A Dog’s Rules

My dog, Moar (pronounced mow-r), is such a sweet guy – except when it rains or storms.  Then he turns into a mini-tornado in the house until we let him out to situate himself flat on the ground with his nose pointed towards the storm and his ears perked forward listening for thunder.  When we finally coax him into the house (for fear he will be electrocuted or hit by hail), he runs from window to window tracking the progress of the storm.  In fact, Moar only stops when he hears his name mentioned on TV.  Yep, Moar is a Gary England fan (for any non-Okies out there, Gary is the News 9 Chief Meteorologist and, in my opinion, one of the most famous and most accurate of meteorologists anywhere) and if Moar could talk he would say that Gary must be a fan of his as well.  During storms Gary has a phrase that he says often “. . .and if we take a look at MOAR. . .”  No, Gary isn’t talking about flashing pictures of my dog up during severe weather, although my dog is cute enough for TV.  Moar – the dog – was named after MOAR – the weather radar.  It made sense at the time since my husband is a storm chaser.  So what does this story have to do with Funny Friday?  Absolutely nothing, but it gave me an excuse to post a picture of my dog on today’s post.

Dog Rules:
1. The dog is not allowed in the house.
2. Okay, the dog is allowed in the house, but only in certain rooms.
3. The dog is allowed in all rooms, but has to stay off the furniture.
4. The dog can get on the old furniture only.
5. Fine, the dog is allowed on all the furniture, but is not allowed to sleep with the humans on the bed.
6. Okay, the dog is allowed on the bed, but only by invitation.
7. The dog can sleep on the bed whenever he wants, but not under the covers.
8. The dog can sleep under the covers by invitation only
9. The dog can sleep under the covers every night.
10. Humans must ask permission to sleep under the covers with the dog.


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Is the cross just a fashion statement?

Is the cross just a fashion statement?

I see crosses on people of all beliefs or non-belief. People wear crosses as necklaces, earrings, rings, and tattoos. Sometimes they are used as props for movies or as body art on scantily clad models in magazine ads. Even Christians will stick a cross lapel-pin into their tie or wear jewelry with coolly decorated crosses dangling from them. But as a Christian, when we wear the cross it should be obvious that it is a representation of what Jesus Christ died on so many years ago. We should be diligent that, even for our own selves, the true, original meaning of the cross does not get lost.

With this conviction in mind, I decided to look at the historical writings, medical facts, and scripture to gain an understanding of just what crucifixion was. When I was through with my studies I began to understand John 15:13 through the eyes of the man who literally lived this scripture out to fulfillment. No greater love!

It is reasonable to assume that Jesus was in good physical condition before his walk to Gethsemane. However, during Jesus’ time in Gethsemane he suffered great emotional stress (as evidenced by sweating blood) and abandonment by his closest friends (the disciples). In addition, the next days brought more stress in the form of a physical beating (after the first Jewish trial), a traumatic and sleepless night, and being forced to walk more than 2.5 miles to and from the sites of the various trials. These physical and emotional factors may have rendered Jesus particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of the scourging that was to follow.

At the Praetorian, it is most likely that Jesus was severely whipped as was Roman custom. Although the severity of the scourging is not discussed in the four gospel accounts, it is implied in one of the epistles [1 Peter 2:24 – “. . . by His wounds . . .]. The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a pre-shock state. Medical texts indicate that a person who has the condition that causes them to sweat blood would have particularly tender skin. The scourging prior to crucifixion served to weaken the condemned man and, if blood loss was considerable, to produce hypotension and even shock. The physical and mental abuse meted out by the Jews and the Romans, as well as the lack of food, water, and sleep, also contributed to Jesus’ generally weakened state. Even before the actual crucifixion, Jesus’ physical condition was at least serious and possibly critical.

The Roman soldiers, amused that this weakened man had claimed to be a king, began to mock him by placing a robe on his shoulders, a crown of thorns on his head, and a wooden staff as a scepter in his hand. Next, they spat on Jesus and struck him on the head with the wooden staff.

