Never Fear

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

God was speaking to Joshua who had been appointed as the leader of the Israelites after the death of Moses.  Joshua was at the threshold of a long journey.  Moses had the Red Sea to cross; Joshua had the Jordan River.  God intervened in both those crossings enabling His people to cross on dry ground.  If Joshua had gone by only what he could see with his own eyes, he might not have even led the Israelites across the Jordan.  He might have run back into the wilderness instead.

Joshua banked on God’s promise of his not walking alone across the Jordan and on to what would be one battle after another in the land beyond the Jordan.  It couldn’t have been easy for him at times.  Joshua was human and thus subject to Satan’s temptations to doubt God’s promise “with you wherever you go.”

The Jordan River was at flood stage.  The enemies beyond the River were strong in number  Their weapon arsenal impressive.  Based on sight alone, it was an uphill battle.  However, Joshua was going on faith instead of sight.  He sought God’s guidance and carried it out whether it made sense to him or not.  Such as the time Joshua had his people to march around an armed city surrounded by a wall for seven days.  This wasn’t your typical military strategy of conquering a city.  It worked though.  The walls of Jericho came tumbling down just as God promised.

We don’t have to be a military leader to relate to Joshua’s story.  One only has to be a member of the human race to know what battles are.  Life affords us many battles.  Sometimes it is a minor skirmish, sometimes a battle, and sometimes it feels like we are at war.

A battle can be sitting going nowhere in a hurry during rush hour traffic.  I used to have to deal with a 70-mile round trip of one and I confess I had plenty of days where I didn’t handle the battle well.  A battle can be profoundly more serious, though, such as the death of a loved one or coping on a daily basis with a lifelong illness for which there is no cure.

A daily battle of my own is living with my Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which I gave the nickname of Billy.  I am thankful to the Lord for Billy.  He can be a thorn but a blessing too.  It’s just some days I’m more thankful for Billy than others.

I don’t think the words spoken to Joshua long ago just apply to him.  Any of God’s children, including me, can bank on the promise Joshua was given.  I shouldn’t be afraid.  Why?  I couldn’t be in better hands than that of my Father in Heaven.

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Three Strikes But Not Out

I was working with a 1st-grade girl with her bucket of class work in an autism unit.  The child is verbal and quite the drama queen.  She didn’t have to tell me she could care less about the bucket and its contents.  In between her crying spells, we worked on addition and subtraction.  Any time she got a problem wrong and I informed her of that, her head would plop down on the table and she’d shed more tears.  Finally, she was solving problems right and left without her sobbing commercials.  After finishing, she was rewarded with jump time on the mini-trampoline,.

I wholeheartedly empathized with her.  Failure feels like a stab in the heart.  If someone else points out something I did wrong or failed to do, it is an uppercut to the heart since I am oversensitive to criticism.  I do admit, though, failure is an effective teacher if I will go along with its instruction.  After all, it was the answers I got wrong on a test I remembered most; not the ones I didn’t.

There’s a character in the Bible whose failures were exposed as well as his successes. He is perhaps the most well-known of the twelve disciples.  He was not only one of the twelve disciples, but also would later become the leader of the early church.  However, despite his amazing successes, he was not immune to failure.  His most famous failure was when he struck out three times in a short matter of time.  I would imagine it was the darkest moment in his life.

 Jesus warned His disciples before he was betrayed and arrested in Luke chapter 26, verse 31:  “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “ ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ Peter spoke up as he usually did.  He wasn’t one to sit quietly in a corner.  He replied empathetically that even if all fall away on account of Jesus, he NEVER would.  The word “never” is a dangerous word for us to use and should only be uttered with the utmost caution.  I’ve had to eat my words of what I said I’d NEVER do.  

