In The Garden

Linda Jones, an Autism advocate, once stated: “Whereas other people seem to be looking FORWARD to ‘the event’ – they don’t seem to realize that we’re looking PAST the event, trying to assure ourselves that it will be over soon and the routine-day after will be a relief.”

That sounds all too familiar. I remember several years ago driving to a holiday party at a friend’s house. If my steering wheel could have talked, it would have yelled: “Get a grip and loosen the grip on me!” It didn’t matter it was a friend I had known for years. It didn’t matter there were others at the party I knew. It didn’t matter that I had been to my friend’s house a number of times. This was contrary to my routine going to a party and I was eager for its ending instead of the beginning.

Any type of gathering type event is a jolt.  A threesome having lunch, a holiday gathering, a meeting, etc.  The gathering is a storm cloud on an otherwise sunny day. Once I can go back to my solitary corner, I’m back on the track of normalcy which is where I ache to live on.

I reckon I could survive solitary confinement longer than others I know who relish the thought of get-together type events.  There’s nothing wrong with hanging out with friends but I just don’t have the desire to and it’s beyond my understanding watching people enjoying doing it. It’s like observing, from a distance, life on another planet.

In the Bible’s four Gospels that give us the story of Jesus’s walk on this Earth, He had to interact with large and small groups to go about His Father’s business.  He attended events such as a marriage ceremony at Cana where he turned the water into wine.  He taught multitudes of people such as the 5000 men, plus women and children, whom he fed with His miracle of the loaves and fishes.  He had dinner with a group of people at the home of a Pharisee named Simon where Jesus allowed a woman who lived a sinful life to pour perfume on His feet.  But it wasn’t unusual for Jesus to go off alone by Himself, such as to a mountainside or a garden. It is of comfort to me that even Jesus needed to take a break from people and gatherings and go off by Himself at times.  Just maybe not every day like I do.

Jesus was unlike any other human being who ever has or will walk upon this Earth. Even those closest to him, such as His disciples, could not entirely know what Jesus was going through. It’s understandable that He needed time alone with the only one who could — the Father.

One of the times Jesus had lone time with His Father was His visit to the Garden of Gethsemane before He was betrayed by Judas. His disciples went with Him but they couldn’t keep their eyes open and fell asleep. Jesus was in agony with drops of sweat like blood.  That time alone in the Garden having a talk with His Father about what no one else could have understood helped prepare Him to ultimately do his Father’s will.

There are things about my ASD that I can’t talk to anyone about. Too embarrassing or beyond my understanding. But I can talk to the Lord about those things and so I do. Sometimes I do it when I take a walk in the park. It’s not a garden but it will do.

 

 

 

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Riding on Faith

Do you remember the first time you hopped on a bicycle? I can’t say that I do and I figure it’s probably one I would have wanted to forget.  I assume it didn’t go smoothly because of my track record of bike falls. I was more successful at falling than pedaling before I had a handle on riding a bike.

Now that I have since learned I have been living on the Autism Spectrum, I have an explanation for my awkward relationship with bicycles. A common autism trait is having a hardship for doing more than one thing at once.  Bike riding requires steering and pedaling at the same time with a keen sense of observation and speed. I still have a scar on my knee from five decades ago where I might not have been keen on watching where I was going or how fast.   Motor skills also come in handy when riding a bike and I wasn’t endowed with much motor.

I haven’t looked for such but I assume there are “how to ride bikes” books out there.  Unlike when I was growing up, one can watch “You Tube” videos on how to ride a bike. Or spend time observing others take a spin on their bikes. Yet until one hops on a bike and puts feet to pedal, one doesn’t know what it is to ride a bike.  Now I can’t imagine someone putting a lot of energy into studying about bike riding without actually riding one. It sounds rather foolish, doesn’t it?

One could say that same thing about faith.  It’s one thing to know what faith is; it’s another to live it as one goes about the business of living.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.  Such as believing one’s prayer is going beyond the ceiling or that it isn’t luck or a coincidence that you made it through a storm, but an answered prayer.  It is one thing to talk about this common word in the Bible, or to sing hymns about it, or to read and memorize the 336 verses that contain the word in the King James Version. It is well and good to pray about something on one’s plate, but it takes faith to leave it in the Lord’s hands.  If one only has book-smart knowledge of faith without the practical use of it, it is like the person who is book smart on bikes but has never pedaled a day in one’s life.

