Easter Memories

How time flies! Can you believe that next weekend will already be Easter?

Easter has always been a wonderful time to be a member of my extended family. The cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and many dogs head down to Galveston, TX to spend the weekend together. 21 people in any house can be a good time… as long as it’s not raining.

crew

We’ve always had good times in Galveston. The excitement of Easter derived not only from the Celebration of the Resurrection, but also from the Easter Egg Hunt and the Cha-Cha Church. The Church isn’t actually called the Cha-Cha Church, that’s just what a majority of my family calls the church. We attended the gathering one Easter morning and were quite the fish out of water. Perhaps it was the electric organ in place of our usual pipe organ, or the excited sopranos in the front row… whatever the case, my brother asked the next year if we would be attending the Cha-Cha Church again.

We attended the little church many times over the past decades. Our large family would absorb half of the seating. There was always a rush to be the grandchild lucky enough to sit with Grandma. Not only would Grandma tickle your arm with her fingernails until your skin almost fell off, but she is a guarantee for a great laugh during the service. For if any soprano in the front row should make an excited expression we were all in for it. Three rows of shaking family members who had been trained to listen with respect and silence were now losing it as they watched their matriarch with tears of laughter rolling down her face.

I remember one particular Easter when we decided to attend the early service. Usually our enormous clan could file into the sanctuary in shifts not really making a blip on the radar. The early service was almost empty when we arrived. We filed in taking our usual seats on the right and gasped as we noticed a new organist and the absence of the Island Choir. We all waited to see what this would mean for the service. As usual, the Pastor offered for any children to make their way to a special class and no one from our section obeyed. We do not leave our formation, no matter how much aunts and uncles prod. Don’t make me leave the pack! So we remained and the sermon proceeded and everything went as usual. That was until the end came too soon for the Pastor. He looked up from his hymnal and looked at our crew and said, “Well, I suppose we have time for some special music. Does anyone here sing?” In unison, 19 heads turned and looked my way. Oh joy. I was pulled up on stage to sing a duet with the Pastor. He offered to let me choose the song. I picked the first Easter song I could find, “Victory in Jesus.” We prepared to sing when suddenly the little organist cried out, “I don’t think I know that one.” Well, we didn’t let that stop us, now did we? My dad was sent up to accompany us and that morning I sang “Victory in Jesus” with the Pastor of the Cha-Cha Church.

The next year a similar situation came about, but I was not about to be sacrificed by my family. I stepped onto the stage with at least five cousins in tow.

“Christ the Lord is Risen Today…..”

Following,
Ginger

Patiently

I learned about the Fruit of the Spirit when I was just a kid going to Sunday school.  I’m not sure I understood what they were, but I absolutely had them memorized thanks to a catchy tune.  Here’s the verse that addresses the fruit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23, NIV

Background info: Galatians is a letter written by Paul to a church in Galatia. In the paragraphs of chapter five, Paul is talking about having freedom through Jesus from sin and death and also how to live by the Spirit, rather than by the flesh… meaning my own selfish desires. He lists all sorts of behavior associated with living by the flesh, and it’s not a pretty picture: hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions… the list goes on and on and doesn’t get any better.

But… (there’s a but) Paul then says that the fruit that comes from the Spirit are these 9 great characteristics.  These are the FRUIT of the Spirit.  So how does one grow a specific trait… say patience?

 basil

Patience is one of nine traits listed in the Fruit of the Spirit. Plant yourself, connect yourself, abide with Jesus and the Bible says that the fruit produced will be these nine eye-catching things. (Don’t you notice when someone oozes kindness or patience?)

But what happens if you feel like one or some of these fruits aren’t defining character traits for you? Is this yet another time to throw up your hands and shift the blame elsewhere?

I don’t think so.

We were born with personality traits  I’m fairly outgoing but my husband tends to be more of an introvert. He can speak to a whole room of people if needed, but he won’t enjoy it as much as I will. The Fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23 aren’t personality traits. They are different aspects of godly character– and character is something that can be developed and grown. I don’t get to blame impatience on my personality, even though I certainly might like to!

You see, usually impatience comes because I have unmet expectations. (We’ve talked about these before!)  We had a plan for the day and it didn’t involve the printer jamming, our friend making us late, or the driver in front of us going 15 under the speed limit. It’s all about control and it is all about ME. Notice that none of the Fruit of the Spirit have to do with self-promotion. That’s just it… it’s not about ME.

