But God answered, by Elaine Elliott, Antigua, Guatemala

Job 30:20; 38:1-2, 12-13 I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer. I stand before you, but you don’t even look. … Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind. “Who is this that questions my wisdom? … Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east? Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth?” [KJV: “Hast thou commanded the dayspring to know its place?”]

Luke 1:78-79 Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven [KJV “the dayspring from on high”] is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.

My sister sent us home from San Diego in mid-March after my husband Steve and I had helped her recover from a health crisis. Though we had heard of Covid, arriving in the Guatemala airport to a temperature check and instructions to self-quarantine for two weeks seemed surprising.   The next day we heard that all air travel to the country would be suspended, and we went into lockdown two days later.  We arrived home just in time.

Our daughter suggested a weekly Zoom call, a lifeline to anchor our family.  Having this connection allowed us to hear about their lives, to share ours, to watch the three grandchildren grow, and to be present as our son adopted two boys.  My Bible study group started a weekly Zoom meeting, and several friends and I talked frequently as well.  On-line books, magazines, newspapers, and documentaries expanded our world. Thank you, God, for technology!

Covid confinement became my sabbatical for writing. I sent scripture reflections to family and friends, then wrote a novel about recent events in Guatemala.  Sharing my drafts became a way of connecting with friends as readers helped me with my story. 

When two close Mayan friends died, and another friend shared her grief over not being with her husband in the hospital as he died, the Covid tragedy became personal. We saw the economic devastation as people on the streets waved white flags to indicate they needed food. Added to the pandemic, two tropical storms devastated communities, making more food relief necessary. 

Our patio garden with its lavish flowers, hummingbirds, butterflies, bright fountain, and fresh grass made a welcoming outdoor space without leaving the house.  Thanksgiving dinner had all the trimmings and none of the guests.  Similarly, we spent Christmas home alone. However, the brilliance of this year’s conjunction of planets shone in the clear evening sky as a hopeful sign like the first Christmas star.  Zoom allowed us to connect with extended family, all socially distanced in my sister’s back yard.

When I gained confidence to hike outdoors with friends, we enjoyed soaking in trees, sunlight, and landscapes. Prayer, music, devotional reading and encouragement from family and friends kept us cheerful, and when tempted to become gloomy, habits of gratitude lifted us up.  I felt grateful for our good health, survival of Covid for several in the family, and for my 91-year-old mom’s vaccination.

Even in a pandemic, Easter Sunday celebrates resurrection, and I set a cheerful spring table with bright flowers and delicious food.  I had read an appropriate line from Gerard Manley Hopkins that referred to Christ in a time of shadows: “Let him Easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us.”

Thanapon: Shutterstock

But Jesus stood among them

John 20-21 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” … That Sunday evening, the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because the were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly Jesus was standing there among them! … Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. … Then Jesus told Thomas, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me. … Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. … “Now come and have breakfast!” Jesus said. … Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.

How has Jesus appeared to you? What happened? I would so love to know! Have you, like Mary Magdalene, been overwhelmed by grief? Have you, like the disciples, been trapped by fear? Like Thomas, have you struggled to believe God is alive, that he cares? Have you, like the fishing disciples, become discouraged because your hard work seems to have resulted in nothing? Like Peter, have you betrayed your Lord or someone else you love, and need restoration? What is your story?

TippaPatt: Shutterstock

I would particularly like to know how you have seen God through these long months of Covid. Could you take a few minutes to write, no more than a page, and send me your “But God” Covid story to encourage other people?

When we write our stories, we preserve and honor them, and thereby we honor God. What if John hadn’t taken the time to write his Gospel? Much of what Jesus said and did we simply wouldn’t know.

Something special happens for us when we write. Our experience clarifies. We see aspects we hadn’t noted before. We understand details and connections; we perceive more of what God is doing in our lives. We grow.

And sharing our stories encourages others to share theirs. Together, we know God better.

So, will you do it? During this Easter season, the days between Easter and Pentecost, I would love to publish your story, for the glory of God and encouragement of his people. I’ll be watching my Inbox! Send me your story at debrakornfield@gmail.com.

Thanks!!

But Jesus said, “You would have no power”

John 19:10-11 “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” But Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.”

Words. There have been so many words. Jesus’ last words to his disciples take five chapters to record.

John 13: You will believe that I am the Messiah…The one who eats my food has turned against me…I will be with you only a little longer…Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

John 14: Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me…Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…the Holy Spirit will teach you…I am leaving you with a gift—peace. The ruler of the world approaches. He has no power over me…

John 15: I am the grapevine, and my Father is the gardener…Apart from me, you can do nothing…Your joy will overflow…I will send you the Spirit of truth.

