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Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Harry Edenfield, a Christian author, offers a thought-provoking daily devotional for this season of Lent.

Today’s verse is from Genesis 19:16: “But Lot lingered. So the angels seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.”

Edenfield reflects, “Lord God, your servant Lot lingered in Sodom. Sometimes I love my chosen place too much. You urge me to leave my sin spot.

I linger.

I linger even if it may be injurious to my loved ones. Remember me: I, too, need an escort from the magnet of sin.

As we leave together, Holy Spirit, urge me to have no regret about the exit from sin. Urge me not to look back.”

Amen.

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It was torturous to have to choose between breathing and hearing.

Without thinking, she lifted her modest dress and, entranced, dropped to her knees to the dirt to more fully inhale the spellbinding aroma of the moonflowers about to bloom. As if on cue with the rising gibbous moon that evening, each flower opened its full face to the dusky sky, casting an hypnotic spell.

Holding her breath to harness silence, she saw and heard each giant flower unfurl. The feel of the rich, moist soil on her knees transported her back to her first garden at age six, carefully weeding around the brilliant zinnias which, when she stood, were taller than she. Those were the days of innocent wonder without the yoke of knowledge and responsibility.

Alternating between dimensions, she suddenly remembered she was here now to learn – not gardening, but the Bible. However, these evening lessons were conducted by the Master Gardener during optimal times of watering, fertilizing and harvesting, so along with absorbing chapter and verse, her thumbs grew greener. As much was learned in shared silence as it was in verbal instruction, as he cultivated, pruned, planted, nourished and admired.

This little child under the zinnias reeled forward twenty years as the audible moonflower blooms yielded to the chorus of crickets. Typical to her style, she had dilly-dallied around the evening’s lesson, leading and being led, asking questions she mostly knew the answers to but for which she sought validation, confirmation.

She saved the best question – the question she really hadn’t thought out or could answer herself (and the one she most wondered)- for very last, just prior to the moment of closure. She dared to ask, and, trusting him to know her heart fully, simply wanted to hear his own crafted answer. She was not testing or playing…everyone wonders, few ask. She had no shortage of nerve.

It was growing late; her teacher was tired, ill and uncomfortable, this once-giant reduced to common human affliction and longsuffering. Surveying his gardening handiwork, his light and untucked cotton shirt gently blew in the evening breeze, bringing stinging to the millions of thorns in his side, eliciting a muted wince. This was one of many afflictions both teacher and learner shared, along with many mutual blessings. They intimately knew each others’ unspoken pains and joys; they shared the same personality and style.

He could not utter of things which brought him pain nor things which brought him comfort, for few could grasp the depths of his being: most were concerned mainly with themselves or their busy-ness, his role in their attainments or advances, or with keeping him in his assigned place in their minds, clinging to status quo. How he longed to cry out! But like Mary keeping “these things” in her heart, much of his true lifeline to the Lord was unknown to most. Hoards assumed, few knew. Yet she knew well.

She did not see him as others saw him, nor did she wish to know him as such. So alike were they, she could not know him as others did, even if she tried. She shunned his limelight, for it eclipsed his soul. To her, he was simply himself and that is how she would ever know him. Life on a pedestal requires a dual persona – that which is seen and is meant to please others and egos, and that which is not, guarded closely at heart and containing the innermost intimacies of the soul…yet both shall be tested by fire.

Love does not fear the burn.

How she respected him for his steadfast faith despite persecution and frailties His will to persevere. His submission to repentance. His noble sense of duty to others. His softened flashes of temper and passion. His allegiance to the challenges and goals he set forth for himself, and the fine line he walked between control and delegation. His fearless protection of all he valued; his humble resolve. His unending quests which both killed and sustained him.

How he loved her spontaneous candor. Her appearance of simplicity peppered with surprising stories of life, like her finds in the Roman ruins in Europe or the blue ribbon she once snagged for her English horsemanship. Her simultaneous love of freedom and enslavement. Her will to poke holes in everything in earnest effort to get to the bottom of Truth, and to question. Her chutzpah to approach the very throne of God and peek her eyes open when others’ shut in fear. Her compulsion to show her true side to those who win her trust, and her ability to intermittently be “appropriate” or raw, taking those around her to the very edges of either side.

