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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Holiness

Holiness is something that has always been slightly more difficult for me than for other people.  Or, at least that's my perception.  Yet, when I try to be "holy" I always feel somewhat at a disadvantage to the people around me.

It's not just the church people - I have a lot of friends and aquaintances who seem to just be good people.  And there I am, cursing at the traffic or being critical of <everything> and wondering why I can't seem to get a real handle on things.

So when Pastor Les preached about holiness this past Sunday, I was surprisingly surprised. 

Being 51 and a church brat, I have probably heard it all, or so I thought.

Here's a link to the sermon if you get a chance to listen to it:

https://ia801002.us.archive.org/35/items/02GodsPlanForAHolyYou/02%20God'sPlanForAHolyYou.mp3

One thing that hit me was his statement about people who know they're saved, who love and trust the Lord, but they can't seem to climb up to the next level of spirituality.  He said it's about holiness. And I cringed.

Because I know all the right words.  And the right things to do.  And I know that Jesus is my Savior and I'm off to heaven when I'm done here.  I know all these things.  But then life comes, circumstances veer off into the oncoming traffic, and I sit and wonder why I can't be like everyone else.

To which you say, everyone else has their stuff too. 

In any case, we're beginning a study in the Epistles of John on Sunday nights, and I'm kind of excited, because that's one set of books I haven't really delved into much.  And the first thing that 1John says is, "I have seen it, I have heard it, I have experienced it." 

I know "Try not, do or do not." But still I try.  My prayers this week, along with kids and grandkids and extended family and David and how to pay the rent, are more like looking for victories, no matter how small. 

I woke up on time; I have a job to go to and a bus pass to take me there; I got to spend some time with my younger granddaughter yesterday; I got to talk to David today.  All things which help me remember that God is with me and I can be more of a glass-half-full kind of girl. 

Step by step, I'm trying holiness.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The New Testament - John 16-19

The New Testament - John 16-19

Did you know the Gospel of John has more chapters about the Passion Week than any other Gospel?  I think John wanted to give everyone as much of Jesus' teaching as possible, and my oh my! wasn't that last week chock full of God's love for us!

He was also saying goodbye to His disciples.  They were a motley crew, to be sure, but they had been His constant companions for the better part of three years.  Jesus was a human being after all, with all the emotions, distractions, temptations and frustrations that I have.  This is why John's Gospel is directed to all people - every single one of us has all of this inside us, and Jesus understands, sympathizes, empathizes.  He felt everything we feel, and he hasn't forgotten it since then. He's eternal, He always was and always is and always will be.  So no, God hasn't forgotten you, nor what it feels like to be lonely, angry, sad, happy, hungry, tired - you name it, He knows exactly what you're going through every moment.

John, at this point, is narrating pretty much everything Jesus taught throughout His ministry.  When the Holy Spirit gave John the words, it didn't really matter whether he heard them at the Last Supper or the Cross or the Tomb.  The words were the truth - The Word is Truth - and Jesus is The Word.

Chapter 17 is one long prayer to the Father for mercy - the strength to carry out what had to be done, and the love to remember who He was doing it for; basically everyone.  Jesus' heart was crying out for mercy from the Lord.  John 17 is a Master Class in prayer for anyone who has trouble with it.

Changing the subject abruptly . . . I really feel for Pilate.  He's been sent out to the backwaters of the empire, relegated to arbitrating the endless petty squabbles of a people who believed themselves to be God's chosen ones.  He doesn't want to get involved with this one - it's a religious matter, and Pilate's not about to stir them up even further.  

Too late he realizes that these stiff-necked people are noisy, disruptive, arrogant and just plain rioting in the streets.  "I have tested this man, I see no wrong-doing."  Scripture says he was afraid.  I believe Pilate was afraid for his own soul at this point, not just politically scared of being punished by Rome.  


"What I have written I have written."

That statement tells quite a story, at least to me.

Five Weeks Later:

I apologize to anyone who has been reading this blog.  It's been an eventful summer, during which I was settling into a new apartment, watched my granddaughters for a week while my son and daughter-in-law went on a cruise, organized and executed a Church Choir Retreat, helped at VBS and other numerous things.  This past week, I've been sorting through several bags and boxes of quilting supplies one of my dear older ladies at church gave me; and my oldest daughter is on a volunteer medical/dental trip to Honduras.  I'm a little distracted.

Suffice to say, I've been putting off finishing even this post.  I have been reading my Bible in the mornings, tho - not every morning, I must confess, but doing my best to be diligent.  I will update more about what I'm reading another time - I wanted to let everyone know that I haven't given up, and I know the Lord hasn't given up on me.  Much loves.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The New Testament in 90 Days - A successful failure - July 29, 2013

Yeah, so.

I started this adventure with so much enthusiasm.  Unfortunately, it's me - attention-deficit, highly sensitive, possibly high-functioning Asbergers - and even at age 51 I'm still learning how to make things happen that other people seem to accomplish so very easily.  Like a daily Bible study.

I even had a piece of paper printed out with all 90 days of readings - can't go wrong with that!  I love lists, lists make things happen and re-focus me.  Usually.

Given the fact that I was diligent with Matthew, skimmed over Mark and glanced at Luke . . . I started the Gospel of John this morning.  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God."

I memorized the first 5 verses of Chapter 1 when I was a kid (in King James, of course), and I've never forgotten the words about the Word.  It's my favorite passage in the Bible, I think.  Even "The Lord is my shepherd" doesn't do it for me, although it's a lovely and relevant Psalm for most of my life's circumstances.  And the Lord's Prayer is lovely, concise and applicable, but since becoming half-Catholic/half-Protestant, it sometimes confuses me whether there are those extra words at the end or not.

But John 1:1-5 speak to me of a real God, someone who is absolutely perfect and God the Son, Jesus, who lived and died and rose again just for me.  Well, for all of us, but this is personal.  Isn't that great tho?  That everyone can make the Gospel a very personal thing?  

I stand in awe that the actual Word of God, the creator of the universe who dwelt in our midst - that this same Lord knows me personally and loves me unconditionally.

