What Did Jesus Say?

Now and then I will see a  Facebook post by a modern-day Pharisee who claims “Jesus said this,” or “Jesus said that”, without including the Scripture reference. I’ve been a student of the Bible for forty years, but my response is often, “Really? I don’t remember Him saying that.”

I’ll search the Gospels for the reference. Sometimes the quotation has been cherry-picked out of context, sometimes misquoted. Other times, the quote is just plain revisionist scripture.

These occasions led me to want to better educate myself about what Jesus actually said. Thinking a red-letter edition of the Bible would be helpful, I looked through the several translations and editions we had at home. I found no suitable Bible to use. The only red-letter edition on hand was a small, King James gift Bible I had received as a child. The print was way too small for my 67-year-old eyes. Besides, King James language, although poetic and beautiful, can no longer be considered the vernacular. I needed something I could read and understand.

I went Bible shopping. I was overwhelmed by the wide range of choices, none of which was within my budget. There were large tomes with large print and space for taking notes, small Bibles with too-small print, myriad translations, even a few with the words of Jesus in red.

I also found something called journaling Bibles. These are intended for those who do art work in their Bibles in response to Scripture. Margins are ample, paper is sturdy; some even include drawings to be colored. (I consulted Pinterest. Apparently Bible journaling is quite a fad. It is telling that I found a greater variety of these in the craft store than in the book store, artfully displayed next to specialty “Bible journaling markers” and lettering templates. Someone is making a green killing on these.)

I threw up my hands in frustration and did not buy a new Bible that day. Instead, I bought a pink Bible highlighter–the kind that is erasable and will not bleed through thin paper. I would make my own red-letter edition.

The plan? Using my favorite study Bible, I would read the Gospels as an Advent discipline. As I read, I would highlight Jesus’ words with pink. I am not the most consistent, disciplined student. I have made progress, but Advent was over months ago. Here it is June, and I’ve reached the 16th chapter of Luke. That speaks to my humanness, I suppose.

Not having a deadline to finish has its advantages. I’ve been able to go at my own pace, thinking about what I read. Reading the Christmas story right after Easter gave me a new perspective. I read it not as a routine ritual, but as something to consider in relation to the Resurrection.

The highlighter has also slowed me down. I have focused on Jesus’ words. Even His shortest utterances have a power I had not before realized.

I’m glad I undertook this red-letter project. It continues to teach me much.

Bible pix

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Praying for the World

Donald Trump has the nuclear codes. Kim Jong Un has been launching test missiles. Neither man seems even remotely mentally stable.

I am old enough to remember the shadow of the Cold War. I was very young, so I did not understand; yet vivid memories of that time remain.

When a plane flew by overhead, I ducked.

I played school with the older girl next door. She pulled out a map of the world. The “lesson” was about Russia’s threat to bomb Moscow, Idaho, because Moscow stole the name of their city.

Such is the way children play out what they overhear adults say in hushed conversations, thinking the children won’t hear.

Now that I am old enough to understand, it’s much scarier this time.

I cannot begin to envision the annihilation of a nuclear war. One need only look back a few decades, though, to see the aftermath of only two bombs–the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

So I am saying extra prayers these days for the world–for its safety, for its preservation, for the sanity of its leaders, for peace.

Lord, help us.

duerer_praying_hands

Photo: public domain

…about Praying for Enemies

Before becoming a Christian in 1979, I read the Bible. All of it. I wanted to know what I was signing onto when I joined the church. Shortly after that, during the Iran Hostage Crisis, I prayed for the Ayatollah Khomeini to know Jesus. I was quickly and soundly chastised by another church member.

Huh? Isn’t that what I was supposed to do? Having read in the Bible that we are to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), I was fairly certain I was doing the right thing. Jesus himself set the example while on the Cross, praying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a)

Still, the disapproval of the fellow church member stung me to the core. Was I somehow wrong? Had Jesus mentioned an exception that I had missed in my initial reading of the Scriptures? Today, after years of study and prayer, I remain convinced that I was right to pray for the Ayatollah.

I was reminded of that long-ago incident Sunday when someone in church requested prayers for our enemies; in her next breath she mentioned President Trump. I cannot pretend to have read her mind. Was the implication that Trump is an enemy intentional, or merely coincidence?

It is only fair that I tell you I did not support Trump for election. I do not believe he is doing a good job as President. I believe his behavior is erratic, reckless, and dangerous. I do not like him.

Enemy or not, regardless of political views, the President needs and deserves the prayers of anyone who believes in prayer. Jesus said so.

That brings me to my dilemma.

