Tag Archives: Jesus

“Fear Not” — Are You Kidding Me?

(Note: I wrote this piece in 2019, with no idea of what lay ahead. Reviewing it, I thought it might prove even more relevant for Christmas 2020.) 

Children nowadays text Santa with requests. Some use PowerPoint presentations. (“Last year, you brought a baby brother instead of a puppy. Seriously, Santa, you and Amazon Prime really messed up.”)  

Yet, up-close-and-personal encounters continue as children assure Santa they’ve been good. He probably doesn’t do background checks, because even mean kids make out like Christmas bandits.

The majority, however, look scared.

Reading storybooks on Mommy’s lap about jolly St. Nick felt cozy and familiar.

Sitting on a big, bearded hippie’s lap doesn’t. Children inform the entire mall this wasn’t their idea. The only photos taken feature close-ups of tonsils. Or kids’ calling Uber for a ride to Bongo Bongo.

Yet loving grown-ups assure them, “Don’t be afraid.”

They’d never endanger children. Even hired Santas probably would have found easier work — like digging ditches — if they didn’t care about kids.

The children are safe. Cherished.

I find similar, odd “fear nots” in the biblical Christmas story.

When the angel Gabriel told Mary about her impossible pregnancy. When another urged Joseph to marry her, carrying a Child not his. When shepherds hit the ground before a regiment of angels. Mary, Joseph and the shepherds had real reasons to be afraid.

These strange visitors weren’t wearing wings and halos from Dollar Tree. Seeing genuine angels today while shoveling snow or brewing coffee — who wouldn’t set Olympic records for the 10-mile dash?

Besides, the angels’ words smacked of the revolutionary.    

In Mary’s culture, a woman pregnant with a supposedly illegitimate Child might be stoned.  A man who married her would bear her stigma, affecting relationships and his job. Having left flocks untended, the shepherds also might lose their meager livelihood.

Worse, the angels proclaimed the Baby was a King. Paranoid Herod, who killed family members, considered that high treason. Also, Romans readily crucified anyone who didn’t worship Caesar.

Crazy times. Terrible times. Yet God’s message rang out: “Fear not.”

Today, we want to call Uber and escape this scary mess. Go to Bongo Bongo. Or Neptune.

Adult Jesus did, too. He knew His enemies would kill him. Yet, His life vibrated with that theme: “Fear not.”

Jesus could have blown away his foes. Instead, He used His murder to pay for human sin. Then, He laughed at death — that thing we fear most — and rose again.

Jesus wants us to know if we believe in Him, we are safe. Now. Forever. Loved. Cherished.

“Fear not.”

He wasn’t kidding Mary, Joseph or the shepherds. He isn’t kidding us, either. Or our children and grandchildren bawling on Santa’s lap.

Joy and peace to you this Christmas.

Really.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you trusting Jesus for 2021 — and your forever?

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. —John 3:16 NIV

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Crazy Christmases

O Lord, not a normal Christmas! We exchanged gifts with family, not around our Christmas tree, but met in a park we’d never seen before. Sharing fervent, but distanced love and hot chocolate to combat chilly Michigan weather helped, but — crazy!

What’s that? OMG, of course, You’re right. The first Christmas was pretty crazy, too.

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Miracle Morning Sickness

O Lord, You and I both recall the Christmas I carried my first child — a blessed miracle. However, the smell of Grandma’s traditional Christmas spareribs sent my stomach spinning like a Tilt-a-Whirl®. Not so wonderful. OMG, Mary, who probably traveled to Bethlehem while in early labor, knew what tough miracles were all about.  

   

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: No Tracking Needed

O, Lord, I hope all the gifts I ordered arrive on time. Um … exactly what did I order? But OMG, when You sent the greatest Gift of all, Your Son, You knew exactly what You’d given. You got Him in the right place at the right time — even without Amazon Prime.

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Saying Thank you Is Hard!

O Lord, when I was a kid, gratitude didn’t come easy. Mom would prompt, “What do you say?” and I’d mutter the “Thank you” that got grown-ups off my back. In 2020, it doesn’t come easy, either. Still, OMG, thank You. Thank You. Thank You!  

