalene walked, practically danced, over to John and offered him a cup of wine. Thomas narrowed his eyes as the two shared a secret smile. It wasn’t right for John to humor her that way. The poor woman’s mind had snapped that morning .

The women hadn’t been able to do a thorough anointing of Jesus’ body before the Sabbath began. This morning, a group had gone to finish the job as soon as the sun rose. They had all come back shortly afterwards hysterical and raving about angels and His missing body. Peter and John had gone to the tomb and verified that the body was gone but were quiet when they returned.

Mary had come back much later, singing and dancing. She spoke of seeing Jesus himself, not dead, but alive. She claimed he had spoken to her and called her by name. Peter didn’t say much, still berating himself for denying Jesus during the trial. John sided with Mary, claiming that the Lord has risen. At least John didn’t claim to have spoken with a dead man. Thomas thought that the soldiers had taken the body and desecrated it further just to show they could.

Thomas stalked over to the two of them.  “You should not carry on so, it is not right to make light of others sorrow.”

“Thomas, what do you mean?” John looked puzzled. “Why should there be sorrow among us when our Lord has conquered Death itself?”

“He has not conquered death, He is dead. Let us mourn Him properly.” A muscle in Thomas’ jaw clenched. They were unreasonable.

“Jesus did conquer death. Were you not standing with us when he raised Jarius’ daughter, or the son of the widow in Nain? Did you not see our friend Lazarus when he emerged from his tomb?”

Thomas shrugged. “I saw those things , but it is one thing to be filled with God’s holy power and raise someone else from the dead. Elijah and Elisha also raised people from the dead. But no one can raise themselves.”

“But I saw Him, Jesus appeared to me in the garden and spoke to me.” The light in Mary’s face dimmed. “Why don’t you believe me?” she placed her hand on Thomas’s arm and her eyes pleaded with him to understand.

“You are deluded by your grief. You want Jesus back so badly, you imagined him speaking.” Thomas pulled away from her touch and unlocking the door, descended into the street. Wrapping his headscarf across his face he stalked away.

To Be Continued. . .