I know I should pray for Trump, but so far my prayers have been half-hearted. I don’t see him changing his behavior any time soon. I realize I am praying for a miracle. Am I setting myself up for God to say, “No.”? How can I word my prayer so I get the answer I want? Is my faith so small that I cannot pray for a miracle?

But, wait. Jesus didn’t say to pray only if I feel like it. He didn’t say to pray only if I think my prayers will yield the answers I want. He simply said to pray.

Funny, isn’t it, how one prayer leads to another? In order to pray for the President, I need to pray for a softening of my stubborn attitude. I need to pray for obedience and persistence in prayer. I need to pray for God’s patience with me.

Most importantly, I need to pray for a strengthening of faith that allows me to trust God to answer prayers the way He knows they need to be answered. He has a greater plan than you or I can imagine.

duerer_praying_hands

Photo: public domain

Just Thinkin’ about Water

It’s snowing again and I’m crabby. Friends across social media have been making the same complaint. This has become one of those winters. We here in southern Idaho enjoy a temperate climate and don’t usually get this much snow. What we do get usually melts within a couple of days. This year, though, the storms seem to be on the every-other-day plan. One storm after another has come along before the previous snow has melted into the ground. The snow blower has gotten quite a workout this year.

I shouldn’t complain. I am warm. I have food in the pantry. I am safe and well-fed (perhaps too well). I have plenty of reading material and projects around the house to keep myself busy. An NCIS marathon is running on television, so my Mark Harmon fix is not in danger. Many are not that fortunate.

Snow turns into water, an important resource in this high desert, agricultural area. If this weather continues, farmers in the area can look forward to a better water year, following a season or two of drought.

The topic of water has been on my mind a lot lately. The Bible study I attend has been following the theme of water throughout the Bible. It is a universal theme. According to Come to the Waters by Judy Record Fletcher, there are more than 800 references to water in the Bible.

As I think about this life-sustaining resource, I think about the 663 million people worldwide who do not have access to clean water.* I pray for them.

I think about children who cannot go to school because they have to spend their days acquiring water for their families. I pray for them.

I think about the children of Flint, Michigan who face severe developmental damage due to lead in the water. I am angry. The situation was entirely preventable. I pray for them.

I wonder how many other communities across the United States face similar situations. I pray for them.

I think about how I take water for granted and how often I waste it. I pray for forgiveness.

There must be something I can do. I pray for guidance.

I can become more conscientious about the water I use. I can look for ways to be less wasteful.

I can educate myself. When pertinent, I can ask my local, state and national representatives to take action to ensure our communities safe, ready and affordable access to clean water.

Water is a precious resource. As I look out the window at the continuing snowstorm, I give thanks for it.

* http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/water-and-sanitation

water

Just Thinkin’ about Cinderella

The little girls in my extended family (ages almost two and almost 3) are getting princess dress-up outfits for Christmas this year. Before heading to the sewing room, I hesitated. Would I be contributing to the perpetuation of a myth that needs to go away?

Far too many little girls grow up believing in the myth that the handsome prince
will one day whisk them away to a happily ever after where he will provide for and protect her. Continue reading “Just Thinkin’ about Cinderella”

Just Thinkin’ About Getting Started

The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”                                                                                                          Lao Tzu, Chinese Taoist philosopher, 600-531 B.C

For the past few weeks I have felt shock, sadness and despair as I’ve watched and listened to news of the world around me. This time of year the news always seems darker than usual; but this year, for many reasons, it’s downright sad and scary.

The other evening as I listened to yet another discouraging news report, I felt utterly helpless. What can I, a retired school teacher, do to help fix what’s wrong? At that moment, I heard a small, quiet voice. “Write, Donna. Start the blog. Just do it.”

The next day I opened the next book from the ever-growing stack of books I plan to read. The title? If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg. As the title suggests, the author takes an in-depth, thoughtful look at Matthew 14:25-33, in which Jesus walks on water and commands Peter to get out of the boat and come to Him. It’s a story about taking a step of faith.

With the turning of each page, the voice I had heard the evening before became louder and more insistent. “Start the blog, Donna. Do it now.”

It became clear to me that now is the time to begin the blog I had been considering for quite some time. Now. No more procrastinating. I need to get out of the boat and take a step of faith.

So here I am, at the beginning of a new adventure. While I don’t pretend to believe you will agree with everything I say, I hope a few words here and there will resonate with you. Perhaps you will be moved to read a book or two; to think about new ideas; to try something new; to start an important conversation in your community. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll be encouraged to get out of the boat and set off on your own adventure.

See you along the journey!