Jesus knew Peter would not live up to his proclamation of never.   “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”  Peter wasn’t one to doubt the Lord’s word, but this time, the Lord was predicting what he, Peter, would do and it was inconceivable to Peter.  He declared to Jesus again, “Even if I have to die with you, I will NEVER disown you.”  
After Jesus was arrested and taken to the high priest, Peter followed at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to witness the outcome.  While sitting out in the courtyard, a servant girl came up to Peter and stated, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee”.  Peter stated he didn’t know what the girl was talking about. This was strike one.  
Peter went out to the gateway where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Peter denied it once again with an oath swearing he did not know the man.  This was the second strike.
Then, shortly thereafter, a group came up to Peter.  They stated, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”  Peter reacted even more strongly by calling down curses, swearing to those in earshot, “I don’t know the man!” This was the third strike.
I can’t imagine the pain that must have pierced Peter’s heart when he heard the sound of the rooster crowing after his third strike.  Just as Jesus predicted he would deny Him, the rooster crowed.  Three times Peter had denied knowing the Son of God.  He went outside and wept bitterly.  I would imagine he wept buckets of tears.  I don’t think there are words to describe the depth of Peter’s guilt.
Another disciple, Judas,  had earlier betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.  He gave Jesus a kiss which was the sign to the conspirators that this was the man they wanted.  A fault of Judas was greed; however, upon receiving the reward, he tossed all the pieces of shiny silver to the ground.  The silver had become an eyesore; it wasn’t as valuable to him as it was before he betrayed Jesus.  He must have felt some guilt because he didn’t take the silver and run.  Instead of learning a lesson from his failure, he took his life.  He chose to die instead of getting up after his fall.
One disciple betrayed Him; the other denied Him near the end of His time on earth.  Neither disciple could relive it or change what either had done.  Judas gave in to his failure and took his life.  Peter took a different option.  He got up the next day and the day after, etc.
Peter crossed paths with Jesus after Jesus arose from the grave.  He told Peter not once, not twice, but three times to feed the flock.  Jesus repeating it three times hurt Peter.  Peter responded by saying he loved Jesus instead of blaming someone else for his three strikes.
Jesus could have told Peter “three strikes, you’re out.”  He could have given up on Peter for denying him in His dark hours.  But instead, He showed forgiveness and mercy to Peter.  That’s a lesson in itself for us.  Jesus’s forgiveness of Peter’s denials is another example to us to do the same unto others.
Just a thought.  Perhaps Peter’s colossal failure helped him with humility.  Peter would go on to feed the flock; all of whom had their own history of failures.  Peter knew what it was to fail miserably, he knew the enormous pain of guilt, and he knew about being given another chance.
Failure is a fine teacher as well as having a humbling effect.  I can learn from both failure and success.  Failure is really only terminal when one falls down and doesn’t try to get back up and try again.  I’d rather take Peter’s route than the one Judas took.

Worry Offers Wrinkles, Lines, and no Solutions

In the Book of Matthew, 6:27 and Luke 12:25, Jesus asked which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to one’s span of life. I admit if my worrying could extend hours to my lifespan, my lifespan would be mighty stretched. Worrying is something I confess I do even though all it gives me is wrinkles, lines, and no solutions.

Worry is a sure sign I am failing in the “faith” department and accomplishing nothing. Someone named Van Wilder said that worrying is like a rocking chair. You can sit yourself down in that chair at sunrise and rock in that chair until the day is done. Come sundown, you’ll still be where you started. That’s as far a distance as worrying gets you too.

One of the hardships of living on the Autism Spectrum is anxiety. ( My own personal nickname for the Spectrum is “Billy”). Tony Attwood, a leading authority on Asperger Syndrome, sees those with highly-functioning Autism, or Asperger Syndrome, managing anxiety as a daily part of their lives. According to conservative estimates, 65% of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome suffer from anxiety and depression compared to 18% of the general population. I’m one of those in the 65% who takes medication for it.