I'm not always on target in my life.  I lose focus so easily, get angry very quickly and lose sight of the big picture most of the time.  Everything that happens to me seems to be personal and under the word "paranoid" in the dictionary is my picture.  They really ARE all out to get me. 

Not really, but some days my mouth gets me into incredible trouble and I wonder if everyone around me is hearing to all the crap that comes flowing out and judging me.  I think I'm the only church choir director who lets out the (more than) occasional F-bomb.  Don't tell my choir members, some of them are really old ladies!

I don't like not being in control, but that's what seems to be the way my life goes most of the time.  Even when I make serious plans, everything else crowds in around me.  I ask for help, God gives it to me, then I'm distracted by that shiny thing over there and I forget that I'm supposed to be letting God help me.

But the God of the Universe - the Living Word - the God who is More than Enough - He loves me.  He will never leave me.  He is good to me, no matter how everyone else is treating me - He is NOT out to get me.

I love the Gospel of John.  Of all the Gospels, this one is the one that speaks so deeply to my heart.  Maybe because it was written by Jesus' closest friend on earth, the man He trusted the care of His mother to when He left.  John was not a perfect man - he got into trouble just like Peter, wanted Jesus to give him a seat at His right hand, was frightened when they took Jesus away, hid in the upper room until Pentecost - all of this is John, the one they call Beloved.

I am such a rotten Christian some days.  I run and hide.  I talk before I think.  I can curse like a sailor given half the chance.  I judge others on sight and rarely take the time to reflect on my own foibles.  But God loves me.  He will never leave me.  He cries and laughs and picks me up when I fall.  I am glad.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The New Testament in 90 Days - Somewhere in July

Some days I hate that I'm growing older.  Usually I'm fairly happy being over 50 and being called Grandma and knowing more about rock music than most kids these days.  And I can sing the Yogi Bear theme song word-for-word.

But today I'm dozing at my desk, trying to get my work done, after a long weekend filled with the State Fair and my granddaughter's birthday party and cooking for the week and on and on.  On days like this, middle age sucks.

So you can imagine how much I really wanted to get out of bed this morning.  Because I have been keeping up with my quiet time.  It's not so much a requirement to the start of my day as it is a blessing I'm totally missing out on if I miss a morning.  

Ninety days is entirely too short to read the entire New Testament, not if you're going to get anything really out of it.  So it's more like The New Testament in my own time, with some days not happening, and some days only one chapter instead of three; but with it sinking in just a bit more.

The Book of Luke presents Jesus the Man to the Greeks.  Luke was a Greek physician, a Gentile, and someone who liked to put things down in order so they made sense.  Luke also wrote the Book of Acts, and both of these chronicle the life of Jesus and events in the Early Church in relation to the era of history that surrounded them.

He gives a lot of facts and figures, being the rational Greek he was, and makes sure names of places and people are accurate.  Luke also makes sure that Jesus and the Apostles are seen as rational, intelligent people who also accepted the miraculous in their midst and remained faithful to God.  I like that.  I'm an intelligent, if somewhat attention deficit person who likes patterns and habits and routine and explanations.  However, I do accept that God made me in His image and that, being God, can make anything and everything happen in my life, sometimes without explanation.  

I just finished up the book of Luke today.  It's the same story as Matthew and Mark, just with a different twist to it.  Like Robert Heinlein writing Pride and Prejudice.  Same story, same characters, even the same setting possibly, but an entirely different view of things.  Maybe Mr. Darcy is a Roman and Elizabeth is a Jewish girl but they both find Jesus in common.  

Hmm, I may have to write this story sometime . . . 

Meanwhile, I haven't given up on my quiet time.  And God hasn't given up on me, not by a long shot.  It's just that blogging about it has gone by the wayside the past couple of weeks.  I'll be starting the book of John tomorrow, one of my favorites, and I think I might have a bit more to say . . .

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The New Testament in 90 Days - Week 2.5

July 9
Mark chapters 1-12

Yeah yeah, I know.  I really REALLY wanted to keep up with this.  Not that I haven't been reading - I've been getting up faithfully at 4:30am and reading my Bible before I even shower or eat breakfast.

But the heat has only slightly subsided, and my laptop decided to trick me into believing the hard drive had crashed.  I hooked up the desktop, ancient workhorse that it is (it even has an ancient monitor, weighs about 25lbs) and then the network card in that crashed.

Excuses, excuses.

Mark has been less interesting to me than Matthew was.  I understand that the Gospels are all telling the same stories, but so soon after reading all of Matthew, it's hard not to skim through Mark.

Mark, however, presents Jesus as a servant, and really, it's Peter's narrative that Mark wrote down.  Perhaps that's why there's not so many references to Peter's big mouth, probably because he was a little embarrassed.

And it doesn't start with the Nativity story.  It starts when John is prophesying and baptising, which is also around the time Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John off their boats.

It seems to me that Peter is telling his own story, trying not to be self-serving and yet accurate at the same time.

The thing I really love about Mark, though, is the presentation of Jesus as a servant.  In Matthew we heard all about the Kingdom and the King. but Mark tells of a man, who despite being the God of the Universe, was also perfectly humble and willing to go to great lengths for the people who surrounded Him.

In the context of service, Mark tells us that Jesus was continually hounded by the public, by the religious leaders, even by His own disciples.  And He never said no, not really.  God's perfect love, living as Jesus, opened His earthly heart to encompass everyone around Him.  Everyone.

The rich man who didn't want to leave his possessions to gain the kingdom.  The woman with a flux who believed that even a touch of Jesus' garment would heal her.  The children who flocked around Him and even sat in His lap while He spoke to the crowds.  The Pharisees who were trying their best to entrap Him - yes, He loved them, but He didn't put up with their nonsense.  And of course, His disciples, especially the twelve very ordinary men whom He had called.

Sometimes I feel like all of the above.  I'm trying to talk myself into turning off the cable tv.  "But Lord, I need a place to rest my brain!"  "Come to me all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest" (paraphrase)

"I need a miracle Lord, I am growing older and less able to do all the things I used to.  Please, can't you just take 20 lbs away, it'll do my back and knees so much good!"  Don't wait for Jesus to come to me, just get on with what needs to be done, which is to touch Him as best as I can.  He'll do the rest.

