The Women in Jesus’ Life, Death and Resurrection

gospels

“What am I – CHOPPED LIVER? The four Gospels in the New Testament are filled with the exploits and experiences of men disciples and their interactions with Jesus. The New Testament time period can be described as a male dominate world. After skimming through the Gospels, some may come away thinking that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were all about Jesus and His ministry and partnership and friendship with His men disciples. After all, the Gospels were written by men, Right? But, what about the women? Did Jesus have women disciples? In order to find out about Jesus’ women disciples, one must read the New Testament closely and with a focus on finding certain Scripture passages, some well known and others not so much.

imagesCAPBEZO8

First, we need to know what a “disciple” is. A disciple is a follower, a student, a learner, a believer. Jesus’ disciples believe that He is the “Way and the Truth and the Life” [Read John 14:6]. The disciples of Jesus learn from His teachings and by following His example. He is their Teacher, Savior and Lord. Disciples of Jesus have accepted His forgiveness through His death on the cross, believe that He rose from the dead and will someday return to make all things new. Jesus’ disciples have given their lives to Him and no longer want to follow the ways of the world. Jesus’ disciples want to love Him above all else and share His GOOD NEWS with the whole world.

According to the Gospels, who are the women disciples who followed Jesus? For some of the answer, let’s go to a Bible passage that is not talked about very much, at least in my experience:

c. praying prostrate

“Soon afterwards He [Jesus] went on through the cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve [men disciples] were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Suzanna, and many others, who provided for them [or Him] out of their means” [Luke 8:1-3].

glasses on Bible

According to Luke 8:3, the women who followed Jesus were His servants. They must have “bought the groceries” and prepared meals for Jesus and His men disciples. They must have did all the menial tasks in order to free Jesus and His men to do the work of spreading the Gospel. These menial tasks of cooking, doing the laundry, budgeting money for groceries, searching for good food at reasonable prices did not get much attention. They were thought of as unimportant way back then as they are even now. But, if you asked Jesus, He would say that being a servant is the most important role of a disciple of His: “If anyone would be first, he [she] must be last of all and servant of all…For even the Son of Man [Jesus] came not to be served but to serve, And to give His life for many” [read Mark 9:35-37 and 10:45]. These women served their Lord and their fellow disciples with the sacrificial love of Christ.

towel and basin

Being servants does not mean the women were not also students. I imagine whether they were serving or sitting, they were also listening to Jesus teachings. [Women are known to be able to multi-task.] Jesus lifted women up as being equals to men by giving them their rightful place, in being His students [disciples] and learning alongside men. This was different from the custom of the day. Men and women were not allowed to learn together in synagogues. Jesus’ women disciples were His students who listened intently and learned from the Master. In addition to the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the women might have even helped with the writing of the Gospels by providing important information only they knew about. For example, according to WIKIPEDIA, theologian Adrian Hastings suggests that Joanna was one of “Luke’s sources for information regarding the Herodian court.” Jesus’ women disciples were humble servants, devoted students, courageous followers and were just as important as the men in the spread of the Gospel [GOOD NEWS]. They were faithful to Jesus to the very end and beyond.

To be continued…

The Lyd

Lydia

 

Which Came First – The Repentant Heart or The Forgiveness of God?

lent

“Forgiveness” is an extremely difficult concept to grasp, especially when it comes to the forgiveness of God. It is very hard, for me at least, to wrap my head around God’s forgiveness. When does God forgive us? Do we have to “clean up our act” before God can forgive us? Do we have to confess our sins before we have a chance to be forgiven by God? Do we have to perform some sort of penance in order for God to forgive us? The Lenten Season is a good time to meditate [“chew on”] the awesome and unfathomable forgiveness of God.

ASH WEDNESDAY

When did God forgive us?

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – BUT GOD SHOWS HIS LOVE FOR US IN THAT WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, CHRIST DIED FOR US. Since, therefore, we have been now justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God” [Romans 5:6-9].

God planned to forgive us “while we were yet sinners” through the Christ’s Perfect Sacrifice on the cross. God’s plan to save sinners [I am a sinner] began “before the foundation of the world.” Sinners need only to get with God’s plan and accept His free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, in order to experience the joy of God‘s forgiveness of all their sins. [Read Romans 3:23 and 6:23]

wolman at the well

Do we have to “clean up our act” by not sinning anymore before we have a chance to be forgiven by God?

