Spiritual Amnesia

My favorite Bible

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. James 1:22-25

By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet. Thomas Merton

I decided I needed me some Thomas Merton today. He brings me close to nature and seems to have his finger on the pulse of what really matters. Because don’t we all suffer a little bit from Spiritual amnesia? That’s why church, that’s why Scripture, that’s why going out into the yard, gazing up at the moon at night. This ‘ol world just gets too noisy, too outlandish, too filled with things that really don’t matter.

You see, I am guilty. I am guilty of putting myself, my problems, my train wreck, my dysfunction on the throne where God belongs. And in doing so, I steal the joy that resides in every day, the joy that is rightfully mine as His child, the joy that the Holy Spirit longs to lavish on us. I am guilty of making myself God every time I am overwhelmed by my circumstances and give in to fear.

So for this day, I will remember how big God is. I will remember how He holds the moon and the stars and me. And in each and every little thing I do, I will bring Him into it. He’ll be there when I’m washing my car, and going to Costco. What a thought! At work when we wanted to get down to the heart of a problem we used the term “drilling down to the root cause.” Well, when we drill down to the root cause of discontent it’s because we’ve lost sight of how big God is.

I challenge you today to open the Scripture and see where it leads. I can guarantee that it always leads to life, just give a listen:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Psalm 46: 1-3

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:2,3

Lord, I pray for all those today who are overwhelmed with the world, with the mess outside and in, I pray for peace for turbulent hearts, peace in dysfunctional families, and the assurance that God is still in control of everything and that He has a plan and it’s a good one. Amen

I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. Jesus

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What they don’t tell you

My walk in the woods

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth…….Ecclesiastes 3:1

Here is what no one tells you about retirement, or semi-retirement whichever the case may be. It’s a little bit like marriage, first comes the honeymoon stage. Everything is exhilarating and exciting with a little bit of disbelief at your good fortune thrown in. Then comes the next phase where reality sets in. Things are still good, mind you, they are just more real. You realize that it takes a certain amount of work.

You realize that with most things, freedom (or bliss) isn’t free. With any kind of happiness, there is a responsibility thrown in with it.

I am finding that in many ways, retirement comes with its own kind of responsibility and that in some ways, working was easier. I didn’t say better, I just said easier. When you are under the “umbrella” of the corporate giant, pretty much everything is taken care of. The devil is in the details and you don’t have to think about them.

All of a sudden someone has just thrown you the reins to the stagecoach, or rather, you took the reins willingly and that can be scary as hell. It reminds me of how I used to feel on a stretch of Highway 87 on the way up to Payson, Arizona. There is a vista that opens up as you round the bend and it used to take my breath away just for a second. I think I’m a little bit Agoraphobic, (that’s the fear of open spaces.)

You have to be okay with owning your own destiny and taking care of all those little details you didn’t have to worry about before. You learn things about yourself. Now I am learning how to appreciate and navigate the open spaces.

I am learning that I don’t do well without a plan. My tendency is to drift. A little bit of that is okay. But then the time comes to get a rhythm going, to pick up the pace. Get the ball rolling. Like right now. I was going to wash the car and it’s already past 10. Soon it will be too hot. My list is sitting where I can see it. Blogging wasn’t on it.

And yesterday, I was in a kind of black hole. My prayer was short right before I sent myself off to sleep, “Jesus, I’m in a real fix here.” Because even though I know that He gave me the definite answer I needed when I was making the big decision, now I feel like I have to make it all work. In short, I put myself on the throne again.

Today is a new day, thankfully. And I am figuring this retirement thing out. I am still oh so very grateful and I know that I know that I know, it was the right decision. And I also know that my prayer life is more important than ever. That won’t change. Now I can start everyday with prayer and that is a great thing.

And this morning, I awoke in a good mood, a hopeful mood. I am thankful for every little thing. I know that I didn’t lift myself out of the funk, it was His grace that did. And that is cause for praise.

He’s here, and He has a plan. It’s working out.

Hope in every morning.

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God is still in control, in case your’re wondering. The morning bird’s hopeful song ushers in the day, not questioning whether to sing. In joyful exultation, he sings because God made him to sing. He finds reason enough in the birth of the new day.

God put the song there so who am I to doubt? The evening bird assures me as well, with his solitary song at dusk. This small fact astounds me. One bird and one only to bring in the sunrise, and one only to close out the day.