"Lord, you know the worship music at church does nothing for me at all - it makes me want to do exactly the opposite sometimes!  It's just not spiritual enough for me."  Love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul, Dorinda.  Don't wait to be led, just worship.

"God, I don't understand.  You keep telling me you'll take care of all my needs, but my phone bill is out of this world, and the air-conditioning in the car doesn't work and I can't get to Ireland to be with David, nor he here with me.  Why?"  Because you aren't seeing the big picture, Dorinda.  I AM.  Worry about being with Me every minute of every day, and you and David will be together when the time is right.

That last one is the hardest, I think.  As I've said before, I'm fairly well-versed (pardon the pun) in Biblical knowledge, but the actual application stymies me most days.  "Lord have Mercy on me, a wretched thing whom you love unconditionally and lift up constantly."

Mark is full of Jesus being a servant, loving the people around Him, working to make their lives work, immediately as well as after the Resurrection and all the way down to me.  I only hope that I can reflect that to all the people around me too, at least a little bit.

The New Testament in 90 Days - Days 9-10-11

July 7
Matthew chapters 25-28 and Mark chapter 1

It has been very hard for me the past few days - I hurt my right shoulder and after taking two Vicodin yesterday morning, my body is still dopey - I've probably slept 25 of the last 30 hours.  Besides the fact that Thursday was the 4th of July and I was throwing toddlers around in the pool and helping tired moms by occupying their kids with crafts.

The upshot of which, I had my quiet time every day, but couldn't get going to blog about what I'd read until today.  I'm still falling asleep sitting up and my shoulder is better (thank God for a daughter who is a brilliant massage therapist!) but I figured I'd better get on the stick and write an update before I just got too unmotivated.

Wise and foolish maidens.  To be chosen as a bridesmaid by the bridegroom was quite an honor      To me it's a symbol how the groom honors the bride by accepting her friends.  But 10?  geez, herding 10 girls around is like herding cats!  And this is no exception.  Five of them are ready to go, planning carefully,waiting to be fetched for the special ceremony.  Five are "jjust happy to be here!" and forget that they have a job to do. And all of them fall asleep at one point.

I'd love to say I was one of the first maids, the planner, the get-up-and-go kind of girl - I'd love to say that.  The good news it, it's not too late for me - God hasn't called me home and I am doing my best to stay awake. The foolish maids look and see what's going on, even get involved in stuff at church - but their hearts run out of fuel and when the Bridegroom comes, they won't have any excuses.

"I'm frightened for our children,
That the live that we are living is in vain,
and the sunshine we've been waiting for
Will turn to rain."  The Moody Blues, Story in Your Eyes

That's the general consensus of the last half of chapter 25 - that no matter what we call ourselves, if our actions do not reflect our hearts, then we're cast off.It speaks to all of us who cry "Lord, Lord" but especially to me as a mom and grandma.  I was far from the perfect parent, but I'm doing my best now to be the Godly woman He's made me.  I hope that I reflect Jesus to all the children in my life.

A waste of money.  A woman who honored Jesus as God by offering an anointment of expensive perfume was ridiculed as wasting her money.  But the Pharisees were willing to pay Judas probably just about the same amount of money to betray Jesus in the garden.  Tell me, which money was wasted?

Jesus is human.  Jesus is God.  He knew what had to be done, but he was frightened.  It wsn't just the ignominious death of crucifixion, it was the fact that all our sin was placed on Him.  Men have been crucified - it just ends their life.  Jesus took the weight and guilt and complete evil that ws our sin onto Himself and sacrificed His lefe, burned it up, killed it off.  All of us.  From the beginning of time.You, me, the bum on the street, the man in the White House.

And that was His choice.  He asked the Father if there was some way to forego the pain ans suffering, but knew there wasn't ans so allowed Himself to be taken and executed..  How can we not honor that?

Peter the Blowhard.  "No, no, I will never forsake you, Lord!"  Oh Peter, I feel for you babe.  I've spent my life saying and doing the wrong things and then weeping afterwards because I know I've saddened God.  But He is a God of mercy, a God of forgiveness.  Like the little kitten who bites and scratches, then comes to you purring because they want a cuddle - that's Peter and me.  God takes us back, after He's swatted our noses, of course, and gives us food and water and a clean box and all the love we'll accept.

"You said it, Guv."  Pilate - a man stuck between a rock and a hard place (or between the natives and his wife).  He is trying to make everyone happy, and in the end, he fails.  Maybe not on that day, but yes, in the end.

Jesus is stripped, whipped and mocked.  but that is nothing compared to what He goes through on the Cross.  And the Jews still antagonize Him.  Knuckleheads, pour gasoline on the flame of their black hearts.

God forsaken.  That was the ultimate moment, right there, when God the Father turned His back on Jesus the Son.  It was only for a moment, at least to us, but in a place where there is no passage of time, where God is eternal, alway now, always then always there ahead - that is the agony of it.  But that was the necessity of it as well.  How could Jesus die for my sins 2000 years ago?  Because He was there then and He's here now where I am.  No time limits, just an eternal love that stretches to all of us..  Wow.

Three days, no word.  That, too, must have been agonizing for the disciples, the men and women who loved Jesus and believed in Him.  Silly people.  Like me, they quickly forgot what He had promised - "I will be back in three days."  "I will meet your every need, Dorinda.  I will not take care of you, as long as you believe."

And there He was.

I will blog about Mark starting tomorrow - I read him today, I'll have insight tomorrow.  God does truly love me and take care of me.  He is the King.

The New Testament in 90 Days - Day 8

July 3
Matthew chapters 22-24

I read my Bible this morning, really I did!  But day four of the Massive Migraine has pretty much flattened me physically and mentally.  And all the beginning-of-the-month things keep insinuating themselves into every conversation with the Lord I try to have.

