FASTING – the fast GOD wants . . .

Isaiah 58 talks about “fasting.”
Some people talk about fasting for health reasons,
some for spiritual reasons,
some for personal cleansing
(physical and psychologically),
so it is a subject that interests many.

While reading Isaiah 58, I noted some interesting points
(just my opinions about some of the statements made)
in this Old Testament chapter from a book that was written to identify the
ingratitiude, incorrigibleness, universal corruption and degeneracy of the people
according to GOD.

BUT GOD . . . criticizes the people
verse 2: “Oh yes, they seek me day after day and
[claim to] delight in knowing my ways.
As if they were an upright nation
that had not abandoned the rulings of their God . . .”

BUT GOD . . . gets more specific
some might read the first few verses of Isaiah 58 and
pull out the Ten Commandments as a checklist of
which “rulings of God” they had abandoned

BUT GOD . . . has a different list
it is NOT the Law (the Ten Commandments) that GOD says
are at the root of the criticisms but their treatment of fellow human beings
and makes it clear beginning with the statement:
“Here is the sort of fast I want”

GOD SAID . . . I do not have to guess
here is what I should be doing—
these are the things GOD wants me to do—
NOT “judging” myself or others by that list
of Ten Commandments,
but asking myself how am I treating others,
do my actions show a heart of compassion
like GOD’s shown in GOD’s description:
Adonai passed before him and proclaimed:
“YUD-HEH-VAV-HEH!!! Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh [Adonai]
is God, merciful and compassionate,
slow to anger, rich in grace and truth
Exodus 34:6
Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

GOD SAID . . . be holy
but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves
also in all your behavior;
because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:15-16
(Leviticus 20:26, 20:7, 19:2, 11:44, 11:45)

SO . . . what should my fast look like
how should I live every day—
self-righteous because I have not done any of
the things on the list of Ten Commandments OR
showing compassion to others, being compassionate
JUST LIKE GOD . . .
I think I need to start a new fast today!

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Beat down . . . a Life Perspective

Oh, that poor holly bush . . .
bent down to the ground
by its ice-covered branches,
unable to stand up straight and
it doesn’t look like it can survive—
it looks hopeless.
BUT . . .

How often have I felt beat down by life,
by something that happened TO me that
I had nothing to do with, or very little to
do with that I could see . . .

How often have I thought I would not be able
to make it through this time,
that this was the time the weight of what was happening
would finally crush me . . .

How often have I cried out in the depths of despair,
in the midst of unbearable agony,
choking on tears and unintelligible sounds
that overwhelmed my very being . . .

When I think about it, there have been a number of
really dark periods that felt bigger than me
and even one when I planned to end it all as the
only answer I could see at the time . . .
however—here I am!

So this “real-life parable” about a bush in the front of my house
that appeared to be a victim of an ice storm speaks to me and
seems to draw me to remember — not the pain, but the deliverance
and my repeated recovery of some semblance of myself.

GOD, that Higher Power I believe in, has somehow brought me
through many times when I knew I could not make it,
I could not take another step, I could not take another breath,
and yet . . . I did. Not always a steady step and certainly not always
a strong breathing in of continued existence, BUT I look back and see
that there was some force that “carried” me when all I wanted to do
was wallow in self pity and admit defeat—and that is what brings me
back to that “spark of Hope,”
that “point of Light,”
that “will to Live” again and again.

Like that bush that appeared to be beyond hope,
I cling to the history I have that, even when I do not understand how,
the warmth of GOD’s Love will melt the ice surrounding my heart,
that hardness that blocks light and shuts out those wanting to help me
and somehow restores HOPE, the LIFEblood of existence.

My history of failures, my history of being a “victim” (real or imagined),
my history of falling down,
my history of feeling shame and guilt and rejection . . .
my history reminds me that my survival,
my reaching toward tomorrow,
is all about GOD, the inner spirit within me,
the unseen force that never leaves me nor forsakes me
even when I walk into a dark pit and feel wrapped in despair,
as I remember . . . the icicles start to melt,
a little light starts to appear,
and my heart is renewed in its hope for this moment.

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PIZZA . . . hidden messages . . .

  Pizza has always been a major part of my life from childhood to senior citizen,
but I had never thought about the “hidden messages” in that delicious food that I consumed innocently just because it tasted good.

CHILDHOOD:
earliest memories of my childhood are of our weekly tradition of making homemade pizza and watching old black and white scary movies as a family on a weekend evening.

Mom would make a pizza crust and she and dad would fry up sausage, chop up green peppers and onions, shred mozzarella cheese (and dad always added a little cheddar cheese), and make the sauce.
After setting all the individual items on a counter, each of us would surround the crust with its sauce and be given an item to put on the pizza in the order given by mom.