The Master Creator unfurls His sunrise and sunset like a banner across the sky. Genesis repeats itself, it is finished and it is very good. Who am I to say God isn’t in control?

Who am I to say there is no hope?

Lori A. Heyd

And here is a little nugget of truth I found in Proverbs today, I don’t remember ever reading it before:

The believer replied, “Every promise of God proves true;
he protects everyone who runs to him for help.
So don’t second-guess him;
he might take you to task and show up your lies.”
And then he prayed, “God, I’m asking for two things
before I die; don’t refuse me—
Banish lies from my lips
and liars from my presence.
Give me enough food to live on,
neither too much nor too little.
If I’m too full, I might get independent,
saying, ‘God? Who needs him?’
If I’m poor, I might steal
and dishonor the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:5-9

“I’m Right Here”…….God.

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“I’ve been working my heart out for the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,” aid Elijah. “The people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed the places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.”Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.”A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper. When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?”

Morning Prayer:

Lord, I’m so tired of trying to figure things out in my own head. I want to work on your time-table not my own. Drop it in quietly like a feather–drop it in like a pin on a wood floor. Let me hear it like Elijah heard Your still small voice in the mouth of the cave. That voice that came after the fire. And let me not ignore it. I wonder, how many times in my life have I heard it and brushed it aside?

These quiet times in the morning are rewarded by your great mercy just about bowls me over. Each time I end up praising You. Oh God, how you have blessed us through the years. I look back and am amazed at how far we’ve come, how far you’ve brought us. We are rich…..blessed beyond measure because we are acquainted with Your ways.

Even in the midst of anxiety and turmoil, you reward us with joy and laughter. You’ve even provided us with the answer to the question of pain and suffering. You answered it from the cross. Oh Jesus, you were “unfairness personified” dying a death meant for us, the worst kind of death. I can never say anything in my life is unfair, because each time the thought wells up, I hear Your voice from the cross saying, “It is finished.”

Everything that has ever been unfair or will ever be unfair in this life is null and void.

Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets. Colossians 2:14 The Message

I begin and end my days with praise for you, always for you, because we can always have hope. Thank you Lord, for your life-giving word. And for your Living Water that never fails to quench the deepest thirst of our greedy soul.

Thank you for these morning times of quiet spent with You………they are precious to me. Like any parent, you are honored when we want to sit in your Presence. What a thought.

 

The Reluctant Prophet

 

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It was one of those mornings…….the dawn was bursting over the Superstitions and the birds kicked up their chorus a notch as those rays touched earth.  We had some rain recently and they were celebrating what the earth had brought forth. God always births new days and each one is miraculous. Yet some come and go with little celebration, or I am too busy or overwhelmed to notice. Others however, like this one are like the hosts of Heaven are all raising their glasses in a toast to the new day.

At every turn in this life there are moments that breathe life and death. They reside side by side like the wheat and the tares growing in the field together waiting for harvest at the last day. God in His grace and mercy raises us up to resurrection after sleepless nights of worry, out of those times of deep disappointment in ourselves and others, times where it takes all we have just to get out of bed. Sometimes that’s the greatest miracle of all.

But today, this morning, God’s mercy and love take my breath away. When I opened to the words in Jeremiah tears immediately sprang to my eyes.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

I read the words again and again………”Before I formed you, before, before……….” the words echoed and lodged deep in my soul. I know this verse refers to the prophet Jeremiah, but it also applies to us. Those of us who know Him. There is something of the ancient in that verse. Almost as if I can imagine what it must have been like in the dawn of Creation when the morning stars sang together.

This world and the people in it can do its best to steal our joy, but the joy God gives is eternal. It springs up from somewhere deeper and older than we can imagine. Circumstances might snatch it away momentarily, but this joy that springs up at unexpected places and times is God giving us back what has always been ours. In those moments of extraordinary grace we experience our Redemption all over again.

They called Jeremiah the reluctant prophet. He said he was too young and couldn’t speak well. Aren’t we all just as full of excuses? But God stood by his side and protected him when the news was anything but good.

Like Jeremiah, God wants to use us. He speaks out of the deep eternal today. He says, “Tell others of My joy, give them a reason for the hope that lives in your heart. Be my love for them and my mouthpiece not so much in your words, but in your actions.”

