Category Archives: Cross-Cultural

Worship Wednesday – A Lament on War – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Many say of me, “God will not deliver him.” Selah But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.Psalm 3:2-3

Blessed be the LORD, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I give thanks to Him with my song.Psalm 28:6-7

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.1 Peter 5:7-9

Last night, in the car leaving his taekwondo lesson, our 7 y/o grandson wanted to talk about the most recent conflict between Israel and Palestine. I was shocked that he knew about it given such an adult situation. Maybe he heard his parents talk. Maybe they were praying as a family for the conflict…now war.

He had amazingly mature thoughts and questions about it. You can imagine that it led to a discussion that went all the way back to Adam and Eve and all the way forward to Heaven and Hell. He wondered if America would ever have war and what that would look like. We talked about both the sadness of the situation for Israel and Palestine, and we talked about what our response as Christ-followers must be.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s. During the Vietnam War era. I also grew up with a mom who taught us not to hate. It was never acceptable. If we loved Jesus then we did not have the privilege or luxury or burden (however you see it) of hating another individual or group of people. It went against everything we understood of Jesus, including His very own teaching to love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44).

During the Vietnam war, the culture was mixed (as it is today) with opinions on what was right and what was wrong. In high school, I wrote letters of encouragement to soldiers (brothers, friends, and sometimes strangers who became penpals). Writing to boys only a few years older than me…gone to war.

In college, I, like so many others, participated in protests of a too-long and too-costly war. Protests and prayer vigils.

The music and film of that day reflected our struggle. Some of the songs that have stayed with me for all these years have been “Teach Your Children Well”, “Children Will Listen”, and “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”. Do you know them?

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

YouTube Video – Mandy Patinkin Sings You’ve Got to be Carefully taught; Children Will Listen Medley

In these days, we cry out to God for the sake of Israel and Palestine…and the rest of the world, not knowing what will happen in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

It feels very weighty.

A lament to God…many laments…are appropriate.

Photo Credit: YouTube

In the book study When You Pray, author/speaker Jennifer Rothschild gives 5 elements of lament:

  1. Address God. (Focus your prayer on the One who hears and answers.)
  2. Pour out your heart. (Bring Him your complaints and concerns.)
  3. Request help. (Ask God for what you need.)
  4. Express trust. (Affirm your faith in His character and His Word.)
  5. Praise Him. (Worship Him because He is worthy.)

“Confessing trust in God is the hinge that turns our grieving into grace, tears into trust, and worries into worship.” Jennifer Rothschild

If you’re like me, you’ve lost confidence in much of what we see in the news. Or at least, we sift through several accounts of events to determine what might be true.

This I know: something catastrophic is happening in the Middle East right now which will most probably have a wide ripple effect into coming generations. There is much to lament here. God’s face is the only one to which we can look with complete trust and confidence.

So here we are…

Worship with me to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir‘s rendition of the lament in Psalm 3.

Many are they increased that troubled me
Many are they that rise up against me
Many there be which say of my soul
There is no help for him in God

But Thou, oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Thou, oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head

[Repeat]

I cried unto the Lord with my voice
And he heard me out of His holy hill
I laid me down and slept and awaked
For the Lord sustained, for he sustained me

Thou, oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Thou, oh Lord are shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head

[Repeat Twice]
For Thou oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Of my head
My head*

*Lyrics to Thou O Lord as sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar & Oppenheimer, Solitude, “Til You’re Home”, Two Phenomenal Reads, and International Food Festivals

Friday Faves – Go!

1) Beyond the Guitar & Oppenheimer – When Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar takes a brilliant orchestral work and arranges it for a single guitar, magic happens all over again. He accomplished this most recently in his arrangement of Ludwig Göransson‘s Can You Hear the Music? from the film Oppenheimer.

Heartbreakingly beautiful!

Sidebar: One exchange between Robert Oppenheimer and Niels Bohr has stood out and intrigued the audience. It was an encounter between two of the most brilliant minds the world has ever known. But one of the most puzzling aspects of their meeting is Bohr’s cryptic comment to Oppenheimer. What exactly did Bohr mean by:

“Algebra is more than just reading. You have to hear the music.”

“Can you hear the music?”

Niels Bohr’s words, in essence, capture the very spirit of scientific inquiry. His comparison of algebra to music wasn’t merely a poetic expression but a profound insight into the nature of mathematics and, by extension, the nature of scientific discovery. Bohr was trying to convey that, much like how music is not just about reading notes but about feeling and understanding the melody, algebra, too, is not just about reading equations but about comprehending the underlying patterns and principles.Pooja Mishra

2) Solitude – [Adapted from an earlier blog of mine] – During my angsty teenage years, I would sometimes slip away from my house full of brothers and sit by the lake nearby. It was there that I wrestled with the “what if’s” of life, along with the “what was’s”. Alone, but not truly. Within my thoughts, quietened in those moments, was also the presence of God. In that solitude, anxieties would get reigned in and perspective returned. The walk home was always so much better than the walk down.

Photo Credit: Succedict

Writer, philosopher Zat Rana caught my eye with his article The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You. Turns out his view of that most important untaught skill is solitude. That ability to just enjoy being alone. Sitting or walking alone. Lost in your own thoughts. Except for a self-portrait for a photography class, you won’t see many signs in my life that solitude comes easy.

Life is peopled. As an extrovert and helper by nature, I have long thrived in the company of others. However, getting older, alone time has become more my experience than in previous years. Is that its own springboard to flourishing?

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Blaise Pascal

The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught YouZat Rana

According to Pascal, we fear the silence of existence, we dread boredom and instead choose aimless distraction, and we can’t help but run from the problems of our emotions into the false comforts of the mind.

The issue at the root, essentially, is that we never learn the art of solitude. – Zat Rana

My husband, the consummate introvert thinker, often sits by himself at dawn and dusk to recharge. For him, solitude is something that has come naturally. He has been a model for me in practicing solitude.

Rana also talks about how technology has connected us in a myriad of ways but the connectedness is more virtual than real. – We now live in a world where we’re connected to everything except ourselves.”