A popular prayer that often comes to my mind is about accepting the things one can’t change, the courage to change the things one can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I can’t change having Billy around and the baggage that comes with him. He can be good to have around but sometimes, I wish I could divorce him. For instance, I can’t shoo away meltdowns. I can’t wish away anxiety pangs that have no rhyme or reason to them. Fortunately, since taking my medication, such pangs are fewer and sleep isn’t a challenge as it used to be. I can’t rewire my brain to turn into an extrovert and thrive on being around people rather than thriving on being alone. I can’t help it that I can’t process verbal instruction as fast as others. I can’t help it that a change in routine puts me in a tailspin. I can’t help it that I need to pace the floor and retreat to my fantasy world to cope with a world I don’t understand.

Prayer is always a good place to start with the coping process. That’s at the top of the list of tools to knock off worry. Take meltdowns, for instance. When one comes, I can do something about it such as finding an area of refuge, stim as much as I need to (pace, jog, rock, etc.), with a prayer on my lips. I can’t prevent their coming, but I can choose to prayerfully weather them through and not to worry about when the next one is coming.

In my better moments of thinking, I see Billy as a daily opportunity to live my faith. He is something I either can choose to worry about or not. Worrying won’t make Billy go away any more than not worrying will either. But I’ll have more peace of mind and more fun by not. Even better, I’ll be living my faith in the Lord which has the added advantage of having a closer walk with Him.

 

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.

 

 

 

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 Greatest Invitation

A party is not a bad thing if you like such things.  Not that I would know but I assume those who are the life of a party welcome party invitations unless it’s an invite with people that they if they had a choice, they’d see an orthodontist instead.  I don’t get many invitations and that doesn’t keep me up at night.  Coming up with a plausible excuse to get out of an invitation or dreading going to one does.  I have learned from observation that a simple “no” to a party invite with no excuse or a lame one is a social no-no.  Social interaction just doesn’t come easy for me and others on the autism spectrum.

One of Jesus’s parables was about an invitation to a great banquet.  You can read all about it in Luke 14:16-24.  The banquet was hosted by a certain man who I am speculating had a fair amount of wealth.  I assume that since the banquet was for many guests.  I have never hosted a party, but it just makes sense that the bigger the guest list, the bigger the price tag.

At the time of the banquet, the host sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  The servant went around giving the invitation and was turned down by invitees, one by one, who asked to be excused.  They all had their excuses and some of them were so lame that the servant might have scratched his head wondering why they couldn’t have come up with a better excuse.

Jesus gave three examples of those who asked to be excused from coming.  One said he had just bought a field and must go and see it.  Hm?  Who would buy a field before seeing it?  

Another claimed he had just bought five yoke of oxen and was on his way to try them out.  Hm?  Who would buy five oxen before trying them out?  That’s like me buying a car without a test drive.  

And a third said he had just got married and couldn’t come.  Hm?  He couldn’t bring his bride along?  Or, she laid down the law to him that his partying days were over?  

The servant came back and reported the bad news of repeated “please excuse me” responses.  The house owner was livid.  Now why all his invited guests did not want to attend a banquet given by the host isn’t told in the parable.  I gather that wasn’t the point Jesus was getting at in this parable.  The meaning of the parable wasn’t about how to get out of a party given by someone you’d rather not break bread with.

The owner of the house ordered his servant to go out into the town streets and alleys and bring in the poor, crippled, blind and the lame.  After the servant had completed the task, he reported to his master what had been done and that there was still room for more.  The master told his servant to go out to the roads and country lanes and invite the folks to come in so that his house would be full.  Instead of his banquet attended by those he had invited in the first place, it was full of strangers.  The master said he did not want one of those who asked to be excused to even get so much as a taste of his banquet feast.

Every parable was an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.  This one was no exception.  Jesus was like the banquet host in extending an invitation.  The Gospel was first given to the Jews.  Some believed but there were those Jews who did not.  Some of those unbelievers were Jewish priests, elders, and scribes among others.  On the other hand, there were believers who were the outcasts.  Like the Samaritan woman at the well, a short-in-stature chief tax collector named Zaccheus, and a woman who lived a sinful life whom Jesus allowed to anoint his feet with perfume.