I gave up bike riding a long time ago. I recall I once got back on a bike a decade or so ago when I had the rare opportunity of having access to one in a remote area. Like they say about riding a horse, it all came back to me. Although I was rusty from lack of practice, I didn’t take a fall. However, my hips paid me back BIG time after my bike reunion. I would ride a bike now but I can’t think of a place where I could ride one where there was a sure-fire guarantee that there would be absolutely NO witnesses. I’m afraid of both failing and falling in public.

I assume that even those who ride bikes well into their later years still run the risk of having a fall anytime they hop on their bikes. Not as often as most people, but they still run the possibility of flying off the handle. One can only hope they don’t break some vital bone in their body, like a neck.

Likewise, no one is perfect at riding on faith. We all fall sometimes to our fears and doubts. Just as it is with bike riders, the important thing is to get back up and try it again. Just as it is with most things, the more you practice living your faith in the Lord, the better you get at it. It’s okay to be rusty at riding a bike, but not okay to be rusty at riding one’s faith.

Jesus Had His Critics

There’s an old saying that there’s always a critic out there somewhere. I am reminded of that every time when I log in to my Facebook or Twitter account.  Imagine if you can that everyone on the Internet superhighway were to strictly adhere to the rule “if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all”, for just one day. My guess is the Internet traffic would be reduced to the volume of highway traffic on a Christmas morning.

Now I am not anti-social media. I am an avid user myself of social media.  There are the positives of contact with extended family and friends I wouldn’t have contact with otherwise. Like any number of things, social media is a two-edged sword. I have to take the sour with the sweet when I log in to my accounts. I enjoy the sweetness of the baby picture of my first cousin’s grandchild while ignoring the postings of those who never have anything nice to say about anything.

I wonder if social media had been around when Jesus walked this Earth, how many postings there would have been of Him. My guess is Jesus would have been a popular topic in His time.  After all, multitudes of people flocked to see Jesus because they had heard of Him through word of mouth. Jesus gained so much popularity that His critics, such as teachers of the law and Pharisees, feared a rebellion and sought a way to turn the crowds away from Him.

One of the things Jesus’s critics threw at Him was performing miracles of healing on the Sabbath. Instead of being happy for those who were healed, the critics were crying foul claiming it was unlawful to heal on the Sabbath. Jesus paid them no mind. A number of miracles recorded in the scripture were performed by Jesus on the Sabbath. One of them is told in Luke 6:6-11.

Jesus entered into a synagogue and among the crowd, there was a man whose right hand was withered. The scribes and Pharisees were watching every move Jesus made, wondering whether He would heal on the Sabbath. They had no concern for the man with a withered hand. They only hoped Jesus would heal this man so they could seize the moment and criticize Him. In their way of thinking, the Sabbath was a day of rest and they considered healing folks of their infirmities a violation of that rule.

Jesus knew they were watching Him and beat them to the punch. He had the man with the withered hand to stand up in the crowd. Then Jesus spoke to the crowd asking if it was lawful on the Sabbath to do good or evil; to save a life or destroy it. No one said a word. Total silence. Jesus’s critics were caught in a corner. They’d be in trouble if they had said evil. How could they say good knowing they couldn’t then very well criticize Jesus for then doing the good of healing someone? Since they were silent, Jesus said unto the man to stretch out his hand. When the man did, his hand was restored whole as the other hand. Jesus once again had silenced his critics with words alone.

Rising above criticism can be a lonely road when it is hard to find a supporter. But if you are doing what the Lord has laid on your heart to do, I can’t think of a better reason to do anything. For example, it had to have been lonely at times when Noah was building the ark before the flood came.

I take another lesson from this story which is to not only rise above criticism, but to reign in my own. I should be prayerful of what to say and what not to.  I’m not God and so I can’t claim to know what’s best for someone else, let alone myself.  I should prayerfully aim to be more in the cheering section than in the critic’s corner.

 

No Such Luck

Have you ever been at the right place, at the right time, crossed paths with the right person, and said or heard words that brought light to a dark tunnel in your life? Some would call it luck or a coincidence. I call it something else.

A moment for me is one I can still picture like it was yesterday.  I was going down a hallway, met a person who took the time to chat, and I asked her a question that popped up in my mind in the course of our conversation.  Her answer ultimately resulted in an answered prayer.  It was something I had prayed about for two years. Believe me, those two years felt like an eternity. I often in my mind visit that dark day which ended with a ray of blessed hope. I appreciated that answer more than I would have if I had received it two years earlier. I wouldn’t want to relive those two years, but I can see with hindsight that the dark period was a faith-building exercise.