John 16: Your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy!…Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

John 17: Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son…Holy Father, protect by the power of your name all who are mine, so that they will be united just as we are…I protected them…I guarded them…Now I am coming to you…Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them not the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth…May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me.

Yesterday Rev. Mark Stevenson presented for us dramatically, by memory, in a sanctuary stripped of all adornment, the whole of John 18 and 19. You can watch it here. Cross of Jesus, cross of sorrow, where the blood of Christ was shed, perfect Man on thee did suffer, perfect God on thee has bled! (Wm J. Sparrow-Simpson, 1887). And by Christina Rosetti, set to music by Chris Massa, Am I stone and not a sheep That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross, To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss, And yet not weep? Not so those women loved…

Tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. we will enter the sunrise service in darkness. At one magical moment, the organ will pour forth glorious praise as the lights explode the darkness to reveal the church no longer stripped, but bursting with flowers.

And for the first time since Lent began, we will once again say “Alleluia, Alleluia.”

From Wikipedia

But Jesus got up

John 13:1-17, 34 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him… After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet… So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”

Philippians 2:5-7 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave u his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave.

Maundy Thursday got its name from this new commandment, or mandatum, Jesus gave to his disciples at this last dinner with them. Don’t just love your neighbor; love each other as Jesus did. He knew as he spoke that he would soon offer his life for them.

This reminder comes at a time we may all be feeling some degree of compassion fatigue (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compassion_fatigue) from the ongoing battle with Covid. Right now, South America and Europe are being hit hardest. Some of those who are suffering and dying include people we know and love. Hundreds of pastors have died across Latin America, giving all they can for their people where medical care is unavailable or inadequate.

In some places such as Venezuela, where the health system is broken, God seems to be performing miracles. In hard hit San Cristóbal, for example, though many people in Otto and Idagly’s church have gotten very sick, not a single person has died of Covid. “We pray and we do what we can, mostly caring for the families of the ill ones,” Idagly told me. “There are no medical resources, yet God keeps bringing people back. We’re careful, but it does seem God is honoring our care for one another. Death is not the ultimate enemy. The enemy is fear.”

She laughs. “When every resource is scarce—food, clean water, transportation, etc.—we focus not on what we can’t control but on what we can. We invest in love and trust, in worship and celebration of God’s faithfulness. We’ll all die one way or another. The question is, what will be the quality of our living? We can choose joy, no matter what.”

I’m encouraged to get up from the table. To serve however I can today. One day at a time.

Kendrick Adams: Shutterstock

But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone”

John 12:1-11 Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume and anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Karis deeply identified with this story. She didn’t see herself as Mary, but as the jar of perfume, broken over Jesus’ body. She believed a central part of her mission in life was to intercede for Christ’s body, and that her physical brokenness facilitated that intercession. She wrote about this several times in her journals. For example:

I am broken and poured out for others. I nurture hope because Your grace flows through my weakness… I’m not complaining, Lord. You know I’m not. I just want to know where to spill the perfume. … I heard a friend retell the story of the alabaster jar, the image that has been so precious to me of being broken and spilled out over Your body to perfume Your Church: that the waste of my life, my expensive life, might serve the Church once I am gone. And that the memory of me would somehow strengthen the Church to endure whatever persecution or death it is to face.

I was thinking about this when I received news that our dear friend Eloisa, a pillar of strength and kindness for her church, family, and community, died of Covid this morning in Cuiabá, Brazil. One more of so many beloved ones leaving shock and grief behind them.

And then I think about the context of the rest of this chapter. Mary’s anointing of Jesus for his burial and a section commenting on the unbelief of the people despite his raising of Lazarus bookend his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, a story we remembered yesterday. But Palm Sunday is also Passion Sunday, thrusting us into this week of betrayal and suffering and death.

Jesus warns, “My light will shine for you just a little longer … Put your trust in the light while there is still time” (v. 35-36). While we wave palms in joyful hosannas, our praise is tempered by knowing what has already been done and said—“Let’s not just kill Jesus; let’s kill Lazarus too!” (v. 10) and by knowing what is coming next.

The time will come, though—Easter is but a preview—when there will no longer be sadness inseparable from our joy. I don’t know what it takes to prepare ourselves for that. It’s not something we ever get to experience here on earth, this so-called “vale of tears.” But it is coming. The last chapter of our story will be pure joy.