The King and His stubborn, stiff-necked people.  At the beginning of this blog, I stated that Matthew was writing to the Jews, presenting Christ as the King.  The whole book has been about the Kingdom and the King.  He has told a variation of this story many times, and the Pharisees just get angrier and angrier.  Their position is being threatened, and by an itinerant peasant!

Finally, after all the baiting, they give up.  Verse 46 says it all: "And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions." ESV  But they didn't stop plotting.

And then Jesus gets really personal.  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!"  He says this four times in Chapter 23!  He calls them serpents and vipers, blind men, dirty dishes, decomposed bodies in a grave.  A complete indictment of their religious "lifestyle:"

But Jesus is God, and God is perfect in His compassion.  He doesn't leave it at "I told you so."  He tells them to come back, come into His arms, be safe.  He is saying that to all of us - the perpetual worriers like me, the hissy kittens who back away because they're frightened, and the completely desolate who don't believe in hope.  Thank you Lord, for your mercy.

The last chapter is one of prophecy.  This is what will happen before I come back.  But guess what?  You can't guess when, because even I don't know!  Only the Father knows the date and time, so if you hear someone predicting the end of the world, you'll be happy to know that it definitely won't happen on the day they pick.

But Jesus is also telling us to be prepared.  We can look Christian, act Christian, talk Christian all we want, but it's our hearts that need to be ready to do His Will at any moment.  Be prepared, don't misuse the gifts God gives you, and really? Just believe.

I'm sorry again that this is short - God has blessed me with this headache for some reason, so since I already took all my aspirin, I'm going to take the rest of the day and try better to ponder.

The New Testament in 90 Days - Day 7

July 2
Matthew chapters 19-21

It was especially difficult for me to get up this morning, since I have been suffering from a migraine since yesterday.  I don't know if it's the heat or my eyes or what exactly, but I'm miserable.  Even the kitten is annoying.

But David made sure I got out of bed this morning and I made the train on time and got to work when I was supposed to.  But, I didn't read today's scriptures until just now, after I finished all the work on my desk.  I'd love to tell you that this gave me a particular insight, but I'm afraid today is a wall to bang my head against.

I did and will do again.  Jesus is once again put to the test by the Pharisees, who are too stupid to give up.  He has many things to say about marriage and divorce that I'm not going to get into here - I left my husband after several years of his neglecting the family, and he is actually the one who filed for divorce.  Now I'm marrying a man who is divorced from one woman and the widower of another.  Yet God still loves me, still takes care of me, still uses me.  I'm not going to argue.

No good deed. . . Jesus again has to explain something that should be very simple but isn't because we always want to know if it really applies to us, or just everyone else.  The upshot of which is, if you're not prepared to live a life of obedience, then that's the real loss.

The Master of the House.  Here are two descriptions of a perfectly just and righteous God.  Don't ignore them.

At the airport here, I work in Facilities.  Which means I have, and have had, access to the contract process by which we deal with vendors.  Personally, I think it's a vague, non-specific process, with too many generalizations.  To me, a contract is about this is what you will do for me and this is what I'll pay for it to be done completely and done right.  Simple, what?  Yet human nature still says "Let's do as little as we can get away with and then ask for more money."

I don't write the contracts, but if I did, the vendors would hate me.

So it is with the Master of the house.  He told us exactly what He wanted and how it was to happen, starting in Genesis and going from there.  The early workers were the Jews, the Chosen People.  But later there were others - Rahab in Jericho; Ruth who married Rahab's grandson; Namaan the leper,  and on and on.  People who chose to become a part of God's plan.

And then there's us, at the eleventh hour (which, by the way, is where the saying comes from).  Guess what?  God's contract never changed from the beginning.  This is what we get for being a Child of God, no matter if you started early or just got here.  And it's His choice to do this.  Thank you Lord, for loving me like that.

Absentee Landlord.  This is quite the story, and one we should keep in mind, especially when we are tasked with ministry.  But it applies to every Christian, no matter how "involved" they are in the Body.  And it was specifically directed at the Pharisees, who were all about tradition instead of all about God.

The servants the Master sent were, historically, the prophets of Israel.  The Jews, being a "stubborn and stiff-necked people," basically ignored and then harassed the prophets when they came, so much so that God quit sending them for 400 years before John the Baptist came to proclaim Jesus.

And the Son is Jesus, who they killed.

A righteous and just God will forgive us our sins, but He will also punish the people who utterly reject Him.  Lucifer, in all his light, desired to be the Master, and look where it got him. And we're not even as powerful as an angel.

Humility.  Jesus knew what was coming.  It's seem such a short time in Matthew, but it was actually 3-ish years between John the Baptist and the Cross.  And Jesus was going willingly to do what God has promised, even to death.  The rest is the Palm Sunday story, but what a story!  A triumphal entry into the capital city of the Jews, the anger and authority to cleanse the temple of the shysters, the depth of His compassion as he heals two blind men along the way.

Even the small children were proclaiming Him.  Can't argue with a child, they're stubborn little things.

The Pharisees one last gasp.  "By whose authority do you do and speak these things?"  Umm, if you haven't sorted out all the clues by now, then why should I tell you?  Healing, miracles, teaching with authority - who do you think gave Jesus this?  Give it up boys, you won't win, although you think you will.

The crowds believed.  And it scared the religious rulers.  Because if people actually did what Jesus was preaching, they'd be out of a job right quick.  Little did they know that just when they think they've won, along comes the most important event in human history - the Resurrection.

And honestly at this point, I'm not sure I can wrap this up succinctly.  I'm anxious to read tomorrow's passages, even though I know the story so well.  This is the beauty of the Word, that is becomes new in our hearts every time we dig into it.

The New Testament in 90 Days - Day 6

July 1
Matthew chapters 16-18

All apologies for not getting this out first thing this morning.  We are in the middle of several days of triple-digit weather here (upper 30's-mid 40's) and it is just debilitating.  Especially when the air-conditioning in the car isn't working!  So I got up as usual to read my Bible, but I just couldn't put my thinking cap on to write anything.