Step #1 to cultivating fruit: Recognize that it’s not about me because it’s all about Him.

Check out 2nd Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new!”

This passage talks about a definite change in our lives. When we recognize that we can’t hold it together, that we’ve made mistakes (yes, sinned), and that we need a rescuer… that’s when Jesus steps in to make us new. Notice it doesn’t say that we receive perfection in that moment. You and I are a work in progress for our entire lives.  Remember that God is FOR us. He’s not waiting for us to mess up, He is coming along-side us right where we are!

I recognize that sometimes impatience isn’t associated with irritability. Sometimes our impatience looks more like anxiety and worry. That’s still a problem because it’s basically saying that we distrust God and what He has for us.  God is head over heels crazy about us and (thankfully) He is in control. His timing is for His people.

Step #2 to cultivating fruit: Strengthen your muscles.

While there is no growth or change happening without the Lord, gaining strength in this area requires exercise.  I take the time to strengthen my arms with weights, and my spiritual life isn’t any different. I have to daily notate where I am living selfishly and not producing good fruit. Thankfully God seems to be totally aware of my blind spots and seems more than happy to keep giving me situations in which to recognize the lacking fruit. “I have the slow cashier again?!” Maybe that’s an opportunity to meet the cashier and show kindness… and in doing so you utilize vast amounts of patient strength you didn’t know you had! Growth is going to take some strength training, so don’t get frustrated if you feel like a lightweight when it comes to patience. The time devoted will pay off.

Cultivating good fruit in our lives is a process that will take a lifetime.  I will not arrive at a point where I am never impatient, but perhaps one day I will be thought of as a patient woman.

Oh would that day come sooner! ;)

Following,
Ginger

Martha, Martha

hospitalitea

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42, NIV

I’ve always felt like a Martha, and because of that, books that praise Mary in their titles have left me feeling defensive. “Couldn’t Mary have helped her sister and then they BOTH could have sat and listened together?”

When I read this story my heart goes out to Martha. Perhaps, like me, she was addicted to the approval of others, and relished the praise received from authority figures. I watch as an honored guest and friend graced her home and understand why she wants everything to be perfect: clean, inviting, pristine, lovely, filling, tasty… these are her synonyms for hospitality.

And yet, Jesus responds to her request (which was quite possibly passive aggressive, if not at least frustrated) with the following:

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

The Martha inside of me is crushed. I’ve been corrected in front of my sister and told I’ve chosen incorrectly. Obviously if Mary has chosen what is better, I’ve chosen wrong. And that’s the very word I am deathly afraid to hear: WRONG.

If I’m honest with myself I know that my greatest desire is to hear Him say, “Ginger has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” I need the affirmation and approval, I’m addicted.

But by focusing in on better or wrong, I have missed His point completely.

Hospitality within your home and heart should not leave you upset and worried about many things. There has been one purpose, one goal all along. Sh’ma: Love God. Love Others.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:34-40, NIV

Jesus desired for Martha to rest in His presence rather than worry about ironing napkins. He desires for me to rest in Him rather than stressing about menus and seating. In that instance I make hospitality about me, rather than my guest.

During my trip to Israel last spring, we had the unique opportunity to witness hospitality in the middle of a desert. We walked a great distance down a long dirt road, not really knowing where our final destination might be.

DCIM100SPORT

As we approached a small cluster of homes, our group of fifty Americans was greeted by scores of children who led us to the Matriarch of their large family. We were welcomed by the Bedouins and encouraged to sit in an open air shelter upon scores of rugs. The family received us and shared cups of hot tea and prepared bread on a fire before us. They fed fifty strangers. I didn’t witness scrambling or arguing from the women serving us. The smiles on their faces were constant. They appeared honored to receive us rather than imposed upon by our presence. We left considering how willingly we open our homes and hearts.

tea

My fear of getting it “wrong” often keeps me from the one thing that is needed… but I don’t intend to stay that way. My hope is to move toward an open door and open heart policy.

Following and learning,
Ginger

Heart Check

REVIVE: To regain consciousness of life: to become attractive or flourishing again.

