Writing 101 – Size Matters

Today’s challenge: Tell about the home you lived in when you were twelve. The twist: vary the length of the sentences.

I hated the house. It was not the house I hated; it was the idea of the house. When I was twelve years old, we moved.

I liked our “old house”. The perfect small house on a quiet suburban street. I knew everyone on the street, I had friends on the street, and there was a shop around the corner to feed my candy and comic book addiction. I simply did not want to move from the only home I had ever known to a new house in a new neighborhood.

The “new house” was immense, on a busy street that held other immense houses. There was a large, wrap-around porch, a small front yard and a much larger, grass-covered back yard. Some rooms were painted in odd, intense colors; the living room was a dark and dismal forest green. The dining room a glowing bright red-orange – being twelve, I thought it was wonderful!! Every room had wood floors and large windows, letting in lots of light.  All the rooms were much larger than the rooms in the old house and there were many more of them. There was a long, narrow pantry off the eat-in kitchen, with cabinet’s floor to ceiling for storage. Upstairs, there were 4 bedrooms on the second floor and 2 on the third – yes, third floor. A three-story house was common in this new neighborhood. My bedroom was on the second floor, overlooking the back yard. Since it was an older house there was only one bathroom on the second floor.   And what a bathroom, a gigantic, cast iron, claw foot tub dominated the room. But having only one bathroom required coordination in a household that included two parents, four kids aged 12 and under and another kid on the way; no dawdling allowed!

The new house had lots of small and interesting places; ideal for our all-important hide and seek marathons. The basement had a dark nook under the stairs, one large open room and two, smaller rooms with shelves and doors.  The ceiling was very low and criss-crossed with pipes and wires.  There was also a small, half-bath, in the basement – to be used only in case of emergency! The basement was dark and full of odd noises, smells, creaks and groans and I, for one, avoided it at all costs!

As time passed, the old house, the old neighborhood mattered less and less and the new house became home. We discovered a great park and playground down the street. There was a private school on the corner; before they fenced the property we spent hours on their tennis courts, running through their fields, looking in the windows, full of curiousity about the activity inside. There were lots of stores within easy walking distance – new candy and comic book shopping options in both directions! School, sports, jobs, driving and friends; life marches on, kids grow up, nothing remains the same.

Years later, I was sad and excited on the day I moved from the “new house” into my first apartment. More time passed and Mom and Dad decided it was time for them to move, to start a new chapter. The “new house” was sold. Although I had not lived there for many years, I cried that day. The once hated new house, my home, was gone.

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Only the Sick Need Apply – Mark 2:14 – 17

As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He *said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. (Mark 2:14)

Jesus, passing by sees Levi in his tax booth. The more I learn about Jesus the more I realize that Jesus did not just “see” people, He SAW people. Jesus really looked at them and acknowledged them, He often stopped and spoke to them. How many people do I pass in a day and literally just pass them? Do I take even a moment to SEE them as individuals? As people having goals, ambitions, possibly carrying heavy burdens of physical pain, grief, worry?

“I pray I would take time to give a friendly greeting, a warm smile to really look into their eyes. I ask you God to give me an opportunity to speak a word of encouragement, a word of blessing and not disgust or complaint. Oh God, I am sorry for just ignoring people, for thinking badly of them or, even worse, not thinking of them at all. Help me be more like Jesus, help me SEE a person, not an interruption or annoyance.”

And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, (Mark 2:15)

Things never just “happened” with Jesus! He was always intentional and purposeful in everything He did. His sole purpose and intention, daily was to do the will of His Father. How did He do this? There are several recorded instances where Jesus took time to be alone to pray, to speak to and seek God.

“Oh God, help me to follow Jesus example! He Himself was God yet He made time to be with you. I am an ordinary woman, if Jesus needed to pray, I need it much more!”

and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. (Mark 2:15)

Jesus did not discriminate! Tax collectors were the outcasts of the day. No one wanted to be with them! Associating with sinners made you a sinner too. Who wants to be with the crowd that everybody else avoids? Jesus!