I'm sitting at work now, it's the beginning of the pay period and the first week of the new fiscal year - there's not a whole lot to do.  So I'm pulling up today's reading and writing a bit, now my brain has awakened.

Pop Quiz.  The religious leaders were testing Jesus again, trying their hardest to trip Him up.  The asked for a sign, and Jesus told them they'd already had enough signs, enough prophets, enough clues, to understand why He was there.  They backed off for the moment.

Non-sequitur.  The disciples were poor planners.  No food for the crowds, no bread in the boat.  So they go to Jesus and tell him they have no bread.  "Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

Y'wha?  Jesus loves us all, but sometimes I think he just wants us to put our brains to use.  They were talking about physical, earthly things, and He was speaking of spiritual pureness.  Leaven is yeast, it's what makes bread rise.  But sometimes you need unleavened bread.  Like when God tells you to drop everything and obey.

You'd think they might have gotten it, since when He called them, they did just that.  But the transition from "I'm hungry" to "Beware the sin that can permeate your heart" was just a bit too much for them.

Jesus God, perfectly patient and righteously loving, explains it to them.  Had they already forgotten the miracles of feeding thousands of people, and yet here they were still worried about not having breakfast?  Your attention needs to be focused on Him, otherwise all you'll think about is food.  Or tv.  Or the job.  Or ministry. Chew on that last one, see how it tastes.

Son of God, the Living Christ.  Jesus had showed them over and over, through His miraculous acts and with authority over the Scripture, that He was the Messiah.  At last Peter and the others rub two brain cells together and speak their faith.  And He commends them for it, especially Peter (who is always the loudest know-it-all in the crowd).

And then . . . Peter loses the plot.  "I'm on my way to Jerusalem, I have to finish what I started in order to fulfill Scripture."  Hot-headed, mouthy, argumentative, arrogant Peter - hey, I resemble those remarks! :)  "We'll never let that happen!"  He thinks He can change God's mind or reverse what the prophets all said.  Typical blowhard.

Jesus finally has had enough, and is so frustrated that He lashes back out at the devil - not Peter, although Peter gets his eyebrows blown off in the process.  It happens like that sometimes, I know.  I'm happily chugging along, planning God's plan for me, and all of a sudden, it occurs to be that I'm not quite getting the point of His grace.  I regrow my eyebrows constantly.

There is nothing in this world more important than your soul.  Don't lose it.  'Nuff said.

Holy Moses, it's Moses!  And Elijah. And God Himself, in the form of Jesus and also the thunder.  And here goes Peter's mouth again.  "We'll build tributes here to the three of them!"  God then administers a heavenly MiB eye exam - flash!  There is nothing more important at this moment than Jesus as God.  So get up off your faces, dust yourself off and let's get on with it.  But keep it to yourselves for now, it will be revealed to the world soon.

And another thing . . . . John the Baptist had been dead for a good while, but Jesus does not make light of John's ministry.  They thought they were going to see Elijah before they saw the Messiah - well duh!  What do you think John represented?  It seems the closer they got to Jesus' death and resurrection, the dumber the disciples got.

Mental health issues.  When I was younger, I was convinced that all crazy people weren't crazy, they were demon-possessed.  Then I grew up and became a crazy person.  I understand now that there is a distinct difference between demon-possession and mental illness.  But they definitely look the same in some circumstances.  The thing is, if our hearts aren't fully immersed in the Word of God, completely surrendered to the Lord Almighty, then ANYTHING can creep in and make itself at home in there.  It's our choice.  Control your heart with prayer, scripture and God's grace (and for some of us, with medication - God created doctors after all).  Then the illness or the demon has little chance of finding a niche and making your life hell.

For me, the choice is every day.  And God is a Mighty Healer.  I just have to choose to believe.

Render Unto Caesar.  Peter, and boy does he get it wrong a lot in just these few chapters, is worried that someone's going to throw his arse in jail because he hasn't paid taxes.  Oh yeah, and Jesus too.  Jesus does what he does to the rest of us - he tells us to go to work and earn the tax money.  "Go fishing, you fisherman!"  Sure enough, God provides.  Trust and Obey, that's the ticket.

I'm not sure what to write about chapter 18.  It's incredibly simple and incredibly dense at the same time.  Child-like, not childish.  But more importantly, how you treat others is a clear indication of your heart.  If you aren't treating the children, physical or spiritual babes, the way you're supposed to, then figure out which part of you needs a drastic change.  And change it.  Or get rid of it.

If I pop open a beer at home in front of the cat, I'm only batting him away because he wants to know what I'm doing and maybe wants a drink.

If I pop open a beer in front of one of the people at our church's recovery group, I'm causing him to stumble, because all he sees is "It's okay for Christians to drink" and he thinks he can do it until he's falling down again.

Or I just don't pop open a beer at all.  Cut it off.

Jesus speaks specifically to believers. This bit is practical instructions about dealing with a spiritual brother who has hurt you, or is sinning in a big way against you.  It's personal, it's not a church-wide shunning, it's between him and you.  Unless he laughs in your face, then you grab a couple of peers and confront him again.  If he still doesn't repent, then it does become a church matter, because we as Christians cannot effectively serve with this kind of resentment in our hearts.

But then Jesus says something out of the blue.  Peter again, of course.  Forgiveness?  Jesus wasn't talking about forgiveness in the previous passage actually, but that's the truth of it, and Peter's question brings it out.  Just as the brother cannot minister in resentment, so we must forgive him and stay away from the same resentment.  That doesn't mean he gets away with it, it doesn't mean you can't be angry, it just means you need to forgive him.

Besides, it's too much work to keep all that stuff boiling and roiling in your heart.  God graciously forgave us our sins through Jesus and the Cross, how can we be anything less than forgiving to others?

In other words. Get over it and start serving the Lord.

The New Testament in 90 Days - Day 5

June 30
Matthew chapters 13-15

Today is my dad's birthday.  He would have been 95 this year.  He died in 2007 from cancer, but he had lived a long, full life.  But on his birthday, I'm always a little melancholy. I know he would be proud of me being the choir director, because whenever the Pastor talked about replacing someone in music ministry, my dad would always tell him "My daughter can do all that."  I got that straight from  Pastor Les.  It is encouraging for me to remember this as I remember my dad.

