Blessings Indeed

View at dusk Indianapolis

The view from our hotel room–Indianapolis at dusk

 

 

Tom and I have just come back from the International Gideons Convention that was held in Indianapolis, Indiana. People were there from over 90 countries from around the world. One of the things I love about convention is meeting and getting to know folks from countries that are so different from my own—and hearing of the difficulties many are facing with faith, courage, and perseverance.

As I listened to how God is working, especially in countries where it is hard and even dangerous, to be a Christian, it made me uncomfortable and sometimes ashamed to be a Christian in America. I thought of Luke 12:48: “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” I have been given so much and was reminded of my responsibility!

In my last blog, I shared my experience of packing food aid for Syrian refugees. The prayer of my heart is that I will be more mindful of the ways I can make a difference for the Lord and for this hurting world. I don’t ever want to take for granted how much I have been blessed. With that in mind, here are just a few of my recent blessings:

    • Hosting Jean Marc, a gentleman from France for two nights in our home and getting to know him

      Jean Marc 2 (2)

      Tom and Me with Jean Marc

    • Having more food available than I could possibly want or eat
    • The availability of fresh, clean water to drink
    • Being in air-conditioning, protected from the dangerous and excessive heat we were experiencing
    • The view from our hotel room
    • Having dinner with Glen, our new friend from Jamaica
    • Celebrating the two-year-anniversary of my miraculous healing (July 24)
    • The hospitality of Tom’s sister and her husband, Barb and Roy
    • The beauty and peacefulness of their home on a lake
    • That I was able to do these things freely and without fear of attack or fear for my safety

I could bore you by going on and on, but I think you get the picture. I am especially thankful for the blessing of refreshment this time away offered me. And now, it’s time to get back to work to change the world in whatever way I can from my humble home in Pennsylvania.

The most important thing I can do is to treat everyone I meet with love and respect, no matter who they are, no matter their circumstances, no matter their beliefs. If we all acted this way in our own corner of the world, we would make a difference. Smiles and love ARE contagious! Will you join me in doing this?

 

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What About the Roman Soldiers? An Easter Musing

I’ve always wondered about the Roman soldiers mentioned in Matthew 27:62-66 and Matthew 28:11-15. What makes them intriguing to me is that they were the only people physically present at Jesus’ resurrection.

Imagine being an eyewitness to the greatest event in the history of the world. How many were there? Who were these men? What did they experience that night? What happened to them? How did it change their lives?

I thought there were two soldiers at the tomb. But Matthew refers to them as a “guard of soldiers”. In doing some research, I discovered that “two” guards is merely tradition and highly unlikely. A “guard” consisted of a minimum of four soldiers but could comprise as many as the situation warranted. One article I read suggested that the Romans would have wanted there to be at least one soldier for each of the 11 remaining disciples, who were the most likely to steal Jesus’s body.

So, here we have all these soldiers sent to guard a tomb. It’s almost like the old light bulb jokes–how many men does it takes to protect a dead man? I’m thinking these soldiers took their assignment in one of two ways. Either they felt they were at the bottom of the barrel, getting all the worst assignments, or they were thrilled with what appeared to be the easiest assignment ever. Guarding someone who’s already dead–how hard could it be?

And then I think about the reality of that night. I’ve done a lot of camping. There’s nothing better than sitting around a campfire on a chilly night, passing around hot chocolate, making s’mores, singing, and telling stories. I’m sure their night wasn’t much different–at least until what happened next. The noise must have been deafening. When God demonstrates his glory, it is never done quietly. And the light, bright and blinding. In the midst of this seeming chaos comes Jesus–alive. What crossed their minds? Maybe some of them thought, like the centurion by the cross, “surely this was the Son of God.” Probably, most ran away in abject terror.

In Matthew 28, the soldiers found their way back to the chief priests, not their Roman commanders, to give their report. If they’d been sleeping, as some say, they would have had nothing to report. Instead, their information alarmed the chief priests enough to offer them a substantial amount of money to keep quiet and lie about what they saw.

After this, we hear nothing more. That’s when I really start imagining. How did their lives change? I hope some of them became followers after reflecting on that experience. Imagine what they told their wives when asked, “How was your day?” How do you explain the strange event/miracle you’ve just seen? I would love to have been a fly on the wall during those conversations.

Jesus could have waited until the women arrived to roll the stone away, for them to witness the light of Jesus’ glory. While there did not seem to be any interaction between Jesus and the soldiers like there was with the women and the disciples, the soldiers were the ones physically present at the scene. As a twenty-first century Christian–and a Gentile–it occurred to me that maybe this was God’s way of including us in the resurrection. Perhaps this is our crumb from the master’s table, an indication that we, the Gentiles, are loved by God, also ordained to be his children. Whatever the case, nothing changes the bottom line:

HE IS RISEN! ALLELUIA!

 Easter blessings to all!

 

 

Characters Are Our Friends

Last November I finally took the advice of a friend and began reading the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. While mystery is not my favorite genre, I do choose mystery series that align with my interests such as tea, writing, and knitting. Detective agencies? Not usually in my sphere of interest.

Much to my surprise and delight, I have since sailed through the entire series, thirteen books in all. What enchants me is not so much the mystery, but the main character, Mma Precious Ramotswe. She is strong, loving, intelligent, down-to-earth, and greatly concerned about the importance of maintaining traditional values and morality.

Everything she does, all the cases she solves flow out of who she is. Because of this I feel as though I know Mma Ramotswe personally. I want her opinion on my problems. I want to join her in a cup of tea on her veranda or at the President’s Hotel. I want to sit in on a case discussion between her and her assistant, Mma Makutsi. I want to climb into her tiny white van and traverse roads of Botswana, drinking in the sights of the Kalahari Desert, observing the wildlife that roams freely, and go along when she visits her home village of Mochudi.

I have always believed that the best fiction is character driven rather than plot driven. If I don’t care about the character, then I don’t really care about what is happening. Alexander McCall Smith is a master at this. To be able to create living, breathing characters with whom readers identify, who feel “real” in the truest sense of the word is a rare gift. Now that I’ve finished the series as a reader, I want to go back and study these books as a writer.

I cannot imagine anything better than aspiring to the same kind of character excellence demonstrated by Smith—unless it is moving to Botswana to become Mma Ramotswe’s neighbor.

I’ll send you a postcard when I arrive.

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