Like the contrast of a random expanse of calm, glassy water surrounded by light chop, they were alike in such contrasts in all these ways. A couple of unknown islands, they were.

The same breeze infused moonflower heaven into her being, and, knowing and despising the question would have to be the last one of the night, she quietly asked,

“So…what if Jesus and the Bible are a bunch of hogwash? I mean, what if nothing happens when we die, what if this or that sect is right – or they’re all wrong – and we, too, as Christians, are just plain wrong? What if??”

He paused from snipping dead blooms off the rose bushes and, throwing caution to his side-thorns, gave a hearty laugh and called her by his personal variation of her family-given nickname, his laughter trailing off into the dusk and punctuated with a vocal sigh coming from a tender smile. He shook his head in amusement. At the time she feared he judged her as foolish…later she understood it to be his appreciation for her pioneering spirit, which perfectly mirrored his. No wonder he counted her as daughter and would later entrust to her his records of the evolution of his spiritual walk.

He snipped a few more blooms and, calling her again by his pet name for her, stopped what he was doing, looked her square in the eye and this is what he said:

“Well, then, I guess we were all fooled. It sure makes for a good story, doesn’t it?! But even if it’s hooey, it sure didn’t hurt anything trying to do good..charity, service, love, even learning from our sins makes us better people and hopefully edifies others. At least I’ll die knowing that even though I’ve done a lot of wrong and have a lot of regrets, I’ve done a little good along the way, too. At the very least, believing in Jesus helped me to do better than I might have otherwise, had I not believed…and that makes for a pretty good life.”

She had another burning question, but it was beyond late and would have to painfully wait until God willed…

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Everyone was talking about it for weeks, with great anticipation. Nonetheless, the date somehow slipped her awareness when it crept up unexpectedly; she’d been caught up in the day-to-day busy-ness of her own little world and all it entailed. When it was far off, it was too far away on the calendar to take any details seriously. But when it was a day away, it came like a surprise. It was everyone else’s talking about it that jerked her into reality that it was time. Tomorrow. And it was then she realized she hadn’t been invited.

“So, what are your weekend plans?” one gingerly asked, poking around to see if she was going, too. Another commented about how much he and everybody else were looking forward to it, talking as if he assumed she, too, was invited.

But she wasn’t.

It seemed like everyone was except her.

How could that possibly happen? We were all supposed to be in this together. Everyone spoke the same language. Did the same things. Shared the same goals and values. She thought she had been close; close enough anyway, to these people. She had been under the impression that they had all been like-minded and that she had been one of them. The thought of quietly being omitted from the Big Event flooded her with a mix of melancholy, insult, shock, a tinge of bitterness and a ton of bewilderment. This rocked her world. She would have to look at herself in a way that would force her to reclassify her perception of herself, her perception of how others saw her, and her sense of value and worth.

Now worthless, she grappled with what it meant to be officially excluded. She had never really been in any inner circle of anything she’d ever encountered anyway – always an outsider. Always a sort-of. Ever the not-quite. She had even grown comfortable with outsider-ness. People had always been so gracious, and she always tried to be grateful and equally gracious, and then some. Leave everything a little better than you find it. But to be an outsider to an event in which inclusion was presumed to be a given, left her alone and despaired.

What went wrong, she wondered? She had done all the “right” things and she could not discern a difference between them getting to go, and her being left out. Sometimes she was a little lazy or careless, writing it off as human nature, and occasionally not having the energy or will to do right. Right was hard, sometimes. Forgiveness is plentiful. A little bad, yes. But good enough – she’d always assumed.

