Monday, April 17, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - A Retrospective

And I'm done.

47 entries in 47 days. 47 times with God. I don't know if I did the best job with all of my posts; some were better than others, more introspective than others. But I did it, at least.

I think I may have been expecting more? I had hoped, I suppose, that this would signal a massive (good) change in my relationship with God, something new. I had hoped for my faith to be hugely strengthened. I had hoped for a positive change, somehow, and while I got a small change, I don't think it is a major change. Maybe a relationship isn't full of exciting times. But I wanted something exciting! I wanted to make a huge stride with God!

Well, I know it doesn't matter what I want. And Lent, if nothing else, proved that my desires don't matter in the plan of God. But I had hoped....

Things might mostly be the same now. But there might be a small change. I just hope, for now, that it starts something better. Something new. I so desperately want something new.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 16:1-20


I woke up today, and my soul was all a flutter. Maybe it was just me looking forward to a nice meal and family time, maybe it was the thought of protein the rest of the week, and maybe it was Easter. I'd like to think it was Easter. The song Happy Day was in my head, which indicates some sort of excited spiritual happiness.

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! He is alive!

Mark gives a fairly short account, but I like that it is fairly quick to the point. The Marys and Salome search for him, but He is awake! But He appears to Mary Magdalene, and then others, and after a while goes into Heaven to leave us humans to do the rest. We have inherited what was Jesus': we have inherited that closeness with God and God's parenthood, and we have inherited His job.

It's a big job.

But I don't want to focus on that today. I'm just boggled by the idea of defeating death. He is alive. He is ALIVE. That's incredible, and amazing, and...He died for me, but He rose for me too. The story wasn't over. It was finished, but not the end.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 15:42-47


My brain is all mushy. I'm going to blame lack of meat, because tomorrow...yaaay!

I'm so ready for lent to be over. But that's another blog post.

Joseph takes the body and buries it. On one hand, I feel it proves that Jesus had to be dead. You have centurions proving it, and then Joseph himself. So to people who doubt the Jesus-actually-being dead part of the story, meh. If you're going to trust the story so far, then you have to trust this part too. It's believable.

Mark oesn't go much into the despair at this point, but good grief, the despair--for Mary, for the disciples. And now you're about to sit around for the Sabbath and just think about it for the next twenty four hours. It's going to be a long day.

It is finished, but there's nothing to celebrate yet. Just the finality.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 15:16-41


Thus it goes.

He didn't accept any shortcuts. He didn't take the vinegar. He didn't die easy. He didn't do it in private, where He could scream and cry and be less embarassed. He didn't shy away. He did it. He accepted death.

He thought there was good reason to. And if Jesus thinks it is worth dying for people, then I have to help and love people too. He thought I was worth dying for.

He gave his old family a new family. I got a new family too. He went to God, and I get to go to God too. He did everything.

I could spend pages rhapsodizing about this but honestly, what could I say that hasn't been said? It is finished. The price was paid. I am welcomed back to God because of this. Nothing else really matters.

It is finished, perhaps, but the story isn't. But soon.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 15:1-15


And we go to Pilate.

You can't fight fate, I suppose. That's my one thought from this reading. Jesus doesn't defend himself, even in terms of explaining things. I mean, he's not fighting fate by letting everything happen, but you would think a person could at least verbally defend themself. But Jesus won't even do that. He just accepts what is happening.

It confuses me why Pilate bows to public pressure, though, even from the Jews. He's part of the conquering party, but I guess it must be a much rockier relationship if He isn't willing to go against them regarding this. That, or people are unusually riled up (by the priests--they're the ones who suggest Barabbas, not Jesus). But Pilate still goes along with everything. He even agrees to the crucifixion.

At least our justice system is a little bit better in that regard.

And so we reach the crucifixion. I timed that for Good Friday, but it's always a tough day. Always lots to think about.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 14:66-73


Oh, Peter.

On one hand, the compassionate side of me feels for him. It's a scary situation. Everything is going down the toilet. But on the other do not deny your friends. You definitely do not deny your God. You never, ever, ever deny your friend who you KNOW is God, and Peter knew. Maybe he was doubting, but still. He knew. More than any of the other disciples, he knew.

Silly Peter.

Also, part of me is annoyed at the servant girl for being so inquisitive, but I am also the sort of person to shake someone down. So I shouldn't really judge her for that either.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 14:53-65


Everything is more terrible!