And my body clock again waked me at 4:30-ish.  I have to get up around now to get ready for work (I leave the house by 6am to commute quite a ways on public transit), but it's Sunday!  I don't have to be at work (church) until 9:30!  And I can drive!  Oh well, the cat was licking me in the face as well, so he knew it was wakey-wakey time.

So I got up.  It's getting easier to get up to do this quiet time, but not so easy to read and ponder.  Matthew is so rich, and three chapters a day is like "wow!"  I wish I could write my thoughts down completely, but I ask the Lord to guide me, help me to understand and write the words He gives me.

In other words, these are not necessarily going to be full summaries.  Perhaps that's an incentive to dig into the Word yourself, see what I maybe missed.

Parables about the Kingdom.  Great crowds were following Jesus.  But they were there for the miracles, the healings, the Show.  Jesus didn't mind that, though.  He got their attention and then hit them with the Word.  These stories, parables, were to delineate between God's kingdom and, well, everyone else.  God, being perfect, He definitely had the authority to tell us what wasn't going to cut it.  Seeds that were sown, weeds that looked the same but in the end were gathered and burned - we're all here on earth together, and we're all given the opportunity to hear the Gospel, but depending on how receptive our hearts are, it grows or it doesn't.

He also admonishes us to do anything to preach the Gospel.  Give up our goals to be rich and famous with the things we have - then there's room in our hearts for the treasure that He has for us.  And then spread the good news, so everyone, every bit of ourselves inside and out, is permeated with the Lord.

Wise words - just gotta keep the weeds and worldly cares from choking me.

Grief.  The unthinkable has happened - Jesus' cousin and the greatest of the prophets, John the Baptist, has been executed by Herod.  The story of how it happened is a minor footnote - don't make promises you aren't happy keep.  Herod dies a gruesome death later on, but who really cares?  He had his chance and blew it.

Jesus grieves.  He honestly needs, as a human being, to take some time to himself and be sad.  Sadness isn't a sin - worry is sinful, anger can be very sinful.  But sadness is natural and right.  Scripture tells us in other places that God was saddened by the behavior of His people.  It was okay for Jesus to want to draw away for a bit.

But the crowds wanted The Show.  The followed him, begged him to heal them, teach them, anything to be a part of the spectacle.  They even forgot to eat.

God, who takes care of our every need, wants them to be physically satisfied as well as spiritually blessed.  He tells the disciples to send them home to eat, but they are in the middle of nowhere and the only food anyone can scrounge up is some fish and chips, enough for a late night snack if the pub is still open.

Jesus says, "Feed them."  The disciples say, "What, now?  With this?"  But they aren't as dumb as they sound.  They don't understand it, but they do it.  And the crowd is fed, physically satisfied.  Unfortunately, they're still spiritually hungry, so they camp out for The Show.

Jesus still needs His alone time.  Now, when I say alone, I mean alone with God.  He didn't just take off for a kip behind the rocks, he went away to pray.  He needed this time to recharge, just as we need time alone with the Lord to allow Him to bring us back to full-power again.  So He sent the disciples away and told them to get things ready in the town across the water.

The Storm Rages.  It's interesting to me that Jesus never prevented the storm from happening.  It wasn't necessary for things to be peaceful, just for them to believe and obey.  Old hymn - "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."

His batteries recharged, Jesus decides to join his friends in the boat.  So He takes a stroll.  On the water.  In a storm.  Not a miracle as much as just Jesus is God.  And His disciples, who are somewhat more faithful than the masses, are still scared out of their wits - "It's a ghost!"

Sometimes, even when the Lord is talking to us, reassuring us of His presence, we still are panicky.  For me, this is a daily occurrence.  But by golly, I'm gonna bluff my way through it, show the rest of them that I'm not really afraid.  So Peter jumps out of the boat and walks on the water too.  Until he realizes he's out of the boat.  On the sea.  In a storm.  Oh dear, glub, glub.

Jesus takes Peter's hand (my hand) gently and says, "Here I am, what were you so afraid of?"  I don't think there are any more comforting words anyone can say to another person than "You're safe."

The traditions versus the Law.  The disciples were ordinary men.  They washed their hands before eating, that was a given, but they didn't follow the cleansing rites of the Jews every time they did.  The Pharisees in our lives love to point out the little mistakes, the insignificant details that no one else cares about.

Being Highly Sensitive, I notice all that little stuff, too.  Bad grammar, one drop of ink astray, the faint whiff of cigarette smoke from the guy 25 feet away, the idiot who is whistling indoors on the other side of the building - I am sensitive to so many things that I also tend to be judgmental.  And the God reminds me that I grind my teeth, fidget, talk to myself constantly, fidget, chew my nails, fidget.  All the stuff that others do around me that get on my nerves.  I traditionally use good grammar, but just because someone says "You and I's" instead of "Mine and yours" doesn't mean that what he says is invalid.

The disciples ate what God gave them.  They figured, if it's from the Lord, it's a good thing.  Well duh!  But the Pharisees were too focused on the how and not on the why or Who.  In my house, no one whistles, good grammar is used, and the routines are comfortable.  Outside the door, I just have to deal, because this is what God has asked me to do.  But, He doesn't leave me to do it alone.

More food.  Jesus has great compassion, something I think is lacking in my heart.  "Dumb-arses, don't make a plan, nothing gets done right, did you think you could camp out in the desert without supplies?"  But Jesus, in His infinite love, just gets on with it and feeds them again.  He knows what they'll do to him in the end, but they're hungry now.  Perhaps they'll remember this later and believe that they were part of something more important than just The Show.

He does this for me every day.  I try to remember.

The New Testament in 90 Days - Day 4

June 29
Matthew chapters 10-12

Holy cow, it's hot!  These are the triple-digit days in Sacramento that finally are too much for me (that's in the high 30's - mid 40's for my Euro friends).  I like the temperature outside to be between 85 and 95 - warm enough to open every window in the house and have a cold one while watching the ballgame.