Off to Israel: A Holy Pilgrimage

Do you find a visit to another locale revamps your life?

My husband and I did, when we postponed our house’s new siding and, instead, journeyed to Israel.

The city of Jerusalem. Image by Walkerssk from Pixabay.

Overseas flying resembles being locked in stocks. Announcements ending with, “A pleasant night to you and dear children. We are hoped oxygen-air work” did not reassure us. Still, flight attendants gave us menus. We Americans, accustomed to toss-pretzels-to-the-masses treatment, exchanged wide-eyed glances. Steaming hand towels preceded exotic meats, vegetables marinated in spices and oven-warm bread.

“You’re eating eggplant?” I stared at Hubby.

“Mmm.” He munched away.

“Would you eat eggplant at home?”

“No.”

Even a holy pilgrimage can exert only so much influence on a husband.

We landed in Tel Aviv and, wobbling from jet lag, began a week-long feast of scenes straight from our Bibles. We saw where Joshua watched Jericho’s walls collapse. Where Deborah, Israel’s only woman judge, advised generals. Where David defeated a giant, hid in scorpion-infested desert caves from his insane father-in-law, and finally triumphed as king.

Our guide said the Sea of Galilee’s waves could morph into 12-foot monsters if the wind changed moods. They could sink a boatload of disciples, past or present, without the help of a walking-on-the-water Storm Specialist.

Perhaps Jesus and His disciples, as our group did, swam in the Dead Sea, guffawing as they struggled to anchor their floating feet.

We experienced the ancient buildings of Jerusalem, its narrow, crooked streets, and tunnel-like marketplaces, a seeming combination of mall and dungeon; Cana, where Jesus partied and turned water into wine; and the Mount of Olives, where He cried and prayed.

We stood inside two possible sites of His burial, tombs where Jesus carefully folded the cloth that had covered His dead face before exiting — then scared the daylights out of His disciples!

Some scenes we viewed, though, were never seen by Jesus. Veiled women wearing earphones. Camels tied outside filling stations. Souvenir shops selling Cubs shirts with Hebrew characters. Hard-eyed young men with machine guns in Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace.

Fortunately, most memories call up different images:

A waterfall at the En Gedi oasis.

Gushing waterfalls in a deadly desert.

Rowdy bar mitzvah processions celebrating skinny 13-year-olds under canopies surrounded by boogying relatives, drummers and virtuoso clarinet players who ritually run down tourists.

Market booths boasting Israel’s favorite fast food, falafel, consisting of deep-fried chickpeas.

“You’re eating that?” I stared at Hubby.

He chomped away. “Mmm. Could you make this?”

“No.”

Even a holy pilgrimage can exert only so much influence on me.

Still, a visit to another locale can revamp your life. Crammed in an 11-hour ride home, you find yourself dreaming of when you can return.

The view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever walked where Jesus walked?

Baby Jesus’ Christmas Portrait

Wishing you a blessed Christmas as I share this painting by my late mother, Betty Oglesbee. Largely untaught, Mom understood there was much more to newborn Jesus than just a cute baby!

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], and … to reconcile to himself all things … through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:19-20






Interview: Mary Magdalene’s Sister (Part 2)

(The following includes the remainder of a fictional interview by first-century writer Caleb. Based on historical Gospel accounts, it takes place soon after Jesus of Nazareth’s execution. As Caleb conducts the interview, using a small tape recorder, Mary Magdalene’s sister, Huldah, stirs a huge pot of stew and occasionally yells at her children.)

Huldah: As I said, Daniel and I weren’t crazy about Mary’s being a groupie, trailing after this rock-star rabbi, Jesus. It’s not like she wasn’t already nutty as a fruitcake. But the more Mary hung with Jesus, the better she got.

We were grateful, though I worried about her reputation when she traveled with Jesus.

Mary thought that was funny. “Huldah, I don’t have a reputation to lose!”

Caleb: How did you feel about Jesus’ enemies?