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

Choosing life again and again

It’s been three days and at night I can still hear, “Move your arms like Henry….” and “Dorothy, Dorothy…..would you like to dance with me.” And that’s okay because at 13 she still loves the Wiggles. I love that they are not afraid to include “Away in a Manger” and call it Christmas. She has a mad crush on Murray Wiggle who she says is her boyfriend. He might be a Grandpa by now in real life and no longer on the show, but she doesn’t know and I would never tell her. I want to cry when I hear the songs because I miss her.

We got to celebrate my Mom’s 87th Birthday wearing clown noses during the Birthday song and lit a cake made from scratch by a dear friend who whispered “Do you think she would mind the Dinosaurs on it?” I said no, she’d love it. She did.

We also got to attend church, Mom and Dad and my brother and I on Palm Sunday, something we hadn’t done together in a long while. That was a blessing.

As with every family visit, there are people left out and things that go awry. Some things don’t go as planned. Mom’s heartbeat was erratic and she was not feeling well some of the time. Dad’s knee was flaring up and I went with him to the Doctor to get a shot and it was better by the end of the week.

There was talk of a “last trip” here or there. They talked too much like the best of their life is over and at 86 and 87 I guess that’s normal but I’m not ready to lose them. There was a moment when my Dad and I walked into Barnes and Noble together where it felt like old times and I wanted to sit there in that moment for a while.

Earlier today in the laundry room, I folded the gloves I took to the snow. I remembered her laughter as she threw snowballs at me and at her Dad. And I remembered my Dad and I, wedged in the backseat started laughing at my seatbelt that was stuck. That was like old times too. We always got in trouble in church for laughing. It strikes me that laughter is one of the things that has kept us all from losing our sanity over deaths and goodbyes and sickness and aging and everything in between. Laughter is one of the things in this life that will follow us to the next, thankfully.

As I write this, I hear it come down just now. The thing I was praying for this morning when I saw the cloudy skies. Just a little sprinkle, I said. Just a little pitter-patter on the roof. And now I have it. Healing for me, rain is. It says that God is still in control, He still cares enough to water the earth and so I have renewed assurance He still cares for us all.

Each day gives us a choice. At every turn in this life there are moments that breathe life and moments that have the foul smell of death. They reside side by side like the wheat and the tares. Each day there are moments bursting with life and moments that threaten to choke it right out of us.

The Bible says, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” I want to continue to choose life.

I also want to choose love. “Help me Lord to try to see beyond what’s on the surface. Help me to see people how You see them so I can love them better.”

People (and life) will try to steal our joy, but the joy God gives us is eternal and comes from somewhere deeper and older than we know or understand. It was there before all things were set in the act of creation. That joy is real and it’s our gift at redemption. He gives us back what was always meant for us in the first place.

Thank you God for the brief time at the beach. When I am there somehow I get the assurance that things will be okay. They really will.

 

 

Trust in the gray areas

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“Uncompromising trust in the love of God inspires us to thank God for the spiritual darkness that envelops us, for the loss of income, for the nagging arthritis that is so painful, and to pray from the heart, “Abba, into your hands I entrust my body, mind, and spirit and this entire day—morning, afternoon, evening, and night. Whatever you want of me, I want of me, falling into you and trusting in you in the midst of my life. Into your heart I entrust my heart, feeble, distracted, insecure, uncertain. Abba, unto you I abandon myself in Jesus our Lord. Amen.” Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God. 

Faith is not only the belief that God is waiting on the other side of the foggy shore of whatever murky stuff we are going through, it’s the certain knowledge that He is there, and will be there walking through it with us. Forever. Unless He takes us through those times where the path is obscured and the way seems blocked, we won’t experience the stretching of our faith whereby we can encourage others.

I find that when things are exceedingly dark, it can sometimes be easier to trust Him. It’s a natural reaction to grope for a comforting hand in the dark. And when things are going well, it’s also easy to trust Him, why shouldn’t we?

For me, its those gray areas that get to me. When I can’t see the road ahead. I like to see what I am getting into so I can mentally prepare. I don’t like being blindsided.

I remember the fog in California, when it would last for days. People would head to the foothills just to get out from under it and see the sun. But some of the most beautiful views are found in the fog. I got a picture of these roses taking the family dog to the vet one morning. And on the way out I got a cool picture of a turkey perched on a fence, his body outlined through the mist.

In fact, now that I think about it, three of the most powerful and comforting Spiritual experiences of my life occurred on foggy days.