“Bless be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as HE CHOSE US IN HIM BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, THAT WE SHOULD BE HOLY AND BLAMESS BEFORE HIM” [Ephesians 1:3-4]

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” [I Corinthians 15:56-57].

Baby with lamb

We cannot stop sinning in our own strength because we are weak. For example, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when we see a sign that reads, “DO NOT TOUCH – WET PAINT.” We cannot make ourselves perfect before God. Jesus, the “Spotless Lamb of God” who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, is the One who makes us “holy and blameless before [the Father]” When God looks at a sinner who has accepted His Son’s Perfect Sacrifice, He no longer looks at the sin; The Heavenly Father sees His Son the “blameless Lamb of God.” Jesus is the Only One who gives us His power over sin and death. [Read John 1:29 and I Peter 1:18-19].

the truth shall set you free

Do we have to confess our sins before we have a chance to be forgiven by God?

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will become like wool” [Isaiah 1:18].

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, [Jesus] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” [I John 1:8-9].

casting crowns 2

God calls us to be truthful with ourselves and with Him. He wants us to be aware of our sins in order to know how much we have been forgiven and how much we need Jesus’ once-for-all Perfect Sacrifice, which cleanses us and makes us whole. When we become aware of our sins, it is only then that we can truly be grateful for God’s forgiveness through His One and Only Son Jesus Christ. God‘s forgiveness of all our sins causes our heart of stone to turn into a “repentant heart”. God is always waiting for us to come to Him, to confess our sins to Him, to accept His forgiveness of all our sins and receive His power to begin the journey of repentance [turning away from sin] and a new life in Christ. I believe that God‘s forgiveness leads to repentance and not the other way around. It is God Who takes the first step.

casting crowns 1.

Do we have to perform some sort of penance in order for God to forgive us?

“For the death [Jesus] died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” [Romans 6:10-11].

“And just as is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him” [Hebrews 9:27-28].

“Where there is forgiveness of these [sins], there is no longer any offering [penance] for sin” [Hebrews 10:18].

“For Christ also suffered once for sin, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” [I Peter 3:18).

Christ Crucified

God doesn’t want us to perform an impersonal penance, such as reciting prayers by rote or doing self-righteous acts of charity or even by denying ourselves of something we enjoy, in order appease God by paying for our own sins. The above Scriptures tell us that Jesus did what we could never do on our own. Jesus paid for all our sins by shedding His own blood on the cross and died for all our sins ONCE AND FOR ALL. Instead of doing periodical penance, God wants us to be “dead to sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” Instead of giving God our imperfect [dead] sacrifices, God wants us to give our entire lives to Him. He wants us to be “living sacrifices” by accepting His forgiveness, which leads to our NEW LIVES IN CHRIST. The NEW LIFE IN CHRIST is not motivated by guilt or false piety, but by LOVE and GRATITUDE and THANKFULNESS for what Jesus has done for us on the cross. This New Life is lived through the power of the Holy Spirit.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a LIVING SACRIFICE, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual [rational] worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” [Romans 12:1-2].

forgiveness 2

During this Lenten Season I am meditating on the Forgiveness of God. Although my thinking is limited to human understanding and vocabulary, the Holy Spirit is not limited to human words or comprehension. I do not perfectly understand the infinite things of God. With God’s leading, I am growing into a deeper relationship with Him as I meditate on His ways.

a. praying hands

 

DEAR FATHER GOD, MAY WE TRULY UNDERSTAND YOUR UNLIMITED FORGIVENESS TOWARD YOUR FOLLOWERS, THROUGH CHRIST OUR LORD AND IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN.

The Lyd

                                                      Lydia
This may be my last blog post for awhile because my 9-year-old computer is running on fumes. I may be looking for a new computer sooner than later.

They Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly!

p and j

Prayer and Fasting go together like peanut butter and jelly. Okay, poor choice of words, since this post is about FASTING. However, prayer and fasting are closely linked together. I wrote about PRAYER in my last blog post. Prayer is talking with God, the Creator of heaven and earth; talking with Jesus, God’s One and Only Perfect Sacrifice, who died for the forgiveness of my sins, rose from the dead, and will come again to someday take me and all His believers Home with Him for all eternity. Prayer is also listening to the Holy Spirit who helps me to pray when I don‘t have the words to say. I can freely express myself to my Wonderful Counselor because He loves me unconditionally and forever. Sometimes I pray in church, with many people, or in a small group Bible study or prayer group. However, something else is also extremely important and crucial for my spiritual growth. In order to grow in my “relationship” with Jesus, I need to spend time praying [talking] with my Forever Friend alone in SOLITUDE [another spiritual discipline]. It is also where I spend time listening to Him, by reading His Word, enjoying His creation or just closing my eyes to see God’s love and faithfulness for me in a more intimate and personal way.

christ in desert

Jesus fasted and prayed for forty days before He began His ministry [Matthew 4 and Luke 4].

FASTING is generally abstaining from food, such as meat or snacks or a whole meal or not eating food for one day or many days. Fasting is usually done for spiritual reasons. Fasting by abstaining from food is just one part of this spiritual discipline. If I am fasting from food, I just don’t sit there and wait for breakfast time or lunch time or dinner time to go by. Instead of eating, I want to make good use of that time. That’s where PRAYING comes in. During the time I usually eat food, I may pray and read the Bible or devotional book. Also, I may use mealtime as a time to help others. For example, I may use the money I save from not buying food to contribute to a worthy cause or buy food for a homeless shelter. This also is done in an attitude of PRAYER. I may visit someone who needs a visit or help someone who has a project to finish. Through PRAYER and FASTING, the Lord will show me what I need to be doing for His glory and for the good of others or He may want me to simply be alone with Him for a time.

imagesCAPBEZO8

Jesus links PRAYER and FASTING together in “His Sermon on the Mount” [Matthew 5-7]:

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you…And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint you head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” [Matthew 6:5-6 and 16-18].

[In Matthew 6 Jesus also teaches how to give to the needy (1-4), He gives us “the Lord’s Prayer” (9-13), instructs us on how to forgive (14-15) and He talks about having our “treasure” in Heaven and not on earth (19-24).

c. praying prostrateb. kneeing in prayer

According to Jesus, both PRAYER and FASTING are done with an attitude of GRATITUDE, HUMILITY and LOVE, knowing that our reward is waiting for us in Heaven. PRAYER and FASTING are not practiced out of legalism or to demonstrate piety, so others may praise us for our public displays of self-righteousness.

messy eaters

But what if someone cannot fast from food? What does a person do who has a medical condition which prohibits fasting? On the other side of the spectrum, what if someone has a physically demanding job and needs energy from the food to be able to do his/her job well? What do the parents who cook meals for their small children do? They need to help their picky kids to eat healthy meals. There are many examples of people whose physical conditions or lifestyles make fasting impractical. For these people [me included] I have some practical solutions.

“For I [God] desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” [Hosea 6:6]. (Also I Samuel 15:22; Psalm 40:6, Psalm 51:1, Isaiah 1:11)

Christmas ScrabbleELDERS PRAYING FOR THE SICK

Instead of fasting from food, believers of the Lord Jesus may choose fasting from TV, video games, sports radio or time on the computer. They may abstain from going to restaurants or Dunkin Donuts or going to movies. They may choose to go without candy and snacks and eating small simple meals. They may choose to give up one of their usual recreational activities to do something for someone in need. Again, giving up these things is not to gain brownie points to pay for their own salvation with their own sacrifices. Substituting these things with spending more time with God and seeking to glorify Him in the things they do and don’t do is what Fasting is all about. For example, giving up watching TV gives worshipers of God more time to pray in “quietness and rest” [Isaiah 30:15]. There are many ways to fast, but only one motive and purpose behind it:

THOSE WHO LOVE JESUS FAST TO DISCOVER WAYS TO GLORIFY GOD BY DOING WHAT PLEASES HIM OUT OF AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE AND PRAISE!

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (or ‘rational service‘)” [Romans 12:1].

“And whatever you do, in word and deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” [Colossians 3:17].

(Also read Hebrews 10.)