“Oh Lord, forgive me for looking down on people for any reason. Help me not to avoid those who are different from me. Help me not to be judgmental, especially help me not to judge anyone on their outward appearance. Help me see them as you see them.  Help me love them as you do.”

When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2:16)

I find it interesting that the scribes (pious Jews who strictly followed the religious laws) did not confront Jesus directly with their “concern”; they asked His disciples. The reality was that they were not really concerned about Jesus; they were more interested in catching Him breaking their laws. They were interested in punishment, not restoration. Their behavior is a good lesson for me…

“Jesus, I am so grateful for the Bible. Grateful that I can learn who you are, who God is and who I am as I read it. Help me remember what I read and apply it to my life. I don’t want to read it just to learn facts; I want it to change me from the inside out. Help me not to be a religious phony or pretender. Jesus, help me remember to come to you with everything, every question, every worry and help me come to you first!”

And hearing this, Jesus *said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

What a great answer! Jesus knew the real problem of the scribes; self-righteousness and pride. They believed that perfect obedience made them perfect; they saw themselves as healthy. Jesus knows we, they, are all UN-healthy; we are all sick, we are all sinners. Sadly for the scribes, they did not welcome Jesus; the tax collectors and sinners did. Jesus will only go where He is welcomed; He is a gentleman; He waits to be invited.

“Thank you, Jesus that you made me aware of my sickness. Thank you that I invited you into my heart. Help me to remember that I did invite you and asked you to be Lord of my life. Help me to truly surrender all of myself, all of my life, all of my mind to you – to hold nothing back. Thank you that I am made righteous because You made it so by paying the price for my sin. It is not about me; I could not have made this decision if you had not called me. It is always, only all about you, Jesus!”

“Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible by The Lockman Foundation.”

Writing 101 – POV – The Golden Hour

The challenge: A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.  Today’s twist: Write the scene from three different points of view: the perspective of the man, the woman and finally the old woman.

The pond shimmered in the sunlight; it was the “golden hour”. Late afternoon, a favorite time for photographers, the light gives everything and everyone an ethereal quality; it is also universally flattering. I lifted my camera up to my eye, framing the scene carefully in my viewfinder.

Suddenly a couple walked right into the frame. Frustrated, I lowered the camera back down and glared at them. A man and a woman just out for their stroll. The two of them were holding hands, acting like two teenagers on a first date! It was obvious to me that their teenage years were long gone! I paused to give them time to pass and started to survey the park. Off to the right, some kids clambering over and through the colorful play place, a group of teens tossing a red Frisbee, dog-walker’s, joggers, even a small woman, sitting alone, looks like she’s knitting of all things! The usual “park crowd”, talking, laughing, and enjoying the outdoors…

“Oh, Greta, you always make me laugh, “ said the man, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. Oh, how he enjoyed just walking with her. Even after 28 years of marriage she could still make him laugh. He took a deep breath; the warm air carried a faint hint of the cologne she had used for years. He remembered inhaling that scent on her skin, on that spot on her neck, how she would giggle and push him away but not too far away – sweet memories. He sighed again. He could hear the shouts of the boys playing in the field. He recalled the days when he used to jump like that to catch a Frisbee as it sailed by; those days were past now. He was happy he could still make a couple of laps around the pond. “Greta, what is your mom doing over there?” He quickened his pace. “It looks like she is working on…? Oh no!  Greta, is she knitting? I thought you took her needles away from her. Where did she get that red yarn? Please tell me she is not making another red sweater? Oh. Oh no! That IS what she’s doing!”?  A small, strangled cry escapes his lips as he comes abreast of the seated old woman. Tears begin to roll down his cheeks.