But I was awake at 4:40am, even though my alarm clock didn't go off.  It's Saturday, and I realize I need to do my chores early before it gets to be steaming, but really?  I managed to stretch it a couple more hours, but the first thing I thought of when I rolled out of bed was "How cool is it that I get to take my time to read and write my quiet time today!"

Sent out, but not without instruction.  He chose 12, but he's talking to all of us.  It's still the message of "Don't worry, I'll take care of you" but this time it's with specific ministry instructions, not just general life.  He tells us not to worry about everyday life, but what do we fill up our extra time with?  Well, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.  In other words, there are more important things to be doing than just the day-to-day issues.

Separation.  Most of the rest of these chapters, to me at least, is about separation.  Jesus is telling us what will happen to us when we obey Him - we will be singled out.  Sometimes, that means we'll be derided, sometimes it even means they'll kill us, they being everyone else who isn't His.  But Jesus doesn't dwell on that bit - here it is, it will happen, get on with your ministry.

What the biggest part of the conversation becomes is an indictment of, well, organized religion.  You can become too concerned with following the rules and not enough concerned about preaching the Gospel.

Now, what I'm about to say is controversial, just a warning.

I'm in California.  The Definition of Marriage Act that was passed a couple of years ago was something I did not support.  The DOMA targeted a specific minority group, as opposed to being a general law for the whole people.  The law has to be the law for everyone, or it's meaningless.  I was glad when the Supreme Court kaboshed it, but not for the reason everyone else was.

However, I don't approve of homosexuality.  God says it's a sin.  But there are several people in my life who are gay.  I can't let that stop me from showing God's love to them any more than I can let vagrancy or fornication (a big word, I know).  The homeless guy, he needs to eat once in awhile - and I have three of them in my church choir.  Two of my children live with their partners, one of them has two children.  Am I going to reject them?  No, I'm going to love my granddaughters and make sure my "in-laws" are well-loved.  Am I going to let his homosexuality keep me from laughing and hanging out with the guy in the next cubicle at work?  No, but I'm going to invite him to church to hear my choir sing.  And in all of this, I'm going to live my life as a Godly woman, showing without preaching, living without rejecting.  Separated from them, speaking God's love to them.

Even Lot was allowed to live among them, searching for even just 10 righteous men.

The Pharisees were quite the opposite.  They rejected the unknown, accused Jesus of being the devil, nit-picked at every little thing he did.  Jesus wasn't afraid of that, and he wasn't going to let them get away with it.  "Can a house divided against itself stand?"  If the devil is doing all this, why is he casting out demons?  It doesn't make any sense.

If you are willing to accept it.  Jesus tells the Jews that they listened to the prophets before (and rejected them, mostly) and that John was the greatest of these men.  But even John had no comparison to the Son of Man.  Jesus wasn't a prophet.  Oh, he prophesied, no doubt, but He is God.  John was appointed to prepare the way, but God, in His infinite wisdom and love, sent His Son Jesus to be the one who would cleanse us from out sins.

Nothing is better than that.  All the healing the disciples did, all the baptisms of John, all the adoration were nothing compared to the power of God as Jesus.  Jesus, the human who was also Jesus Jehovah. He was separate.

The same God as the Holy Spirit dwells within us too.  But we have to be willing to accept it.  I do.

The New Testament in 90 Days - Day 3

June 28
Matthew chapters 7-9

I am tired.  It's 5am and I've been getting up early to do this.  But I've also noticed in the past couple of days that I seem to be handling the world a bit better.  It's true what they say, the more time one spends in the Word, the better our hearts are prepared to face whatever comes our way.

Judge Not.  While the Sermon on the Mount has some very good things to say in general, it's mostly directed at God's children.  "You have heard . . " meaning the Law says and has been interpreted to mean this.  He was talking to the Jews, and now He's talking to all of us who are His.

My kitten likes to play on the computer, and he feels neglected when I am on it, so he'll sit his arse down on the keyboard and type silly things.  But he's just a cat.  He has no authority to make anything I type meaningful.

This is how Jesus preached.  He referred to the "cat's arses" who took the Law and interpreted it down the centuries.  Sometimes they got it right, mostly they just made life a series of nonsensical but very pedantic rules.

Now, I love puzzles, and the rabbis who had done this over the years were kind of the same.  They loved to dig in and figure out exactly what God meant.  Except they weren't the puzzle-makers.  Along the way, they seem to have lost the cover to the box and decided to fit the pieces in by whittling them down into tiny bits.  It's still a document with your social security number on it, but it's been shredded to bits so no one knows what was on it exactly.

Jesus spoke with authority.  Like he was God or someone!  Well duh!  The people knew and believed, at least for the moment, and the scribes and Pharisees were confused.  He made it seem all so simple.

The miraculous.  Jesus then proceeded to put His money where is mouth was.  He healed the sick, he raised the dead, he cast out demons.  There's so much there for discussion!  But The way He did it - He told them their faith made them well, that their sins were forgiven, that He honored their belief.

That's what God the Authority sounds like.  Not "you can't travel more than one mile on the Sabbath" or "Dancing is a sin".  Oh, I believe in resting on Sundays, absolutely, and I love to dance, but not when I'm supposed to be working.  But where is my heart?  Is it immersed in the Word, believing every minute that God is healing, loving, that my sins are forgiven?  That's tougher than not dancing.

The narrow way.  I read yesterday on another website about how the narrow way becomes wide when we follow it continually.  Not that it gets added to, but our focus becomes to full of God and the journey He has set that the narrow way is all we see.  I almost have no words for this - it's something that is lacking in a lot of Christians, but it's also the desire of my heart.  I'd love to put all the nonsense of life away and focus only on the Lord.

I'm working on it.

The New Testament in 90 Days - Day 1

June 26

Let me preface this with a couple of things:  I have more than a layman's knowledge of scripture due to my upbringing in a Plymouth Brethren/Anabaptist church.  We studied the Bible verse by verse in Bible study and Sunday School; and the sermons every week were based on whole books of the Bible, and not, as is true in most Protestant churches today, topical.  I am grateful for this knowledge.