The Lyd

Lydia

A Very Important Date in February

a camel

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 is a very important date. Wednesday has become known as “Hump Day” in the 21st Century, because it is in the middle of the week. “Hump Day” means that half of the work week is over and only the other half of the work week is left. This is an example of “seeing the glass half full” kind of thinking. However, this Wednesday is more than the middle of the week. In fact, this Wednesday marks two special “Holidays” and this may only happen once in our lifetime. This Wednesday, people all over New England and the world celebrate Truck Day and Ash Wednesday! Before you think I am being sacrilegious, please let me explain.

truck day 1

Truck Day marks the start of a new beginning, when Red Sox fans forget about last year and anticipate spring and a brand new baseball season. When fans see the huge truck pulling up to Fenway Park and boxes and boxes of baseball equipment being loaded up into it, they know that baseball is not far away. But, before real baseball games can be played, the equipment truck and RED SOX players head to Fort Myers, Florida for Spring Training. [Pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 18th and on February 24th is when position players arrive and the first full squad workout is scheduled.] Some players are already at Spring Training.]

truck day 2

The equipment truck leaving Fenway is a reminder to all and to the players especially, that they need to refocus on Baseball. They need to get into baseball shape by being disciplined in eating healthy foods and performing exercise drills and baseball drills. Pitchers and catchers work on getting to know each other, in order to be in sync when they play for real, as do the position players and coaches. All players need to practice their positions on the field. They need to practice hitting, catching, running bases, stealing bases, bunting and sacrificing, as though everything is new to them, in order to get rid of the winter rust. Spring Training games start on February 29th to further work on baseball skill and regain muscle memory. All this hard work is in anticipation of OPENING DAY [April 4th, in Cleveland] when they here those magic words, “PLAY BALL!” The RED SOX players are also motivated to work hard by looking forward to achieving the end goal: winning the World Series in the post season. After playing 162 games, players want to play more games to win the ultimate prize in baseball.

WS BANNER ONE

WS AT CHURCH

As an avid Baseball [Red Sox] fan since 1967, I have the habit of equating the game of baseball to my spiritual life, as well as my life in general. I see many parallels between Ash Wednesday and Truck Day. The parallels do not make each event equally important. However, Truck Day does explain the importance of Ash Wednesday to me. As I wrote in a previous blog post, “Life is Baseball is Life!”

ASH WEDNESDAYAsh Wednesday is the beginning of the Season of Lent, which lasts for forty days, not counting Sundays. The meaning of Ash Wednesday is a reminder to Christians of their need for Jesus’ saving grace. “Ashes to ashes” means “We come from dust; we return to dust” without the power of God to save us. The term “Ashes to ashes” comes from the 1661 version Book of Common Prayer and used is used even now for funeral services. The origin of the term comes from Genesis 3:19: “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and dust you shall return.” Realizing that we are only ashes and dust is only half of the story of Ash Wednesday. The other half is realizing “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers we are dust” [Psalm 103:13]. Ash Wednesday helps to refocus on who we are, who God is and how much Jesus has done for us.

“For our sakes [God the Father] made [God the Son, Jesus] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in [Jesus Christ] we might become the righteousness of God” [II Corinthians 5:21].

lent

During the Forty Days of Lent, Christians take time to reflect on Jesus’ time on earth, His death on the cross, His Resurrection and His Second Coming. One of the first things He did was spend time, before starting His ministry, in the desert fasting and praying and He was tempted by the devil [Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13] for forty days. In the Gospel accounts, believers find Jesus using Scripture to fight off temptation. Jesus does not succumb to wanting to satisfy Himself with food or riches or greatness or the temptation to go ahead of God and question His authority . Jesus was able to do what no one else could never do and that’s why Christians have hope: “For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted [Hebrews 2:18].

lent 2

During Ash Wednesday and throughout the Forty Days of Lent, Christians everywhere practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting, seeking forgiveness and forgiving, spending time in solitude and Bible reading, giving of their time and money to serve others. Christians do these things, not to gain salvation, but to realize what a great salvation they have already been given through Christ the Lord. As they renew their “spiritual memory” by refocusing on these disciplines, believers grow into a closer relationship with God and joyfully anticipate celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection and look forward to His glorious Second Coming, when they will receive their PRIZE. Let Christians everywhere be encouraged on Ash Wednesday to find peace, bear fruit in their lives, be thankful and to “…press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:14].

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with every good thing that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” [Hebrews 13:20-21].

Have a Blessed Ash Wednesday!
And
GO SOX!

