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crucifiedThe mission pastor at the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico, recently asked me to share a few words on Easter Sunday about the significance of Jesus statement from the cross, “I’m thirsty.”

My first thought was to spiritualize Jesus words.  Thirst indicates desire.  What the gospel writer, John, wanted to  communicate to his readers was Jesus desire that humanity would believe that God loved them; that Jesus desire was for all mankind to be saved; that Jesus wanted everyone to enjoy God, and that the way was open to all because of the sacrifice He was making, hanging on the cross.  That was my initial thought of what I would share with the gathered faithful on Easter morn.

But, the more I thought about it, and the more I studied the book of John, the more I looked into the historical/cultural millieu in which John wrote, the more I realized that I was way off base.  What John wanted to communicate to the readers of his gospel by recording Jesus statement, “I’m thirsty”, is that, (get ready now), Jesus was thirsty!  He wanted a drink.  John wanted his audience to remember that not only was Jesus God, but that Jesus was also human.

In the book of John, you see a lot of Jesus/God.  Jesus/God overcomes the temptations of Satan.  Jesus/God turns water into wine.  Jesus/God walks on water, reads peoples minds, and brings dead people back to life.  When was the last time you did  any of those things?  Never?  Me too.

Those miracles, or signs, as John calls them, point to Christ’s divinity.  They are all wonderful things that a lving Jesus/God did to show His power and compassion.  But I find it difficult to relate to those things because I have never done them or seen them done.

But, I have been thirsty.  And Jesus was thirsty.  I can relate to that.  John also tells us in the 11th chapter of his gospel that Jesus cried.  I cry sometimes too.  I can relate.  In chapter 13, John lets us know that Jesus was troubled in spirit.  I have been troubled in spirit.  I can relate.

So, while the general focus of John is on Jesus/God, he also gives us snapshots of Jesus/human.  I thank God, that Jesus is also portrayed as a man with human emotions and human needs.  He was one of us.  When we have physical, spiritual, or emotional needs, we can be sure that Jesus identifies with those needs and walks beside us in difficult times to encourage us, strengthen us, hold our hand, and sometimes carry us.

I don’t know  about you, but I’m feelin’ kind of thirsty.

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Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature  of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.  Philippians 2:6-8

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Next blog – “I’m sorry.  I’m bad.  I know it.  Daddy, I need help.”

Sometimes kids think they have the worst parents in the world.  And then, when they go out into the world and live by themselves, all of a sudden, they realize, they have had the best parents in the world all along.  When I look back on my life, I realize I have the best parents.

Many are  the reasons I think I have the best parents, but one of the main reasons is that my parents were always making deposits of kindness into the Bank of Goodwill.  What I mean by this is that my parents were, and still are, very generous people.  Growing up, I remember, that when they saw a need, they tried to relieve that need.  They were always kind towards people in need, and sought to relieve those needs.  They were continually making deposits of kindness into the Bank of Goodwill.  In helping others they were storing up treasures for themselves in heaven.  Storing up treasures for themselves in heaven was not their motive, but it is a biblical principle.

An example:  When I was about ten years old, there was a poor family in our church that seemed to me like the most hard luck family that I had ever seen.  They suffered from a variety of health and economic issues.  I remember that they had an old, beat up, station wagon.  The engine died one day and there was nothing they could do about it.  My dad found out about the situation and towed the car it to our house.  He worked on it for about a week, rebuilding the engine at his own expense.  When he was done fixing the vehicle, it ran better than it had in a long time.  He returned the car to them at no  cost.  For the hard luck family, it was an awesome answer to prayer.  For my family, it was a deposit of kindness into the Bank of Goodwill.

Many times my father helped people in need with his mechanical skill or his skill in construction.  Neither one of these skills was his “profession”.  He taught himself most of what he knew in these areas and used this knowledge to benefit our family and many other families.  My parents have always, faithfully given to their local church and supported foreign missionaries.  On occasion I have had financial needs and they have been generous in helping me.  All, deposits of kindness into the Bank of Goodwill.

The Bank of Goodwill is run by God.  He faithfully takes care of the deposits and sees that they give a good return.  And the interest is out of this world!  He tells us that “we reap what we sow”.  We harvest what we plant.  We receive back what we put into the Bank of Goodwill.

God tells us that He is generous to those who help the poor; that when we give of our time, talents and treasure, He gives back in good measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing.  For me, those are all expressions of what happens when we make deposits of kindness into the Bank of Goodwill.