So let it rise like incense
My whole life, a fragrance
Every ounce here broken at Your feet
Every breath, an offering
My heart cries, these lungs sing over You
My worthy King of kings

But Jesus was angry

Grief. It can skewer you, swamp you, sabotage your self-control. It can be hot or cold. It can leave you bubbling over with the desperate need to talk, share, let others know how you feel. Or it can empty you, dry you out, isolate you. It can fade softly into the background yet knock you down with no warning. I once at the grocery store threw myself sobbing into the arms of a woman I barely knew. No, not typical behavior for me.

As I walked early this morning, the wind blowing my hair because in spring angst I left my hat at home, I thought, “Grief is like the wind.” On the car radio I heard we may have gusts up to 60 miles per hour today. We may lose power; branches may crack off our trees.

Have I felt grief that powerful, draining all my energy, stripping me, changing me permanently? Yes.

The news announcer went on to tell me eight tornadoes ravaged Alabama yesterday. Have I felt grief as devastating as a tornado? No. But I know some people have.

On still days, we don’t think about the wind. On hot days, we relish a breeze. It’s something we share with everyone in our neighborhood, whether we know them or talk with them or not. It’s part of our shared experience. Grief has become like that over the past year, not just locally or nationally, but worldwide. We all have something or someone (or many somethings or someones) to mourn. Can we let it unite us, strengthen our empathy, soften our reactivity?  

Some of us have loving, understanding people around us. Some of us suffer alone. As hard as things have been in our country, the resources we have are abundant compared to many parts of the world. I’ve talked with several people this week who told me, “Vaccines? We have no idea when they will reach our country. And once they do, it will be months or years before they are available for people like me. Meanwhile, our health care system is totally overwhelmed. Our recourse is prayer. And doing what we can to care for each other.”

I’m glad Jesus knew grief; I’m glad he wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus. In 1551, when Robert Estienne defined a verse structure within the chapters of the Bible, he decided “Jesus wept” deserved its own verse. I’m intrigued that Jesus’ weeping was apparently fueled by anger at his friends’ suffering. Could some of his emotion have been linked to his own impending death or, closer to hand, the Jewish leaders’ reactions to this high-profile event (From that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus’ death (v. 53)? What do you think about Jesus’ anger?

As I finished my walk, an image of wind turbines marching across Pennsylvania hills flashed into my mind. Lord, I offer you, once again, my grief. Please harness it for your own purposes, beginning within my own soul. Make it a resource. A gift. Another miracle, Lord. Thank you.

Image from cancerhealth.com

But Jesus got away

John 10:30-42 Jesus said, “The Father and I are one.” …The people picked up stones to kill him. Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?” They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.” Jesus replied, “Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. … The Father is in me, and I am in the Father.” Once again they tried to arrest him, but he got away and left them… And many who were there believed in Jesus.

Spring! It’s here!!!

Easter season is all about miracles. In just a few days, we’ll celebrate the greatest miracle of all time: Jesus died, but now he’s alive! Some miracles are big and splashy and attract lots of attention. Others are so personal perhaps no one else even knows about them, but they create a warm glow of gratefulness in your heart every time you think about what God did for you.

Monday night a gal from Venezuela raised the question, “How can we experience the Holy Spirit’s presence with us when we’re going through truly awful, no good, terribly scary times?” I found myself talking about how important Lamentations 3:22-24 became for me during my tough times with Karis. My world had narrowed down to surviving each hour. Jeremiah told me every day, The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies begin afresh each morning.

You know what miracle God did for me personally during the most awful of the awful years? I was hardly eating or sleeping. Karis took two steps forward and three steps back, again and again. My stress level was off the charts. Yet I was not sick a single day that year! There was not a single day I was unable to show up and do what I needed to do for my daughter.

I am in awe of John as a writer. Consider chapter 10. The first half, set between the dramatic healing of the blind man in chapter 9 and Jesus’ discussion about miracles (in between having his life threatened), tells us about Jesus being our Shepherd. Sometimes his care takes the form of a big, splashy miracle. Sometimes the miracle blooms in knowing he’s with us, walking through whatever it is with us. Not leaving us stuck, alone. That’s a miracle with staying power.

Karis always believed she would not live one minute longer or shorter than her Shepherd planned for her, but she still had to do her part to stay as well as she could be. Jesus too, in this chapter, knew it wasn’t yet his time to die, so he dodged the bullets—oops, I mean stones. Sometimes he stayed around to chat, but sometimes he got out of there. At all times he was in control. At all times he was in tune with his Father who loved him (v. 17).