While the pizza was cooked to its amazing perfection from our group efforts,
we washed our hands and went into the living room to choose a movie to watch,
which usually gave the pizza plenty of time to finish cooking.
After getting our pizza, we sat with mom on the couch while dad controlled the VCR from his chair.

The beginning one-third to one-half of the movie gave us plenty of time to eat our pizza
before the “scary” part drove us to climb up the back of the couch to escape the “threat” on the screen!
(It did actually happen when we watched “The Killer Shrews”—we have laughed about it over the years.)

ADULT:
That pizza-making tradition was something mom and dad continued for the rest of their lives. They never ate a store-bought pizza without “fixing” it with their special additions.
When, in 1980, they moved to Searcy, Arkansas, and we began having an annual
Hicks family Holiday gathering sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Day,
there was always one day that was “pizza day” and mom made her homemade crusts
and dad helped her chop ingredients, fry sausage, and put the pizzas together and
then we would all gather in the living room, usually watch a bowl game and eat our pizza.
Every year it was a reminder of childhood in our family and somehow was our “comfort food” without our even thinking about it.

CHANGES: after 2009, our family holiday gatherings changed. Like most families, we had family struggling with personal issues and the resulting “explosion” served to make future gatherings never the same again and, after 2009, we never had the entire family together again for that special Hicks family Holiday gathering and mom and dad’s pizza.

HIDDEN MESSAGES:
With the recent passing of mom and dad, I have been confronted with many memories
and mom’s homemade pizza is a major one. I had never realized or stopped to think about it before, but mom used making that pizza to send several very important messages to our young hearts:
1) working together as a family, we made something we could all enjoy
2) each of us was an important part of the process and each of us felt we had contributed to the final outcome
3) our parents prepped the ingredients so that we could “help” without knife skills at our young ages
so we never even thought about the idea that we couldn’t do something to help
4) we had fun making the pizza and never thought about it as a chore – we looked forward to it every week
and could count on it happening
5) we “celebrated” our accomplishment as we talked about how great it tasted while we watched the movie

Hidden messages . . . in that special pizza . . . in mom’s pizza process
Hidden messages . . . planting wisdom for life in unsuspecting hearts
Hidden messages . . . YES! messages hidden in our hearts to be discovered later—
the ultimate comfort food!

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Seasons of Life and Loss . . .

to everything,
there is
a season . . .

I have heard that passage from Ecclesiastes 3 read many times and
I have heard it applied
to many situations,
but somehow, right now,
it holds a depth of meaning
I never felt before as
I face the loss of the one who brought me into this world . . . mom

These verses before always seemed to be used to encourage the need to recognize that, as we pass through this world,
we will find that each “event” does indeed pass as other “things” demand their time on my path . . .

somehow, it does not bring me comfort or even hope as this dark time is moving ever so slowly
forward, as mom’s physical frame goes through the process of
transitioning out of my reach.

I guess the only pinpoint of light is that I KNOW in my heart that
mom’s spirit is eternal and
the GOD who is Love knows her by name,
numbered her days before there was even one,
has been with her through every trial and every triumph, and
is, even now, holding her and guiding her
as HE draws her deeper into His Everlasting Arms,
to her place of rest with Him,
to hear Him say,
“well done, my good and
faithful servant . . .
enter into the joy of the Lord”

My heart longs to hold on to her as so many memories flood my mind and flow from my eyes . . .
as my heart shatters into pieces as it tries to release her to
the “better place” I hear spoken of
words that are intended as words of comfort,
but bring none to me as it means
she is gone from me,
taking her hugs,
her smile,
her music and
I am left with trying to hold onto the memories that tend to fade over time and
ultimately realizing I can only hold onto the LOVE she gave and
received all her life and
treasure those deposits she buried deep within my heart . . .
her LOVE . . .
the very essence of her . . .
that is what the treasure of the season of her life is for me to hold and
she will continue to flow through my life often without my realizing it.

My mom . . . the treasure of her Life is what I hold onto . . .
her heart for the hurting . . .
her amazing Love for family, for friends, for strangers . . .
her trust in GOD . . .

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POLITICS – RELIGION – HEART

TODAY . . . today, a 24-hour time period—a man-defined period that tends to turn into weeks and months and years and decades and centuries leaving me feeling like a grain of sand on a very sandy beach . . . inconsequential.

However, before I give up on ever doing anything because of what I perceive as “it-won’t-do-any-good-anyway” philosophy and I become inert like a rock lying on a sandy beach . . . I want to consider:

Many philosophies and religious systems have believed that the “soul” resides in the heart, the seat of the lifeforce and that it is the part that must be helped to pass into eternity as the only way for anyone to survive that apparent physical “death” that seems to occur to everyone.