At the very last-minute, she was encouraged to go, but it was sort of an after-the-fact deal, since some of the original guests were unable to attend – other plans, they had. It was the sort of thing that you don’t want to be rude and decline even though you weren’t on the original guest list, and you’re appreciative of the chance, no doubt about that. But nevertheless, you will always know you weren’t part of the “real” group. You question whether the host is being tacky in recycling the invites, trying to fill seats, hoping not to let anything go to waste. Self-serving reasons. Or if the motives are truly genuine. And if they are genuine, why the second-hand invite?

Why always second? Why always outsider? Where’s my original invite?

She went anyway, wanting to be appropriate and sociable, yearning to be inside but not wanting to too much to look that way. It would be fun to see the festivities that everyone had talked up. The food would be exquisite, the décor breathtaking, and the outfits to die for.

Damn, the outfits! She didn’t have anything proper, nor did she have the means to get anything suitable. That was her dirty little secret, and maybe they knew that – maybe that was why she was always an outsider and they noticed but were too polite to say anything. But it showed, and there was no hiding it, yet she passed it off with flair and impressed people with her bold, self-assured style, making the best of what she’d been dealt. With this same style, she assembled an outfit that she thought would cut the mustard. She’d pulled this sort of thing off before, and had confidence that the host would not regret having invited her. She conquered the challenge with zeal. She’d be the life of the party, and she had such high hopes of having a fabulous time.

On her way in, it started out well enough – mutual compliments and well-wishing, saying and doing the right things, being the right way, and aspiring to be better. Somewhere along the way in the guest line, though, a stiff look dampened her moment. A bit down the line, a pleasantly disguised insult was imparted, the full impact of which wouldn’t register for days. A well-meaning sympathizer knowing full well she was a secondhand invite, delivered an ominous nonverbal gesture to direct her to get the absent-minded lipstick smudge off her teeth while engaging in a lively conversation. She could tell something was askew, but couldn’t put her finger on it. Had to be more than the smudge.

Suddenly the host appeared, and appeared a little stressed out. He forewent the introductions and welcomes, and got right down to business. She had not been wearing a proper wedding garment, was not a designer name he knew. This did not get past him, and she was immediately shown the door, ceremoniously tossed and skidding out the door. What garment she did have was rendered to rags as a result of the forceful ejection across the hard and abrasive bricks leading up to the grand establishment. The door slammed behind her and she could hear the loud music and talking and laughing going on behind the now-closed door, fading as she gathered herself up and, achingly, slinking away. Back to the rock she crawled out from under. Like good grief, she went through the shock, the anger, the bargaining, the denial. There was even a little egotistical justifying thrown in, rationalizing briefly that it was okay, bigger fish to fry anyhow. Nothing wrong with her, they could never understand life on the fringes, didn’t need ‘em anyway. All that stuff.

But no, there was no denying she had missed the boat on this one. What, was she sleeping? Had she been dreaming? Why hadn’t anyone stopped her and told her she wasn’t going to be invited? Or that there was a chance of getting bounced out after she was? Why had it seemed like everything was always fine, if it wasn’t? Why had everyone acted like everything was okay? Was this some kind of parallel universe? She quickly grew weary of trying to make sense of that which seemed senseless.

She didn’t know what to think, so she thought nothing. Not now, it was too painful. Just don’t think, she paradoxically thought. But it relentlessly haunted her and kept creeping back, and she helplessly thought anyway. She thought about all the fun the others were having, having with each other, celebrating and cutting up and having a big ‘ol time. And about her losing her chance, losing her sense of what was real, and losing her mind.

It was quiet now; she was farther away, lost and hungry. Dirty and ragged. She didn’t know where to go, so when the din of the party was well out of earshot and she had gone as far as she could, she found a tree with big, bulky roots, two of them forming a sort of cradle, and she fell in a crumpled heap between the roots, which supported her spent body and mind, both of which were at dead ends. The roots were hard, but welcoming.

She began to drift off to sleep, roused once by a breeze which carried a mocking sliver of the sound of the party ever so briefly – or was she imagining? And she tumbled down, down, down into a deep dream, more haunting, periodically jerking awake into the reality of her plight. There was no escape from reality or dream; both were equally tortuous to face, and there was no line between either.

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