‘Nuf sed” for now.

Lydia photo

Lydia

The Dumbest Stuff I Have Ever Heard – Or So I Thought

choclate chip cookies

One of the reasons I haven’t written a blog post until now is that I’ve been doing important research. It all started when I saw a commercial on TV and thought it was the dumbest idea ever. The commercial was about a certain type of cookie. No doubt, most Americans would say that homemade chocolate chip cookies are their number one favorite [including me]. However, when it comes to store-bought cookies and childhood memories OREO cookies would be listed as number one in the hearts and stomachs of children and adults since 1912. During my childhood there was only one kind of Oreo Cookie: “MILK’S FAVORITE COOKIE.”

Oreo CookiesIn the 21st Century there are now dozens of Oreo flavors, from banana to peanut butter. There are also seasonal flavors, such as pumpkin. I tasted my share and liked most of them. I also enjoyed the size changes – the Double Stuf Oreos and the MEGA STUF even more. But, NABISCO just went too far in challenging my acceptance to change when it introduce the newest Oreo cookies. I was dumb-founded when I watched the TV commercial about “NEW! OREO THINSTHE THIN AND CRISPY SANDWICH COOKIES.” What is the world coming to? How could anyone twist them open? Even if you could, would it worth it? How would the OREO THINS stand up in milk? Would they crumble and disintegrate? Making OREO THINS by taking away most of the creamy inside and slimming down the chocolate cookies on both sides was absolutely ludicrous. More than being absurd, “OREO THINS” was an oxymoron, as far as I was concerned!

Lyd and Cookies 1

 

In order not to become a crass and crumby cookie critic, I needed more information before pronouncing judgment. I needed to do my own research before making a decision on OREO THINS. What better way to find out the truth than doing a taste test to see if OREO THINS held up to the OREO name. For the span of two + weeks I taste tested OREO THINS and OREO MEGA STUF side by side, with milk of course. Before even taking one bite, reading the packages made me favor the MEGA STUF [13.2 oz] over the OREO THINS [10.1 oz]. However, I knew MORE was not always better, so I continued with the tasting. Surprisingly enough, even though the MEGA STUFF OREOS are my all-time favorite [with all that creamy stuff inside], the OREO THINS were not so bad. Despite the small amount of creamy stuff in between two skinny chocolate wafers, I could still taste the creamy stuf. There was just enough of the stuf and wafers to taste like an OREO COOKIE. The OREO THINS also stood up to milk. I didn’t try twisting the thin sandwich cookie open. I never could twist any cookie open because of my cerebral palsy, but I’m sure it can be done.

MEGA STUF OREOSOREO THINS

Besides enjoying eating OREO COOKIES for more than two weeks, I learned a valuable lesson. I should not make hasty judgments without knowing what I’m talking about. I must admit that writing about OREO COOKIES was fun using my tongue-in-cheek “Lydia Humor.” This leads me to a more important topic. Judging people without knowing them is much more serious than deciding what cookies to buy. Hearing people who call themselves “Christians” pronounce hateful judgments on all people who call themselves “Muslim” is extremely disturbing and unconscionable. Some Christians and others on the far right [politically] paint with broad strokes and judge all people who are Muslims to be radical extremists who belong to ISIS and want to kill innocent men, women and children with homemade bombs. This way of thinking is totally ignorant and downright stupid and frightening.

Muslim and Nun

Nowadays I cringe when someone says “Evangelical Christian” because most people equate that title with those who are narrow-minded and judgmental, arrogant and abusive, angry and intolerant. This is very sad and very wrong, yet very true of some “Evangelical Christian” groups. This is not how God wants His people to be. Instead of being narrow-minded and judgmental, I want to be well-rounded and respectful. Instead of being arrogant and abusive, I want to be humble and kindhearted. Instead of being angry and intolerant, I want to read and learn about different people groups and have others teach me about things I know very little about. How beautiful it would be to engage in conversation by asking a person who is Muslim to tell me about Islam and the Quran. My interest in that person may cause that person to ask me about my beliefs. Even though the person may not ask me questions, at least the person who is Muslim has met a Christian [me] who is not a radical extremist filled with hate. At least, I will hopefully leave a MEGA TASTE of God’s goodness and love with the person.

