Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Do What You Can

Mark 14:8a “She has done what she could. . .” The alabaster jar of perfume was hers. She had worked hard to “buy it”. It doesn’t matter what she did to get it i.e. her job description. The fact remains that it was hers and she could do with it what she wanted to do. She wanted to spend it on Jesus for he had done something great for her. He had changed and saved her life, caused her to repent (change her mind and way of living) and to stop destroying herself, and letting others use and abuse her. He gave her a reason to live and not just survive. He gave her life back its meaning, the blueprint God had stamped upon her before she was born. Jesus reawakened in her her destiny and desire to live, and thrive! (What woman wouldn’t want a man who would do this for her?) So she wanted to bless Him for blessing her. She did what she could.

She gave what she had, and “it ain’t nobody’s business if I do” was the song she sang as she poured the perfume upon him, starting from his head. It might have been “Joop! For men” or “Polo”. Maybe “British Sterling” or “Grey Flannel”. Or it may have been her favorite (and mine) “Beautiful”. J Whatever it was, it came from her heart and soul and it made Jesus smell good for His last hours on earth, for shortly after this incident, He was arrested, tried illegally by a nightlight, whipped and beaten and abused; And then nailed to a cross faster than one could sing the ABC’s song. He did not even have time to take a bath and wash the perfume out of his hair or his clothing. He went to the cross covered in her sacrifice, smelling beautiful as He endured the stench of hatred against Himself by those He created, by those He loved with every fiber of His being. Crucified by those He came to save. She did what she could to make Him feel good during a difficult time. I think every time He got a whiff of the perfume in His hair, He remembered that at least one other human, a woman, truly loved Him.

She empowered Him to do what only He could do for you and me, the world. (What man wouldn’t want a woman who does this for him?) And to this day she is forever with Him in history just like He said. Mark 14:9 “And surely I tell you, wherever the good news (the Gospel) is proclaimed in the entire world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” How could she have known that a simple act of love, scorned and condemned by one-dimensional men, would be applauded and appreciated by God so much that He would always remember it and her, and never let the world forget it either? We don’t know her name, but God does. I believe maybe He leaves out her name (even though another gospel account calls her “Mary”) so we would remember her act of love and not create a religion or a sect or a set of beliefs upon this woman, for to do that would take the focus off of Jesus and His sacrifice. And she was about exalting and magnifying Him, not herself. So she did what she could.

Because we don’t know her name that means we can put ourselves in her place and do what we can too. What is your “alabaster box”? My alabaster box? What do I “have” that’s valuable to me, that for which I’m working so hard to achieve and earn in this life, on the earth, that I can lavish on Jesus, just because of Who He is? What can I “break” that cannot be repaired (for once the glass alabaster box is opened – only possible by breaking it – the perfume gets spilled out and must go somewhere) and pour on the Son of God? This is why those men called “disciples” condemned her, because the box could not be used again nor the perfume salvaged and sold. It could not even be saved to use the rest later, for it was not that kind of box. Nope, she did not, could not save any for herself. It was all broken and spilled out. On Jesus.

When we’re in church and/or in prayer at home and the atmosphere is charged with power, energy and the physical presence of God, we feel so much love for God and everybody, even our enemies, so we pray lofty prayers, by faith of course J and we make promises to God etc. We tell Him that we give Him everything. Then Monday and Tuesday come and we’re at home alone, or at work, in the daily grind, traffic with mean and hateful people. The high time we had on “Sunday” (whatever your Sunday may be) is just a memory. Our prayers were just words from our emotions, yes with the gushing tears and saliva and all. But we really did mean it at the time.

If we broke our alabaster box then, now we’re saying “it was an accident”, or we should have been more careful to break it in such a way that we could keep some for ourselves, for we didn’t mean to “spend it all at one time”. Or we should have taken more time to “think it through logically” away from that emotionally charged atmosphere in which we felt ‘pushed’ to give God our all. We didn’t mean to give it all, not all at one time in one place, and to ONE PERSON, for it cost us soooo much. Hmmmm. What a waste. On Jesus. And we’ve no guarantees that our life will be “better” (for better is in the eye of the beholder). We’ve no guarantees that we will receive the desires of our hearts for which we’ve prayed and believed. Darn! At least when we had “our” alabaster box we knew what “we” had and it was “ours”, and “we” could use it for “ourselves” when “we” wanted to. J

But now “I’ve” given it all away, to Jesus. And He’s going to take it to the cross, in His hair, on His skin, in His clothes. Oh wait . . . Oh no!! He’s taking ME to the cross, in His hair, on His skin, in His clothes! But I don’t want to go. I don’t want to “die.” So what else can I do? What else can be done? Do what you can.