Greta loved the feeling of her small hand enclosed in Mark’s. She could feel his calloused skin, coarse patches of hardened skin, earned by years of hard work with hammer and chisel. The warm sunlight felt so good on her shoulders and back, the surface of the pond glittering, reflecting the sun, dragonflies zipping back and forth along the edge of the water. “Oh Mark, look at those little ones climbing on that slide. How cute is that? Can you see that little girl, the one with the red dress? See she’s pushing her doll in the swing over there.”   She paused, wistfully watching the children, transfixed, lost in her memories. “Huh?” She dragged her gaze from the children, shading her eyes to look where Mark was pointing.   “Yes, I thought it would do Mom some good to get outside for a change.” She scurried to catch up to him; her shorter legs have to work harder to keep up. “Knitting needles?  Yes, I’m sorry Mark, I should have told you. She just looked so lost without her knitting. Didn’t you notice how her hands would move, just like she was really knitting.” His gasp made her look up at his face, the muscles of his jaw working as if in pain. “Mark, oh Mark, what’s the matter? Oh dear, I have a tissue right here. Oh honey, it’s ok. Don’t cry, honey. You know they say everything happens for a reason. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. We have to trust that there was a good reason, that God had a purpose.”

The old woman sat hunched over her knitting. Her gnarled hands gripping the needles looked like talons. The needles flashed, back and forth in the afternoon sun, the yarn like blood. Red yarn was pooled next to her on the worn bench, dripping down onto the green grass, feeding her needles in a pulsing stream, like a vein, pumping, pumping. The air was warm, a gentle breeze lifting the few loose strands of hair around her face but she barely felt it, so intent was she on her work. Suddenly she paused, distracted, a shadow falling across her lap. Slowly, she lifts her head and sees a man and a woman standing face to face in front of her. The woman reaches up and tenderly wipes the man’s eyes. His head is bowed, shoulders shaking, “He looks like he’s praying” she mutters under her breath. “What’s wrong with them?” She looks over at the boys, laughing in the field, the children clambering all over the play place. She gazes off into the distance, remembering, another child, so small, another time, long ago. Suddenly she shudders, as if there was a gust of cold air. She looks down and sees the half-completed red sweater in her hands. “…Back to work, back to work. Greta needs this for her baby. Her baby will be coming soon, coming soon…”

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for your welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:11,12

Writing 101 – Death to Adverbs

Today’s challenge: Go to a public place and write a detailed account of what you see. The twist – no adverbs allowed!

A warm breeze caresses me, temperatures have started to go down in this part of Florida – the oppressive heat and humidity of summer will soon be a memory. Dragonflies flit at the water’s edge, dipping down to the surface. A quick touch, and then, back into the air; back and forth, flying knitting needles, weaving the fabric of another day.

So many birds in this place, I wish I knew more of your names. Many are dozing under the trees, hoarding their patch of shade. A few call to each other from among the branches. Several larger birds, white, gleaming white with black tipped wings argue among themselves, quarreling over who gets to stay on the bench.  Preening and cleaning, using their long curved bright orange bills. Their bills look like some medieval instrument of torture; they use them constantly ruffling and then smoothing their feathers.

There are other large, white birds in this place, stocky, sturdy with long, thin legs. They maintain their distance, aloof. Their chins tucked down into their bodies, by turns, grumpy and judgmental, too superior and mature to join in silly bird arguments. Large heads, dusty black with elongated black beaks; the beaks curve downward, like scimitars, cruel, efficient at finding dinner in the murky water. Bald, nasty looking birds, there are no feathers on their heads, only black skin, coarse, leathery skin, like old men who have spent too much time baking themselves in the hot, Florida sunshine.

Short round brown birds, their heads are so tiny in relation to their brown bodies. Suede-like feathers, they look so soft with their plump little bodies balanced on their short and tiny birdie legs. They move to and fro, pecking at the ground. What are they looking for?

Squirrels, tree rats, I hate them – they are too bold, not afraid to come close looking for crumbs and bits. Their rodent faces disgust and terrify me, grey tails twitching, flicking, some secret message I don’t understand. They inch their way closer and closer, sniffing the air, hoping for a crust of bread, a squirrel-y treat. I see menace in those flat black eyes – dead, shark-like eyes – get away from me!