“Our aversion to solitude is really an aversion to boredom…we dread the nothingness of nothing. We can’t imagine just being rather than doing. And therefore, we look for entertainment, we seek company, and if those fail, we chase even higher highs. We ignore the fact that never facing this nothingness is the same as never facing ourselves. And never facing ourselves is why we feel lonely and anxious in spite of being so intimately connected to everything else around us.”Zat Rana

Everything I Have Learned in 500 Words – Zat Rana

8 Ways to Embrace Solitude – Virginia Thomas – practical helps in embracing solitude

The Joy of Solitude: Loneliness as a Subjective State of Mind – Neel Burton – excellent resource on solitude as a prevention against loneliness

5 Must-See Monasteries in Virginia, USA

3) “Til You’re Home” – If you’ve ever lost someone dear to you, the song “Til You’re Home” will resonate to your core. Actress, producer, singer/songwriter Rita Wilson brings this song to the screen in the beautiful film “A Man Called Otto”. Wilson wrote the lyrics with David Hodges and performed it with singer Sebastián Yatra.

In the articles below, Wilson is interviewed about the inspiration for this song. My main takeaway was how she was comforted by a friend, after her father’s death. He told her, “The conversation continues.” I so experience that. After the death of my mom, in particular, but also many others, including my older brother with whom I had a prickly relationship but one that sweetened before he died and continues to do so…in ways this song communicates.

I watched the film above while on a flight. Crying doesn’t come easy for me, and the tears flowed.

Watch the movie and enjoy the song and think about the richness of our relationships both in the present and in the between times (from past to forever).

Rita Wilson Talks Singing and Writing Original Song for Tom Hanks’ ‘A Man Called Otto’: Listen (EXCLUSIVE) – Clayton Davis

Rita Wilson Found Her Voice (Literally) Through Songwriting – Hilton Dresden

Worship Wednesday – Go Rest High on That Mountain – Vince Gill – Deb Mills

4) Two Phenomenal Reads – Phenomenal? Well, I’m counting on it. These are my next two reads. Just got them both and honestly may have to read them together. The authors are two of my absolute favorites: Karen Swallow Prior and Curt Thompson MD.

To get started – while I was waiting for launch day on both of these books, I’ve been listening to podcasts and reading reviews. Until your books come, you can also have a read or listen below.

“I hope readers are better able to participate in the necessary, ongoing process of distinguishing the principles of the Christian faith that are eternal and unchanging from the cultural stories, metaphors, and images that embody these principles in varying degrees of fidelity. Don’t misunderstand me: this entanglement with cultural narratives and ideas isn’t unique to evangelicals, nor is being creatures of culture necessarily a bad thing. In fact, living within the cultures of this world is God’s plan. It is part of being human. I think, however, that because evangelicalism from its beginnings in the western world has been so tied to political power, it has been easier for us to overlook the entanglement that is inherent to being part of any human culture. Yet, our task is no different from Christians within any Christian movement, sect, time, place, or culture.”Karen Swallow Prior, an interview with Andrea L. Turpin

Repairing the Evangelical House Means Renewing the Evangelical Imagination – Carolyn Weber

Holy Unhappiness Podcast with Amanda Held Opelt – Sanctification with Karen Swallow Prior

Norsworthy Podcast – Curt Thompson: The Deepest Place

5) International Food FestivalsEthnic foods are a favorite in our family…maybe every family. I’m talking from Afghan boulani (flatbread) to Southern biscuits and gravy.

It’s a joy to be invited to the home of friends who bring their gracious hospitality and yummy food to our part of the world. Just recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down to lunch with an Afghan family.

I’ve learned so much from our Afghan friends who came here in the Fall of 2021. Not the least of which has been how to set a bountiful table without great resources.

Our town has a host of ethnic restaurants with a few exceptions. Armenian and Egyptian are two types of food for which I’ve not found a restaurant locally. Once a year, we have the treat of international food festivals featuring these cuisines. So good!!

Next weekend, it’s the Fourth Annual Egyptian Festival. How about you? Any foodies out there? Comment below what some of your international favorites are and if you cook them at home or have the joy of a local restaurant or festival.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

That’s the latest 5 Faves. Hope you have a restful weekend and energetic start to the coming week!

Bonuses:

My Son, Superhero in Training – Rachel Friedman

Secularization Begins at Home – Lyman Stone

Worship Wednesday – Day 4 of Holy Week – Quiet Before the Storm…and We Worship

Photo Credit: God Like Fire Ministries

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels…fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.Revelation 7:9-11

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”  – Revelation 5:12

There appears to be nothing recorded in Scripture of events surrounding Jesus on the Wednesday before his crucifixion. Nothing. After two difficult days dealing with his enemies and accusers, it is quite possible that he took a rest. A Sabbath rest. Given the terrible nature of what was ahead of him, starting just the next day, he could surely use a day to rest and reflect. To remember how the Father had sustained him through all the strains of his public life. To refresh himself in prayer and in the company of those on earth who loved him most – his disciples, his friends, possibly his family. We know no details of that day.

Silent Wednesday.

Since we also know what is coming for Jesus…and all for our sakes…we pause today, as well, to worship. He is the perfect lamb, without blemish, perfectly fit to be offered as a sacrifice for our sins. God provided a ram for Abraham to take his son’s place in that strange and amazing sacrifice on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:1-14). This was a foreshadowing of our own need for a Savior. We also can be saved by the blood of “the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Photo Credit – Baptist Press

Jesus’ life was not taken from him on that Friday, two days hence. His life was not taken. Not by the Jewish or Roman authorities. He gave his life…for us…there are no words adequate to respond…worship is all we have.

Photo Credit – Baptist Press

Worship with me:

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, Holy, is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s Mercy Seat
[Repeat 2x]

(Chorus)
Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And I will adore You…!
Yeah!