1. To restore to consciousness [the quality or state of being aware – especially of something within oneself] or life
2. To restore from a depressed, inactive, or unused state: bring back
3. To renew the mind or memory

I read this definition and immediately thought about the revitalization of the human heart. I don’t know about you, but sometimes my heart just feels… dead. I want to be moved toward compassion, humility, and love, and yet too often I find myself too exhausted or unmoved. So how do we revive a tired heart or passionless living?

Assess your heart situation.

1. Ask for eyes to see the condition of your heart.

“God, examine me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any bad thing in me.  Lead me on the road to everlasting life.”  Psalm 139:23-24, NCV

The example is set before us over and over again in the Psalms. When in doubt, we ask the One who knows.

“Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you?”  Psalm 85:6, NLT

2. Examine your treasure.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21, NIV                                                                                 

Jesus loves faith-filled risk for the glory of God. There aren’t rules on how to spend your money… but there is always a choice: good or best. Our joy should come from God – not from stuff!  The challenge is to live for experiences, not possessions!

3. Examine your foundation.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27, NIV

Roof

I ask this question to almost every group that I address. “Is God your foundation, or is He your roof?” For most of my life I lived as if God were the roof over my life. He covered everything. He was at my private school, my church, in our family devotions, even in the music I listened to on the radio. He was a wonderful roof. But God longs to be our foundation. My life took a totally different trajectory when I consciously claimed Him as my foundation. He went from an after-thought to my first thought. That shift was brought real passion to my life and heart. So… “Is God your foundation, or is He your roof?” Big difference. The answer matters.

“Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on. If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss.” Luke 6:46-49, The Message

I know this list isn’t an all-encompassing answer… but it’s a start.

Examining,
Ginger

Talents

dear ginger

“My best friend always gets the main character after auditions for school plays and other things. It has really hurt my feelings this time, so bad. What should I do?” – M

Dear M, I can’t tell you enough how much I feel for you right now. I have been there, and not just figuratively. I was the girl auditioning for choirs, concerts, and plays and feeling as if I would never get to take center stage. It seemed as if no matter how hard I tried, it just wasn’t good enough to get the lead.

But your situation is even more challenging!  You are managing your own disappointments while also having a best friend who you probably want to be happy for… but find it so difficult to do so. That makes sense. When we want something for ourselves it can make it REALLY hard to be joyful for others. So what I want you to know first and foremost is that I understand why you are hurting. But I also want you to know that this is a situation that just might repeat itself as you get older.

Gulp.

What do I mean?

Comparison is a sticky business. When I set my sights on wanting what someone else has, it can lead to all sorts of  envy and bitterness. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend my life always hurting because someone else seems to have it made. I need you to remember something right off the bat. God has gifted all of us differently. He is telling a unique story in your life that will look different from any other story.

Did you know that there’s a parable in Matthew 25 that actually talks about comparing our talents. For real. Here’s the set up: Jesus is talking to His disciples and explaining the Kingdom of Heaven with a story. Here’s what He said…

“The kingdom is also like what happened when a man went away and put his three servants in charge of all he owned. The man knew what each servant could do. So he handed five thousand coins to the first servant, two thousand to the second, and one thousand to the third. Then he left the country.”

Notice anything interesting so far? This translation of the Bible (CEV) uses the word “coin” while other translations utilize another term for a coin: a talent. But what I want you to be sure and see is how each of the servants was given a different amount of money to take care of. When I read that something inside of me wants to scream, “But that’s not fair!” I probably feel that way because of how easy it is to compare “coins” with my own friends. Some of them seem to have everything! They have crafting abilities, a way with words, perfect families, lots of money, trips galore, trim bodies, lots of popularity… I could go on and on. Sometimes I sit back and wonder why we don’t all seem to have the same amount of “coins”.

Let’s keep reading the story and see what happens.

“As soon as the man had gone, the servant with the five thousand coins used them to earn five thousand more. The servant who had two thousand coins did the same with his money and earned two thousand more. But the servant with one thousand coins dug a hole and hid his master’s money in the ground.

Some time later the master of those servants returned. He called them in and asked what they had done with his money. The servant who had been given five thousand coins brought them in with the five thousand that he had earned. He said, “Sir, you gave me five thousand coins, and I have earned five thousand more.”

“Wonderful!” his master replied. “You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness!”

Next, the servant who had been given two thousand coins came in and said, “Sir, you gave me two thousand coins, and I have earned two thousand more.”

“Wonderful!” his master replied. “You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness!”