Only a few walkers are out in the heat of the day, striding with determination around the small lake. Arms swinging, feet flashing by in their colorful sneakers, dedicated to burning off the calories, becoming “heart-healthy”. My favorites are the residents of the nearby “mature adult community”; ladies chattering, louder than the birds, sharing the latest gossip in their brightly colored outfits. Their workout costumes always match, bright colored jackets and pants, carefully chosen for this semi-tropical area. Turquoise, pink, sneakers match too! Make sure you wear your hat, must be a large-brimmed hat, love the warmth but avoid the sun, fearing carcinoma, melanoma, the dangers and perils of modern life. A few “working people”, easily recognizable in the dress shirts, long, sharply creased pants, shiny shoes.   A few minutes respite from the artificial indoor air, the telephone, the questions, the quotas, the computer screen. Got to see something real, something green, eat my lunch in peace.

“Mommy, Mommy!” her cries pierce the air, desperate, panicking. A frantic search for the source of the cries, my eyes pan and scan the water’s edge. What is happening? Then, I see her, dangling, arms stretched to the breaking point, feet kicking. She hangs from a bar over in the playground. She climbed her way out, just one more inch, one more inch and now, her feet dangle too far from the ground for her comfort. Mommy scurries into view, in full super-hero rescuer mode. Mom throws her arm around the girl’s tiny waist, “Don’t worry, I have you now”. Mommy does it again! Thank God for mommies!

The water moves in the gentle wind; a single small bird glides across the surface and into view.  The motion here is constant, but the sense of peace, of calm is pervasive.

A small park, in a small town, on a sunny day, in the middle of an afternoon.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27

Writing 101 – Sunday Afternoon

Today’s challenge: Write a post based on the contrast between two things. The twist: Make it in the form of a dialogue.

“Oh no, not this again!” she groans.“Oh YES and all day today,” he says. “AND Monday AND Thursday, too!”

“Come ON – this is not fair!” she says. “Let me choose for a change. Oh look, now here we go. Oh, what is his name I just can’t think of it”.

“Nooo!” he shouts. “Black and white movies suck!! I am not watching another of these crappy old movies – gimme that remote back!”

She sighs, “Seriously, I am sick of football – it’s so stupid! Giant BOYS, all pituitary cases, running back and forth, smashing each other and chasing a dumb ball. “

He shouts, “You have never been an athlete, you just don’t understand. It takes dedication and skill to play football or any sport. Do you have any idea how much time they spend running drills, watching tapes, training. You’ve seen that stupid movie a jillion times! Note to you – the ending is still the same!!”

“Movies make you think, genius!” she says, tapping her head with her index finger. “Oh, this is my favorite scene. This is so sweet. I love this music, it really makes me think of fall – hear how it sounds like wind. Look at that – notice they’re in a garden? The garden is a metaphor for change – metaphor means the garden stands for something, like a symbol…”

“I KNOW what a metaphor is!” he mumbles.

She continues as if she hadn’t heard, “The garden shows how much life has changed since they first met and how much they have been changed by life through the years. Gardens are always changing…”

Exasperated, he barks, “Remote, please! Stoo-pid movie!! Metaphor, meta-a five, six and seven! Who cares? No ONE talks like that! “Oh, my darling, your auburn tresses remind me of the fog, curling up from the bayou.” Crap! Why don’t they just talk normal in these old things? You don’t hear any dumb talk in football, just pass, run, score, and hit him before he hits you – fast and simple!”

“This is a historical drama so yes; I admit the way they talk is odd. Look how the light falls across their faces, see how the edge is so sharp, it forces your eye to  them. Can’t you see how much tension is in this scene? Look at his hands. See how he has them clenched? She has her handkerchief all twisted in a knot – you can feel how much they are both holding back. There is more they want to say but neither one wants to be the first one to say it. He’s engaged to her sister for crying out loud.”

“So why doesn’t he just tell the sister he doesn’t want to be engaged to her anymore?”

“No! Her sister is dying…”

“Oh the dreaded “mystery disease” that no one knows what it is and there is no cure right?” he says, dripping with sarcasm.