My parents are retired now, at least from jobs that give them a regular paycheck.  They live comfortably in a nice, little house on a nice little piece of land in Colorado.  They are ever thankful to God for the blessings that they enjoy, praising Him because He loves them and wants them to be happy.  They continue to glorify God and  enjoy Him by continuing to be faithful givers to their church and to missionaries abroad.  Dad continues to help others with  his construction skills.  If he had a business card, which he never had in his life, I think  it would read – Have Nailgun, Will Travel.  Mom helps “the least of these” in a hundred different ways.  In other words, there is never a time to quit making deposits of kindness into the Bank  of Goodwill.  I read a bumper sticker once that said Practice Random Acts of Kindness.  Perhaps it’s better to Practice Intentional Acts of Kindness.  Or, how about today, We All make a deposit of kindness  into the Bank of Goodwill.

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The truth is, those who flourish always bring blessing to others – and they can do so in the most unexpected and humble circumstances.  John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be – Becoming God’s Best Version of You

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Next blog – “I Am Thirsty”

Purple litter on  lawns; on ponds.

It’s scattered in streets, in lanes, in boulevards.

Purple litter mounds in gutters; against stone walls.

It’s blowing through the air;

falling on the ground.

Purple litter all around.

Purple litter above my head.

It’s on my mind and in my soul.

Beautiful purple litter of

Oaxaca’s jacaranda trees.

Billions of blessed purple flower petals.

God’s good gift;

the beautiful flowers falling on the ground,

the dirt,

the grass,

on the pavement.

They are beautiful  purple gifts from God,

signs of His gracious love

bringing joy to hearts,

happy thoughts

of God.

Reminders to enjoy Him

and glorify Him forever.

(pictures below)

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Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into.  ~Henry Beecher, Life Thoughts, 1858

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Next blog – Making Deposits of Kindness into the Bank of Goodwill

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Pics of Oaxacan Jacaranda trees and their beautiful purple petals.

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I am thinking of a father and his soon to be 10 year old daughter.  He loves her very much and wants to give her the best birthday balloonsbirthday party ever.  He has been planning  it for months, considering every detail so that it will be a beautiful affair, to be remembered always.  It is to be a surprise party, so when the  day arrives, mom takes the little princess out to have her hair done and nails painted and a special dress purchased.  Meanwhile, the doting father is hanging miles of party streamers, inflating dozens of balloons, and placing hundreds of flowers all over the living room and kitchen.  On the dining room table sits a beautifully decorated cake, filled with icing flowers of all colors and 10 candles.  Loading down the kitchen counters is an array of catered food, the likes of which few people have ever seen, along with plenty of chips, and five kinds of pizza.  The  fridge is filled with soda and the freezer with ice cream.  On a nearby shelf sits the gifts the father has chosen for his daughter’s special day.  An i-phone, a Kindle tablet, a Blu-Ray player, and a 32”  Sony LED TV, all wrapped up, waiting for his darling daughter to unwrap.  He can almost hear her cries of delight and joy.

Her classmates, friends and family members, all decked out in their party best, begin arriving for the celebration at 1:3happy-birthday-cake-wallpaper-225x300 p.m. for the 2 p.m. scheduled big surprise.  At eight minutes past 2:00, the birthday girl and her mom walk through the front door and a thunderous cry of “SURPRISE – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!” erupts.  The young girl is blown away, overwhelmed by the decorations and love from family and friends.  Music starts up from the live band out on the back patio and the party goes into high gear

The birthday girl rushes to her room to  put on her new dress.  Coming out of her room she runs into a 12 year old boy that she has a crush on.  She is thrilled to see him at her party.  He is looking at a red button on the hallway wall.  He wishes her a happy birthday, and then asks her about the button.  She tells him her house has a fire sprinkler system, and if there is  ever a fire, all you have to do is to push the red button and the sprinkler system will go on.  He tells her that sounds cool.  He tells her that sounds like fun; just like playing in the sprinklers outside on a hot day.  He tells her that she should push it; that it would be a great big joke on everyone and that everybody would laugh and dance around in the shower.  She tells him that her dad said no one should ever push the red button unless there was a real fire emergency.  He bets her that her dad would think this was a special exception, and that he would laugh and laugh and pick her up and dance around the room in the falling water, just like in the movies.  She says that she will go and ask her dad first.  He tells her that that would ruin the surprise.  He gave you a big surprise party, and now it’s your turn to surprise him.

She thinks about it for a few seconds.  She looks at the older boy with a bit of doubt in her eyes.  He looks at her pleadingly.  She looks at the red button and imagines what fun everyone will have in the  water shower.  She also thinks about what her dad has told her.  She thinks and thinks.  The boy says he’s getting a bit bored, and just remembered there  was  something he needed to do  at home.  He turns to go, and she pushes the  red button.