The servant who had been given one thousand coins then came in and said, “Sir, I know that you are hard to get along with. You harvest what you don’t plant and gather crops where you haven’t scattered seed. I was frightened and went out and hid your money in the ground. Here is every single coin!”

The master of the servant told him, “You are lazy and good-for-nothing! You know that I harvest what I don’t plant and gather crops where I haven’t scattered seed. You could have at least put my money in the bank, so that I could have earned interest on it.”

Again, I want to scream, “That’s not fair! You didn’t give him the same amount as the others and now you are getting upset with him?”

Here’s the thing: Jesus is telling us that He wants us to do our best with WHATEVER we’ve been given. We look around and it see other people with way more talents, gifts, money, or opportunities than we do. But God created you, M, to be uniquely talented, gifted, and called to live your life for HIS glory. He wired you with your likes, dislikes, talents, and quirks. I’m sure your friend is a lovely girl, but I want you to know that you are too! You are both precious daughters of the King of Kings. No matter what happens in an audition, you are always the one He picks!

This may not be your time in the spotlight. It could be that your chance to be the lead will look more like mine… I was the understudy in 10th grade and finally got to have a go as the lead character. It was so exciting. But more than my time on the stage as an actress, God is teaching me what it looks like to serve Him even in areas where I may not feel all that skilled. He wants me to love my neighbors and get to know them, even if it feels awkward. He wants me to play Jenga with high school students. He is teaching me to honor my friends by hosting wedding and baby showers, even when I’m anything but crafty! And He is leading me to open up my home and be more hospitable, something I’m not really wired to do in my own strength. It’s not my thing. And yet… it is because He is calling me to do so!

theatre

I might feel more comfortable holding a mic and speaking from stage, but God is all about stretching and growing me to be more like Him. So even if I’m a “one thousand coin” person, my calling is STILL to do whatever I can with the time He has given me. I could spend all my time wishing I had more coins, or I can do something with what I’ve got!

Each of the servants was given something, and apparently it was given to them depending on their abilities. Please note that the master didn’t expect the man with two talents to have turned in ten.  He had no control over the amount he was given, but he did have all the control over what he did with it. The master did not outline what they should do with the money, he simply asked them to make more with what they had been given.

The quote I shared on yesterday’s Imperfect post comes straight out of a book by Erwin McManus called Awaken. This section gave me a window into this parable and it has given me a lot to think about. In my own life I let the “ten thousand coin” friends get me down, rather than finding joy in their success. Comparison stole my joy. Here’s the quote in a larger context:

“Why did the third servant bury his bag of gold? He was afraid of his master; he feared he would lose his gold and then be punished. This is where many of us have been misled or at least have misunderstood. We’re absolutely afraid of God. We think if we risk and then fail, then God is going to punish us. We are paralyzed by the fear of failure because we misunderstand the character of God. Life doesn’t have a failsafe. Failure is real and can be very painful. God, though, isn’t looking at failure but faithfulness. He’s not waiting for you to fail so he can punish you or succeed so he can pillage you. He wants to celebrate your life.

Jesus loves you so much, M. He delights to see you doing something you love. Even if you struggle along the way, remember that He just wants to see you be faithful with ALL of the gifts He has given you. I’m praying that Galatians 6:3-5 in The Message Translation will speak directly to your heart today. It reads, “Live creatively, friends… Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”

Keep creating joy in this world for Him. Please write again soon.

Following,
Ginger

Thursday Tips: Let It Go.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:1-2, NLT

In today’s Thursday tip we talk about letting go so we can keep moving forward. Too often in my own life I have grasped at things I thought would make me happy or fill me up, only to realize that they had kept me from the real source of joy. Join me and my favorite shirt as we talk about letting go:

Let It Go. from Ginger Ciminello on Vimeo.

 

“Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life. It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you’re going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you’re not going to want to do it. It’s like that with writing books, and it’s like that with life. People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.” Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Letting go so we can move forward…
Ginger

Reminder

You are seven days into 2013. If the newness is already wearing off and, like me, you find that your anxiety list is doubling in size…

May I encourage us all to just stop?

Before to-do lists and guilt-trips take over your thought life-

Before “should have done that better” and “I need to be doing more” creep in-

Before your prayer list is filled with fear, worry, stress, and panic-

Stop.

