Easter – It’s Kind of a Big Deal

Easter is almost here. It’s the most thought-provoking holiday. And I always get emotional thinking about Christ lugging that cross through the dirt, with blood streaming down his head from the thorns that punctured his skin when they were so fiercely applied, a crown of thorns he had to wear to mock him as King of the Jews. There is no species on earth so cruel as a human being inflicting pain and degradation upon another.

On the day of the crucifixion, I imagine that Barabbas, a notorious prisoner, was undeniably relieved that Pontius Pilate let the crowd choose to free him instead of Jesus. Ancient sources do say that Barabbas, on the day that he was released, went to Golgotha and watched Jesus die on the cross. Barabbas lived until he engaged in another Roman revolt. It’s ironic that Christ died so Barabbas could have eternal life, as Barabbas witnessed first-hand what went down that day, and how could he not believe it?

Christ has all the believers, but it is the unbelievers that he really wants. I have enjoyed many a spirited conversation with atheists and agnostics regarding their disbelief in what happened to Christ when he died and rose again. And I have to ask them, “Do you believe that Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941?” They will always say yes. And I agree, as there were witnesses who watched it play out and they wrote about it – it has a very descriptive presence in all of our history books. So I then ask them, “But you weren’t there, so how can you believe it happened?” And they say, “Well, lots of people were there and they witnessed it.” Bingo. Lots of people witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus and they wrote about it. In fact, they wrote about it in the best-selling novel of all time, our Bible. Oh, ye, of little faith. When the atheists and agnostics are suffering on their death bed, they won’t be praying to the Japanese at Pearl Harbor to save their souls – they will pray to God to relieve their suffering. There is no atheist in a foxhole.

I know Christmas is a big deal. We trade presents because the three wise men brought presents to the baby Jesus. None of this story could take place without first the birth. But Easter? That’s the big one, the one I get all emotional about. Christ came into the world, born of his mother like every other mother has given birth to many over countless centuries. And without the birth of Jesus there would be no Passover, no Easter, no resurrection. But the history of what happened with Christ’s resurrection and eventual return to the skies was almost too much the fodder of science fiction for that day and time. Who could make that stuff up back then?

We are told that after Christ died and the stone was moved from his grave, he appeared to Mary Magdalene at his tomb and later to his other followers on a mountain in Galilee. Different books of the bible tell different stories about the times that Christ appeared after his crucifixion, but there were so many witnesses that it could hardy be refuted unless all these witnesses were all deemed to be stark-raving mad, which they were not. To some writers of the gospel, Christ appeared in a vision only, and to others He appeared as a physical being. But he did appear and he had some pretty strong words about what we were supposed to do – believe and be baptized and be saved.

I think everyone believes what they grew up with. If you grew up going to church and your parents were of the Catholic faith, odds are that you will also stay steadfast in the Catholic faith of your parents. If you grew up in an agnostic and/or atheist background, or where there was no mention of religion either way? Then you may carry that on in your life. You would probably not understand why we Christians make such a big deal about Easter. It is a very big deal, indeed, to we Christians. We weren’t there, but others were. They witnessed it. They saw that when Christ was nailed to a cross, and hung up to die, there were soldiers who finally slit his side with a sword, which was customary at the time to hasten the death process. Peter, to whom Jesus first appeared, was forceful in his revelation of the event.

I wasn’t there. I only read about it in a book. But I believe it happened. It’s a very big deal to me.

I’ve Lost My Patience

The dictionary defines patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. Right after I read that? A pop-up appeared for the word tolerance — the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. I think those two, patience and tolerance, have to go hand in hand, or there’s gonna be trouble in River City, so to speak.

Not an hour ago, I attempted to put new printer cartridges in my fancy printer. My tolerance was low and my patience was waning fast. After paying a good sum of money on second-hand printer cartridges, I discovered that my fancy printer, after software updates, will only accept the name-brand expensive printer cartridges, so I can return the second-hand stuff and reorder the fancy printer cartridges. Wait a few more days for the new fancy cartridges to arrive from Amazon – the true god of all shopping. You have to turn the printer off, rerun the software, and on the third or fourth try, your printer will tell you that it doesn’t recognize your new fancy cartridges, just turn the thing off and re-enter the software. If patience had a level, 10 being you have lots of it and 1 means it’s gone, I’m at about a 7 at this point. I kept trying this for, oh, 45 more minutes and I got several more printer messages. My printer talks to me with messages that test my tolerance. Patience level? Fast becoming a 5. It’s time to walk away from the printer and make fresh (decaffeinated) coffee, because I know that when I return, I will feel better.