My Judeo-Christian background tends to support the idea that the “soul” must be protected, guarded, guided, instructed. The idea that the desires we possess can often possess us, that our desires can be the root cause of much of the suffering we incur, and that we can be controlled and driven by our desires to do and be things we would not think we are capable of should give us pause as we walk our path.

I remember an incident that happened somewhere in the northeastern part of the United States of America back some decades ago where a woman was attacked on the street and people in an apartment building watched without trying to help her escape from her attacker and I remember there was an outcry against the inaction of those observers and questions about how could anyone watch without trying to help?

Fast forward to our current world
where many have watched
• children and even babies being taken from their parents and many never being reunited,
we have watched
• human beings who were running from violence being caged and treated like animals,
we have shouted that we should
• not provide medical care and food to people from other countries with different color skin,
and we have watched scenes
• allies being killed as we withdrew our troops that had been fighting along side them against our common enemy

NEVER . . . never would I support the abuse of another human being—that is what I have always said and still say
SO
what am I using to justify not doing something about what I have seen
or even am I repeating the rather weak justifications of others?

The loudest argument I am hearing is the extremely divisive accusations that any “bad stuff” is the “other guys” (whichever political party you are not a part of is who is doing the bad stuff)
WELL . . .
it is ALL of us who are not doing anything to help change the situation who are participants in the bad stuff by not stopping it. My dad used to always say:
“it is not WHO is right, if it WHAT is right”
and that is still the way to look at this . . . am I doing WHAT is right?

Can we STOP pointing fingers
(example: memes with one political party or another labeled)
and START lifting the burdens
(example: support those providing care for the hurting and hungry)
STOP protecting dollars
and START protecting people
by living out the “golden rule”:
TREAT OTHERS THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE TREATED!

WHAT am I teaching my children by the life I live,
by the actions or people I approve . . .
do I PREACH love, but DO NOTHING to stop hate?
do I SPEAK love, but REFUSE TO DO what love demands?
do I DEMAND mercy, but JUDGE OTHERS as unworthy of food?
WHAT am I teaching my children by the life I live . . .

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Biscuits & Gravy . . . GOD’s favorite combo

Making breakfast this morning, after I had put the biscuits into bake,
I started making some gravy for one of my favorite combos, biscuits and gravy . . .
yum!

As I watched the gravy thicken in the small skillet I had put the flour and water in,
I realized I would have to add more water to make it the right consistency
for putting on the biscuits.
Usually when I add the liquid to a small skillet, I stir it and
it splashes over the sides of the skillet making a mess on the stove
that gets hard to clean up as it gets cold and the flour-water mixture hardens . . .
yuk!

This time I tried something a little different –
I put a small amount of water into the center of the gravy in the skillet and
gently whisked it into the gravy and
there was no splashing out of the skillet . . .
yay!

All of a sudden a thought popped into my head:
is that the way God teaches me?
– Does He put a little Living Water into the center of my heart and
gently stir it in to bring better consistency to me
– Does a small amount of Water with a gentle stirring,
seem easier for me to “absorb,”
maybe a thought that brings a more balanced way of looking at something
that had been troubling me
– Does “small” and “gentle” give me time to consider it
without splashing all over me and making my heart cold and hardened in response. . .
hmmmm

Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God, and
who it is who says to you,
‘Give Me a drink,’
you would have asked Him, and
He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)

Maybe I should take a “sip” of Living Water . . .
maybe I should listen as GOD gently stirs my heart . . .
maybe I should be still and know . . .
GOD’s favorite combo . . . the potter and the clay . . .

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Living Water . . . broken cisterns . . .

Sometimes it scares me to “turn it over to God” . . .
I mean, it sounds good to ask for “living water,”
but the next thing I know,
I am trying to “fix” my world and
all the things I see that are wrong
with those around me—
of course, I know that doesn’t really work,
but I find myself doing that over and over again
and becoming frustrated and more scared
as I see the limits and failures of my efforts!

Somewhere inside,
I know only God can “fix” this world He created and
only God can put in place those adjustments
that need to be made to bring human nature
back into the right path . . .
so I guess my only choice is to Trust God,
the ALL-Mighty,
the ALL-Knowing,
the ALL-Loving, or
arrogantly depend on my own puny efforts
that have been proven to fail in things
that are obviously beyond my ability to understand
(even though I think I’ve got it figured out)—
that sounds like a no-brainer,
but I am sure I will be standing at this point
many times as I get pulled into
seeing MY world as MY responsibility
until the darkness overwhelms me
and I reach for the Everlasting Arms
that I know will never leave or forsake me . . . and
He lovingly consoles me as I cry out to Him and fall,
exhausted,
into the rest that comes when I hear
the still, small voice whisper to me “but God . . .”

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