So Jesus is put on a little mini-trial, essentially, in front of the priest. And people are making things up, but in the end, Jesus is the one who convinces the high priest of blasphemy when He says that He is the Christ. Which would be blasphemy, except it's, you know, true.

And I get, to a certain extent, the skepticism. The Messiah was supposed to rescue people from the Romans. He was probably supposed to seem a little more Godly and less human. But was Moses particularly special? Any of the patriarchs? On one hand, wouldn't being so unassuming make a ot of sense?

On the other hand, it's hard to believe. If someone came up to me and said they were the Messiah I wouldn't believe them, partly because I believe the Messiah already came, but also because it seems so unlikely. Really? It's you? And you won't do a miracle to prove it in front of me? And all these people are saying you aren't? Like, how can I blame the priest for being skeptical?

Unless there was some sort of God sense. Maybe a gut feeling, that this was wrong. But by the book, I understand the priest. I don't understand the lies people are telling, but I understand the priest.

Which just goes to show, God doesn't work in a logical way.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 14:32-53


Noooooo everything it about to be terrible now.

1. Disciples (particularly John, James, and Peter): get your act together. If a friend tells you that he is freaking out and please stay awake and pray, then stay awake and pray. This is especially true if that friend is JESUS. Stay awake. Pray. This is what I try to do.

2. Complaining is okay! Jesus was complaining to God. He was asking for the cup to be taken away. He didn't want to be tortured and die. But He was willing. You can complain to God, but you have to be willing regardless. I think that's what is tripping me right now: I really don't want to. And I really don't want to be willing. But if Jesus is willing, then I should be too.

3. Nooooo Judas. Nooooo. Also: betrayal with a kiss? I've thought it before, but that is COLD. A kiss is a sign of affection, or intimacy. It was used horribly. Gah.

4. I've listed to sermons about the streaker. I am still confused about the streaker.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 14:12-31


Happy Palm Sunday! One more week left of Lent.

In today's passage, we have the Last Supper ahead of Gethsemane. I think that, plus Palm Sunday, plus the fact that I just watched Jesus Christ Superstar to help set the Holy Week mood, has made me a bit morose. It's coming, you know. And the passages aren't pretty and the truth is even worse. It's a ugly thing, this week, which is why it's so important. It's made so beautiful at the end.

But for now, it's just bad.

Looking back on Mark (and maybe it's a bit early to do this), I mostly remember healings. So many healings. Jesus was always healing those that wanted it, need it, or asked for it (and on a few occasions, demanded it). So I can see how Peter would be so positive that yes, he was going to remain true, even though Jesus said that wouldn't be the case. And I can see the disciples would be confused, about the whole part about wine-being-blood and bread-being-flesh. And they would have been able to read the mood, right? Jesus probably wasn't happy or excited. He's about to be panicking and praying in terror next chapter. It would be human to be anxious now. And if the disciples could see that, wouldn't that just make the whole thing worse?

We picture the Last Supper as this calm happy meal, but I can't see it being that way at all. There had to have been this undercurrent of fear, or foreboding, or something. I mean, Judas runs off, so there's already dischord. And in the next, oh, eighteen hours, the world is going to turn upside down for the disciples. It's all going to change.

If they were sensitive, they would feel that coming. It is going to be heartbreaking. You can't even trust yourself at that point--Peter has been told he's going to falter. The last supper must have been awful. Not just a sad last meal with friends, like I've pictured it. It's a tragic meal.

Dunno how that relates to me. Just...whew. It's about to get bad.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 14:1-11


Judas! Don't do it!

Here establishes some priority at least. Better to give to God over giving to people, regardless of need. And while those two often coincide, they don't always. It makes me wonder about times when I give up worship to help others. My church does that once a year, but is it better? Or was the point just that Mary wasn't able to love Jesus in this way for an unlimited amount of time? Praise and worship can happen anytime, but you only have his feet for a limited time.

Well. Maybe that is just semantics. I don't need to worry about that right now. I need to worry about loving God, and then loving people after that. Do both, but not equally. Alright. I can do that.

Six more days without meat! I am HUNGRY.

(edited on 4/9 to correct the title to Mark 14, not 13)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 13:24-36


Oh, it's the Mad-Eye Moody passage. (Is it sacreligious to say that?)