Sometimes I say the word “luck”, or the phrase “I got lucky”, or “what a coincidence”. I really don’t believe in either. I don’t pin the blame on luck or coincidence when I experience the right place and the right time bit. One might call me a fool but I believe it’s the Lord instead of good luck. It’s not something I can prove to anyone; it has been and remains a matter of faith on my part.

I’ve also said the phrase “at the wrong place, at the wrong time”. At times of tragedy, such as at the scene of a fatal accident or mass shooting, it is a commonly heard phrase. I wonder because that’s a lot of what I do living on the autism spectrum if there’s such a thing of being at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Is it all part of God’ plan? Even in the face of unspeakable tragedy, is there a purpose beyond the seeing? There’s such joy at being at the right place, right time with a happy outcome. But sometimes it doesn’t work that way. “Why?” may be the most asked question of God on any given day. I ask that question sometimes. It is beyond my understanding.  If I knew the answer, I’d be God and I’m not.

The Bible is full of stories where one was at the right place, right time, and doing the right thing. One Bible character who had multiple such stories was King David. Such as was it just a coincidence that David’s father, Jesse, sent young David with provisions to where his older brothers were stationed with Saul’s army? If David had not gone that day, the story of David and Goliath might not be in the Bible. We can only speculate as to what would have happened to Saul and his army if there had been no intervention from a youngster with a slingshot.

Was it luck that David’s stone from his slingshot hit Goliath in just the right spot that knocked Goliath off his feet? I don’t think so. Just looking at David’s entire life, I can see where the encounter between David and Goliath was part of God’s plan of putting David in the right place at the right time, one step at a time, heading to the throne.  David didn’t go from shepherd boy to king by no such thing as luck, but by faith.

 

Only God Knows

As a substitute teacher’s aide, I go to different schools on various assignments.  Some assignment calls for me to go to multiple classrooms assisting assigned students.  I once arrived at an assignment where there was a delay in getting me the schedule of the aide I was subbing for. Until I had that schedule in hand, I had a bad case of butterflies in my stomach. The butterflies flew away once I got my hand on the piece of paper with the schedule typed out. I held on to that piece of paper for dear life. In my spectrum world, a comfort zone isn’t one without a schedule.

When Jesus walked this Earth, He met with many people, went to many places, and traveled with a group of disciples whom He taught along the way.  I wonder if He had a schedule or if one of the disciples took care of planning when and where they went. Maybe his trips were planned out, one day to Jericho, another to Galilee, and then somewhere else, etc. Or, maybe Jesus and his band of disciples took it day by day and no planning beyond that.

There was a schedule the Lord must have had in the back of His mind. He spoke of what was on that schedule multiple times, much to the dismay of His disciples. Jesus knew when, how, and where it was going to take place: His death, three days in the tomb, the resurrection, and ascension back to His Father in Heaven. The Lord was not caught off guard when Judas betrayed him and the officers came to arrest Him. It all happened right on schedule.

Jesus spoke of an event that is on God’s schedule in Matthew 24:36: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” The time is blank and will only be filled in by God, the Father. Jesus knows He will come again for a second time, but not even He knows when that day will be.

Since Jesus’s time on this Earth, there have been those who have predicted that the Lord would return on such day. Some even convinced a multitude of people who even went so far as to sell or give away their possessions and putting their house in order. The days predicted came and went, leaving the predictors with egg on their faces. I suppose it is just natural to speculate, but to predict a date is ignoring what Jesus said. It is pointless to predict God’s timing. If God didn’t tell His own begotten Son, why would anyone dare think He would reveal it to some soul on Earth?

I don’t have any inclination of predicting the day of the Lord’s coming or even of the end times. That’s up to my Father in Heaven. The Lord has work for me to do on any given day. I should focus on doing that and not worry about the day and hour of the Lord’s coming. It could be at any time today, tomorrow or decades or centuries from now. Instead of speculating, I should just do as the Lord told His mother Mary and stepfather Joseph:  I must be about my Father’s business.

 

The Prophet Who Did His Job

In the Old Testament, there are stories of kings, queens, judges, priests, and then, there are prophets. There were a number of prophets with some of them having long, hard to spell names like Malachi, Zechariah, and Habakkuk (Google does come in handy for spelling). Their main job duty was relaying God’s message to one or more people. Sometimes they had good news, but it often was a warning instead such as “if you don’t repent and change your ways…”.