Clothed in rainbows, of living color
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor, strength and
Glory and power be
To You the Only Wise King,
Yeah

(Chorus)

Filled with wonder,
Awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your Name
Jesus, Your Name is Power
Breath, and Living Water
Such a marvelous mystery
Yeah…

(Chorus)

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come,
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And – I – will – adore YOU…

(Chorus)

(Repeat a cappella)

Come up lift up His Name
To the King of Kings…
We will adore YOU Lord…
King of heaven and earth
King Jesus, King Jesus
Aleluya, aleluya, aleluya!
Majesty, awestruck Honor
And Power and Strength and Dominion
To You Lord,
To the King, to King
To the King of Glory

Chorus (Repeats)*

[Read the blog above in its entirety here.]

*Lyrics to Revelation Song written by Jennie Lee Riddle

Story Behind Revelation Song – Jennie Lee Riddle’s vision of the Church wholly united in worship of God – here as we will be one day in Heaven

How is Jesus the Lamb of God?

YouTube Video – Is He Worthy (feat. Chandler Moore & Nate Moore) – Maverick City/TRIBL

P.S. All the days of Holy Week are described in my posts below.

Photo Credit: Knox United Vancouver

Palm Sunday – Day 1 of Holy Week – Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Way to the Cross

Photo Credit: Fig Tree by Bob Orchard

Jesus and Holy Week – Monday, Day 2 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Cleanses the Temple

Photo Credit – slidesharecdn.com

Jesus and Holy Week – Tuesday, Day 3 – A Long Day Teaching & Countering Religious Opposition

Photo Credit: Baptist Press

Worship Wednesday – Jesus & Holy Week – Day 4 – A Day of Quiet Before the Storm – & We Worship

Photo Credit – Baptist Press – Courtesy of DeMoss News Pond

Jesus and Holy Week – Thursday, Day 5 – Passover Celebration and His Last Supper Before the Cross

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Holy-Week-Good-Friday.jpg

Photo Credit: GoodFridayQuotes2015.com

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 6 – Good Friday – His Trial, Crucifixion, & Burial

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Holy-Week-Black-Saturday.jpg
Photo Credit: Catholiclane.com – Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 7 – Black Saturday – the Silent Tomb

Photo Credit: The Gospel Coalition

Resurrection Sunday of Holy Week – Day 8 – Risen, Indeed! Thank You, Jesus!

Jesus and Holy Week – Tuesday…3 Days Until His Death – A Long Day – Teaching & Countering Religious Opposition

Photo Credit – slidesharecdn.com

When He [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?”Matthew 21:23

On this long day, Jesus would demonstrate in one situation after another that he spoke and acted with the authority of God Himself. The barren fig tree cursed by Jesus the day before had indeed withered and died. The disciples saw it themselves that morning as they walked again from Bethany to Jerusalem. Jesus spoke to them of faith, which they would need all the more in the days ahead (Matthew 21:21-22).

It’s amazing that he even gained entry to the Temple after overturning the market just the day before. Again, another sign of his authority. He was untouchable, until he gave himself over to his own death on the cross…for us.

In an attempt to test Jesus’ understanding of the law, a legal advisor to the Pharisees asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment in the law. The Pharisees emphasized strict adherence to the laws of the Torah, all 613 of them! They were not prepared for Jesus’ response:

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” –   Mark 12:29-31

Two commands: 1) Love God with your whole being; 2) Love your neighbor as yourself.

The Pharisees, Sadducees, and other Jewish leaders grew more angry at Jesus and were vexed as to how to destroy his popularity and influence with the masses of Jews loyal to him. All their trickery failed this time. Jesus was not intimidated by them, and in fact, spoke some of his strongest words against them while teaching that day.

Finally, leaving Jerusalem that day, Jesus stopped on the Mount of Olives (Olivet) to speak about the future. He talked at length, to his disciples and all those who followed, about the end times. He cautioned them about false teachers and the evil that would rise up in those last days. What it must have been to listen to Jesus, the Messiah, on that Tuesday – filled with a mixture of faith in him and fear of what could lie ahead for them, and the generations to come.

So went Tuesday…for Jesus and all of the world.

[Read this post in its entirety, including Jesus’ strong indictments of his religious enemies, here.]

P.S. All the days of Holy Week are described in my posts below.

Photo Credit: Knox United Vancouver

Palm Sunday – Day 1 of Holy Week – Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Way to the Cross

Photo Credit: Fig Tree by Bob Orchard

Jesus and Holy Week – Monday, Day 2 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Cleanses the Temple

Photo Credit – slidesharecdn.com

Jesus and Holy Week – Tuesday, Day 3 – A Long Day Teaching & Countering Religious Opposition

Photo Credit: Baptist Press

Worship Wednesday – Jesus & Holy Week – Day 4 – A Day of Quiet Before the Storm – & We Worship

Photo Credit – Baptist Press – Courtesy of DeMoss News Pond

Jesus and Holy Week – Thursday, Day 5 – Passover Celebration and His Last Supper Before the Cross

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Holy-Week-Good-Friday.jpg

Photo Credit: GoodFridayQuotes2015.com

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 6 – Good Friday – His Trial, Crucifixion, & Burial

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Holy-Week-Black-Saturday.jpg
Photo Credit: Catholiclane.com – Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 7 – Black Saturday – the Silent Tomb

Photo Credit: The Gospel Coalition

Resurrection Sunday of Holy Week – Day 8 – Risen, Indeed! Thank You, Jesus!

Photo Credit: Facebook, Mrs. J. Garwood

Monday Morning Moment – From Unmoved to Reengaged – Perspective

Sit with me (or walk with me, as you like). Just for a few minutes. Hoping this 2-week old chick has drawn you in. She must be taking in so much new in her few days of life, with 5 other little ones (belonging to my daughter who raises chickens now, as well as children).

This is a brief lament about a squandered day. Mondays are usually full days and happy, hopeful days, filled with all the possibilities of a new week. This Monday…today, I allowed to lay dormant. Unmoved by the chores at home, the beloved people in my life, or those in the world who could use a friend.

Unmoved. Do you ever have days like that?

I finally got out of my own way to go thrifting midday with a writer friend of mine. She was also struggling with getting words on a page, so to speak. Nothing to say that hasn’t already been said, right? Writer’s block is hard for a writer. We are energized by that type of creativity. My energy was low. It was good to see her anyway; we found some bargains, and we would pray for each other in this doldrum.

Then late afternoon came and I sat at my computer hoping for inspiration. That was when I rediscovered the poem below…and a switch flipped the light on.