Water gushes down on everyone and everything.  It is all ruined.  No one is dancing around in the water.  No one is laughing .  At first, all the guests look panicked – they look for a  fire.  They hurriedly make their way out to the front lawn or back patio.  The party streamers turn soggy and drop from the ceiling onto party clothes and new carpet, which become stained. Frosting and cake slowly disintegrate.  The pizza is inedible    Some balloons drop and pop, adding to the chaos.  Expensive electronic gadgets are flooded with water and become worthless.  Firetrucks arrive and fire fighters rush into the house.   All the  people hoping for a happy, beautiful party go home upset.  It was definitely one to  remember.

The father is beside himself.  He doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry; yell or die.  The good, loving father truly wanted the best for his child.  The best decorations; best food; best presents.  Now it was all ruined.  Now it was all  ugly and bad; all because of a lie.  All because of disobedience and distrust.  All that’s left are regrets and remorse.

This story makes me think of our Heavenly Father.  One time He prepared a great party for His children.  It was a garden garden_of_eden_by_amosha-d3ijz4tparty.  The garden was filled with the most beautiful flowers and plants ever seen.  The variety of trees filled with good fruit was beyond description. All kinds of incredibly, beautiful animals roamed about freely. He  invited His children to go in, and then yelled “Surprise!”  His two children were overwhelmed with joy and the great. good, beautiful experience that they had.  In the midst of their happy celebration, the Father walked them over to a tree.  The name of  this  tree is “Knowledge of Good and Evil.”  There are hundreds of beautiful trees in this garden, loaded with juicy, tasty fruit that will dazzle your taste buds and energize your bodies.  I  want you to enjoy all of them.  But this tree, “Knowledge of Good and Evil” you must never eat of.  You should never even touch it.  In fact, just to be on the safe side, you should never even come to  this  part of the garden.  The reason is, is, that the day you eat from it you will die.

I looked up the Hebrew words and definitions for “good” and  “evil”.

Good is tobe:

good (as an adjective) in the widest sense; used likewise as a noun, both in the masculine and the feminine, the singular and the plural (good, a good or good thing, a good man or woman; the good, goods or good things, good men or women), also as an adverb (well): – beautiful, best, better, bountiful, cheerful, at ease, fair , fine, glad, good deed, graciously, joyful, kindly, kindness, like (best), loving, merry,  most pleasant,  pleasure, precious, prosperity,  sweet, wealth, welfare, (be) well ([-favoured]).

Evil is rah, raw-aw’

 bad or (as noun) evil (naturally or morally). This includes the second (feminine) form; as adjective or noun: – adversity, affliction, bad, calamity, + displease (-ure), distress, evil, + exceedingly,  great, grief , harm, heavy, hurt (-ful), ill (favoured),  mischief, (-vous), misery,  noisome,  sad (-ly), sore, sorrow, trouble, vex, wicked (-ly, -ness, one), worse (-st) wretchedness, wrong. 

Without eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and  evil, they had all the good, beautiful, fair, bountiful, cheerful, joyful,loving, pleasurable, merry life that they could  ever want.  Unfortunately they disobeyed God.  They believed the lies of the Evil One.  They touched the tree and ate the fruit of the tree of  the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Banished from the Garden, their right relationship with God dead, thus their spirits dead, they suffer daily with the curse and punishment of God and experience the  bad, evil, adversity, affliction, calamity, displeasure, distress, misery, noisome, hurtful, sorrowful, trouble, and wretchedness that most people in this world experience on a daily basis.  They gave up all the good, and began to experience all the evil, the day they believed a lie.

Yet, some beauty, goodness and truth have survived.  G.K. Chesterton gives us the image of a shipwreck and survivors living on a deserted island, in his book Orthodoxy.  The survivors cherish the things that have washed up on shore from the lost ship.  In the same way, after Adam and Eve made a shipwreck of humanity, God has left us remnants of the beautiful, good party.  His love.  His true Word.  His grace and mercy.  Things to cherish.

So we cling to beauty, goodness and truth for the basis of our happiness and joy in God.  Daily, ugliness, evil and lies intrude into our lives, and often we have to battle to hang onto the good and beautiful and true.  We seek to share the truth, the beauty, the good with a hurting world.  We want to share our treasured remnants of the crash with those around us who have given up on having a good, beautiful life full of truth.

The Father has planned another party, bigger and better  and more beautiful than the first.  It’s called Heaven, or The New Jerusalem.  Our invitations are found in the Bible.  Have you RSVP’ed?

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Every component of our faith (worship, liturgy, creeds, theology, fellowship, spiritual formation, religious education, etc.), though in itself is valid and valuable, must lead to  good works, good lives, good creativity, and goodness to help our world get back on the road to being truly and wholly good again, the way God created it to be.  Brian McLaren in a Generous Othodoxy.