After the scourging and the mocking the Roman soldiers put Jesus’ clothes back on him and then led him and two thieves to be crucified. Crucifixion was one of the most disgraceful and cruel methods of execution. It was customary for the condemned man to carry his own cross from the flogging post to the site of crucifixion outside the city walls. Only the crossbar was carried and it weighed 75 to 125 lb. This was placed across the nape of the victim’s neck and balanced along both shoulders. Usually, the outstretched arms were tied to the crossbar. Jesus apparently was so weakened by the severe flogging that he could not carry the crossbar from the Praetorian to the site of crucifixion one third of a mile away. Simon of Cyrene was summoned to carry Christ’s cross, and the processional then made its way to Golgotha (or Calvary), an established crucifixion site.

The processional to the site of crucifixion was led by a complete Roman military guard, headed by a centurion. One of the soldiers carried a sign (titulus) on which the condemned man’s name and crime were displayed. Later, the titulus would be attached to the top of the cross.

Jesus’ clothes, except for a linen loincloth, again were removed, which probably reopened the scourging wounds. At the site of execution, by law, the victim was given a bitter drink of wine mixed with myrrh as a mild analgesic. After tasting it, Jesus refused the drink. Jesus was then thrown to the ground on his back, with his arms outstretched along the crossbar. When the victim was thrown to the ground on his back, in preparation for transfixion of the hands, his scourging wounds most likely would become torn open again and contaminated with dirt. The hands could be nailed or tied to the crossbar, but nailing apparently was preferred by the Romans. Although a nail in either location in the wrist might pass between the bony elements and thereby produce no fractures, the likelihood of painful injury was great. The driven nail would crush or sever nerves. The stimulated nerve would produce excruciating bolts of fiery pain in both arms.

After both arms were fixed to the crossbar, the bar and the victim, together, were lifted onto the main upright beam. This was done either by four Roman soldiers or by the use of either wooden forks or ladders.

Next, the feet were fixed to the cross, either by nails or ropes. When the nailing was complete, the titulus was attached to the cross just above the victim’s head. With each respiration, the painful scourging wounds would be scraped against the rough wood of the main pole. As a result, blood loss from the back probably would continue throughout the crucifixion ordeal.

The major effect of crucifixion, beyond the excruciating pain, was a marked interference with normal respiration, particularly exhalation. The weight of the body, pulling down on the outstretched arms and shoulders, would tend to fix the muscles in an inhalation state and thereby hinder passive exhalation. Breathing would become shallow. It is likely that this form of respiration would not suffice and the onset of muscle cramps or painful tendon contractions, due to fatigue and lack of oxygen would soon begin and would hinder respiration even further. Adequate exhalation required lifting the body by pushing up on the feet and by flexing the elbows and adducting the shoulders. However, this maneuver would place the entire weight of the body on the nailed feet and would produce searing pain. Flexing of the elbows would cause rotation of the wrists about the iron nails and cause fiery pain along the arms. Lifting of the body would also painfully scrape the scourged back against the rough wooden cross. Muscle cramps of the outstretched and uplifted arms would add to the discomfort. As a result, each respiratory effort would become agonizing and tiring and lead eventually to asphyxia. Christ spoke seven times from the cross. Since speech occurs during exhalation, these short, terse utterances would have been particularly difficult and painful.

It was not uncommon for insects to light upon or burrow into the open wounds or the eyes, ears, and nose of the dying and helpless victim. Birds of prey would tear at these wounds.

The soldiers and the civilian crowd taunted Jesus throughout the crucifixion ordeal, and the soldiers’ cast lots for his clothing. Soldiers customarily divided up his clothes among themselves. The length of survival generally ranged from three or four hours to three or four days. Often death would be hastened by breaking the condemned man’s legs below the knees. Since the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the crosses after sunset, the beginning of the Sabbath, they asked Pontius Pilate to order that the legs of the condemned be broken to hasten the deaths of the three crucified men. The soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves, but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Rather, one of the soldiers pierced his side, probably with an infantry spear, and produced a sudden flow of blood and water. The Roman guard would not leave the victim until they were sure of his death. Since no one was intended to survive crucifixions the body was not released to the family until the Roman soldiers were sure that the victim was dead. It was custom for one of the Roman guards to pierce the body with a sword or lance, wounding the heart through the right side of the chest. If the victim was not dead before this wound, it most certainly would prove fatal.

Jesus’ death after only three to six hours on the cross surprised even Pontius Pilate. The fact that Jesus cried out in a loud voice and then bowed his head and died suggests the possibility of a catastrophic terminal event. Jesus’ death may have been hastened simply by his state of exhaustion and by the severity of the scourging, with its resultant blood loss and preshock state. The fact that he could not carry his crossbar supports this theory. The actual cause of Jesus’ death, like that of other crucified victims, may have been caused by multiple factors and related primarily to shock, exhaustion asphyxia, and perhaps acute heart failure.