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him” [Psalm 34:8].

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” [Micah 6:8].

“By this all men will know that you are My [Jesus’] disciples, if you have love for one another” [John 13:8].

“You shall treat the stranger [[foreigner] who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself…” [Leviticus 19:34].

“…You shall love your neighbor as yourself…” [Mark 12:31].

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be put in your lap” [Luke 6:37-38]. [These verses remind me of MEGA STUF OREOS AND MILK!]

[Also see First (not one) Corinthians 13.]

Another reason that I have waited until now to send a post is I need to take my time and make sure there are no typos and mistakes. In my last post, “Auntie Got Tongue Lashed by a Reindeer”, I found many mistakes after I sent it out. I ended up making corrections and some additions and re-blogging it. You may want to read the edited version. I worked on this recent blog post all week and read it over at least a dozen times. I hope it has less mistakes than the last one. If not, I hope you will still understand the important message I’m trying to convey. Thanks for reading my blog posts.

cookie monster

                          Lydia

It’s Almost Christmas!

birthday gifts

What is your response when someone says to you, “It’s almost Christmas!” Most children and a certain brother-in-law I know can’t wait for Christmas to get here, so that they can open their presents under the tree. Most adults like a young father I know might respond, “Christmas! OH KNOW! Where did the time go?” One group is anxiously awaiting to open their gifts. The other group is anxiously buying gifts and worrying that they will not have enough time to finish buying the gifts the need to buy.

baby jesus in manger

Christmas is not suppose to make us franticly running around like chickens without heads, in search of presents that will impress. Christmas is about “peace on earth, good will toward men” [and women and children and animals and the environment]. It’s about spending quality time with family and friends. Christmas is not all about opening the most stupendous gift ever. Christmas is about a tiny baby “born in the city of David” who will grow up to be the “Savior [of humankind from this terrifying world filled with unspeakable acts of cruelty and terror]. His Name is Christ the Lord.” Christmas is not all about the humongous gift wrapped in fancy paper and shiny ribbons and colorful bows, tucked under an evergreen tree decorated with over-the-top flashy ornaments and glittering lights [“not that there is anything wrong with that”]. Christmas is about “a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (a dirty filthy animal trough).
[See Luke 2:8-14]

Christmas TreeThree Christmas Trees

I am not saying that gift-giving is wrong or wrapping those gifts in a special way for those we love and for those who can‘t afford Christmas gifts. And I certainly enjoy Christmas trees that brighten up the dark wintry nights (I have four Christmas trees in my house). But, here comes the BIG BUT: But, if that is all that Christmas means to us, we somehow have missed the “GOOD NEWS of great JOY that [is meant] to be for all people.” ALL people means people with dark skin and light skin; the poor and the rich and the in-between; able-bodied people and people with disabilities; the learned and the not-so-much; people from every country and tribe and nation; refugees and citizens; people with differing political views and differing religious beliefs; and people of all ages, sexual orientations, single or married, widowed or divorced. [There are other people groups, but I think you get the idea.] Jesus wants to give all people His JOY and PEACE. [See Luke 2:10]

For God so loved

How do we get there from here? How do we celebrate and demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas? One of the ways is to read and meditate on the First Christmas and ask God to speak to you about the meaning behind the birth of “His only begotten Son.” Every year I find Advent Meditations to read every day during the Advent Season. Last year, I wrote my own Advent Meditations with Scriptures, Church History and my own thoughts. You may find them in my blog posts by searching for the word “Advent.” The posts were written on 12/04/2014: “The First Week in ‘Advent-ure’” and 12/31/2014: “It’s Not the Gift Wrap, But the Gift”

Advent 3b

Needless to say, since last Sunday was the Third Sunday in Advent, I have not put together my own Advent Meditations. (Where did the time go?) Instead, I have been reading my dear friend Carol Purington’s Advent Meditations entitled, “Why Jesus Came?” which is ministering to me tremendously. Carol is an extremely gifted writer of Haiku and Tanka poetry and has written many books of poetry, local history and other topics. Her writing and use of vocabulary (finding just the right words to paint a picture from her thoughts) are simply exquisite.