“Pay attention,” she demands. “Now watch this part. Uh oh, this guy is rotten, he is just trying to make trouble. HE wants to marry the dying sister so he can get the family money. Everybody trusts him but he is really no good. You see, before he came to town, he…”

“Too complicated, too much thinking, not enough action. It’s all talk, talk, and more talk, BO-RING! I’m putting the game back on.” He leans forward in anticipation. “Ok, here we go. Come on, get him, get ‘em – OHHH! What a hit!!! Flag? No way! That play was legit. That ref is an idiot – come on ref! That is a touchdown – both feet were in bounds. Look look, here’s the replay, now watch this. BOOM – right there, did you see that? Look, they’ll show it again.”

“Oh my gosh it’s ONLY a game!! You are yelling at a TV! Why are you getting so excited?”

“And that’s my point – football is exciting! X-CIT-ING – get it? First, it reminds me of when I played in high school, some of the best days of my life. Second, it’s a battle – each team trying their hardest to score and they only have minutes to do it – talk about tension – THAT is tension! Finally and third, watching football relaxes me! After working all week, it is nice to be home, sit down and NOT have to think for a while – to just enjoy some real live action – and in full color I might add.”

“That’s funny, old movies have the same effect on me! I love to watch the story slowly unfold, the emotion of it, how every word is important. Even though I know the ending it gets me every time. When I watch a movie I can block out other things and just relax for a while.”

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“I think I am!”

“I think we better buy a second TV!!!”

Writing 101 – Full of Character

Today’s Challenge: Write a post focusing on one – or more – of the people that have recently entered your life and tell how your narratives intersected. The Twist: Turn the post into a character study.

Moving to a new place has made me more intentional about meeting people – it is sometimes lonely being the “new kid on the block”! I can already tell that I do not want the narratives of some to intersect too closely with my own! Others, many others, I want to know more…One of these is Mary. Mary is not her real name but it is a name that suits her very well. If I had to describe Mary in a single word, the word would be “understated”. I first observed her as we exited the same building, her first, me just behind her. Her posture and bearing caught my eye immediately; she gives the impression of being much taller than she actually is as she holds herself perfectly straight, like a ballet dancer, gliding easily and effortlessly out into the parking lot.

I greet her with a friendly, “Good morning” and she quickly returns my greeting; suddenly, I was intrigued. Mary posssess a classic, refined and elegant British accent, to me, sounding like the aristocracy. In fact, I am calling her Mary because she sounds so much like Lady Mary Crawley from the show, Downton Abbey. Each word is carefully and clearly pronounced, I so want to listen to her speak and say my name so I quickly introduce myself. Oh, joy – she repeats my name to make sure she has it correct. Instantly, I feel more refined and elegant, I stand up straighter!

We have had several chance meetings since and each time I am more curious about her. I have learned that she actually lives nearby. I saw her in my neighborhood walking her dog early one morning. Even though she was several blocks ahead of me I was sure it was she; I recognized her walk, even as her dog was pulling her, urging her to walk faster. She walks like a dancer, posture perfect, placing each foot precisely.  She comes across as somewhat distant yet she is consistently friendly and warm each time we meet. Self-contained and reserved, she is so “not American”.  She moves at a slower, steadier pace; not frantic and hurried like so many others; she, seems always at ease.

What story brought her here?? In the almost unbearable humidity of Florida’s Gulf Coast, how does she maintain that look of cool composure? Is she, was she, a dancer? I picture her as Isadora Duncan, barefoot, with several flowing chiffon scarves, trailing and floating behind; instead she often wears a simple, pastel shirtwaist; belt cinching her waist, strappy sandals encasing her feet.

Knowing next to nothing about her, I imagine a story for her.  I imagine a life full of travel to exotic and foreign places, Morocco, Delhi, Sao Paulo, places I want to visit, places of mystery and romance. I picture her striding, cool, stately and completely at ease through the street markets of Madrid, Santorini, Cairo; stopping occasionally to pick up a piece of fruit, to exchange a quick word with the vendor. Looking like Grace Kelly, I envision her seated in a sidewalk café, leaning over the table to share a secret with her companion, a cigarette held loosely in her left hand. I long to hear her story as she would tell it; in her endlessly charming accent, her constant smile. If I spend time with her, will some of her cool refinement, her sophistication rub off on me? I would like that.