As long as the box (me) is not broken, the perfume inside is “safe” and sound, but it is not being “enjoyed” by anyone, including myself. It is only when our alabaster box is broken that our fragrance can bless God and be useful to Him. It is only by being “broken” that we can and will be a sweet smelling savor to Him and to those “around us”, and even in “stinky” situations. (This doesn’t mean that everyone is going to like and love us. Be honest, none of us likes all the perfume fragrances in the world. But what it does mean is that we carry within us the fragrance of life, and light and hope – Jesus Christ – Who cannot be denied.) It is only when we pour out ourselves, totally and completely upon Him that we lose ourselves as we know ourselves, and gain unto ourselves the “we” He has created us to be. It is only when I allow Him to take me to the cross and nail me there that I will stop struggling to save some of me for myself, and I will cease being afraid that I will never truly live in this life.

When I sing and write I do so from where I’ve been. But sometimes I sing and write from where I am now, as I am doing today. Not because I know everything about what I know, nor what I think I know, and not because I’ve “arrived” and now can write a manual for fellow “tourists” and voyagers. J Some people think public figures have it all together and figured out, and shouldn’t be struggling with anything because he or she is a woman or man of the cloth. But they forget, there was only ONE Jesus (in the flesh) and He alone was and is perfect and sinless. The rest of us are cut from the same material as everybody else. If you cut us, even with a Bible in our hands and our hearts full of God’s love, we will still bleed. J

Nevertheless, even though we choose to “accept” God’s phone call to us to live a certain way and thus to die daily to what others are allowed to live, we are still human. And we may sometimes be given the 411 so we may sing and write about where we are going – where I am going – and that’s when I feel hope holding my hand; and as we walk she constantly tells me to just “do what you can.”


Monday, 7 March 2011

France is an . . . ashtray?

Cough, cough!! Excuse me if I have to clear my throat from time to time during our . . . “conversation”. I seem to be surrounded by smoke and ashes almost everywhere I go these days. I can’t seem to get away from it. While crossing the big four lane street last week, as I waited in the middle section for the traffic to pass, I looked down on the ground and around me there was litter of course, but all of it was cigarette butts. I had not noticed it before but this time there just seemed to be hundreds of them. I imagined that while waiting for the green light, drivers had opened their windows and emptied their ashtrays at that spot. How awful.

What’s worse than that are the numerous parents I see smoking in the faces of their children and infants. Pregnant mothers are advised not to smoke while carrying their babies in their womb, but they see no problem with blowing first and second hand smoke (which they say is more dangerous) into the faces of these same children. What’s the difference? Why not just smoke while you’re pregnant too?

Another problem I see is those of us who choose not to smoke, are forced to do so in the presence of these people when we cannot get away from them. While waiting for the bus one day, I was standing alone and looking in one direction. All of a sudden I was smoking, but I had no cigarette in my hand and I wondered “when did I start smoking?” I turned to my left and there was a frumpy teenager standing right beside me, in my personal space smoking a cigarette, and he didn’t ask me for permission to put the cigarette in my mouth. I was being forced to inhale what he and his cigarette were exhaling, so I moved as far away from him as I could.

All over this country, supposedly the country of “amour” I see hate and hatred, and the people who are being hated are the same ones doing the hating. They are hating themselves. Oh I know what you, and they may be thinking, “how can you say these people hate themselves?” Anytime we continue to inflict upon ourselves a habit we know has been proven to cause life-threatening diseases and death . . . need I say more? How can we say we love ourselves? Love and hate/hatred are not just emotions we feel. They are states of mind. Forget the emotions of hate and deal with the state of mind. Sure we do things out of our emotions, but when we’re not emotional, we perform from our state of mind.

I have met many people in this country who have lost loved ones to cancer and they were smokers. These same people have come to some of us after the funerals of their relatives, crying and then pulling out a cigarette and wanting us to pray for them. All I can do is look at them and they see the expression on my face and realize how ludicrous they sound as they light up their cigarette. I’m not saying they don’t need prayer, for we all do, but to light up the cigarette in my presence and in my face with tears in your eyes over the one you just buried who died because they contracted cancer because they would not stop smoking for several years . . . Need I continue with this never ending sentence which has no comma or semi-colon to designate that I’m taking a breath in the middle of this thought? Inhale. Exhale. Cough. Ahem. Sneeze.

There are so many habits from which we suffer, but we suffer because we do them to ourselves. Habits are not things that others do to us. They are things we do to ourselves and we make excuses for continuing to do them, rather than dealing with the chain of events and reactions that motivate us to continue down these roads. For several years I was grossly overweight. So I read every book I could find to deal with the situation from low-fat to no-fat to carbohydrates to no carbs. Then I did every exercise that I could to break a sweat for I knew if I did not sweat I would not be burning any fat. Well, I was right. LOL!! That was one time I wished I was wrong, but there was too much scientific evidence to prove that I was right. I just wasn’t one of the persons chosen to participate in those studies.

Why was I overweight? I didn’t get there overnight that’s for sure, but over time I was doing something repeatedly that took me to a place I did not want to be. But I did not know what it was for a very long time. So let’s fast forward to that moment of discovery and walk backwards to see what I was doing to myself which prayer alone could not change. Yes, I believe in the power of prayer, but some things require more than prayer alone for lasting change. Weight loss is one of those things, at least for me it is.