I would imagine the job of a prophet could be a thankless one since their message didn’t always tickle the ears of the receiver.  It could be a dangerous one too such as Elijah having to flee from King Ahab who didn’t think much of Elijah and thought less of the God Elijah served. It could be a lonely one. Jeremiah was called the “weeping prophet” who served during the reign of five different kings and wrote a lot about repentance. They lived fascinating lives such as Samuel who was a miracle child, anointed the first two Israelite kings, and was the only ghost we meet in the Bible (read all about it in I Samuel 28).

Nathan was the prophet who was around when David was King.  Unlike Elijah and King Ahab, Nathan and David had a good relationship. Nathan was a member of David’s royal court and one of his closest advisors. There are a few stories in the Bible featuring Nathan that occurred during some of the darkest and most emotional times in David’s turbulent life.

Nathan was around when David decided to build God a house. David thought it wrong that while he lived in a beautiful palace, the Ark of the Covenant was housed in a lowly tent. David shared his plans with Nathan. The prophet, so to speak, gave him the high five. But Nathan spoke too soon! God visited Nathan in a vision and told him to go back to David with an entirely opposite message. God did not want David to build him a house; rather, David’s descendant would be the one to build God’s house (2 Samuel 7:4–17).

Nathan goes back to David with God’s answer.  Instead of being stubborn about it and going ahead with his plans, or throwing a tantrum and taking it out on the messenger, David accept’s God’s will. That’s a good lesson in itself. Not all my prayer requests have turned out as I had originally hoped.  Sometimes I have to go through the process of accepting God’s answer, reminding myself that my Father knows best.  If I could see what would have happened if my request had turned out the way I wanted, I have no doubt I’d be on my knees thanking the Lord for sparing me from what I originally hoped.

The most famous encounter between David and Nathan came later.  It was after David committed adultery with Bathsheba.  When she informed David she was pregnant with his child, he was so desperate to cover it up that he brought about the death of her husband, Uriah, who was a loyal soldier in David’s army.  David married Bathsheba and life went on … or so David thought. Nathan shows up and it was a climactic moment, to say the least.  If it wasn’t one of the worst moments in David’s life, it surely came close to being.

Nathan began with telling David about a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had company and needed to prepare a feast. He sees the poor man’s only possession, a little lamb, the poor man loved like a member of his family. The selfish rich man takes the lamb to feed his guest instead of feeding his guest with one of his own lambs from his flocks. David’s reaction to this story was an absolute rage. Perhaps the story took David back to when he was a shepherd boy tending his father’s flock. David declared the rich man had no pity and deserved to die.

This is the climax! I dare say one could have heard a pin drop when Nathan pointed to David and said, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).

Perhaps at that moment, David felt like an arrow of guilt had hit his heart. It couldn’t have been easy for Nathan to reveal David’s sin, but he was the prophet and it was his job. David did confess to Nathan his sin. At least, David didn’t deny it or try to blame someone else. Nathan had good and bad news. The good news was the Lord had forgiven his sin and that David would not be punished by his own death. The bad news was David and Bathsheba’s child would die. It was devastating news but David didn’t argue with or blame the messenger who was just doing his job.

After the death of David’s child, his wife Bathsheba became pregnant again, this time with a son whom they named Solomon. The Lord sent Nathan to David again but this time with wonderful news that the Lord loved his son Solomon. They named their son, Solomon “Jedidiah,” a name that means “beloved of the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:24–25). Solomon would grow up to later build God’s house, the temple, and became an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Another mention of Nathan is an encounter he had with Bathsheba. David was near death at the time and one of David’s sons, Adonijah, had his eyes on his father’s throne. Nathan knew Bathsheba well enough to speak to her about Adonijah attempting to take David’s throne from her son, Solomon (1 Kings 1:11). Nathan enlisted her help in bringing the matter to David’s attention before David’s death. After Bathsheba told David what was going on, Nathan came in and backed her up. Thus, there was no King Adonijah.

There is evidence that David and Bathsheba appreciated Nathan for his faithfulness, friendship, and even his “tough” love. First Chronicles 3:5 reveals they named one of their sons “Nathan”. A fine thing to be named after a prophet who did his job.