WOODSLAWN FARM

If you picture Carol as an elegant-looking fashionista who hangs out with wealthy poets and writers, in their huge mansions, I’d say you’d be looking for the wrong kind of “wrapping paper and package.” Carol is a wonderful Christian woman, a beautiful writer, and a caring friend. She lives in Colrain, Massachusetts, in her family’s farm, “Woodslawn Farm,” where she writes from her bed. She is a great example to me of “God’s power made perfect in weakness” [See II Corinthians 12:9]. Carol has lived with polio from the age of five to her present age of sixty-five. She is confined to her bed and must use a respirator to be able to breath sufficiently. She writes mostly by “talking” to her computer. To really get to know Carol and the lovely person she is, it is important not get fixated by her “small packaging” or her physical appearance, but to listen to the words that come from her heart and to read her words of wisdom coming from her writings, and to look into her beautiful eyes and to see her accepting and friendly smile.

Carol PuringtonCarol has been a tremendous help to me. She is someone who understands completely what it means to be totally dependent on others for her physical care. At the same time, she has been given the grace needed to be totally dependent on God and her faith in God enables her to trust Him to meet her every need. But, that does not mean she doesn’t feel the anxieties and fears disabled people face. Carol Purington is an extraordinarily gifted woman of God and I am blessed to call her “friend.” If you would like to read her Advent Meditations, “Why Jesus Came”, just go to her webpage and look on the right-hand column.

Carol’s webpage address: http://www.woodslawnfarm.com/p/poetry.html

Because CHRISTMAS IS ALMOST HERE(!), Carol gives the following suggestion: “Another way to use this collection is to save it for the new year and read one meditation a day in January. Or you might choose to read one meditation a week. That might take you through Easter, which could be a illuminating experience.”

“Why Jesus Came” is my Christmas Gift to all of you. May God bless you and me this Christmas with His peace and joy.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Lydia

The Christian Church and the Other “D” Word (Conclusion)

 

the_big_d

“I don’t have to impress anyone anymore. I’m married.” I heard these words uttered twice in one week by two different men. On the service these words are humorous and seem harmless enough but, depending on what they really mean to the husband, these words may lead to other words and actions that are deeply hurtful and extremely harmful. When a husband uses words as weapons to daily attack his wife, he is a verbal abuser. In most cases, wives of verbal abusers become clinically depressed and the only way to reclaim their identity, worth and mental wellness [peace] is to go through a painful divorce. Sadly, this “only way out” includes Christian marriages.

God is our peace

In I Corinthians 7:1-16, the Apostle Paul gives followers of Christ “Principles for Marriage.” He teaches Christians to do whatever they can to stay married and not to divorce. These are very important principles to follow as believers of Jesus Christ. I know several women who have, with God’s help, tried to keep their marriage going. However, we do live in a sinful world and when the husband does not obey the Lord, but constantly devalues his wife with his hurtful words and subtle passive-aggressive behavior, to the point where she has very little self-esteem left and doubts everything she does, it’s time for her to make life changes and consider her last resort – divorce. Something jumped out of the page when I was reading I Corinthians 7:1-17 [Thank you Carol P. for pointing it out to me]. Verse 15b says, “God has called you to peace.” In Ephesians 2:14, Paul states that Jesus “Himself is our peace.” How can anyone have God’s peace while living with a husband who is not Christ-like to his wife, but instead verbally abuses her? Would you be able to live with that person? Would I be able to? As Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged“ [Matthew 7:1] and “For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers” [Luke 11:46b] and “Let him who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” [John 8:7b].

Narcissists

How is it possible for a Christian woman to “date” a Christian man for years and not know that he is a verbal abuser until after they are married? The answer lies with the quote at the top of this page. The verbal abuser puts on his “godly man” face while “dating” and while in public. In fact, there are Christians who “date” only in groups and never go on a “one-to-one date. Although this type of “dating” is full of good intentions [I.e., “to keep the relationship pure”], it takes away the “alone time” needed to really get to know each other. A verbal abuser’s narcissistic personality only shows up when he is alone with his wife.

Christ's hope

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” [Proverbs 13:12].

“A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the sprit is crushed” [Proverbs 15:13].

Let’s compare what godly love looks like, as defined in Scripture, and what verbal abuse looks like, using a portion of an *Abuse Assessment found in Hurtbylove.com [written by Cindy Burrell]:

PERFECT LOVE

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” [Ephesians 5:25-28].

