The Thorns That Still Talk

Finding answers to life’s perplexing questions can be daunting. It seems like much of life appears to be an escape room. You spend an inordinate amount of time seeking clues and scratching your head on the best way to proceed to your escape. I have found answers and directions in my life in the most unorthodox places. For one Biblical character, his epiphany still has us talking some 5000 years later.

A product of royalty, having been adopted into the most powerful family in the world, Moses’ youth and indiscretions found him in self-imposed exile on the back side of Mt Sinai. He was as one would say, in the middle of nowhere. Even the word “Sinai” according to Jewish tradition means, desert. Scattered among the godforsaken landscape grew bushes with no value whatsoever, the thorn-bush. Moses was no doubt all too familiar with its sharp edges and ability to cause pain when confronted with it. The lowly thorn was first mentioned in Genesis 3 as the result of Adam and Eve’s sin. Now stretching the desert floor for as far as the eye could see, the thorn was an ever-present reminder of the accursed life Moses had now inherited.

One day, while tending sheep, Moses saw something that had to be investigated, a burning bush. Jewish rabbinic tradition indicates that the bush on fire was not only the “lowliest” of thorn briers, but the most dangerous for feeding a wildfire. As he got closer to it, he saw something that left him speechless, this highly combustible shrub wasn’t being consumed at all. Centuries later, some rabbis contend that this burning object represented the oven Hebrew youth Shadrach, Meschach and Obednego were thrown into and lived. This conglomeration of thorns, according to Jewish tradition, indicated it was the “lowliest” place for the Lord to be among His people. It was through thorns, God shared His plans for Moses, His people, and showed His compassion for us even today.

Imagine the lowliest object on earth, thorns, God using to affirm His direction and love for His people. Sixty-six times the word thorn or brier is used in the Bible, but none were more important than the ones referred to in Matthew 27:29. It is there that it speaks of a “braided crown of thorns placed upon Jesus’ head” prior to being crucified.

The Bible is filled with symbolism and meaning. But wouldn’t you agree that it overwhelms us even now when we think that through the cursed thorn, like Moses, we too can find direction? As we reflect on Good Friday, the thorn once again plays an important symbol of God’s love. As Jesus hung on the cross, it was through this cursed object upon His Son’s head that He spoke to us, and still does. No matter how low our live’s have sunk, God meets us there and His message is still proclaimed through the thorn. Isaiah 53:5 New Life Version (NLV) says, But He was hurt (thorns) for our wrong-doing. He was crushed for our sins. He was punished so we would have peace. He was beaten so we would be healed.

It’s been over two-thousand years since the original Good Friday, but isn’t it amazing, the “Thorns” still talk?

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Stop Squishing My Bug

When my father was young boy growing up in New Hampshire, he visited a family friend who had a vast collection of bugs and insects. One such “bug” that drew his attention was a large tarantula. The long-legged bug now dead, was affixed to a board with a pin holding it in place. The owner had several types and seeing how much my dad was intrigued by it, offered it to him to take home. He readily accepted the gift. Knowing my grandmother, I can only imagine she wasn’t too thrilled with it when he got home. I’m sure she saw all she wanted of those things when she lived on the farm in Oklahoma.

The next day my dad had a plan. He was going to share it with his classmates at school. As each gave impressive “oohs and awes” to the bug that spanned the full size of his hand, one little girl in pigtails did not share his enthusiasm. Turning to present it to her, she shrieked, slapped his hand soundly, and promptly ran away. What once was the finest specimen of a menacing spider ever seen, was now relegated to handful of dust. She had obliterated it in the blink of an eye. My dad was a prankster and I’m confident his impromptu show-and-tell moment was designed to bring levity and a little drama to his classroom. The sad part was his glee was short-lived.

I inherited my Dad’s penchant for humor, and I believe that’s one of the qualities, (among many) that drew people to him. There is nothing wrong with laughter, but I’ve met many a person who would disagree with me. One day after posting a funny story on my Facebook page, an old high school classmate sent me a stinging rebuke. He penned a message to me stating that in light of the world’s sad affairs, I had no business offering anyone levity.

Being the grown up in the room, I thought about his counsel. After reflecting deeply over his rebuke for a long ……two minutes, I clicked the unfriend button and haven’t heard from him since. This option is the few things I enjoy about Facebook.

Lately however as I scroll through my Facebook feed, I imagine I feel like what my dad must have felt like when his bug got squished. Happy and laughing one minute, then in the blink of an eye, my own happiness gets flattened. After being upbeat and happy starting my day, I frequently see pictures of deathly sick people, babies, and pets. Some of my Facebook friends seem most drawn to the worst of humanity. What gets me is the majority of these sad and devastating pictures they share, they don’t even know the individuals or the circumstances personally.

I get it, there are bad things around us, but why choose to dwell on just those things? The Good Book says in Ecclesiastes 3 that there is, “A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.” So why should I choose but one emotion? Who Doesn’t like to laugh? If you and I are all made in the image of God, why can’t I have His funny bone?

I have one plea for those who are friends with me, stop dwelling on the sadness of this world and start looking up. This quote from an unknown author, sums up my thoughts today. “Happiness is the art of making a bouquet of flowers from the blooms that are within our reach.”