Have you experienced a miracle you would like to share? I invite you to write it down and send it to me by email—no longer than one page. Your experience can encourage others who need a concrete reminder that God is still in the miracle-working business. I’ll watch for your story!

Here’s one of my favorite versions of Jesus as my shepherd.

But Jesus is the light

John 9:1-5, 39-41 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins? “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” … Then Jesus told him [the man who had been born blind], “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.” Some Pharisees who were standing nearby heard him and asked, “Are you saying we’re blind?” “If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.”

From Shutterstock, Fractal Graphics #3 by NataVilman

Before I go back to the judge and judgment verses in chapter 5, I want to look at this one in 9:39. This story of the blind man Jesus healed is one of my favorites in the Bible, and John takes a whole chapter to tell it. When Karis was born with a defect in her intestines, some people asked Dave and me to examine our lives to repent of whatever sin in us had caused this. So that question, which Jesus responds to so clearly, is as relevant in our time as it was two thousand years ago. Karis believed her entire life was meant as a showcase of God’s power and love. Reading that in her journals is what motivated me to write Karis, All I See Is Grace.

The story shows the blind man growing in his understanding of Jesus, from calling him “the man they call Jesus” in v. 11, to “he must be a prophet” in v. 17, to rejection of the Pharisees’ conclusion that Jesus is a sinner for healing on the Sabbath (v. 24). Verse 25 rings with courage, in contrast to the man’s parent’s trepidation: “I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!” I can only begin to imagine how thrilling it was for a man who had never seen anything in his life to see colors, and people’s faces (even the Pharisees’ frowning faces), and his own parents!

When the Pharisees ask the man to tell them AGAIN how Jesus healed him, he asks “Do you want to become his disciples too?” (v. 27). I think the “too” refers to himself: He wants to know the man who healed him. In verse 33 he explains to the Pharisees why Jesus must be from God. In verse 36, he exclaims, “Who is the Son of Man? I want to believe in him.” Jesus responds, “You have seen him!” And in verse 38 the man worships Jesus and calls him Lord.

That’s when we have verse 39, which the NLT translates “I entered this world to render judgment.” I think this can be translated differently, “I entered the world to be judged” or to be the object of judgment. (This is one time I disagree with the NLT, which I love—most translations say, “for judgment,” leaving unclear who is doing the judging.) Those doing the judging in this story are the man and his parents, and the Pharisees. The issue is, who is Jesus? Just a man? A sinner? A prophet? A true miracle-worker, by God’s power? Son of Man? Lord? How will the people who encounter Jesus respond to him?

That’s the central question of John’s gospel. He introduces it in chapter one and asks it again and again. No one can be neutral regarding Jesus. Is he who he says he is, or is he the biggest fraud ever? Each of us must judge him. Each of us must decide. Jesus is the light, John says (1:9). Can we see his glory, or are we blind? (1:10-14).

Hang in here with me for a moment. I have a reason for reaching this conclusion about the meaning of the word judgment in 9:39. John uses three words for judge or judgment in his gospel: krino (verb), krisis (noun), and krima (noun). He chooses the word krima only here, in 9:39. Krima is the result of a judgment that has been rendered, a decision made for or against. The man who was blind started choosing for Jesus from the beginning and grew into the clear vision he celebrated in worship. The Pharisees who thought they could see have been choosing against him since their first contact with Jesus. By their judgments, the people in this story revealed their hearts. They revealed what they could see, given their prior decisions. The difference between who Jesus was to the man who could now see and to the Pharisees could not be more dramatic. And John capitalizes on this in his delightful word plays.

One more grace note in this story: Isn’t it cool that Jesus let the blind man participate, have a role, be a partner in his healing? “I went and washed, and now I can see!” (v. 11). All his life, he’d been the object: of people’s pity, of their scorn, of their judgment of him and his family (“Who sinned…?”). Jesus gives him agency, makes him an actor, setting him up for a brand-new experience of life. How is Jesus empowering you today?

But Jesus found him

John 5:13-30 The man didn’t know [who had healed him and told him to pick up his mat and walk], for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” … So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. … The Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. … Those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.

When I was a child, it seemed the only thing my parents commended me for was my report card. For me, earning all As felt like a matter of life and death. So when I received a B in math in third grade, I was devastated. I remember so clearly sitting in my hiding place at boarding school feeling absolute despair. I was a failure. The thought of my parents’ disappointment in me felt unbearable. How could I face them? How could I live with myself?