Jesus gave His life to give the greatest invitation to all who will accept it.  The gift of salvation isn’t limited to a particular group of people.  My own personal favorite scripture of invitation is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  I’m so thankful for that “whosoever”.

I’m thankful, too, more than words can say, that Jesus’s invitation was one I did accept!

The Importance of One

One of the many amazing things I find of comfort about Jesus was his showing of compassion towards a multitude, a few, or even to just one lowly individual. It wasn’t based on whether one was a Jew or not, whether one had wealth or not, or whether one was well-known or a social outcast. Jesus, by example, taught us that everyone is somebody.

The above picture is that of a city called Nain in Galilee, not far from Capernaum. It is now a small village inhabited by Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

In one of Jesus’s travels, he visited this town along with his disciples and a large crowd who was following Him. (Luke 7:11-17) As he approached the town, he encounters a funeral procession. The dead person being carried out was the only son of his widowed mother. She must have had many who knew her and her son because there was a large number of the townsfolk with her.

The scripture tells us that when Jesus saw the widowed mother, His heart went out to her. He was so moved He spoke to her telling her not to cry.  This one widow did not seek Jesus’s attention. He was the one who made the first move towards her.

After Jesus told the mother not to cry, He went up and touched the bier. I can picture this compassionate scene in my mind. Imagine!  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the light of the world, taking time from his journey to speak to this one grieving mother and touch the coffin carrying her one and only child. The pall bearers stood still. Perhaps they sensed this was a special moment, one in which you could have heard a pin drop.

Jesus told the dead young man to get up. To the amazement of the witnesses, including the mother, the young man sat up and began to talk.  The townsfolk surely had some questions for this young man who is one of the few in the Bible who returned from the grave to walk upon this earth again. The scripture does not let us in on what the young man said. Jesus gave him back to his mother’s waiting arms.

The many who witnessed this miracle rejoiced with the mother who had her only child back for a while longer. The people acknowledged that a great prophet had appeared among them. He was unlike any other man they ever knew. They didn’t keep it a secret either. Word of what they had witnessed spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

I am drawn to this story by the compassion Jesus showed to this one distressed widow. This wasn’t a case where the person in need sought out Jesus. She did not run out to Jesus or cried out for Him to give her back her son. It was Christ who saw her and her tears mattered to Him. He sought to remove those tears and return the most precious thing in her life — her boy.

This story takes me back to another story told to me by a dear friend from years ago. She was the oldest child of her mother who was a widow. At some point after her father’s death, mother and daughter decided to visit where my friend’s father grew up. It was a trip from the U.S. to some Canadian town across the border. Since it was a long trip, a day at least, they were both concerned.  Before their loved one passed away, he was the one at the wheel on their Canadian trips.  Now they were on their own…or so they thought.

As they were headed north to the border, they both smelled cigar smoke and neither of them smoked. The windows were all rolled up and so the smell did not come from the outside. It was a familiar scent to them both.  The widow’s husband and my friend’s father was big on cigars and the smell was his favorite brand.

My friend can’t prove that there wasn’t a logical reason for the smell in their rolled-up car. Some might say they were imagining it. If so, they both imagined it at the same time. My friend and I agreed that it isn’t necessary to try to figure it out. The effect is what’s important. According to her, their trip was smooth-sailing from then on. The widow and her daughter took it as a sign from the other side of Heaven that they were not alone. The man they loved wasn’t completely lost to them. They’d see him again, but until then, he was okay and so were they.

The Lord does work in mysterious ways. He is still in the business of miracles for one or a multitude. Both these stories give me hope and comfort that I’m somebody to the Lord too. As someone once said, it isn’t that God is so far away that’s incredible, it’s that He is so NEAR!