Death by crucifixion was, in every sense of the word, excruciating (Latin, excruciatus, or “out of the cross”).

I deserved this, and yet Christ suffered in my place. The gift of forgiveness brought through the cross is for me – angels can’t experience it; demons can’t repent and gain access back to heaven; no other living creation but man has forgiveness through the cross.

So if I wear a cross, I do so as a reminder of what should have been my punishment. Lately I find that it is harder for me to wear a cross without realizing the responsibility wearing such a symbol means. For me, I pray that I never make the cross just a fashion statement!

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The Christian Bear

The Christian Bear

There was a man who one day didnt feel like going to church so he decided to go hunting instead. He was out in the bush when he was aproched from behind by a bear. He dropped his gun by accident but didn’t bother to pick it up.

That was a huge mistake, the man realized, when he ran into a hungry bear in the woods. He ran for his life. Weaving in and out the trees with the bear on his trail. Curving around a tree he triped over its root. He looked up and the bear looked down. When the bear was about to strike at him, the man put his hands together and prayed:

“Dear lord, Please let this bear be a Christian.”

There was a flash of lightening and a clap of thunder. Suddenly the bear sat down on it’s bum (on the man), reverently folded his hands and bowed his head, closed his eyes and said: “Dear lord, Thank you for the food that I am about to recieve”

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Broken – Lessons Learned From The Past

Broken – Lessons Learned From The Past

I wrote the following over a year ago, but as I was reading it the other day I realized that these lessons are still a part of me today and worth sharing again.  Thank goodness that God is still building me, shaping me, forming me into a better version of His creation than I ever thought possible.

The most accurate description of brokenness I can come up with is that it is like living on a precipice.  Somehow I’ve had the resilience to climb back up to my perch on the precipice and cautiously stand; afraid to make a move in case I tumble back into one of the valleys that surrounds me on all sides. It’s from this vantage point that I’m writing about a few things I’ve learned.

I have learned that brokenness will either transform or destroy you. What it will never do is leave you the same. I don’t think that experiencing a catastrophic loss, whether self-imposed or from outside forces, will ever entirely leave our soul. If anything it may go deeper in our soul, but as it goes deeper it enlarges the soul so that we become capable of mourning and rejoicing at the same time. We learn what it means to have a sweet sorrow. We never go through this alone. It is in the place of our deepest pain and greatest brokenness that the Lord is mercifully present as we learn to humble ourselves before Him.

I have learned that God works through our brokenness in ways we could never begin to imagine. God partners with broken people. He tells us “I see you, I know you, you are not invisible to me.” He wants to see people reconciled with each other and reconciled with Him. It takes hard work to get to this place. The first thing I have had to be able to face is the truth. Truth about who I am and who I was. Truth about my role in fracturing relationships. I have learned that we can’t be set free from anything in our past unless we are willing to admit it. This doesn’t mean that I have to stand in front of a microphone or produce a detailed recording of confession for everyone. But it does mean that for some relationships I will have to confess before any healing can take place.

I have learned to turn to the Bible. The Bible has become a constant companion. It is my light during moments of darkness. God has spoken words of comfort through it when I desperately needed them. I am learning to spend more time with my Bible than I do with any other human being. It is a love letter to me from God. Jesus Christ has become very real and apparent through the words I read. As more of God’s Word is revealed to me, I am developing a deeper trust for Him. I see God expressing words of intense brokenness, sorrow and grief over me – someone that He loves. I read where He feels the sting of our every wound and weeps with us through every painful moment. The Bible shows me that I am not alone in my sin and that the Christian journey is one of God bringing us out of our sinful, rule-based, self-righteous, self-sufficient, prideful dependence on our own capabilities into dependence on Him. His word is unfolding before me and describing God’s renewing work in the midst of my tears. I understand what Oswald Chambers meant when he wrote, “The Bible was written in tears and to tears it yields its treasures.”