Aweless by Albert D. Spalding, Jr.

The king passes in front of the soldiers.

They stand strong and silent.

The people strain to see.

Power excites and enthralls and enchants.

I walked on the sidewalk in front of the cathedral.

I looked up at the giant ornate doors.

I stepped backwards and tried to see the full length of the tallest decorative spire.

I noticed the cell phone antennae.

What motivates the design and building of a cathedral?

What sort of awe quickens the heart and brightens the imagination?

Am I going through life without the Big Deal?

Have I missed my chance to be truly inspired, truly overcome by awe?

Where are my fellow worshipers, who can join me in designing our cathedral?

When do we come together to fall on our knees and chant, “Holy! Holy! Holy!”

Yahweh passes in front of us.

We avoid stepping on the old chewing gum on the sidewalk.

We check our cell phone.

Here’s what came out of this cautionary tale for me. We can move from the dullest of mundane days into something quite momentous, as we shake off what seems to be and reengage in the what is.

I was reminded of a recent trip to an urgent care center with an Afghan mom, her little son, and another Afghan friend who translates for me. The little son probably had an ear infection that had kept him awake and crying during the night before. He needed antibiotics. As we were providing information to the admissions clerk (concentrating on unfamiliar spelling of names common in another world), my friends had plenty of time to look around the waiting area. My translator buddy (all of 13y/o who has been in the US over a year now) asked me, “Debbie, why are there these little green trees on all the walls?”

It’s a small thing, but St. Patrick’s Day was completely out of her cultural experience. Why it is such a big deal in the US is actually hard to explain as well. A cause for celebration, I’m thinking.

Every single day of our lives is a cause for celebration.

With that reminder (and the Spalding poem), thanks to answered prayer, I’m sure, my day was delivered from being completely barren. Perspective was restored along with the drive that comes with it. I spent the rest of the day left to me in life-giving activity.

Reading a chapter of Tyler Staton’s Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools (highly recommended). Making supper for my husband (who has a very long week ahead), and celebrating his light, joking mood (glad I didn’t miss that under my earlier black cloud). Two deep phone conversations with friends who share common goals in life. Praying myself to sleep.

Perspective – what a gift! I had beaten myself up fairly completely over a wasted day, and before it was too late to redeem, God helped me clear the mechanism. Joy.

So thanks for staying with me. Your company inspires me, and I know it costs you time and thought. Praying for you right now…God knows who you are…praying for you to be moved to engage in this amazing life we have in this messy world. Praying life-giving perspective. Look up.

Worship Wednesday – Anxiety, Holding On, & Reclaiming Perspective – Deb Mills

And if you love baseball (or not so much), this scene from For the Love of the Game will thrill your hearts with its fight and determination on the last pitch:

Worship Wednesday – Build My Life – Holy, There Is No One Like You – Housefires

Photo Credit: Heartlight

There is none like You, O LORD. You are great, and Your name is mighty in power. Who would not fear You, O King of nations? This is Your due. For among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like You. – Jeremiah 10:6-7

Lord, there is no one like you among the gods, and there are no works like yours. – Psalm 86:8

Earlier this evening, a small group of friends were gathered. Our hosts were refugees from a war-torn country which they fled over a year ago. We were celebrating a late Christmas/New Year’s together… One Christian friend was describing the “why” of giving gifts at Christmas. Crossing cultures and languages, the conversation was peppered with polite exchanges of where our beliefs were similar and where they were not. It happens…close friends who all consider themselves believers, but in very different experiences of faith.

I was reminded of a letter I wrote after a difficult conversation with a dear friend who wanted me to believe in God as she believed…just as I wanted the same for her…to believe as I did.

[As you read the letter, remember I’m writing to someone I loved very much and didn’t want to offend by my words. So keep that context in mind. To this day, she is as dear as ever. Precious to me. Still loving me as I love her…still two people who love God from different faiths.

Dearest Friend,

You’ve asked me why can’t I follow your way…the way you believe.  I know you spoke that from your heart, and you know I love you for it.  You also know how much I love you as you love me.  Since our conversation, your question has weighed heavily on my mind, and I want to try to give that question the answer you deserve.  Thank you for loving me enough to risk asking that question. Now, I hope you will hear my love through this answer.  We think very differently on these things, but I don’t think I will be telling you anything that we haven’t already talked about. Also, I want you to clarify anything for me that I’m in error on regarding your religion. I commit to you the same in our talks about what I believe. So what I write below is the answer to your question, “Why?”  And it’s written with all my love.