A few decades ago I pray for something with a heavy heart.  In my prayer, I had a sob story and thought that what I wanted to do about the situation had the Lord’s blessing.  Just as I was almost about to carry it out, I ran into someone.  I shared my sob story with the person who generously gave me a hug and advice.  Her advice wasn’t what I wanted to hear but I listened.  It occurred to me a short time later that her advice was the Lord’s answer.  I can’t prove it but to this day I don’t believe it was a coincidence I ran into this person when I did.

In a way, she was the prophet delivering the Lord’s message to me.  At least, I can say that time I accepted it and if I had to live it over again, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  By the way, I never held a grudge against her.  She was just doing her job.

 

Joshua, Caleb, and the Fearful Ten

When I think of the word “courage”, the pictures that pop up in my mind are of soldiers on a battlefield, police officers on a call where weapons are drawn, or firefighters responding to a raging fire with people inside. Courage isn’t limited to those situations. It can be displayed at any time or place.  It isn’t limited to those wearing a uniform and it doesn’t have to be a matter of life and death.  Courage is when one does what the Lord would have them do, often taking the difficult instead of the easy road, even though they are scared silly.

The Bible provides many stories having the ingredient of courage. One of them is the story of Joshua and Caleb. It is a dramatic and powerful tale of two who did the right thing surrounded by those who chose to give in to fear and doubt.

The Israelites led by Moses had fled Egypt to their destination of the promised land of Canaan initially promised by God to their forefather Abraham. Joshua and Caleb’s story begins where the Israelites were at the threshold of this Promised Land.

Moses sent Joshua, Caleb, and ten other spies into the Promised Land to check out who the enemy was and report back what they saw.  The spies returned after scouting the land for 40 days. All twelve agreed that Canaan did flow with milk and honey and it possessed bountiful fruit. They all reported the inhabitants were powerful, their cities fortified, and they even saw descendants of Anak there. (The Israelites felt like grasshoppers in the presence of the sons of Anak who were endowed with height). The people focused more on the strength of the enemy than the milk, honey, and fruit.

There was not full agreement among the spies on what to do about it. The majority believed the enemy was a mountain too high to climb. Joshua and Caleb were of the opinion that the land was conquerable because they had the Lord on their side and the Canaanites did not. That made all the difference. They stated:

“‘The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.’” (Numbers 14:6–9).

Although Caleb and Joshua were outnumbered, they didn’t change their minds to appease the majority. Their belief in going forward to battle wasn’t based on what they saw, but on what they couldn’t see.  It’s called living one’s faith.

The people didn’t listen to the courageous two, but to the fearful ten. They even turned on their leader, Moses, and complained about being led out to the wilderness to come this far only to die. It was a bad day for Moses. It seemed that sometimes the hardest part of Moses’s job was not dealing with the enemy or the physical challenges of traveling a multitude of people, but the “people” themselves who may have kept Moses up many a night with their complaining.

God threw up His hands so to speak. The punishment of the people’s lack of faith was making them wait forty years to enter the land (a year for every day the spies were spying out the land). He also promised that every person 20 years old or older would die in the wilderness.  Think about that!  All those 20 and above knew they had no more than 40 years to live and would never leave the wilderness alive.  If one was 20, one knew they wouldn’t live past 60 and would only see the land flowing with milk and honey in their dreams.

There were two exceptions.  Numbers 14:38, “Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.”

After the death of Moses 40 years later, Joshua led the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. He won every battle and thus possessed the land that God had initially promised Joshua’s forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Oh, and Caleb? Well, he received an inheritance in the Promised Land in his ripe old age (Joshua 14).

Courage isn’t limited to adults.   I can think of another place where I have personally witnessed courage while on my job as a substitute teacher’s aide. A child is alone amidst a host of classmates on a playground. The child is perceived by the other children to be different.  Maybe it’s the child’s different skin color, or a brace on their leg, or doesn’t speak or talks too much, flaps his hands, spins in circles, or their legs are useless to them.  One of their classmates joins the child.  He or she is pointed at and snickered for giving attention to the “different” one. But the one who stands alone pays their snickering classmates no mind. That child who is putting into practice Jesus’s command to love one’s neighbor as thyself is displaying courage. Just as Joshua and Caleb did when they stood alone amidst the fearful ten.

 

The Prophet Who Did Not Drown

Habakkuk was one of the Old Testament (OT) prophets and author of the OT book named after him. His name is a lot easier for me to say than to spell. He is somewhat a mystery because of the 66 books of the Bible, his name only appears in his book twice – in the first verse and first verse in the third chapter. There’s no mention of his hometown or parents or tribe. He doesn’t say where he resided but some Bible scholars concluded he lived in Jersalem at the time he wrote his book. He does provide his title “the prophet”.