Faith believes that God can and God cares. A teacher on my trip to Israel shared that tidbit and it has become something of a mantra. When my faith leaks out and I find myself overwhelmed by the size of the waves, I ask myself: What am I not believing? Either I don’t believe He can or I don’t believe He cares.

faith

27 After Jesus left the girl’s home, two blind men followed along behind him, shouting, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”

28 They went right into the house where he was staying, and Jesus asked them,“Do you believe I can make you see?”

“Yes, Lord,” they told him, “we do.”

29 Then he touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.30 Then their eyes were opened, and they could see! (Matthew 9:27-31, NLT)

Faith believes that God can.

13 As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. 14 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:13-14, NLT)

Faith believes that God cares.

In the midst of your story today, He sees, He hears, He knows. He can and He most certainly cares.

“Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands.”

– Elisabeth Elliot

Following and learning,
Ginger

Dear Ginger: Hurt Feelings

Dear Ginger,
School hasn’t been going very well. I have a teacher who treats me differently from all the other kids in my class. My mom, dad and others have talked to her. I just wish Jesus would come in her heart and show her the right way to treat me. What should I do to help me be stronger around her when my teacher hurts my feelings? –A

Dear A,

I am so, so sorry about the situation with your teacher. My heart hurts for you. It sounds like you and your parents have done everything in your power to fix the situation… and yet, it’s still broken.

What do we do when we are being treated poorly or unfairly? Let’s see what the Bible has to say.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4, NLT

“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.” 1 Peter 3:9, NLT

Over and over the Bible calls us to love others even when the situation isn’t fair.

“Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.” Luke 6:28-29, NLT

Praying for people who hurt our feelings is one of the deepest forms of love, because it means that you have to really want something good happen to them. The prayer Jesus has in mind here is always for their good. He is not talking about us praying that those people would be run over by a truck. He’s not talking about praying for lightening to take them out. We are to pray that their hearts and ours be softened, be changed, be reconciled. He wants us to head to the root of the problem, not just the symptoms.

For example, if I stay up late and don’t get enough sleep I end up getting a headache around one in the afternoon and I can be irritable for the rest of the day. But if all I do is take painkillers or drink caffeine, I’m only dealing with the symptoms. What I really need to do is get off Facebook and go to bed earlier, because that will eliminate my tiredness. That’s what prayer does to whatever problem we are having with someone. The best thing we can do is pray for the people who have hurt us. Praying for your them will actually keep you from being destroyed by bitterness and anger.

Jesus is calling us not just to do good things for those rough relationships, like greeting them and opening the door for them; He is also calling us to WANT their best, and to express those wants in prayers when the enemy is nowhere around. We are to love them, bless them, and pray for them.

I don’t know why your teacher is being hurtful. But I do know that God loves you both so much. Perhaps God has put you in the situation just to show her love. Have you tried praying for her? Maybe pray each morning before you go to school that God would give you the strength to love her, and that God would open her eyes and heart. I know it seems like a tall order, but I know the freedom that prayer can bring from personal experience.

I’ll be praying for your situation, A… that God would give you courage, peace, and comfort each day.

Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12, NIV

Question: What advice would you give to A?

Following,
Ginger

The Mountain

Lots of things have influenced my prayer life: books, people, liturgy, teaching, and experiences. But a teaching and experience combo on the top of a mountain in Israel stands out above the rest.

Mount Arbel is a mountain in lower Galilee with high cliffs and views in every direction. On a clear day you can see across the Sea of Galilee, to the heights of Mount Hermon and into the Golan Heights.

The journey to the top was intense. We fought our way up Mt. Arbel, removing layers of clothes as we entered the low-lying clouds. The hike kept us panting, but the scenery took my breath away. I chatted with my fellow hikers in between gasps, totally unaware of where our journey was taking us. But eventually we reached the top. If I close my eyes I can picture that first look: windy, chilly, rolling dark clouds, the Sea of Galilee, and tiny villages dotting the entire landscape.

We bundled back up and sat down. (I love that… went up on a mountain and sat down… to pray. Sounds familiar.)

We were reminded of the strenuous hike taken to reach this quiet place, and the journey that Jesus would have taken to get away from the crowds.

“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:15-16)

eremos topos – solitary/quiet place – in Hebrew: desolate or deserted.