 Nobody knows, when the end is going to happen. Angels don't know, apostles don't know. I don't know. I would like to think it is in my lifetime, but that's probably the naively stupid part of me. It's going to be some unexpected time. That's the only thing to be sure of, and to be honest, it's not very much to go off of.

So we have to be ready--but ready for what? Revelation doesn't make sense, and even the warnings just imply a general badness. Do I need an emergency kit? Caves with supplies? Or is it just be ready in the sense of spiritually? People who think they will get serious about religion later, I suppose, aren't spiritually ready. Am I spiritually ready?

I have faith. I struggle with trust, but I have faith. And I have God--I really love God, for all of my issues right now. I yell and scream and cry (and I hoped that would stop after six weeks of lenten blogging, but no, not yet), but I love fiercely. In that regard, I am ready.

My earthquake supplies, though, are a little lacking.

I think it's more likely about the spiritual, but I should probably have earthquake supplies ready anyway. I need to have the faith so that, when everyone turns against me (well, more against me), I'm able to stand my ground. Maybe fight. Maybe antagonize. But at least stand my ground, and support that of my spiritual family. I would need to be that, and I think I am. But I can be more.

So I read. I blog. I pray. I go to church. I try. I fight and try. And that's an attempt, at least, to be ready.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 13:1-23


Three more chapters!!!

Another big one--and quite a bit happens in here, almost like a mini-Revelation. The end will be bad! There will be a false prophet! Destruction! Persecution! Baaaad. There's certainly been discussion of persecution, but I think this is the first real discussion of what things are going to be like later (specifically, post-Jesus, but they don't quite know that yet).

It's hard to be a Christian. It's hard to strive for perfection. It's hard to try and be like Jesus, and to figure out what that means. It's exhausting. That was never hidden. I didn't sign up for this life, not knowing what it was going to be like. The disciples knew. Jesus knew. I know.

I just have to persevere.

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 12:41-44


Widow's mite!

I feel I often interpret this passage somewhat wrong. I like numbers. My first love is always words, but I still love flirting with numbers on occasion (this sounds weirder than it is). So I see this story, and my brain goes, "Aha! It is not about amount--it's about the ratio of how much you have to give. Percentages! MUST GIVE MORE PERCENT."

But that isn't strictly true. Even if I look at the widow giving 100% (which is always what God wants, just sometimes in different ways) and the rich giving a smaller percentage, I'm missing the meaning. Tithing is 10%, but if you just cut off ten percent, you're still doing it wrong. It's all about how much you are trusting God, I guess. Will you put your money where your mouth is?

And I don't think that means you should give up your savings account, unless that's what you have been asked to do. Yes, the widow trusted God, but she still had less. A cent isn't going to do too much; two cents won't even do that much, so why not give up your cent? Maybe I'm thinking about this too logically again. But it's easy for me to give up, say, smoking as a testimony to God, because I haven't smoked, don't want to smoke, and have asthma so I don't really want to make my lungs worse. It's harder to give up something you have more of, too.

Maybe that's not the best example. But it's easy to throw a quarter in the offering because you can't do too much with it, even if that's all you have. Or my mind tells me that. Maybe that's more a sign of my privilege than anything else. And it's easier to trust God when there's nothing else left to rely on. That part I'm sure about.

But regardless of that, we celebrate the widow. It seemingly doesn't matter how hard it is for you to trust God--what matters is whether you do. Hmm. This is not my strongest suit, but I don't think it's because I'm rich. Maybe I was entirely wrong above...

(Also, yes, another post after midnight. TBH, I'm surprised I've only done this a handful of times.)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 12:13-40


Looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong passage tonight.

The Pharisees try to cause Jesus to give a bad answer, and He doesn't falter. The laws are all different--laws about money (and local government), laws about family, and laws about God. And Jesus always gets it right.

See, here I always think that testing God is wrong. The Pharisees aren't doing it right. But then, didn't Jesus test the disciples? So what is it? I mean, Jesus does answer these test, and I think they are all important answers. We often refer about how we are to give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to love our neighbours as ourselves. Those answers are actually really important.

And they also show that the old law is gone. We're entering a new covenant, a new way to live with God. So maybe Jesus isn't upset about the questioning as much here. I mean, He doesn't like the lack or trust or that the Pharisees are trying to trap Him. I think the ending, where He mentions condemnation for the scirbes and hypocrites, is a clear grumpiness with the Pharisees. So it's still not good, to test.