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It’s All in the Name

Early in my healthcare career I found it most difficult to be separated from my family for great lengths of time. To ease the burden of being away from my small children for weeks and sometimes months at a time, I’d go shopping. I found looking for small gifts for my three children and wife, made me feel like I was keeping them ever in the forefront of my mind.

A little tourist store called Dog Patch near the town I worked, was a frequent stop for me. I could buy little Knickknack toys or t shirts relatively cheap. One such day, I found the perfect t-shirt for my little three-year-old daughter. Red, it had emblazoned across the front in big white letters the words, “I Love My Daddy”, then in smaller letters under that sentence read the words, “This advertisement paid for by him.” It became one of my daughter’s favorite shirts until she outgrew it. Once hanging nearly to the floor, it seemed after only a few short years, her little legs had grown like gazelles and it now fit perfectly. That shirt did two things for me, it identified who that little girl belonged, and it gave evidence everyday that my “little” girl was no longer so little.

Several years ago while on vacation to Florida, I had forgotten a most important item. I had forgotten the power cord to a medical device I needed. Calling several medical equipment businesses, I found one place in Tampa that had the exact cord I needed. The individual on the phone told me that it would cost $40 plus tax to secure it. Grumbling, I had no choice, I told the lady I would be coming for it within the hour.

Since I was on vacation, I had my ever present New England Patriots ball cap on when I entered the establishment.
The receptionist pointed me to a large and loud salesman and as he approached, his distinct Bostonian accent was clear. Before I could say a word, He said, “Are you a New England-dah too?” I replied with the most authentic accent I could muster, “Yessuh, I am.” I was bawn up nawth of Bosty in Andovah! With a big grin, he said, “You wore the right hat today, I’ll sell you the cord much cheapah because of it!” We parted with a smile as he was glad to help a hometown person, and I was most happy to save some coin.

I’ve grown up hearing the adage, “It’s who you know.” But I gathered something a little deeper. As believers in Christ, it’s not enough that we wear some article of clothing professing our association; what is most important is, is His identifiable mark on us somewhere? Do we profess Him with our actions and deeds? When we open our mouth, like the Bostonian salesman, can people readily identify where our true home lies?

It would be so easy if we had a shirt like my daughter that showed progress on how much we’ve grown over the past year; not physically but spiritually. No I’m not going to get rid of my ball cap that reads, “Prayer, Just do it! It’s still one of my favorite hats. I’m hoping that maybe today and everyday, whomever I come in contact with, they will look at me like they once did my little daughter and see that I’m growing, and know that God does loves me and I Him. Oh, and if I did wear such a Christian shirt proclaiming His love, it would have to state, “His advertisement “the cross” was paid for by Him.

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Technology Doesn’t Work for Me

I recall my first run-in with technology foibles when a text message I sent went horribly awry. I had an angry individual who perceiving I did something wrong, sent me a less than kind text message. Endeavoring to soften their displeasure, I sent them back a message where I simply typed, “I extend to you my humbleness.” I later learned my phone’s auto-correct changed the word “humbleness” to “bumblebees.” So far, I never did hear a response from my “buzz” word but then again, maybe my message stung a little.

Technologies are supposed to lighten our load, ease our burdens, but not for me. When we bought our new car recently, our son said, “You’ll love the Siri voice technology! Push a button, tell the corresponding voice what you want it to do, and voila, you’ll be on your way!” Fat chance! Seldom does the blasted thing work correctly. Tell it to call Mom and it will say, “Don, Tom, Ron? Tell it to navigate you to Olive Garden, it will map out directions to Olive Branch (MS). At this point, my Siri capable voice activation is like most highway work crews. They only work about 25% of the time.

Another wrinkle in my phone is that it is bluetooth connected to my car and even when I don’t want it to, the car will sync with my phone and all my stored music will begin to blast. I can’t tell you how many times I have entered my vehicle in sweet meditation on the way to church only to hear blasting from the car speakers with no warning, Razzy Bailey singing the country song, Midnight Hauler.” I’d ask my kids how to keep this from happening but then they’d just make me feel stupid by rolling their eyes.

This week I had a technology emergency I’d never experienced before. As a habit, I bring my cell phone everywhere with me; this includes the bathroom. Oh, I’ve received phone calls there and have been grateful like I’m sure you all are, that the phone manufacturers offer a mute button as an option. However, this was far different. Very rarely do I panic and if I’m tempted to do so, I always have a backup plan. Just not today!!!

While I was just getting comfortable on the porcelain goddess, my phone rang. Thinking nothing of it, I picked it up; it was a FaceTime phone call. For those not familiar, this type of phone call is a video chat operation. As I panicked over whether to answer it, several things immediately came to mind; if I do answer the call, is the front video lens activated or is it the back lens? Will I have to hold my head up, or will the camera point down or vice versa? If the video is activated, will the wrong lens inadvertently show me from the viewpoint of a fish eye lens where it will make me look like Humpty Dumpty on a porcelain egg? I feared hitting the wrong button so greatly that I felt like James Bond choosing which wire to cut on the bomb to defuse the catastrophe.

I never did learn who called, and I don’t care. I don’t need that kind of stress in my life! I threw it in the sink and covered it with a towel. Today I am at peace, I averted disaster by fixing my high tech problem as any intelligent older person would do. My phone now sports two sticky note flaps on each side of my cellphone. Next time you call me for a Facetime call, you didn’t call a canary, my sticky pad is yellow.

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