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Next blog – Purple Litter

My wife Anita, our two daughters and myself were in Mitla, Oaxaca, Mexico a couple weeks ago, helping with the

Anita serving up atole

Anita serving up atole

preparation and joining in the celebration of Radio Zapoteca’s second anniversary.  Wood fires were burning in cinderblock rings.  Smoke  filled the cooking area and escaped through slits in the rusted tin walls.    Milk, ground up oats and sugar were mixed together in a big pot  over one fire to make a traditional Oaxacan drink called atole.  Chickens, throats freshly cut, were briefly plunged into boiling water of another pot and then plucked naked.  Nine butchered chickens contributed to some delicious chicken soup and tasty tamales.

Women from a half dozen local church congregation gathered in Anita’s parent’s yard to help.  Some churches donated food, others tables and chairs.  The Home for Needy Children, where Anita and I are staff members, donated cases of milk.  I wrote in an earlier blog that the social service arm of of the government had given the ministry a bunch of milk.  Out of our abundant supply we were able to share.  Blessed to be a blessing, as the saying goes.

Anita’s older brother, Arturo, started Radio Zapoteca two years ago, because of his vision of proclaiming  the Good News that God loves us and wants us to be happy, to the entire Mitla valley.  This wonderful DSC00310Christian radio station plays inspiring Christian music, and proclaims the messaged of God’s love in Spanish and the local Zapoteco dialect.  This station also broadcasts via the  internet at RadioZapoteca.com if you want to give it a listen.

Arturo is an inspiration himself.  Fifteen years ago, Arturo was living for himself.  He graduated from the local university with an accounting degree and immediately got a good job making good money.  God spoke into his life through local missionaries, who convinced him, with the help of the Holy Spirit, that there was more to life than money and mezcal.  He turned his life over to the Good Shepherd and Savior of his soul.  He was filled with a joy that he had never experienced

Cooking tubs of tamales

Cooking tubs of tamales

before.  He gave up his job and went to work for the missionaries, helping them make recordings of the Bible in the dialects of illiterate village people living in isolated areas of Oaxaca (RadioZapoteca.com includes Bible recordings of over 400 dialects).

He worked faithfully in that ministry for a few years, while being heavily involved in a local church.  The little church, Dios Es Amor (God is Love), was the result of a church planting of a larger church in Oaxaca city.  The idea was that after a few years, it would become self sufficient with its own pastor.  Arturo had been in charge of the youth group and would preach occasionally.  The pastor of the parent church in Oaxaca city saw the hand of God on Arturo’s life and Arturo felt the call of God to pastor the little flock.  After receiving pastoral training, and much prayer, Arturo was ordained as pastor of  Dios Es Amor.

Over two years ago, Arturo began dreaming of a way to communicate Christ, not just to his small band of brothers and

Sisters in Christ helping to prepare a feast for the fiesta

Sisters in Christ helping to prepare a feast for the fiesta

sisters in the Lord; not just to his neighbors and those he would casually meet, but to all of the Mitla region.  He envisioned a Christian radio station that would proudly proclaim the gracious goodness of a living Redeemer, not just to the Spanish speakers, but to those indigenous people in the area called Zapotecos and spoke that dialect.  Arturo could reach out to them in their “heart” language, since he was half Zapoteco and  could speak the language.

He  shared his vision with other Christians and they began to dream the same dream, and supported Arturo with

prayers, funds, time and talents.  Two weeks ago, these Christians, along with  hundreds of others who regularly tune in to Radio Zapoteca, came  together in the town square to celebrate the radio station’s second year of existence. Pastors of different denominations spoke about the importance and blessing that Radio Zapoteca was for them personally and for their congregations.  People spoke about how much more they enjoyed God when they could turn on the radio and listen to inspiring Christian music, teaching and preaching.  Bands came from all around to play their different styles of music, glorifying the King  of kings and Lord of lords.

Standing in the smokey, makeshift kitchen of my in-laws, surrounded by sisters in Christ cooking chickens and making

Arturo broadcasting the Good News on Radio Zapoteca

Arturo broadcasting the Good News on Radio Zapoteca

tamales, I rejoiced in God’s work and goodness.  I thought of all the Christians in the community that were encouraged daily by Arturo and Radio Zapoteca.  There were so many who had come to know our Great, Good God, and were themselves helping to grow the Kingdom of God in their own special ways.  And on that Saturday in February, we were all together, pitching in, to make the  second anniversary fiesta such a success – glorifying God and enjoying Him and His presence among us.

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Guiraa redee badeedni te guluiireni rexpejn Jesucrist, te gunreni dzuun te gustajlreni rebejn ni gac xquidoo Jesucrist.   Zapoteco de Mitla translation of Ephesians 4:12 –               to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

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Next blog – Beauty, Truth and Goodness