Habakkuk must have chosen not to write about himself. There’s nothing wrong with that. His focus wasn’t on himself, but on what he saw and the “why” of it. He saw famine. He saw injustice. Something was eating at him and it was what he saw as God’s uninvolvement in the world. He wanted to see God at work, particularly in the area of justice for those who did evil. Habakkuk lamented but who can’t relate to that. If one is a stranger to lament, then one is a rare bird!

I haven’t figured out, don’t expect I ever will, of how much control I have of what happens to me or around me. But I do have a say in how I respond to it. Instead of throwing tantrums, blaming God, Habakkuk prayed. His book is mostly a conversation between him and God. These conversations led to something amazing for the prophet. Judging from Habakkuk 3:17-19, he was able to praise even in the middle of a drought.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:

18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

3:19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.

One would think there’s no joy in famine, but Habakkuk found something to rejoice about. God hadn’t left him. Because of God, the prophet had hope there was an end to the famine. He had hoped the sweet would come. Verse 19 speaks of the deer who is known for being fast on its feet and ability to jump over any obstacle. We all have a race and it’s called life and it sure has its obstacles!  Don’t we all know it!

Decades ago, I recall watching a TV episode from the show, “The Walton’s”. If you remember watching the original episodes, you are probably a baby boomer. For those of you who aren’t boomers or have no idea what I’m referring to, the show was about a family living through the Great Depression. The Depression was “real” and one of the worse famines this country had ever faced. Some members of the Walton family were gathered around the front porch awaiting word of the fate of a loved one who was in some sort of danger. It was one of those terrifying moments of hoping for the best while fearing the worst. Grandma Walton told them that they should all pray. One of the grandchildren asked Grandma, “How can you still keep believing in God?” Grandma said, “Who else do I have to believe in?”

Although it was a TV show, I kept the words of the grandmother in my memory. I thought she made a good point with her question. Who else? Well, there’s me, but I don’t think so. I have weaknesses. I have limitations. God has none.

There’s an old saying that one’s life can change in the twinkling of an eye. That is true. A whole host of calamities can happen in seconds. But there’s the flip side of the coin. A whole host of wonderful can too.

Just as there is sour, there is sweet. On any given day, there are folks leaving this earth and grieving loved ones behind; however, there are babies coming into it being welcomed by eager adults, some of whom are carrying “It’s a …” balloons and/or a box of cigars. There are evil acts committed around the clock, but there’s also many acts of kindness by those responding to the Lord’s conviction on their hearts.

A quote comes to my mind: Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the storm.  Habakkuk knew how.  He lamented but he didn’t drown in it.

He Who Has No Limits

One of the things God blessed mankind with is the ability to laugh. Along with the ability to cry.  Sometimes we need to have a good laugh or a good cry.  Both can be a release in good and bad times.  It’s just one can get in trouble laughing or crying at the wrong times.  Such as laughing when a grandparent is showing off school pictures of their adoring grandchildren.

There’s a Bible story in the book of Genesis where one laughed at the wrong time for the wrong reason. She never lived that story down either. There are multiple stories about Sarah in the Bible, but she is mostly remembered for the one where she laughed.

The story is told in Genesis 18:1-15.  Sarah’s husband, Abraham, received a visit from the Lord as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day.  When he looked up, he saw three men.  It appears he knew they were from heaven because when Abraham saw them, he ran to meet them and bowed himself toward the ground. I doubt that was how Abraham normally greeted visitors.

Abraham, in fact, addressed one as “Lord”. Abraham asked the Lord if he had found favor in His sight, would they please stay so he could provide water for them to wash their feet and give them food to eat. The three accepted Abraham’s invitation.  He didn’t waste any time in going into his tent and telling Sarah to hurry and make a meal. He then fetched a tender calf and gave it to a young male servant who quickly prepared it for the meal. Abraham brought the three men some butter, milk, and the calf and stood by them under the tree as the three visitors ate.