In chapter four of his book The Good and Beautiful God, James Bryan Smith discusses the merit system so engrained in our culture and then asks the question, “What does God really want from me?”

When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, he answered clearly: love God with all you have. … This in no way negates the fact that God is unflinchingly against sin. God hates sin because it hurts his children. But God is crazy about his children. … What if God is not mad at you? What if God responds to us with absolute delight regardless of how we look or feel, or what we have or have not done? The only possible response would be to feel absolute delight in return (pp. 85-87; italics mine).

When I read this, I wrote “Karis” in the margin. Because somehow, she captured and owned this bedrock belief that God loved her no matter what. She used to say, “I’m the most useless creature in the world. God made me to showcase his grace because I have no way to earn his favor. All I can do is love him back and love the people he sends to me.”

I’ve returned to chapter 5 of John because after my last post, a friend emailed me the question, How do you reconcile Jesus not judging with all the verses that say he does judge? Of the 33 times in his Gospel John uses words translated as judge or judgment, seven are in 5:22-30, including verse 22, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge. That sounds like the opposite of 8:15 from my last post! And verse 27, the Father has given the Son authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man.

I have a theory, but I’ve run out of time and space for today. For now: In the case of the healing of this man, Jesus said he had gotten sick because of his sin (v. 14). He states elsewhere, as with the man born blind in chapter 9, that his blindness is NOT because of sin in his life or his parents’. Jesus was able to discern (“judge”) the difference between the two cases.

Illness resulting from choices is commonplace: if you drink too much alcohol over time, you’ll kill your liver (and probably your family relationships). If you smoke regularly, you’ll kill your lungs. If you are chronically overstressed, it will show up in your body. We don’t know what sin caused this man’s illness, but Jesus cared enough to seek him out later.

If we define “sin” loosely as something that harms you or someone else, sin and its effects grieve God because he loves us and wants us to live in freedom.

Our pastor in Brazil was invited to preach in another church. When he came home, he asked his son what the substitute preacher in our church had to say. Caught out for not paying attention, his resourceful son fabricated, “He preached about sin!” “Oh, and what did he say?” “He was against it!”

The sin Jesus is against is what hurts his beloved ones. This stands in sharp contrast to rule-keeping for its own sake, to earn points—the merit system embodied in the Jewish leaders.

Later! Gotta run!

From Shutterstock by Faya Francevna

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAVE!!

But Jesus does not judge anyone

John 8:15 I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life…You judge me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone…Jesus made these statements while he was speaking in the Temple…But he was not arrested, because his time had not yet come.

It’s a tough time to try to traditionally publish a book. Thousands of people have been writing during the pandemic, and even the literary agents are flooded with queries, not to mention publishers. Many agents are closed to queries. I read yesterday on one literary agency site that a thousand manuscripts are being rejected for one that’s accepted. “So don’t take my no personally; don’t be discouraged; keep trying…” are the messages I’m hearing from agents as they turn down mine.

Even though I know all this, it’s hard not to take it personally, and I imagine that’s true for everyone out there who is trying to go this route to publication. Like me, they have poured an uncountable number of hours into crafting their stories or their non-fiction offerings. Like me, they feel they have a message to communicate; something that will encourage others; a light they want to shine. It feels like a part of me that’s being—yes—rejected. So, I go to bed, regroup, wake up with renewed energy, and tackle it again, in the hope of finding that one agent who will say yes.

Jesus understood rejection. In his case, it wasn’t a matter of a bruised ego; it was his life. Jewish leaders were literally out to kill him for the message he shared, contradicting their teaching that people had to earn God’s favor by correctly following a zillion rules. Jesus’s message of grace pricked holes in their balloons; it drained the power they held over people’s lives by claiming they knew what people had to do to gain acceptance, not just with God but socially as well. Judging was their modus operandi. They didn’t like Jesus saying, “No, you’ve got it all wrong. God isn’t like that! God loves you. He wants you to live freely and joyfully and lightly. Like dearly loved children. Even you, Jewish leaders who think you’ve got it all together.”

Hey, here’s a thought: those crusty, uptight, self-righteous Jewish leaders were once little children themselves. Who hurt them? What religious and social pressures formed them into censors of the world? Thinking about this, I feel Jesus’ sadness at their determination to hold on so tightly to their petty power; their preference of darkness rather than light.

Joy! My three-year-old grandson Caleb with Titia (Auntie) Becky, his sister Talita’s godmother.