When my son was in junior high school, I attended his parent/teacher conference, and one of his teachers greeted me with, “Oh, you’re the mom who threw the printer into the swimming pool.” Oh, how could he tattle on me to his junior high teacher like that? I was so embarrassed and had to admit that yes, I really did that, and after my son dished that printer out of the pool, it worked like a dream. It’s pretty hard to justify that childish behavior to your son’s new teacher. It’s a good thing I no longer have a swimming pool – but I do have a window in my office that opens to the great outdoors. I know when to walk away from this printer.

Like most scenarios in life, everything returns to normal after you give yourself time to step away and re-evaluate the situation. I came back to the printer, updated the software, read a zillion more messages, realized that I am not smarter than this software, the printer finally likes me, makes whizzing noises, sends me happy messages, and prints my pretty color pages again. It’s okay now. Calm is restored. Patience level back to a 9. Thank you, Folgers Coffee, for getting me through this.

We need patience in every aspect of our lives. Just yesterday I had to have lots of it in dealing with an edgy co-worker. I needed patience and tolerance when I got a letter advising my insurance rates are going up again. God just has a way of taking care of all of my needs in ways I don’t even know yet. Two days after I got the notice of my mortgage insurance rate hike? The insuror sent me a check for $400 as a refund that I didn’t know I was getting. The things in life that I seem to lose patience over just aren’t all that important anyway. When I’m driving and I get impatient with the slow driver in front of me, I have to stop and wonder if maybe by driving so slow behind this guy, I have averted an accident that I may have had up ahead. Again, the Christian glass has to be half full and not half empty.

I look back in time and realize how lucky and how blessed I am to have all these nice material things. Right out of college, I lived in a cold, dank, dark basement apartment. The rent was $135.00 per month, and I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed every square floor tile in the bedroom until it shined. It was my first apartment on my own and I was so proud of it. There was a piece of shag carpeting in the living room on a cement floor with no padding under it – but I painted the walls and made it clean and I was happy. I did not even dream that I might have a nice home some day, with a nice office, and beautiful surroundings, and this fancy schmancy printer. I’m grateful for the blessings, and hope and pray that I learn to have more patience.

A Winner’s Creed

Okay, so I realize that some people just don’t share my enthusiasm for life. To each his own, I guess. Gotta realize we’re all made from a different recipe. I inherited my mother’s knack for trying anything to see if you can achieve it, and she got that from my Grandma, who was successful in her job, in her own business, and in her private life. I believe it boils down to having an attitude of “I think I can” about most endeavors. Sure, I’ve tried things that turned out only “so so,” and after awhile the enthusiasm would wane and I would try something else. But it’s that “nothing ventured, nothing gained” attitude that leads me to try a lot of different things. It boils down to going after what your heart desires, realizing that with education and practice, you can accomplish most anything. We only get so many days on this planet — so many days with our loved ones, so many days to throw our hat into the ring and try something new, go somewhere new, see something new and learn something new.

Here is my Winner’s Creed poem which I have framed on my wall. It’s my favorite.

A Winner’s Creed

If you think you are beaten,
You are;
If you think you dare not,
You don’t.
If you’d like to win.
But think you can’t
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose,
You’ve lost;
For out in the world we find
Success begins with a person’s faith;|
It’s all in the state of mind.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster hand;
They go to the one who trusts in God
And always think, “I can.”