Huldah: What do you think? I worried. Worried our rabbi would kick Mary out of the synagogue. That she’d get us kicked out, and our business would go bankrupt.

Caleb: What about the Romans’ reaction to Jesus and his followers?

Huldah: Duh! You know they also crucify women, if they’re in the mood.

But when Mary visited weekends, I’d never seen her so … peaceful.

Still, she worried about Jesus. He didn’t do anything wrong. He did everything right! But that didn’t earn him any brownie points. We came here to Jerusalem for Passover, but instead of celebrating, the whole town waited, as if expecting fire to fall. When we heard they’d crucified Jesus, we were scared Mary would hang on a cross next to him.

Caleb: What happened to her?

Huldah: Thank God, the Romans hadn’t harmed her. When Jesus died, we begged Mary to hide outside Jerusalem. But she wanted to help bury him.

Caleb: She’s still okay?

Huldah: I—I don’t know. Mary swears up and down she not only saw but talked to Jesus.

Caleb: She thinks a man survived crucifixion?

Huldah: Yes, she’s crazy happy. Others who claim they saw him are crazy happy. Maybe they’re all loonier than she was in the first place!

Caleb: Maybe?

Huldah: I know, I know. Roman soldiers are good at their job. I saw Jesus die. Mary saw his followers put the body into a tomb. Yet she won’t back down. She can’t wait to see Jesus again.

Caleb: Um, Huldah, I want to put a positive spin on this. But you need to get Mary some help.

Huldah: If only she’ll come home with us — there she is! Talk to her. Wait. Who is that Man walking behind her?

Caleb: It can’t be —

Huldah: (screaming) Mary’s right! Jesus is alive!

(Caleb’s recorder plopped into the stewpot, and normally, an interview would have been lost forever. But this one, Caleb noted later, he would never forget.)

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: If you could talk to someone who saw Jesus after His Resurrection, who would it be?

Interview: Mary Magdalene’s Sister

(The following fictional interview by first-century writer Caleb is based on historical Gospel accounts, taking place soon after Jesus of Nazareth’s execution. As Caleb adjusts a small tape recorder, Mary Magdalene’s sister, Huldah, stirs a huge pot of stew.)

Caleb: Huldah, thanks for agreeing to talk with me about Mary.

Huldah: Yeah, yeah. People are saying crazy stuff, so maybe I can clear up a few rumors.

Caleb: To keep things straight for readers, we’re discussing Mary Magdalene.

Huldah: There are a million Marys running around. Mom and Dad gave her the popular name, of course. Leave that alone! (She waves a big spoon at the curious kid sneaking behind Caleb, then apologizes.) Sorry. I didn’t mean you.

Caleb: Um … no problem. You’re her older sister?

Huldah: Yeah, been looking out for Mary since forever. She was always different … then she started hearing voices. Saw stuff that wasn’t there. Got really mean. Our parents passed her around to relatives like she was a bad cold. Before they died, they made me promise to take care of her.

Caleb: Mary met Jesus, called the Christ, didn’t she?

Huldah: Yeah. She’d wandered off, out of her head. I said, “Good riddance!” Maybe Daniel and I could enjoy some peace. But we had to look for her. She’d joined those groupies following Jesus, the rock-star rabbi.

I said to Daniel, “Just great. Sounds like he runs a medicine show.”

Caleb: Upon seeing you, how did Mary react?

Huldah: Mary doesn’t hug anybody — she slugs ’em. But this time, she hugged me. Then she laughed! I couldn’t remember the last time I heard her laugh.

Caleb: I saw Jesus, maybe twice. Did you?

Huldah: Yeah. For a rock star, he wasn’t real good-lookin’. There was nothing special about Jesus, until he talked — and healed a leper who used to live next door.

I told Daniel, “I’ll take his brand of crazy, anytime.” Turns out, the more Mary was around Jesus, the better she got.

Caleb: Has she regressed since then?

Huldah: Well … you be the judge of that, after you hear the whole story.

To be continued tomorrow, April 25.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever considered what happened the week after Easter? And don’t you just hate “to be continued” stories?