The other thing I'd like to say is that I'm a lazy cow who is not very self-motivating.  I'm kidding!  I am actually what is known as a Highly Sensitive Person (diagnosable, by the way), and have trouble with focus and compartmentalization.  In other words, it's hard to get me out of bed in the mornings because I'm already so overwhelmed by the day to come that I don't know what to do first, or do at all.  Starting a daily quiet time is more an interruption in my daily routine, routine which I use to keep going every day.

But God has been speaking to my heart lately.  I need so much to bury myself in Him, and let Him do some (all) the compartmentalization and organizing in my life.  In other words, it's more important to be a Godly woman than it is for me to worry about how I'm going to pay my rent.

That all being said, I started this because my Pastor challenged all of us to read the New Testament in 90 days.  I thought "Get off your duff and do this, Dorinda."  Three days later, I finally started.

Matthew1:1-3 - Presents Christ the King to the Jews

All the begats.  The lineage of Jesus on his earthly father's side, all the way from Abraham on down, through King David and the rest of them.  It's interesting to me to see that if one would look at all the other lineages in Scripture, you can pretty much pull an accurate timeline of world events from it.  Anyhow, that kind of stuff is always fascinating to me.

The angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream.  I wonder why I don't hear God's voice sometimes. But Joseph's heart was open and he never questioned that the Lord was speaking to him.  I need to allow my heart to be just as open, just as fearless to trust God.  And then he got on with it, marrying Mary and starting a new life together.

I like that, for the Jews, Matthew is telling a patriarchal story.  It's Joseph who has all the dreams, Joseph who takes action, Joseph who obeys unquestionably.  He's a strong man, that Joseph.

Wise Men.  More males who obey.  And Herod, who can't accept what he already knows, that he isn't really the king of the Jews.  Nasty piece of work, he is.

I know we hear this story every year, but it's always new to me.  The Wise Men who believe so wholly in God that they miss Herod's deception (it happens).  The gifts of gold for a king, frankincense for God, and myrrh as a symbol of the sacrifice of death that was to come.  I love the clearness of the message.  No doubts about who the child was, at all.

John the Baptist.  Later on, we read in other scripture that John was Jesus' cousin, but for now he's a prophet, the first one they've had in 400-odd years.  The people were both ready to hear, and unwilling to hear - they had gotten used to silence from God.  Perhaps it was to challenge them to have faith.  I wonder about that in my own life.  I need to listen better, then I have to believe even if I'm not paying attention to what I hear :)

There is one who comes after me.  John knew his place in history - another strong man who understood that he wasn't the star, that he'd never be the star.  It reminds me of my friend's brother, who is a character actor in Hollywood.  Oh, he's had starring roles, no doubt, and was great in them.  But he's happy just acting in a good movie or Broadway show, where the entire cast is a part of how good the piece is, and even when the star of it is someone else.  I like that.  To me, he's a strong male example.

The dove speaks.  God himself comes down to make his point.  No one was looking for it, but He revealed Himself at exactly the right moment.  Thank God He has better timing than I do, that's all I can say.  It means I really don't have to worry about tomorrow.

And that's it for today.  A long post, to be sure, but I tend to want the people around me to understand why I do the things I do; and I use writing as a way to ponder on God's word, meditate, give ear, etc.  I'm going to do my best (in other words, I'm trusting God) to get out of bed every morning and immerse myself, sink deeply, into His Word for me.

The New Testament in 90 Days - Day 2

June 27
Matthew chapters 4-6

There's so much in the next three chapters, I could study it all week, all month and still need to study it more.

The Temptation of Christ.  I think this particular part of scripture is to remind us that our King isn't just looking down on us, not understanding us (think politics, particularly Western democracy in the 21st century).  Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights.  I read recently that when 40 is a time span, it means renewal - of a generation, of a spiritual calling, of one's self.  I believe Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights for all of those.

He was about to change from carpenter to itinerant preacher, presenting himself as a normal guy into the Son of God.  The temptations afterwards?  Their significance is to show us that Jesus was ready to begin his ministry.  When we are renewed in Christ, something we should be every day, we are ready to face whatever gets thrown at us.  And we are ministers, even if just by our behavior.

The First Four.  Peter and Andrew, James and John.  "Come with me" he says.  And they do.  It's like, they were just fishermen, but also Jewish adult males who had been taught all their lives the Law, the scriptures.  They had no doubts about who was calling them.  Are we immersed enough in the Word of God to know when the Lord calls us?

The Sermon on the Mount.  Too much to write about in one sitting.  I am both blessed and appalled when reading these chapters.  Blessed, because Jesus speaks directly to the people where they are - not "I'll talk to you as soon as you shape up."  God isn't like that - He hears our cries in our despair - no one is too sad, depressed, busy, whatever, for God to listen.

I'm appalled because there is so much basic stuff here that I've been neglecting, especially the parts about anger.  I am angry all the time - being Highly Sensitive, I notice all the little stuff around me that other people just let go.  The constant hum of a fan, the just-a-bit-too-loud music coming from the cubicle next to mine, the string hanging off snagged pants, bad grammar - the list is endless.

And I'm worried all the time.  Too many things to do, to much chaos , what do I do first?  It's frustrating, especially when people who aren't like me tell me "Just get over it"  or "Just do/don't do it."  It's like my kitten, who is going through the biting stage.  He doesn't understand why I get so mad when he's just playing, but he can't really help himself - he has to learn a new behavior, and really, it's quite a long lesson, because my arms are all teeny-weenie little scabs from my efforts at teaching him.

But God, who is perfect in every way, sees me and gathers me into His arms and says "Chill, I've got it covered."  Sometimes I scratch and bite - but God doesn't stop loving me.  He just keeps teaching me.  I'm 51 years old now, but still that jumpy, hissy kitten.  Getting into the Word, meditating on it day and night is just the next part of God's instruction.

I will ponder these chapters a lot today.  It seems like it's so many little things to remember, but really it's just one - The Lord is in control if I choose to allow Him, and honestly, He knows better than I do what the day holds.