While spending much time alone, in prayer (which is what started it all by the way) – conversation with God – Him speaking and me listening and vice versus (for that’s what a conversation is) I would hit emotional highs and lows and quickly walk to the kitchen. When I arrived there I would hear a question inside myself, “why are you here?” I would look around me and realized God was speaking to me. “Is it time to eat?” I would check my watch and say “no”. He would reply, “then get a glass of water and leave this place.” This would happen day after day until I began to see a pattern. When my emotions were topsy-turvy, I would “run for the border!” whether I was hungry or not, whether it was time to eat or not. I needed to find another way to deal with my emotions. I needed to find another way, a better way to “respond” to not only my emotions, but to whatever was triggering my emotions in that manner. This took time. A lot of quiet time. Alone. With God.

I fell in love with water as I drank more and more water rather than eating something, anything to comfort me. So the first thing I learned about myself and habits was that when my emotions were on the Pacific Ocean in the middle of a storm, I would run to food, mainly sugary foods, for comfort. Many of us call those foods “comfort foods” for at the time we’re taking them in, they seem to bring us comfort and calm our nerves. I’ve heard cigarette smokers say the same thing. You can see them calm down with the first inhalation.

The second thing I learned about myself was I leaned heavily upon sugar in all its simple forms. I was not prejudiced or discriminatory against any white sugars. I loved them all the same!! J They were my friends. LOL!! Hmmmm. So sugar had partnered with my emotions, but I was learning that I was the criminal committing the crime against my own self. No one was forcing me to eat sugar. No one held me at knife point or with a gun insisting that I eat that white drug. I did it to myself because of immature coping mechanisms and poor defense mechanisms for dealing with life’s difficulties, real and imagined. So the weight came, again and again along with medical problems. One thing led to another, but the true problem was now buried beneath the medical issues.

Being alone and far, far away from home (and Shrek & Fiona were not around at that time.) I ran out of medications and wondered “what would I do”? But within a matter of weeks, as I continued to listen to and obey the voice of the Lord in my spirit, my body began to change and respond as well. I began to sleep better and more, going to bed when the sun went down and getting up when the sun came up. Resting more. Facing the issues of life and not repressing them, even though some days were better than others. I was learning new habits, first on the spiritual side which helped me on the emotional side, which in turn revealed what I was doing on the physical side to harm myself. Lack of self-love, led to habits to fill in the void to make me feeeeel loved.

When we learn what true love is, that it’s not an emotion, not just a feeling, we then can apply it to ourselves and become happy people. We cannot give what we don’t have. We cannot lead where we won’t go, and we cannot direct where we’ve not been. We cannot teach what we've not learned. We cannot perform what we have not rehearsed; and we must first practice on ourselves. We must first rehearse in the privacy of our own thoughts and feelings about ourselves. I’m not talking about narcissism, but REAL, healthy love. “Love thy neighbor as you love thyself.” So you see, God is not against us loving ourselves for He knows we cannot love others until we first love ourselves. He commands us to love ourselves for He loves us with a perfect love.

We disrespect others because we do not respect ourselves, thus people smoke in their children’s faces, their parents’ faces and the faces of strangers because, well, they smoke first in their own faces. J Didn’t take a rocket scientist for me to figure that one out did it? LOL!! Bad habits can be broken and new ones learned. I’ve had my bout with addictions so I know how strong substances can be, but I also know how much stronger my will is over sugar and things, and I refuse to hand over my life to some THING to control me and use all my resources to practice, and then use all my resources to try to restore what was destroyed, because I continued to do something negative to myself.

When we finally take responsibility for ourselves . . . our words, our thoughts, our actions, our choices and decisions . . . When we really decide that we want to live good quality lives and not lives of always trying to get well and be well . . . When we stop blaming others for what we’re doing to ourselves . . . Look in the mirror the next time you’re smoking that cigarette; look in the mirror the next time you start eating that second pint of ice cream . . . Look in the mirror the next time you smoke, inhale or inject some other natural and unnatural drug(s) and ask yourself “who’s doing this to me?” Whose hands are those? Whose mouth is that? Whose feet are those? Etc. And the next question should be “and why am I doing this to myself?” What’s the purpose? What’s the good on the other side of that cigarette in my mouth? A temporary feeling of calm and tranquility? (And when the smoke clears, the situation is still the same but now your lungs, and ours are full of flames.) We can get calm and tranquility from a hot bath and soft music with candles. We can get that from a good foot soak and massage. We can get that from a good nap and a bunch of laughs from watching a good episode or two of the shows “Mash” and the “Jeffersons” from the 70s. And they won’t pollute our lungs and minds, but just the opposite. We will laugh so much and so hard that the tears will cleanse our eyes and our faces, and the coughing will clear our lungs and shake our stomachs that we might lose a pound or two without exercising, or hard work. And if you’re rolling on the floor laughing, well then you might not have to run the vacuum cleaner. J

France is an . . . ashtray? As long as 95% of the inhabitants continue to empty cigarette smoke and nicotine into their bodies, then yes. This country will only be as sick or as healthy as its residents. Cough. It’s time to clear the air.