Lately I have been grasping onto the familiar, the known. With both hands. And digging in with my feet. I am a person who burrows like a hermit crab into predictability and security. I like to see exactly where I am going and the year ahead will be a year of uncertainty, a year of change. Yet in this fog I am learning to trust Him with each day.

And here is one thing I know to be more true than anything else. That on the other side of anything and everything this life has to offer, Jesus offers life more abundantly. Whatever we give up for Him will be replaced by something better, something only He can give. I also know that my true security rests in Him alone. He is my provider. There is not one time I can look back on and see that He has failed to supply my needs.

Joy starts when we thank Him in advance for what we know He’s gonna do.

Grab onto the abundant life Jesus offers today, right now. Especially you there, standing in the gray areas of uncertainty. The way may not be easy, tears may have soaked the pillow the night before, but ours is the hope of joy in the morning. The joy of the Resurrection, His and ours.

The Son is coming out.

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My review: “Coming Clean” by Seth Haines

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When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 

Here’s what I am not supposed to say: sometimes I do not see an active God in the world around me. Sometimes the realities of the world are not ideal; sometimes nature’s contours are not so supple. Sometimes there are no good metaphors. In the last year, I’ve hoped to see God active, even struggled to write it as if it were true. Instead, I have the dreadful feeling that God set all things in motion and then walked away. Seth Haines: “Coming Clean”

This is really not a review at all, for reviews are supposed to be somewhat analytical based on some kind of technical knowledge on the reviewers part of what makes a book worth reading. I have no such skill, but what I do have is my impression that this is a book meant for everyone. This is one of the most honest books I have ever read and many parts of it resonated with me, powerfully. If I weren’t giving my copy away I would be curled up somewhere quiet, highlighter in hand, reading it all over again slower this time.

This is Seth’s personal account of his first 90 days of sobriety, and yet I felt that it’s really a story that belongs to all of us. For who among us hasn’t felt themselves in the grip of something way beyond our control? Who of us Christians, if we were really honest hasn’t asked God to show Himself in the tossing and turning wee hours of the morning?

Who of us hasn’t thought, as the sick man beside the pool of Siloam, “If I could just get down to that pool then I could get healing and all would be well, my life could be good again.”

It all really comes down to one thing as Seth expounds so truthfully: “I found myself dependent upon something other than the God in which I professed faith.”

Well, isn’t that any one of us, on any given day or moment? The power of this book for me rests in its honesty and ultimately its victorious message of healing. For we are all wounded souls looking for healing or relief wherever we can find it. For those of us who call ourselves Christians, we know where that healing comes from and yet, at times we don’t reach for Him. When the way is dark, it’s easier to reach for the easy fix, the quick relief, the instant salve, whatever it is.

We all have our story, and this book has a universal message. Jesus asks us with outstretched hand: “Do you want to get well?” In other words, are we ready to do what it takes to get the kind of healing Jesus offers, the kind of healing that lasts? So many times, I have expected living water to flow without reaching to turn on the spigot. Healing starts when I act by faith and turn the faucet a little to the left. Sometimes that one little act is the bravest thing we can do but also the scariest.

I remember one particular night at around sunset, about 11 years ago now.  I had just decided to abstain from wine for 3 weeks after hearing from the Holy Spirit that I was lying to myself about how much I was drinking. Out there in the corner of the yard under the mesquite tree, I asked God to fill up that empty place in me and replace it with His Presence. Sitting out there with Tux, the Oreo stray we had taken in, the cat and I watched the sunset. All around us the sky swirled in peach and orange and pink. I never forgot that moment. At that moment I knew that He would always be more than enough to fill any emptiness. This promise rang true:

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

This is what I also know, each day is enough trouble in itself, and each day we need to reach again for the healing that lasts. It’s a life-long process, and thankfully, God is with us for the long haul. Over and over again, He has proved faithful in my life.

In the book, Seth talks about a time when he was a boy and he heard the whisper of God in the mesquite groves where he lived in Texas. He goes back to that time again and again where God delighted in making Himself real to a little child. As someone who has long heard and seen God in nature, this spoke to me.

Finally, this book challenges us to go back to our own personal “mesquite grove” where we first felt God’s presence, heard His whisper. He’s there. Has been there waiting all along. Only then will we be strong enough to venture into the dark cave and face our fears, knowing He will walk beside us every step of the way.