Gah. Today has been a crazy day, and my brain is mushy. That's all I can think of now. Nighty night.

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 12:1-12


Another warning!

I think I've mentioned this before--I get that the disciples, or any of the people, didn't understand what Jesus was saying. It wouldn't make sense, especially after the welcome Jesus just got coming into Jerusalem. I mean, yes, of course, there were people who didn't like him (see: Pharisees), but it would seem that Jesus was enormously popular. Why would they think that the tide would change, and so quickly at that?

Group think + Satan = Baaaaaaaaad

God likes code. He likes to tell us things we can't always understand. Why is that? I don't know...maybe so we meditate on it and really have to think about things? The wonderful thing about scripture is that it is written down, so it is perfect for analysis. The disciples only heard things, but even then, it must have struck a chord for them to remember it all and write it down decades later. We have to think.

We need God to understand God, on a certain level. Maybe that's the point? To seek Him more?

I don't know. What would have happened if Jesus was more explicit? The disciples still wouldn't understand, maybe. Or maybe they would have tried to prevent things. In books, at least, when a character knows something is coming, they either ignore the warning or try to prevent it and it never works (see: Macbeth). People are probably the same way as in fiction, and Jesus didn't want this to be prevented.

So maybe that is why.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 11:15-33


Lots to discuss today!

First off: Jesus is gonna wreck the temple. Well, the people trying to profit from the temple, I suppose. There's sort of an equivalent now, with people who venture into religious endeavors for monetary purposes. I don't know if being a Christian bookseller or something like that is the issue, but instead being something directly tied with the church. Like a church the demands money, maybe? That seems more like the equivalent. I don't think selling Christian books or, I don't know, Christian musicians are the issue. Those are associated with salvation. Churches are.

And you can't trust a super fancy church, IMO.

Moving on: the fig tree died! Jesus hates figs. Which brings up the verse I am having the most trouble with, regarding faith and trust, I suppose. If you pray to God and trust it, it will be answered--it will be granted. Which prickles me because all I can think of are unanswered prayers...

Didn't I trust? I thought I did, once. I'm pretty sure I did. I was so sure, ten years ago, that God would come through. I trusted that I had a happy ending. And now...He hasn't come through. My trust has ebbed. Why? Because it's not at my speed? I don't know if getting what you want one second to midnight counts as really granting something, though. That seems like a technicality.

If God wanted me to be happy, I would be happy. If God wanted me to be married, I would be married. That's how it works. And I can pray and pray and assume it will come true, but God's shown zero interest in making any of that true. So why assume it? I don't know if it works. But all scripture is true. So it should work. Am I mis-reading the passage? Granted seems like it is an affirmative word, but maybe it just means answered--answered as in yes or no, not granted as in, well, granted.

I dunno. I'm struggling with it.

Also, Jesus doesn't always give answers. The disciples failed the test, and so Jesus didn't answer. Proof that we get tested, if nothing else.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 11:1-14


Oof, we are at Easter week!

First thought: Huh, those people are very happy to get rid of their colt. I cant understand why they were indignant initially. IF someone was going to take my car, I'd be annoyed. And if they then told me it was "for the Lord"? I would roll my eyes and tell them still no.

So why would these people give it up? I guess there was some sort of divine intervention. Maybe if I really felt that God needed it. But I think that I would need to really, really feel it. And that doesn't feel like it is a lack of God. It feels like being practical.

But I guess that practicality can be the nemeses of God? Like, it's practical to do things myself, not to sit around trusting God. I need to do things. God doesn't feel like a practical choice. But here I am, attempting to follow God anyway. It doesn't feel like it is doing anything. It's been a month of lent, an I don't feel like I'm closer to God, even though I've been reading the Bible every day and blogging about it.

I guess it comes down to faith. Faith about whether God is asking for your colt, faith about whether God is making a difference anyway, faith about whether God is practical. So I suppose this proves that I have faith, as did the owners of the colt.

But is it the kind like the crowd, which will change in just a few days? Maybe the colt owner's changed. I'm determined, though. I don't want my faith to change. I want it to grow. That's another reason why I am going to keep on reading, and blogging (at least through lent, anyway). Faith!

Also, Jesus doesn't like figs.