They asked him where his wife Sarah was and Abraham said in the tent. Abraham was then given shocking news for a 100-year-old man. The Lord said He would return for another visit and when He did, Sarah will have had a baby by then. The scripture doesn’t say how Abraham reacted but it does Sarah who overheard the conversation. She wasn’t much younger than Abraham and was well beyond her child-bearing years. So it was understandable that when Sarah heard she and her 100-year-old husband were going to be having a baby, she laughed to herself.  She said, “After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

Unknown to Sarah, the Lord knew she laughed, knowing her innermost thoughts. The Lord told Abraham that his wife had laughed and questioned her bearing a child at her ripe old age. The Lord asked Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” He again stated that upon His return visit Sarah will have given birth to a son.

I do feel for Sarah in this story. She was already on the record for laughing at something the Lord had promised. She made matters worse by going out and denying her laughter to the three visitors and Abraham. Her lying only made the hole she was already in even bigger. The Lord rebutted her and said, “Nay; but thou didst laugh”.

I’m not one who can be hard on Sarah. If I had been in Sarah’s shoes, I probably would have laughed too. Probably more than a snicker but a roll on the floor laughing with the thought, “Who me? A baby? At my age? This is a joke, right?”

This story is a reminder for me not to the put the Lord in a box. Mankind is the one limited; not the Lord. I shouldn’t confine my prayer requests to what I think the Lord can handle and refrain from bringing up what I assume is a hopeless case. It’s not always easy to pray about something with full confidence that the Lord can change things around when what we I see looks like a dark hole with no light at the end of it. Before abandoning hope in a dark tunnel, I need to ask: “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”  I have limits, but He has none.

 

No Doubt About It

I asked my home assistant device, Echo Show, for the definition of skepticism. I knew what the word meant but I like to give Echo commands just to see if Echo will do it or ignore me. Another reason I put her to work is she didn’t come cheap. Echo’s response was skepticism is having doubt about the truth of something. Such as being skeptical about what you hear a politician says. There’s a lot of that going around.

Jesus was familiar with skeptics. Folks who were doubtful of whom Jesus claimed He was crossed His path plenty of times.  Such as Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests, scribes, elders, and folks who had no title. But there were instances recorded in the Gospels of when His path crossed with those who took Him at his word that He was the promised one, the Son of God.  Such as Mary, Martha, and Lazarus whom the Lord counted as dear friends.  There was also a time when Jesus encountered such a strong faith of one individual that Jesus Himself stood amazed.

This occasion took place in a town called Capernaum. One of the town’s residents was a centurion. (My Echo assistant told me that a centurion was a commander of one hundred soldiers in ancient Rome). One of the centurion’s servant was so ill that he was ready to die. According to Luke 7:2, the servant was “dear” to the centurion. I take that to mean the servant was more than hired help, but a friend as well. This to me speaks volumes of the kind of person this centurion was. I doubt that there were many commanders in ancient Rome, or in any other civilizations, who cared as deeply for their servant as this centurion did.

When the centurion heard that Jesus was in town, he sent the elders of the Jews to asked Jesus to come and heal his servant. The commander of one hundred must have heard about Jesus and given credence to what he heard. The Jewish elders did as the centurion asked because they thought so highly of the centurion. Again, this was another example of the centurion’s kindness towards those who were outside of his Roman circle.

When the Jewish elders found Jesus, they pleaded on behalf of the centurion to heal the servant. They spoke to Jesus of the centurion’s love for the Jewish nation and how the centurion had demonstrated that love by having built them a synagogue.

Jesus accompanied the elders to the centurion’s home where the servant lay dying. When Jesus was almost to the house, the centurion sent friends to greet the Lord with the below message:

“Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.
For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.” (Luke 6: 7-8)

The centurion did not consider himself worthy that Jesus should enter his house or worthy to come to Him. This man was truly one of a kind. A commander with a healthy instead of a fat ego.

Jesus was amazed! It is one of the few times in the Gospels where Jesus was such. According to the scripture, Jesus marveled at the centurion’s statement of belief in Him. This was a rare occurrence where Jesus was impressed by belief instead of unbelief. Jesus turned to those around him and said to them that He had not found such great faith, no, not in Israel.

The centurion’s friends returned to the house. What they saw may have marveled them. They found the servant who had been on his death bed to be completely well.

It’s one thing to pray and ask the Heavenly Father for something that’s in our hearts. It’s another to do so with a heap of faith instead of a tad of skepticism. Faith sufficient enough to leave that request in the Father’s hands and not give it a worry minutes, hours, days, etc. later until the answer comes. The answer may be what one had hoped for, but if it isn’t, it’s still okay. Why? Our Father knows best. No doubt about it!