This book is eloquent, poetic, real, beautiful and also in a way terrifying the way life can be sometimes. Ultimately though, it’s filled with a message of hope. It holds a bold message for each one of us who desires to live openly and honestly before our Father who loves us and will never turn us away.

 

Seeking the Quiet Place

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It is becoming more and more crucial that I seek the quiet place. That we all do. As the fever pitch of the world increases and the voices shriek for attention, I wonder things. I wonder why the greasy wheels still get the most attention. I wonder why the quiet ones, the ones who work behind the scenes and never ask for any glory are not rewarded more often. I wonder why it seems that some people make plans that never go awry. Then I remember:

You are always righteous, LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease? Jeremiah 12:1

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Why does it seem that the world is getting crazier, louder, more brash, less graceful? Is it just me? I see how hard people are working as I sit here in the parking lot at work. I see where they park to keep their cars shiny and free from dings. I feel their effort because it’s mine too, the press to keep it all going. It’s enough to make you want just to let it all go and move somewhere simple and raise goats. Maybe that’s just me. All the while, the rich seem to get richer with less effort. Then I remember:

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7

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When you’re in the quiet, you can hear things, but only with your soul’s ear to the ground. The Spirit is on the move.
Just below the unrelenting roar of the world, the scarlet Redemptive thread of God’s Holy Spirit is moving through the people. One church dies, and a people are scattered. Ten more come to life. Where they scatter, they regroup. They meet in bombed out buildings and shelters. The Spirit is moving,  I have read the stories of the Redeemed. People of every tribe and tongue all over the world are answering the call, called out of the darkness into His marvelous Light.
When I enter the Sanctuary, I remember.
Evil can prosper, but only for a season. Satan is having a heyday, for he knows his time is short. And whatever happens in this life, I know that the Hope I have is lasting.
When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Psalm 73:16-17


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The very same Spirit who brooded over the Genesis waters and stirred the healing pool of Siloam is moving in the world today. Even now, He whispers to me in the waves. And once when I stood on a deck in the half-light of midnight I saw water as far as the eye could see. He was there too.

These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 1 Corinthians 2:10

And the clowns the politicians and the rulers and the whiners and the liars will continue to yammer on and it doesn’t matter, not now not ever. The world whips up its best and brightest but it still won’t be nearly good enough.

I think King David said it best:

One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple. Psalm 27:4

 

A morning like this…….

My future belongs to Him

Sitting in the dark this morning, I imagine what it might have been like; a morning much like this one. Maybe the stars were still out as they started on their way to the garden tomb, moving quietly with their little bundles of materials and spices up the path.

We all start the day a little like them, don’t we? With a mix of trepidation and grief and a little hope mixed in that what He said was really true. I sat in the quiet this morning, in the dark, the stars still visible and the Holy pink of dawn just starting to color the sky.

Sitting there, I imagined the little Holy processional……I heard the crunch of feet on the rocky pathway. I saw each head bowed down in sadness, watching the path as pink dawn just began to touch the earth with Holy light.

I imagine they heard the first bird too, just as I did, singing of hope despite everything. He always does. I continued to sit, and wait. I needed to start my day, I needed to get going. Still I sat. Some things are more important. I think of this world as it is today, the Miracle has already happened.  Still only part of the world has truly grasped it.

The women rounded the corner and as they did, the earth rumbled and shook. The guards struck dumb as beings of impossible light sat on the stone and said those words that lit Heaven and Earth with all the hope we will ever need:

“He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.

In fear and trembling and joy, they ran back to tell the others. Their little bundles were useless, for now they carried something far more important, tangible hope. And we’ve been running back to try to tell the others ever since. Sometimes we don’t tell it right, and sometimes we don’t live it right, but we’re still trying.

Some still don’t want to hear it. And there are times we fall prey ourselves to the same conspiracies that started way back then. We get sucked under by everything we see and hear and forget the living hope we still have. But it’s still there. Because He’s still here.

At that very hour after His resurrection the stories swirled, and conspiracies were cooked up. The stories have been swirling ever since except now they swirl faster and even more furiously. Back then they invented a big lie and as the Bible puts it, “a very large sum of money” was changed hands and the rest is history.

Stories, lies and large amounts of money. Sounds like our modern politics. Some things just never change.

As for me, I know the truth. I’m throwing my useless bundle of death to the side and embracing Hope. Time to get this day going.