I have learned that the sins we willingly indulge in will become our destruction. When we play with fire, we are going to get burned. God will allow us to suffer the consequences of our sins. Sin can fracture relationships, and it is painful to walk around barefoot among the shards. These broken bonds hurt – they hurt in the deepest places that we never want to talk about. The truth is that sin, unchecked and unrepented of, is devastating. I can no longer walk in my own strength and charm successfully. In fact, charm has flown out the window. I walk in utter failure. I have been emptied of so much of my old self. Admitting I don’t have it all together is hard to do. I can live with that. I will gratefully walk with a spiritual limp from now on.

Repentance follows confession. The Greek word for repentance is “to think in a new direction”. I have offered up both the dry-eyed confession of sin that is more of a decision of will and the sacrifice of gut-wrenching confession that comes from sorrow. Although more painful, I can only hope that all of my confessions from this point on carry the sting of godly sorrow and tears. It was not seeing my sin so glaringly in my face or my world shattered at my feet that brought me to repentance. It was God’s love and kindness, His severe mercy. I could not begin to comprehend all I needed to repent of, because I could not begin to unravel the deceitfulness of my heart. But what I did have was humility in my brokenness. God’s love has accomplished what my legalism never could. It has brought me to a place of brokenness and humility. It is impossible for me to fully understand the disparity between God and myself, but through mercy and love I can begin to see that there is freedom from the chronic, nagging, un-resolved inner pain that drives me away from instead of towards God. Repentance is not punishment. Repentance is what we do because we are forgiven. It is not what we do to earn forgiveness. Repentance is an expression of gratitude and sorrow for sin. We have nothing to fear when we come to God in brokenness and repentance. Through repentance I have found an intimate place of great grace with my Father. From this point of brokenness the possibilities for restoration are boundless.

I have learned much about forgiveness, both my own capacity for extending it and others capacity for giving it. Every morning I have to make a decision to be willing to let go of past hurts or grudges, or I will never be free of them. Forgiveness is about letting go of the right to hold myself or others in judgment about how I feel I have wronged or been wronged by them. Forgiveness is an extension of love and it makes us vulnerable. But one cannot truly love without vulnerability. It was Christ’s love for us that made Him vulnerable and led him to sacrifice himself on a cruel and wonderful cross for those who did not love him.

I have learned that compassion and forgiveness from others are necessary, but once we trust God and His never failing mercy we can continue on even if we never receive compassion or forgiveness from others. Compassion requires us to go to the place where the broken person is. It requires us to go with someone to where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely and broken. To a broken person, the mere flicker of a look of disapproval or pointed silence will cause the shattered soul to shut down. Their hope for understanding seeps deeper into feelings of isolation and despair. They wonder if anyone cares enough to listen. Fear of being rejected or judged or hearing negative messages block our freedom to express grief. The broken person does not need helpful suggestions or scriptures quoted to them. Why is it that the scripture that admonishes us to weep with those who weep is most overlooked? Larry Crabb wrote, “When life kicks us in the stomach, we want someone to be with us as we are, not as he or she wishes us to be. We don’t want someone trying to make us feel better. That effort, no matter how well intended, creates a pressure that adds to our distress.” When the bottom falls out of our world, we need our deacons, elders, ministers, Sunday school teachers, and fellow believers to show up on our doorstep as soon as they can and offer nothing more than prayers and tears. Don’t wait to be asked. Just show up. For someone who is broken, the lack of this immediate reaching out can be the most painful part of the whole process.

Restoration from brokenness is not a quick fix. It is a lifelong process. I will have to make choices to intentionally replace sinful behavior with Godly behavior. There will be days when I must face my past and all the pain and anguish my choice and others choices have caused in my world.

For Christians, brokenness and the healing from brokenness is at the very heart of our faith. Jesus experienced brokenness in the flesh so we can be assured that God knows brokenness not in some abstract, spiritual way but in a very real and physical way. But God didn’t leave Jesus in a broken state. God didn’t give up. God continued a work of restoration in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why is it that when brokenness comes to us, we bury it somewhere deep inside us where it can simmer and gnaw away at our peace, faith and health until it has turned our hearts to stone, compounding our pride and unbrokenness layer by layer?

Brokenness molds our character closer to the character of God. Defeat, disappointment, loss, all of these things move us closer to God. I write this note from an honest admission of my inability to come to repentance or restoration unless Christ intercedes. I write from brokenness and a stripping of self. I am learning to thank God for the gift of holy moments and healing tears that bring me to His feet in brokenness. These moments make room for grace, forgiveness, comfort, healing, delivering and transformation. My sincerest hope is that through my brokenness Christ can be glorified.

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