  1. First, I already see myself as one “submitted to God”, in the deepest sense of the word you’ve defined for me. My greatest desire is to know God and to surrender to Him in all areas of my life.  It’s been the imperfect but deeply personal pursuit of my life. My hope is to follow Him as He reveals Himself to me, both through His Word and by His Holy Spirit.
  2. As I understand your question, to follow your way would require me to leave the way I now follow.  That would be impossible for me.  I wasn’t born Christian.  I became a believer as I understood His revelation of Himself (through the Bible, the witness of others, and the stirring of my heart by the Holy Spirit). This is a relationship with God that I would never or could never sever.  To remove a portion of Who I believe He’s expressed Himself to be, both to and for His creation, would be unforgivable.  He has come near to us, and I am thankful to know Him, as One both Holy and Humble.  I would be sad to believe in a God whose holiness and judgment distance Him far from His people.  Am I wrong in my understanding of your experience of God?
  3. To have to face the burden of a life of sin would be more than I could bear.  I believe, by His Word, that He has forgiven me and continues to forgive me, as I confess my sins, repent of them, and live for Him.  I can’t imagine life where I was responsible to do good works and more good works in hopes to cancel some of my sins and hopefully to win His mercy.  My understanding of what is required in your faith may not be altogether correct on this point, but it’s what I see practiced.  Help me with this, if I am wrong.
  4. To live not knowing whether I would spend eternity with God or in Hell would be very painful…unimaginable, to be honest. Such terrible uncertainty! His Word tells me that I can know – not because of my good works but because of His good work for my sake.  I take great comfort in knowing that I will be in the presence of God forever.  It is also a great comfort to know I will see my Mom and Dad again, my brother and others who have gone before me, confident in God’s promises to them through His Word.
  5. To have to deny the sinless life of the Messiah, to deny His death on the cross, and to deny His resurrection would be the greatest dishonor to God that I could ever commit in life.  I would never be willing to deny this, and if this is required to be a good believer in your faith, then I am helpless to go that way.
  6. I could not require my children to follow any religion.  I do prefer for them to be believers in God by way of the Messiah, and I would be heart-broken if they denied God in their lives.  However, to be in a religion that requires them at birth to be identified with that religion seems beyond my right as a parent.  It is up to God how He moves in a person’s life.  I cannot demand it, no matter how much I would wish it a certain way.
  7. There are tenets of faith in your religion that I agree with wholeheartedly.  I think it’s a very good thing to have calls to prayer.  I actually also prayed, (when we lived in the same country), when I heard the calls to prayer, so in that we are alike.  I also agree with giving money to the place of prayer (for me, the church) for its service to the community.   I also think the intention of a month of fasting is a good thing.  To sacrifice food, drink, cigarettes, etc. to understand better what it’s like to be poor, and then to give that money to those less fortunate is a reasonable service for believers.  I think pilgrimages are also good opportunities to draw closer to God.  I do struggle with a pilgrimage that is not really accessible to every believer. 
  8. Like you, I believe that God is One…but I cannot ascribe to a faith that places a messenger of God in a preeminent position. You say that is what I do with Jesus, even to the point of making him equal, or a partner to God. This is where we differ greatly, and I know it divides us which makes me the saddest. We have books we believe to be holy which speak very differently about Jesus, even though Jesus is called Messiah in both. He is also said to be without sin in both. This is not a small thing.
  9. I don’t understand the concept of a holy war.  I do understand dying for one’s faith, and my hope is that if I have to die for my faith in God, that I will do it courageously and for His glory.  That part I understand.  To kill others, even infidels, and martyring oneself in doing so, seems morally wrong.  God doesn’t need my help to deal with infidels.  I know there are examples in the Torah of God calling His people to battle with those who stand against His people, and He shows His glory by miraculously giving them victory.  I don’t see God when people take matters into their own hands.  I don’t believe God would give me greater rewards for killing people rather than to try to reason with them to become true believers.
  10. Last, but not least, is that to follow your way, I would have to give up parts of the Bible to believe everything in the book you hold sacred.  I can’t do that.  It would be great sin for me to deny any part of God’s Word.  I believe every word is true.  I know you think I am deceived.  All I know, is that there was a time in my life that I wasn’t a Christian, and it was a dark time for me.  God revealed Himself to me through His Word, through the example of others whose lives had been changed by God, and through the movement of His Holy Spirit in my life.  Now, I know the experience of a changed life.  I am free, because His Truth has set me free.  It would be impossible for me to leave His guide for my life.  This person that you know and love is that person, only because I am walking in the Light of His Word.  We all struggle with the presence of sin, but we can have victory through His Word and by His Power.  Since I believe what He says about His own Word, I cannot leave His Word, any more than I can stop breathing.

As I write this, my heart aches, because, of course, I would love for us to be on the Way together.  I have answered your question.  Maybe, you’ll answer the same question for me sometime.  No matter what, if you let me, I will love you all the days of my life.  You are my friend, my sister, and my daughter.  You are one of the greatest gifts the Lord has given me, and I am so grateful.  Sometimes His gifts require a price.  He gave Himself for us, that we may be with Him forever.  My hope is that our friendship won’t require a price.  I never want us to be apart…although we’re not exactly traveling on the same path.  My prayer will always be that we reach Home together….and I know you pray the same for me.  Only God can answer both our prayers.

That letter was written years ago…to a friend who is even more dear to me today than decades ago. My faith remains unchanged…because God has not changed. He is worthy of our praise…He is worthy of our very lives. The song “Build My Life/Holy, There Is No One Like You” (by Housefires) speaks my heart today.

Worship with me:

[Verse 1] Worthy of every song we could ever sing
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe
We live for You

[Verse 2] Jesus, the Name above every other name
Jesus, the only One who could ever save
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe
We live for You
Oh, we live for You

[Chorus] (Holy)
Holy, there is no one like You
There is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder
And show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me

[Verse 1] Worthy of every song we could ever sing
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe
We live for You
Oh, we live for You
Jesus

[Verse 2] Jesus, the Name above every other name
Jesus, the only One who could ever save
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe
We live for You
Oh, we live for You

[Chorus] And holy, there is no one like You
There is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder
And show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me
Holy
Holy, there is no one like You
There is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder
And show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me*

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Blog-Isaiah-45-4-6-none-beside-me.jpg

Photo Credit: Heartlight

*Lyrics to “Build My Life/Holy, There Is No One Like You” – Songwriters: Pat Barrett, Brett Steve Younker, Karl Martin, Matt Redman, Kirby Elizabeth Kaple

5 Friday Faves – A Lullaby by Beyond the Guitar, the Art of Neighboring, the Beauty of Fall, Ethnic Foods, and Telling Our Stories

Friday Faves. Here we go!

1) A Lullaby by Beyond the Guitar – Nathan Mills has been on hiatus from his public YouTube channel as he worked through the summer creating course content for his other channels. Big news: he’s back!!

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Talking through and then performing his treatment of the Game of Thrones theme (his previous arrangements of this can be found here). He takes Ramin Djawadi‘s epic piece and makes it into an ethereal lullaby. Just plain gorgeous.

2) The Art of Neighboring – Several years ago, my husband and I landed in an incredible neighborhood. With great neighbors. As happens, our neighborhood has changed significantly with elderly neighbors downsizing and moving away and new families coming in. The tight-knit feeling we had toward each other has changed…not lost but changed.

This Fall, our community group at church is studying “The Art of Neighboring”. This aligns closely with my deep dive, over the last several months, into our need for being known.

Being Known Podcast with Curt Thompson MD

Photo Credit: Art of Neighboring

There is neighboring where we might know someone by sight or even name, but little else. Then there is neighboring which leans in, where we know each other in ways that honors, enjoys, and serves.