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” [I John 4e:18].

*When my husband is around, I feel unsettled or fearful.
*When my husband is around, I feel like I need to behave differently.
* When I come home or when he comes home, I need to quickly sense what kind of mood he is in.
*I am afraid of my husband.
*I don’t feel safe.
*Sometimes I feel like I have to walk on eggshells around him.

Christ's pierced

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude” [I Corinthians 13:4-5b].

*I feel like he does things to intentionally hurt me.
*I feel like I constantly have to prove myself.
*I feel like I don’t matter.
*I feel like I’m never good enough.
*He gets angry and impatient with me over little things.
*He is critical of the way I do things.

“It [godly love] does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful” [I Corinthians 13:5b].

*It feels like he must always “win.”
*He is an expert on everything.
*I feel like he is trying to keep me from my friends and/or family.
*He puts down my friends and/or family.
*He says things that are hurtful.
*I’m not allowed to need anything.

glasses on Bible

“It [godly love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” [I Corinthians 13:6].

*I feel lonely.
*I feel lost.
*I feel insecure.
*I feel confused.
*I have caught him lying to me.
*If something is wrong in his life or someone doesn’t like him, it is almost always someone else’s fault.

banana split love

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…” [I Corinthians 13:7-8a].

*I feel like I’ve lost my identity.
*I feel like I have no value.
*If I tell him he hurt my feelings, he tells me I’m being overly                                            sensitive.
*He likes to be in control.
*If I question something he does, he accuses me of being bossy, nosy or paranoid.
*I feel like I’ve lost my identity.

believe god's love

“Love must be genuine (sincere). Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” [Romans 12:9].

*He speaks badly of me in front of the children and encourages them to disrespect me.
* Other people see him differently than I do.
*I feel guilty that I’m unhappy.
*I don’t laugh like I used to.
*I constantly feel depressed.
*My husband sometimes gives me the silent treatment.

a spirit of truth

Someone once said, “Christianity is the only army that shoots their own wounded.” This statement is so true when it comes to some Christian groups and their treatment of wives who are victims of verbally abusive husbands. Because the wife is the one, who after years of living with ridicule and fear, is seeking the divorce from her husband, she is labeled “the bad one.” “Christians are not suppose to file for divorce; especially the wife.” As brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to look deeper than the taboo of divorce. We need to understand that we do not see what goes on behind close doors. We need to recognize the signs of verbal abuse: a sister who is not laughing as she used to, a sister who is sad all the time, a sister who has lost her identity and value in Christ. In many ways the woman feels outnumbered. Christian pre-marital counseling is done by a pastor, who is usually a man. Marital counseling is also mostly done by a pastor, who is usually a man. When a woman is in tears and says she is not sure she is able to go on with her marriage, the counselor’s first response may be rebuke, instead of unconditional support and trying to go deeper into the reasons the wife feels this way. The wife may also feel deserted by mutual friends who are decidedly on the husband’s side because they never see the verbal abuse for themselves. Brothers and sister in Christ, we need to take better care of our “already wounded” sisters.

blogging2

You may be thinking, “Why is an almost-sixty-year-old single Christian woman talking about marriage, verbal abuse and divorce?” It’s because I care deeply for my younger sisters in Christ; sisters who could be my nieces. I have seen the devastation verbal abuse causes in young women who think their prayers are answered in finding a godly husband, only to have their hearts dashed to pieces by verbal abuse. It is my prayer that Christians, especially those who are involved in marriage counseling, educate themselves concerning verbal abuse. It is my prayer that both a man and a woman would be involved in pre-marital and marital counseling. It is my prayer that there would be more discipling and mentoring of young men by older men, in what it means to be a servant-leader in the home, as a husband and father. It is my prayer that older women would also disciple and mentor younger women in what to look for in a godly man and what to stay away from [For example, consider how the man treats the other women in his life.]. It is my prayer that churches would develop support groups for women verbal abuse survivors. Finally, my prayer is for all brothers and sisters in Christ to look out for each other and to love each other in the Lord; to be better listeners without judging our own “already wounded” without cause.

a pleasant word

For Further Reading:

Website: Hurtbylove.com

Book:

:A Cry For Justice

 

Peace,

becket pics4

Lydia

[Look for my next blog post in September.]