“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve—designating them apostles…” (Mark 3:13-14)

Jesus quite possibly spent the night on this solitary mountain top and then called His disciples. I found myself straining to grasp the lesson our trip leader was trying to communicate. It felt as though the rain and wind were doing everything in their power to keep me cold and miserable, but then something happened to change my entire attitude and perspective. It’s something so simple, and yet it’s a picture that will help me in my times of prayer for the rest of my life.

PERSPECTIVE

Our trip leader called out to a guy in our group. “Kyle, will you join me up front?”

Kyle, a tall twenty-something with red hair, obliged. Kyle was encouraged to name someone he looked up to or a celebrity he would like to meet. He chose the author J.R. Tolkien. Our leader, Matt, then took on the persona of J.R. Tolkien carrying a basket of bread for the illustration. “Kyle,” he said, “I want you to ask me for one of my loaves of bread. And by the way, you are homeless and very hungry.”

Kyle grovelled a bit reminding Mr. Tolkien just how much he loves all of his books. He went on to pay his respects, to mention favorite books, and then to gently ask, saying please several times, if he could have some bread.

Tolkien eventually relented and handed Kyle an imaginary piece of bread.

End scene.

Except then our trip leader did something else a bit unexpected. You see, Kyle’s father was also on our trip. He was called to the front and asked to stand next to Kyle.

“Kyle, ask your dad for some bread.”

Kyle put his arm around his father and asked simply and without hesitation, “Dad, may I please have some bread?”

I’ll admit, I became a little choked up as father and son hugged and shared a moment on the top of the mountain of prayer. I lost it when our guide turned to us and said, “Just ask. You aren’t speaking to the CEO of a company or an angry dictator. You are talking to your Father. Ask. Ask. Ask. Ask. Ask. And He Gives. Gives. Gives. Gives. Gives.”

Mt. Arbel has changed they way that I pray because I have a better picture of my Heavenly Father, a reminder that He invites us to connect with Him, to seek Him, and to simply ask of Him.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say this:

‘Father:
    May your holy name be honored;
    may your Kingdom come.
Give us day by day the food we need.
Forgive us our sins,
    for we forgive everyone who does us wrong.
    And do not bring us to hard testing.’”

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Suppose one of you should go to a friend’s house at midnight and say, ‘Friend, let me borrow three loaves of bread. A friend of mine who is on a trip has just come to my house, and I don’t have any food for him!’ And suppose your friend should answer from inside, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ Well, what then? I tell you that even if he will not get up and give you the bread because you are his friend, yet he will get up and give you everything you need because you are not ashamed to keep on asking. And so I say to you: Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.For those who ask will receive, and those who seek will find, and the door will be opened to anyone who knocks. Would any of you who are fathers give your son a snake when he asks for fish? Or would you give him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:1-13, GNT)

Just Ask.

Following,
Ginger

Gethsemene: oil press

They came to an area called Gethsemane. Jesus told his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him. He plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony. He told them, “I feel bad enough right now to die. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

 Going a little ahead, he fell to the ground and prayed for a way out: “Papa, Father, you can—can’t you?—get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want—what do you want?”

 He came back and found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, you went to sleep on me? Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don’t enter the danger zone without even knowing it. Don’t be naive. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”

 He then went back and prayed the same prayer. Returning, he again found them sound asleep. They simply couldn’t keep their eyes open, and they didn’t have a plausible excuse.

 He came back a third time and said, “Are you going to sleep all night? No—you’ve slept long enough. Time’s up. The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up. Let’s get going. My betrayer has arrived.”

 No sooner were the words out of his mouth when Judas, the one out of the Twelve, showed up, and with him a gang of ruffians, sent by the high priests, religion scholars, and leaders, brandishing swords and clubs. The betrayer had worked out a signal with them: “The one I kiss, that’s the one—seize him. Make sure he doesn’t get away.” He went straight to Jesus and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The others then grabbed him and roughed him up. One of the men standing there unsheathed his sword, swung, and came down on the Chief Priest’s servant, lopping off the man’s ear.

 Jesus said to them, “What is this, coming after me with swords and clubs as if I were a dangerous criminal? Day after day I’ve been sitting in the Temple teaching, and you never so much as lifted a hand against me. What you in fact have done is confirm the prophetic writings.” All the disciples cut and ran.

Mark 14:32-50, The Message

We deserve the cup of wrath.

Thank you for the Cross, Lord.