February 2019 Archives

Casting Cares

Casting Cares

When did complaining get such a bad reputation?

I recently saw a meme on Facebook that left me bewildered. I don’t remember the complete tagline; something like “this is what happens when you complain.”

Above it was two side by side pictures of Jesus seated next to a person on a park bench. In the first photo Jesus is dressed in his oft seen attire of his time period, clean and whole; listening intently. However, in the second, he is stripped (except for his loin cloth), crown of thorns on his nodding head, multiple lash marks about his body, bleeding profusely.

I guess the meme creator means to infer when we complain we re-crucify Christ.

What a horrifying thought!

Wouldn’t that negate his final statement, “It is finished?” Wouldn’t his resurrection become null and void? Wouldn’t all hope be lost with a single complaint? Wouldn’t our conversations with God become full of trite and meaningless gratitude platitudes? Wouldn’t superficial exchanges become the norm?

I’m not advocating complaining for the sake of complaining; certainly no one enjoys being around a sour puss.

I am suggesting that memes like the one described may make one reconsider being open, honest and genuine when expressing his or her feelings to the Creator.

The Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, sometimes called the complainer, wrestled strenuously with God’s decision to use the Babylonian Empire to punish Judah’s sins. Then with a change of heart he magnifies the Lord,

“For even if the fig tree doesn’t blossom, and no fruit is on the vines, even if the olive tree fails to produce, and the fields yield no food at all, even if the sheep vanish from the sheep pen, and there are no cows in the stalls; still, I will rejoice in ADONAI, I will take joy in the God of my salvation. ELOHIM Adonai is my strength!” (3: 17-18)

Throughout the book of Psalms, David passionately assails God with all his doubts, fears, and anxieties. Yet, in the very same book, he fervently praises God for His goodness, grace and mercy.

Surely of all people in the Bible who had a right to complain, it was Job. He lost all his wealth, his health and his family in one fell swoop and was left with an impatient wife who said, “curse God and die.” To add insult to injury, three of his supposed friends told him his loss was his fault because he sinned.

In his despondency, Job vehemently moaned, wailed and grumbled to God (or maybe I should say he sincerely articulated his pessimistic perspective) and yet the only thing that God chastised Job for was his ignorance, not his complaints.

After which, Job says, “I had heard about you with my ears, but now my eye sees you; therefore, I detest (myself) and repent in dust and ashes.” (42: 5-6)

This must be why Peter says, “Throw all your anxieties upon him, because he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Authenticity with God seems to inspire a humbled cathartic experience.

I can live with that.

Carved Images

Carved Images

Sometimes I just want to yell at the top of my lungs, “Stop the madness!” STOP THE MADNESS!! STOP!!! THE!!! MADNESS!!! I want to get off this crazy ride!

I can’t stand watching the news. To be honest, I don’t know who to believe any more concerning any news stories—particularly political ones; and the sniping and nastiness that occurs on social media makes my heart hurt. Blacks hating whites, whites hating blacks; gay, straight, and transgender hatred; Democrats against Republicans against Socialists and vice versa; sexism; pro-life versus pro-choice; this label against that label . . . and on and on and on. The whole world feels like it is spinning out of control.

Where did all the love go?

But then I read a chapter or verse in the Bible that strikes a chord within, have a WOW moment and Peace returns.

I was reading in Deuteronomy this morning, one of my favorite books in the Bible. Oh, I might as well confess, any book in the Bible that I’m reading at the time is my favorite book. By the time I’ve read through Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers into Deuteronomy, I am so awestruck by Moses–he’s become my best friend–(spoiler alert) that I cry when he dies at the end without getting to enter the Promised Land.