It’s an art and it adds to our quality of lives and that of each other in immeasurable ways.Photo Credit: Grace Fellowship, The Art of Neighboring

The Art of Neighboring – Website, Book, Resources – Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon

3) The Beauty of Fall – Just a quick salute to the end of summer and beginning of Fall. Cooler weather prompting pulling out our hoodies and cozying up to fire pits. The harvest continues. The flowers, many going to seed, still have a glory that moves artists to paint. And pumpkins!

Photo Credit: Karen Burnette Garner, Facebook

4) Ethnic Foods – Our family has had the rich experience of living in several countries and enjoying the yummy “home cooking” of local friends. Some of that food is also sold by street vendors or in tiny restaurants for such a cheap price you wonder how they can afford to sell it, except for the volume of customers.

We search out those authentic food opportunities here, and various food festivals help fill the bill. Recently, we attended Armenian and Egyptian food festivals. So good! Visiting friends took us on the hunt of discovering new restaurants serving up foods so good they could have been cooked in mama’s homes.

In America, ethnic foods are not cheap. Part of that, I’m sure, is the cost of ingredients and labor. I couldn’t imagine paying the equivalent of $12 for a falafel sandwich when we lived overseas. Here, I’m just glad for the opportunity.

What Is ‘Ethnic’ Food? – Aaron Hutcherson

In the Hutcherson piece linked above, the phrase “ethnic food” may even be offensive in today’s cancel culture. Of me, it’s the best of home cooking served outside the home. America is such a cultural “melting pot” that we may come to the place where international foods become a part of the American food culture. Blended in. Beautifully.

“American food is the mixture of all food brought by our immigrants. Perhaps the recipes have been tweaked a little here, but they originate from past cultures, from identities new and old, and from our ethnic nation. Ethnic food is American food.”

This encouraging American ideal explains why Americans long to assimilate almost every food culture into their diets. It is socially encouraged to be more and more inclusive. The main way people try to find common ground is through food.

Ethnic food can best be described as a classification for types of food favored by cultural groups of people. This is different from authentic, which is a word used to describe food as something genuine or real. American cuisine may be classified as being only ethnic food because of the rich cultural diversity of its population. – DevTome

Still…I think we foodies will still look for the dining experiences that take us back to our mom’s table…or that table of friends in far-away places. Sweet memories.

Here in Virginia, we have an ethnic equivalent of food that’s hard to find anywhere but here and it’s Ukrop’s – a family-owned bakery, deli, and grocery business that’s been around since 1937. Their baked goods are very American. I say this because we have been told, by our international friends, that American sweets are “too sweet” for them. Maybe this is one American food that is uniquely American. I don’t know…but it’s good! No one does buttercream frosting like Ukrop’s. 

4) Telling Our Stories – Storytelling is in our very DNA. We appreciate the stories that draw us in – whether through books or film – or in the telling of our own lives.

Memory tends to embellish. A detail is added or emphasized beyond what really happened.

“Well, all good stories deserve embellishment.”J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

The Link Between Memory and Stories – Shawn Callahan

Embellishment entertains but what if our memory of an event or conversation stays the same even as we have grown into a person who has changed.

I think of childhood trauma or an incident that changed the course of our relationship with a person or organization. Sometimes all it takes is one circumstance.

Something may come to mind right now.

Is that a something that you want to affect your story forever?

Many of you may never have seen the 1981 British sports film Chariots of Fire. If you haven’t I highly recommend it. It gives an account of the Olympic Games of 1924. In particular, two runners, who compete against each other, are the focus. Two runners with very different stories.

Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell.

These two athletes had two very different stories…very different motivations and goals for life. In the film, some of their story may be fictionalized, but there are lessons for us here. Check out the film clips linked below.

“10 lonely seconds [will] justify my whole existence.” – Abrahams

“When I run, I feel His pleasure.” – Eric Liddell

[An extra: In the film, Eric was pushed off the track during an Olympic race, falling to the ground. He got back on his feet and got back on the track. In the crowd, a man was asked if Eric could do (recover the time lost), and he said, “his head’s not back yet”. Eric would put his head back as he felt the pleasure of God on him. And where did the power come from? Another clip.]

YouTube Video – He Who Honors God – Chariots of Fire – don’t miss this scene.

What is your story? Whether you know it or not, you’re telling a story? Is it the one you want to be remembered for? Or is there a healing, a reconciliation, a resolve you want to leave behind as part of your legacy?

Something to consider.

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That’s it for this week. Hope you have a delightful weekend. Thanks for stopping by.

Bonuses:

8 Rules to Do Everything Better – Brad Stulberg

What To Do When You Feel Like You Don’t Fit in at Work – Lisa Evans

How to Say the Unsayable – 10 Ways to Approach a Sensitive Daunting Conversation – Kathryn Mannix

Photo Credit: Facebook, Marjolein Bastin

5 Friday Faves – The Exquisite Beauty of Classical Guitar, Refugees and the English Language, Laughing Out Loud, Foodie Friends, and the Treasure of Old Photos

Friday Faves! Here we go.

1) The Exquisite Beauty of Classical Guitar – We need beauty in our lives. We are made to create beauty, in fact…we are meant to refresh and to rejoice in beauty. To discover our own hearts when arrested by it. To appreciate the beauty in others as we pause to see it…even in those so different from us. Beauty surrounds us. Here’s one significant example – the classical guitar creations of Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar.

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

While Nathan takes a brief hiatus from his usual YouTube channel to focus on his other work, only we Patreon subscribers get new content (subscribe). In this bit of time, I decided to highlight some of his arrangements already appreciated by his 500k-plus subscribers. These 5 (5 for Friday Faves) are just a sample of the beauty we can bring into our lives from the realm of classical guitar. Enjoy!

YouTube – Toy Story – You’ve Got a Friend in Me (Classical Guitar Cover) – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube – Final Fantasy X: To Zanarkand (Classical Guitar Cover) – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube – The Last of Us (Classical Guitar Cover) – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube – Princess Leia’s Theme – Classical Guitar Tribute – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube – Braveheart Meets Classical Guitar – Beyond the Guitar

More to come. Any favorites of your own from his channel? Comment below.