Author Unknown

The Office Bully

I’ve been working for forty-six years. Wow. And years ago I thought age 35 was old… I have come to the realization that most executives rely on an office bully to snitch and keep them apprised of what’s what. That person, in my experience, has been a woman who is usually of large stature; she doesn’t wear fancy clothes and lots of makeup; she boasts of her proclivity to be so awesome herself; and she just might have no conscience. She excels at being a narcissist. She is a real company person, totally devoted to being the one that administration looks to for their say on personnel matters, and she doesn’t even know they are using her to tattle on the office staff because in her mind, she is irreplaceable. I worked with one such office bully who reported directly to the partners after she went through our garbage cans each night after we left. And I sat in a new young personnel manager’s office one day after being summoned there as a sounding board because the office bully had written such scathing comments about her in the company email. Another office bully accidentally copied me in on an email to the boss wherein she stated she hoped that soft-spoken employee “x” was out looking for another job instead of just out sick.

These types of people wear their meanness toward others as a badge of honor. They are proud as a peacock when they can get dirt on someone and spread that gossip around the office. And I am again faced with confronting another bully in another office — guess what? I’m over sixty years old now, and I don’t give two solid cares what that bully might think. I work for one of the top employers in the U.S., and they don’t really do drama at work. We don’t need her to snitch and frankly, we are just too busy doing good things and making the world a better place to live in to be concerned with her simple-minded approach in her perceived climb up the ladder. The trash will eventually take itself out.

You can always kill ’em with kindness. And that is exactly what I am doing with the office bully – the golden rule applies. But I have made it clear to her that I will not be subject to her gossip and the buck stops here. When she starts in with negative evil gossip about others, I just let her know that I’m going to tell them. The look of abject horror on her face gives me a shred of satisfaction that I nipped that in the bud. I will be the subject of her next rambling on to some other poor audience, and better me than someone else.

I had a very wise boss who told me that people are more important than jobs. Thankfully, that is one of the mainstays where I work. We employ people of all social classes, of all incomes, of all pay grades, diversities and nationalities. We believe that every single person has worth and something good to contribute to our organization.

We know about the office bully – she still goes running into the boss to snitch. She still lurks around the coffee pot seeking those whom she may devour. And her mouth probably salivates when an unsuspecting new victim arrives whom she can sink her teeth into. But she has no home life. She has few friends aside from immediate family. She has a myriad of illnesses and is very unhealthy. Her social life centers around having her job; and now I am her friend. I treat her with kindness and respect because she deserves that. I stood up to her and did not turn her away. Other staff members have mentioned how much she irritates them, and I impress upon them that it’s always good to treat others the same way you would like to be treated. That is the basis of Christian faith.
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13

It’s so easy to be nice to people at church on Sunday morning. There they are, looking all pretty in their nice clothes, smiling and shaking hands with everyone. But that should not end when you walk out of the church on Sunday. Being nice to people who are not nice to you just takes help from God. You must sift through the outward criminality of some souls to realize that the same God who made you doesn’t love you more than someone else. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29.

Last night, as the office bully was leaving to go home before me, she walked up to tell me that she hopes I have a really nice night. I wished the same for her. I wish that for her for her coming days, weeks and years. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

On Being Judgmental

Years ago, I attended a bible class with other adults my age, and I remember fondly Sherrie and her husband. He asked her, “Why do you have to talk so much?” And she laughed and said, “Because there are some things that I just HAVE to say.” Then all the guys laughed and agreed that yes, their wives have a lot of things that they have to say. It’s hard for some of us not to share and overshare and to remember that just because we think it, it doesn’t have to be expressed.

Which brings me to judgment of others — there is just something that I have to say about that. It is with a great deal of interest to me that the Methodists recently voted that LGBT persons will not be allowed to hold office within the church. Who made that rule? I’ll betcha it wasn’t a gay or lesbian person.

When I worked for a local university, we were allowed to take college classes at no expense, a really great benefit of that job. In my biology class, we did research papers on such things as stem cells, what nicotine addiction does to your body, and things of that nature. In my reading, I stumbled upon a scientific study about the brains of homosexuals and heterosexuals. It turns out that there are specific genetic markers on chromosomal strands of DNA which will denote whether someone is heterosexual or homosexual. Those strands of DNA are formed in vitro; thus, people are born either with heterosexual strands of DNA or with homosexual strands of DNA. I don’t think that was even an issue when our bible was written. There will be a ton of folks who cry blasphemy if we don’t agree that homosexuality is an abomination in God’s eyes. But stop right there! Did Jesus say that? Who said that? As far as I know, Jesus clearly said, “Love one another,” and to love each other as we love ourselves.