Not Falling Apart

“It will seem to you that the world is falling apart …but it is not falling apart it is actually falling into place…”

One of my favorite Bible teachers, Anne Graham Lotz, makes this statement in a video message recently posted on her blog. What is she talking about?

Anne is speaking about the chaos that will follow the “rapture” of believers. “The Rapture”, as Anne explains, is not a term found in the Bible, it is the term used to explain a future, prophesied event. “The Rapture” is the moment when all believers in Jesus go immediately and suddenly to heaven. This “rapture” is depicted in the soon to be released film, Left Behind starring Nicholas Cage. The Cage film is based upon a book of the same name as well as an earlier film version starring Kurt Cameron. There has always been a lot of discussion of the “rapture” among Bible students and teachers; this upcoming movie release has again brought more discussion into mainstream media.

A lot of dissension and disagreement is caused by this topic; here is what I believe matters and what I believe to be true:

  • The Bible is very clear that at a single specific moment, all those who believe in Jesus will go directly to heaven; “The Rapture” will occur.
  • No one knows the exact day this event will occur. Since the Bible does not provide this information, it is enough to know it will happen someday.
  • Those who do not believe in Jesus will be “left behind”. Because of this sudden and unexpected departure of millions of people, the world will be plunged into chaos. As Anne describes in her message, cars, planes, trains and boats will crash. Weeping, wailing confusion and fear will take over – every nation will be reeling in confusion.
  • Many things prophesied in the Bible have already happened and happened exactly as written. The Bible has been correct many times over already, I believe that The Book of Revelation is equally accurate! The Book of Revelation describes future events in vivid and horrifying detail.
  • The devastating chaos resulting from the rapture and every event described in Revelation is all a part of God’s prophetic plan. Nothing is accidental; nothing will happen that God does not permit to happen. People will be stunned and in shock but nothing is a surprise to God. In addition, God, in His mercy, has told us in advance that these events are coming – no one should be surprised! As Anne states, “It may seem the world is falling apart but it is really falling into place!”
  • There is a way to escape the terror of being left behind and events that will come later, believe in Jesus. It is that simple! Believing in Jesus means that you agree with who the Bible says Jesus is and who you are. You are a sinner who cannot do, work, or be good enough to be forgiven for your sin. Your sin deserves the penalty of death. Jesus died in your place to pay the penalty (death) your sin deserves and so sin, yours and mine, can be forgiven. When you decide to trust Jesus for life and forgiveness, you are saved, you may not escape physical death but you are spared spiritual death – you will never, can never be separated from God. If you are alive on “Rapture Day” you go directly to heaven and will not be left behind!

So, family and friends, if you are reading this and I am no longer here and have suddenly and “mysteriously” gone – I have been raptured and you have been left behind. It is not too late though! You can still trust Jesus!

Please take a few minutes to watch Anne’s excellent message here:

http://www.annegrahamlotz.org/blog/2014/sep/second-message-world-falling-apart/

Writing 101 – Be Brief

Todays challenge: You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter. Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

Damp, parts illegible, I pick up and read the single sheet of blue-lined paper.  I don’t think it was ever delivered. A saga of disappointment, another in a series of times he had failed her – the most important time. Her words on the page progressed from heartbroken to bitter and now, resigned. There would be no more chances, no more tries, no more opportunities. It’s over.

What can I do? No address anywhere, no names. She does not know he was ignorant of her desperation. Crushed hopes, an abandoned future written on a damp, almost illegible sheet of blue-lined paper…

Writing 101 – Serially Lost – Part 1

Maureen and Darlene are lost to me. Perhaps someday they will be found but not today, that is almost certain. They were lost at the same time but were not together when they were lost. It is possible they are together even now. They may be alive, but they may not be, I don’t seem to be able to find out their fate.