2) Refugees and the English Language – [Obviously this relates to refugees whose host countries have English as the primary language, but this could relate to any country’s first language.]

For many years, we lived overseas. We had jobs already in English but worked hard to learn the local language. We knew we would need it to flourish in the home culture there, including being “good neighbors”. Language learning takes persistence but the rewards are incalculable.

Our church is a providing local resettlement support to an Afghan refugee family. The children came with some English language ability which helped them enormously in school and cultural understanding. In our relationship with them, we have met other Afghan refugees. Some with English and others with none. One family, in particular, has really captured my heart this week.

In this family of mom, dad, and four kids, they know Dari, Farsi, and Turkish. None know English yet. [That’s all the details I will offer.]

[Fortunately there are some similarities to English in the Turkish alphabet.]

Photo Credit: Turkishaholic

How do families like this get jobs in our country? Pay bills? Shop in American stores? Learn in school? Meet their English- and other-speaking neighbors?

They get English as fast as they can.

Although teaching ESL was something I did for years, it was always with people who had some English. I didn’t have to start at the complete beginning. Thankfully English language helps abound online.  So…we learn and we teach (or help learn maybe is a better way to describe this process).

Lost in Limbo: Thousands of Afghan Migrants in Turkey – Still Awaiting Help from the West, Including Canada – Now Face Deportation – Adnan R. Khan

Just yesterday, shopping with the Afghan family we are helping resettle, a small unsettling thing happened. In the shoe department, I caught the face of a lady who was trying to get around us with her cart. Her face was stern, and she was clearly impatient with us. I apologized to which she said nothing. It is possible she was having a really hard day. Or something darker related to foreigners could have been going on. I hope not…in fact, hopefully, her day got better all the way around.

For us as native English-speakers, we can be enormous help to refugees with little cost of time or money…as we welcome them with our language. Appreciating the courage and fortitude they must exert every day to even live here, far from home and all that was happily familiar there.

I will always remember, with gratitude, all the people who knew so little English, but used it to connect with us when we lived overseas. “Welcome in Egypt”. We felt the welcome.

I’m learning a little Dari, but more importantly, I’m hoping to communicate in English in ways that empower and encourage.

Something we can all do for these so far from home in a strange, new one.

Thinking in Foreign LanguagePhoto Credit: Vikash Gupta

10 Best Language Learning Methods and Techniques – Vikash Gupta

3) Laughing Out Loud – Laughter is a balm to our minds and bodies. It is just plain good medicine. I had several experiences just this week that were so funny they made me laugh out loud. In fact, a couple of times, in the car with grandkids, I had to just pull over, laughing to capture the moment in a note so as not to forget it.

We were on an errand in a neighborhood they didn’t know. It’s one of the oldest residential areas in our city – tall, 3-story houses of a different era. Our grandson commented that it looked haunted. When I told them that, yes, some of the houses were old and tired, but many had been renovated and they were all beautiful. Then he said, “There are bad guys on my side of the road throwing doughnuts at the car.” Then he asked his sister what she saw on her side of the car. Without hesitation she said, “There are baby bunnies jumping on my side and they are throwing baby kittens at my window…and they’re soooooo sweet.”

Then on the car ride home, the little one always wants a treat to eat on the way. She said, “Gram, I want gummies.” Continuing to reinforce asking instead of telling in such matters, I said, “I don’t respond to that sort of request.” When she then asked, I told her she had had enough sweets. Then she asked, “What can I have then?” I replied, “You can have peace of mind”. Whereupon she immediately responded: “OK, then can I have a piece of yours?”

These may not seem as funny without their voices, but they made me laugh so much.

An unexpected “home for lunch” visit from Papa was another cause for laughter.

Any laughter out loud happening your way these days? Hope so. Books and movies can help with that if grandchildren aren’t around. Also some friends, like our dear Heba, have that great gift of just making us laugh at every occasion. Hope you have some of those as well.

Online search for books that make you laugh out loud

11 Books that Will Make Your Kid Laugh Out Loud – Lindsay E. Mack [Includes a separate link with even more funny books for kids and adults alike]

Facebook page – The Rabbit Room Chinwag – subscriber suggestions for all ages

 

5) The Treasure of Old Photos –In this age of minimalism, I have had to confront the bins of pictures and photo albums from a lifetime before the digital era. Including those given to my parents that are now back with me. Photography has always been my hobby as far back as the late Kodak Brownie camera days. [In fact, my first summer job beyond high school babysitting was at a Kodak film processing lab. It was so fascinating being a part of that work of turning film into treasured keepsakes.

I have gotten rid of most of the pictures only interesting to me. Including hundreds of film negatives and contact/proof sheets from my black-and-white days.

The sheet above had been stuck in a different storage bin so it avoided the purge for now. I took pictures of some of the images. They are not great quality but the emotion is still all there. Enjoy!

My beautiful Mom

Mom and Dad

My brother Dwane

Stephanie & her mom

Stephanie & Chad

…and capture the past even in this minimalist age. It is precious and it is still with us.

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That’s it for this week. Hope your weekend is full of joy with your people present with you. Blessings!

Jesus and Holy Week – Monday, Day 2 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Cleanses the Temple

Photo Credit: Fig Tree by Bob Orchard

[Adapted from the Archives]

On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!”Mark 11:12-14

When Jesus woke on Monday morning, after that glorious Sunday entering Jerusalem…I wonder what he thought. Did he know that, in just four days, he would be crucified? Whew…

Back to Monday:

During that week in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent the nights with friends in Bethany, two miles outside of the city. Each morning, they would walk into Jerusalem. On that Monday morning, just four days prior to his crucifixion, Jesus became hungry on the walk in. Seeing a leafy fig tree, he looked for fruit. With fig trees, where there are leaves, there should be figs. Since green figs are edible, and it wasn’t yet harvest season, there should still be some fruit on the tree.