Let’s say for a moment that a person is born homosexual instead of heterosexual. As a heterosexual woman, I’m gonna be darned mad if someone tells me I should love another woman instead of another man, and the same thing applies if I was born a homosexual woman, considering the fact that then my chromosomes on my strands of DNA would make me homosexual. Imagine what happens when society tells me I can’t love whom I love, and that I should really love the other side. I just wouldn’t be wired that way.

Don’t we just judge people to the limits because of their choice in whom they love? Jesus didn’t tell us that we should only love heterosexuals – he said love one another, and treat others as you would have them treat you. He’s probably a really modern kinda guy in this day and age when he walks with us, but I don’t think he’s going to deter on his request that we love one another and leave judgment up to his Father.

I always wondered what happens when judgment day comes. In my mind, there we are at the gates of heaven, surrounded by all these fluffy white clouds, and God is seated at one of those long conference tables across from us, and he is taking a long look at our lives, like a child’s vision of Santa reading off his good or bad list. He’ll deduct points for every bad thing we did, and give us credit for the good things, and let’s hope the good things outweigh the bad, and we will get admitted. I know a lot of folks who are going to be marked way down for being judgmental of others according to their own personal beliefs and inability to love one another.

I also believe in the goodness of humans. If we know of a child who is hungry and in desperate need of food, we will feed that child. As Christians, we will do what we can to help that child get food, because that’s what we do. But we will not say to that child’s face, “Are you gay or lesbian? If so, you can’t have food.” And the same goes with our faith. Please stop judging others, and let our Father do that. Jesus did not offer assistance to a prostitute because of an aversion to how she freely gave away sex. He offered assistance to her because he loved another human being enough to want to help her. Let’s be more like that–a little less judgmental of others because their lifestyle is different than ours.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Believe in the Goodness of God

When faced with life’s toughest challenges, we look to the heavens and shout, “Why didn’t you fix this, God? Why did you let this happen? What were you thinking?” And then we hope that God almighty heard our cries of anguish and our anger — but we are met with silence. Don’t think for a flat second that He didn’t hear us. He did. He knows. And when we call out to him He’s there.

It’s very hard for people to believe that the sins of the world are not perpetrated by God. God is love and love alone. Any disasters that befall us, death and destruction, any calamities of the earth – flooding, hurricanes, fires – you name it, were not sent by our God to teach us how to deal with it. These are the calamities of living.

All that we are promised is this: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1. When I was a child, I thought of God above us like a puppet master holding the strings over us and deciding where we go and what we do, and that we were just the puppets down here below. But it doesn’t work like that. Our minds cannot fathom such a great love that God has for us, and neither does He have control over our every move, nor does He set into motion any of the crises of life that might come our way. He does not deal out to us a swift and merciless show of bad things just to increase our faith or to bring us back into His fold. We are solely responsible for what happens in our lives, and some things that happen are just way beyond our control.

I have been guilty of thinking that God is kind of a jerk sometimes. When Jesus walked around doing miracles, we had proof that the lame guy could walk again. He allowed a blind person to have sight again. Where are our miracles today? It seems like they are few and far between. But they are there, in every child’s smile, in every nest’s hatchling, whenever a giant whale leaps out of the water, when the thousands of leaves on a tree form this perfect circle, every time a mother holds her newborn in her arms. These are the miracles that we should be grateful for. When my father was nearing death, he asked a nurse to come into his room and read his bible to her. She asked where she should begin, and he stated he didn’t care – just open to any page and read. So she did open his bible, and before she could speak, on this page unknown to him, he started reciting that page verbatim. He stated to her that he was ready to go, and then he died right there. Was that a miracle, or was that bible so well read that he just knew what page she was on?

The Christian’s glass has to be half full, not half empty. We have to marvel at the miracles of life, and not be consumed by the atrocities that we see. God doesn’t just throw some bad thing into our lives to get us right with Him. He will, however, get us through it, and in so doing, our faith is strengthened. All He ever asked is that we believe. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5. Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened. I don’t think God is much of a liar. If He says we get eternity, we do. “For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endures to all generations.” Psalm 100:5. I’m just going to go with that.