Anyway . . . what inspired me this day were verses out of chapters three, four and five where Moses is retelling the Exodus story—a review and summary, so to speak, of their (the Israelites) journey thus far. What follows are the verses that caught my attention:

You approached and stood at the foot of the mountain; and the mountain blazed with fire to the heart of heaven, with darkness, clouds and thick mist. Then ADONAI spoke to you out of the fire! You heard the sound of words but saw no shape, there was only a voice . . . do not become corrupt and make yourselves a carved image having the shape of any figure—not a representation of a human being, male or female . . .Watch out for yourselves, so that you won’t forget the covenant of ADONAI your God, which he made with you, and make yourself a carved image, a representation of anything forbidden to you by ADONAI your God . . . You are to have no other gods before me. You are not to make for yourselves a carved image or any kind of representation of anything in heaven above, on the earth beneath or in the water below the shoreline . . .

Why is God so concerned with his people making carved images?

Then it hit me . . .because WE are the image of God!

My pastor said, “this image—humankind—testifies that God is here!”  He went so far as to say that being the image of God is a “calling.”

Do you hear it?

John Newton’s words in the hymn “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” declares it so beautifully, “God, whose word cannot be broken, formed thee for His own abode.”

My pastor was cultivating this with his message Sunday entitled “Image Sharing.” He challenged us by saying that we re-present God by the way we live and act; would someone looking at us say, “now there is what God looks like.” He closed with a story that ended with, “if God is bigger than we are and God lives in all of us, shouldn’t He show through?”

Does He?

All the labels that we thrust upon ourselves and others are “carved images” that only serve to separate us from each other and from God.

If you aren’t a Christian or don’t believe in God, then allow the words of Rumi to en-lighten your hearing and seeing.

When someone criticizes or disagrees
with you, a small amount of hatred
and antagonism is born in your heart.
If you do not squash that out
at once,
it might grow into a snake,
or even a dragon.



During my years as a teacher, two of my former principals and many colleagues described me as having the patience of Job—an Old Testament character known for enduring undeserved suffering.

Such was NOT the case today at the food bank where I volunteer one morning a week.

A homeless woman came in seeking a two-day supply of food. One of the intake volunteers asked her if she wanted tea or coffee; she declined. A second intake volunteer asked her if she had the means for cooking (microwave, stove, etc); she did not. The first volunteer, hearing this, inquired about any special food requests and again, twice more, queried about tea or coffee.

The time was near for me to depart anyway, so I quietly left yelling in my head, “how many times are you going to make that poor soul acknowledge that she doesn’t even have the resources to boil a cup of water?”

This particular volunteer is a perfectly pleasant person; humiliation was not her intent. I know she was just trying to be thorough; possibly she was having an off day, maybe she did not have the ability to infer (highly unlikely), or maybe she just wasn’t listening.

Therein lies the rub for me.

As an introvert, I have been repeatedly dismissed as shy, too sensitive and too quiet—as if there is something wrong with being quiet (or sensitive and shy, for that matter).

Or beloveds who think they know what I’m going to say and begin speaking before I have finished my thought—they are so busy thinking about how they are going to respond, they aren’t really listening to me in the first place.

Many verses in the Bible (a few here in no particular order) speak to listening and using words appropriately.

Proverbs 25:11–Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word appropriately spoken.

James 1:19—Therefore, my dear brothers, let every person be quick to listen but slow to speak, slow to get angry.

Proverbs 15:23—To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is.

Proverbs 10:19—When words are many, transgression is not lacking; but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

Proverbs 15:28—The mind of the righteous thinks before speaking, but the mouth of the wicked spews out evil stuff.

Perhaps the most sagacious is Matthew 12:36-37, “Moreover, I tell you this, on the Day of Judgement people will have to give account for every careless word they have spoken; for by your own words you will be acquitted, and by your own words you will be condemned.”

Jesus had just cured a demon-oppressed man and the Pharisees were inciting that, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” To which Jesus responds with several parables one of which is a tree being know by its fruit.

Even at face value, these verses from Matthew should give cause for pause.

I wonder . . . how different life would be if we truly took the time to speak sparingly and listen intently.

We might truly hear what’s not being said.