When he found no figs, Jesus cursed the tree. This seems out of character for Jesus, until his action is put in the context of his culture and community. Throughout his public ministry, especially as he became more known and revered, the Jewish religious leaders held him in contempt. Jesus’ teaching of our dependence on God’s righteousness and not our own flew in the face of the Pharisaical teaching of the day – that of strict adherence to Jewish law as the only hope of finding favor with God. For Jesus, the leafy barren fig tree must have been a picture of religious Jews of that day, all flash and finery but no fruit of faith.

“Christ’s single miracle of Destruction, the withering of the fig-tree, has proved troublesome to some people, but I think its significance is plain enough. The miracle is an acted parable, a symbol of God’s sentence on all that is ‘fruitless’ and specially, no doubt, on the official Judaism of that age. That is its moral significance.”C. S. Lewis

Jesus was left still physically hungry. He remained spiritually hungry  as well – for this people of the Book to receive the good news that the Messiah had come.

Finally, arriving back in Jerusalem, Jesus was deeply troubled by what he found inside the Temple. The crowds of Passover pilgrims did not disturb him, but temple grounds turned marketplace did. In this sanctified place, meant only for worship, there were money-changers and sellers of animals for sacrifice, right in the Court of the Gentiles – in the only place where non-Jewish God-believers could worship.

Photo Credit:Expulsion of the Moneychangers from the Temple” by Luca Giordano

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”Matthew 21:12-13

Often in film depictions of Jesus cleansing the temple, he appears a crazed individual, flailing about, throwing tables and flinging pigeons into the air. I can’t even imagine him that way. We can’t know how it happened except that in Jesus’ anger, he did not sin. He would not sin. I know the Jesus Film is just another director’s film rendering, but in this scene, Jesus showed considerable restraint. Disturbed at the buying and selling that actually kept believing Gentiles from worshiping, he moved to correct the situation. He was unafraid of the temple officials, burning with zeal for his Father to be truly worshiped in that place.

Zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.Psalm 69:9

Later in the week, he himself would be the one for sale –  sold for 30 pieces of silver, betrayed by one of his own disciples, to satisfy the wrath of the religious leaders. That story is for another day.

This Holy Monday, we are drawn again to this Messiah who teaches us that the way we live our lives matters but not more than the way we relate to God. He makes space for us…room for all of us to receive Him. He is holy, and in His righteousness, we stand…on solid ground.

Holy Week – Day 2: Monday Jesus Clears the Temple

YouTube Video with Lyrics of In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

Reasoning Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree

Monday of Holy Week

The Righteous Anger of Jesus

Cleansing the Court of the Gentiles

Jesus Film Media – website & app to watch videos

Palm Sunday – Day 1 of Holy Week – Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Way to the Cross

Photo Credit: Knox United Vancouver

[Adapted from the Archives]

For you critical thinkers, this week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one worthy of analysis. No matter your religion or non-religion, this Jesus, in these days, warrants examination, related to anything you may think of God. You will better understand the core beliefs of a Christ-follower, not just a person known to you as Christian. For in the study of Jesus’ life and his followers, in just this one week, you will see a deep distinction between “the religious” and “the redeemed”.

{Sidebar: I taught a World Religions course some time ago in a Moroccan high school. In that course, we studied all the major religions. The students were challenged to think critically of each religion. They were to study each religion in this way:

  • trying to put themselves in the perspective of one who believes (i.e., a true follower, using eye witness/historical accounts and Scriptures when available), and then
  • analyzing each belief/tenet of faith critically.

Any of us can benefit thinking through Holy Week this way; none will not come away the same by examining the life of Jesus.]

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Palm Sunday is celebrated as the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem, just days before he would endure a mock trial and then be crucified. He and his closest followers (disciples) came to Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover. Passover was an annual remembrance of God’s protection and deliverance of Israel during a time of slavery (Exodus 12:26-28). Jesus would celebrate Passover on Thursday of that coming week, but he did not come to Jerusalem for that reason alone.

He knew from his Father God why he came to Jerusalem, and he tried to prepare his disciples for what was coming.

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.Matthew 16:21

And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved. – Matthew 17:22-23

As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death,  and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”Matthew 20:17-19

I can’t even imagine what those disciples must have felt as Jesus predicted his own death. They loved him and all pledged their lives to him, even to death. They believed him to be the conquering king, sent by God, to deliver the Jews from Roman rule and to restore the nation of Israel. Although they had soaked up three years of his teaching, this “end of the story” was more than they could bear. Just a week later, they would gloriously understand that it would not be the end of the story of Jesus’ life.

On this Sunday, before the Passover, Jesus would enter the great city of Jerusalem, teeming with crowds there to celebrate. He entered, riding a donkey*, as was foretold by the Jewish prophet Zechariah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

Imagine the scene as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Some in the crowd did recognize him, and then the word spread of the arrival of this great teacher, this healer, this man whose teaching was like none before him. Palm branches were pulled to wave in tribute to him, as others flung their cloaks on the dust before him welcoming him:

Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna** to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?”Matthew 21:8-10

“Who is this?” For those who did not know him, the wild welcome for him must have been confusing and captivating. For the religious authorities in Jerusalem, who knew him and were unwilling to welcome this “king of the Jews”, his popularity was infuriating.

The clock began ticking as they plotted against this man Jesus.

Over that bright hopeful day of palms hung the shadow of the Cross – the Cross that would bring even greater hope to all people. The “Hosanna” of Palm Sunday would change to cries to “Crucify!” just five days later. Jesus had no ambition to please the crowds; he was resolutely on task to redeem those who could not redeem themselves – the whole world.

[Each day in this week, the posts will mark the journey of Jesus of Nazareth through the last week of his earthly life. Join me please.]

*Matthew 21:1-11 & Commentary

**”Hosanna” means “God saves”.  YouTube lyric video of Hosanna – Hillsong

Spotify Playlist – From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

Holy Week Timeline

Look, the World Has Gone After Him: Prelude to Palm Sunday – Jon Bloom

The Significance of Palm Sunday in Relation to Passover

Kings Riding on Donkeys? What? – Christopher Mark Van Allsburg

Photo Gallery: Egypt’s Coptic Christians Celebrate Palm Sunday – When our children were young, we lived in Cairo, and bought palm fronds to make some of these crafts, as well as buying them ready-made.