I left them. I went back to the place where I left them recently but they were not there. I actually did not expect to find them there but I hoped I might.   Perhaps putting this in writing for the first time will help. I would like to find them but I am a bit afraid of what I might actually discover if I find them. I might learn more about myself than I want to know if I were to find them.

Both of them had (have? I do not know) very dark hair. Maureen had (has) piercing blue eyes, Darlene’s are/were dark brown. Maureen has/had few charming freckles across the bridge of her nose and onto her cheeks. Both were then but may not be now, my height, I am 5’8”. Darlene is more indistinct in my memory; I spent more time with Maureen and her younger sister Karen. Actually we all avoided Karen, she was annoying.

I cried when I lost them. I cried off and on for days afterward. There was no suitable replacement or substitute for them. It took a long time to find someone who even came close, it was a painful loss; I don’t think I ever really recovered. There was someone else who finally came along, she filled the void but differently, and it was not possible to be the same. I lost her for a time too; but now I know where she is; she actually found me. I will tell her story in Part 2…

Maureen and Darlene, childhood friends, lost when I moved away to a new neighborhood long ago, a part of my childhood lost with them.

Scars

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The back of my right hand is permanently scarred. The skin there is thin and, therefore tender and overly sensitive to touch. Over time the scar has gotten smaller, it will never completely disappear. I am so used to it I generally forget it is even there – that was not always the case.

When Jesus arrived in the area of Gadara (or the Gerasenes), (The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 5) He was immediately met by a man having an unclean spirit; the man was demon-possessed. The Bible describes this man in gruesome detail:

  • He dwelt in the tombs – he lived in the nearby caves where dead bodies were interred. (Mark 5:3)
  • No one could bind him, even with chains – at times, people would tie him up and attempt to restrain him with chains. (Mark 5:3)
  • He had repeatedly broken his chains – he had “super-human” strength. (Mark 5:4)
  • He was extremely violent – people were afraid to walk that way because of him.  (Matthew 8:28).
  • He was naked – he had not put on any clothing for a long time. (Luke 8:27)
  • He screamed constantly – day and night his cries echoed in the caves and mountains. (Mark 5:5)
  • He gashed himself with stones – his body was crisscrossed with self-inflicted cuts, some old and scabbed, others fresh and bloody. (Mark 5:5)

The picture painted of this man is both terrifying and tragic. Jesus does not flinch or pull away when the man runs to him, bows, shouts and pleads that Jesus, “…do not torment me.”  Instead, Jesus speaks to him, or rather to the unclean spirits who controlled the man’s body. Jesus casts the spirits into a herd of pigs and the pigs leap off a nearby cliff into the sea. The man is healed and restored to sanity. The man begs permission to travel with Jesus.

But I believe the man still had his scars and he would probably carry them to the end of his days. His scars were a graphic reminder of his tormented past but also a compelling symbol of his miraculous healing and his glorious future.

Jesus response to the man’s plea? “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19). Jesus was saying, “Use your scars and tell your story so others can know about Me.”

The scar on my hand is pretty minor as scars go but like every scar it has a story behind it. In my case, as an infant I had a growth covering the back of my hand.  When it was removed, it left a large scar, not a big or dramatic story really but as a child and young person, I was terribly embarrassed by this scar. It seemed like everyone noticed and asked about it – I hated that and tried to keep my hand hidden. What scars do you carry? Maybe your scars are like mine, just a part of your life story.  Do you bear the outward scars of self-inflicted wounds or the wounds of others who intended to harm you? Are your scars hidden deep inside, the emotional scars of past hurts or loss?

The demon-possessed man’s scars were self-inflicted, a result of his deep inner torment. Difficult and painful things that leave scars can be turned to the good when we share our stories of healing and redemption; we can point people to hope in our stories. Jesus told the man to share his story, to share his experience with others. Jesus knew the story of the demon-possessed man. Jesus knows your story; He sees your scars. He is scarred too.  Share your story with him from your heart, He longs to heal you and bring you peace and give you a new direction.

“He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and I will trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:2,3