Archive for the ‘God’ Tag
With sheets of old yellowed parchment spread out
the scribe sits down at his splintered worn desk,
and with withered hand he dips his quill
into a thick substance inside the inkwell,
and turns his face towards Heaven, blessed be He,
God of the universe, and praise to the One
who sits on the throne, all the earth be His.
It is not what the scribe hears with audible voice,
but what his heart hears and knows to be true
for that which is given him scribed upon
with sweeping gesture, flourish and swirls
the Hebraic characters penned in ink
are the scribe’s writings on ancient scrolls.
Joyce E. Johnson © 2017
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. Psalm 42:1
Like the deer in search for water
I seek and long after thee,
to drink from the stream of life where flows
the living water that washes through me,
and my parched soul be quenched by your spirit
to thirst no more, but refreshed and free.
Joyce E. Johnson (2016)
No throne of gold with ruling court,
just a young colt prepared to carry
the One coming; so humbled was He
with no announcement, campaign or promise,
no regal bearing, pride or clout,
no pronouncement or declaration
to any who promised to follow,
but with a mission, soon to be found
guilty, with charges brought
not by Pilate, king or crown,
but by the common people
His crime committed?
Nothing more but Love,
no threats or harsh in character
words thrown upon the crowd.
He held no hate, or bitter accusation
against his jury, judge or fate,
but stood in silent confirmation
as one sent to suffer death
by the father who sent Him
to redeem the world from sin.
Joyce E. Johnson © 2016
Today is Palm Sunday (the Sunday preceding Easter). In the New Testament gospels it is recorded as a significant time when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, humbling Himself before the people. They welcomed Him then as the One who had performed so many miracles and healed so many. They threw palm branches at his feet when He entered town. But, within a week’s time their demeanor and attitude changed considerably and it became the consensus by all, to condemn Him to death, and release to them another man, Barabbas convicted of crimes charged against the people. It was the custom back then for Pilate, the people’s Roman ruler to release one man, and put the other man to death. They chose Jesus to be the one put to death. But, it was not a coincidence that Jesus be put to death, but was God’s plan from the beginning to send His only begotten son to death for the sins of the world, so that those who believed in Him would have eternal life. This story can be found recorded in the New Testament Gospels in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You can also find it here in this scripture passage, Mark, chapter 11: 1-11.
Hagar approached Abraham’s tent, Ishmael following after his mother with little concern for what was coming. Abraham had no choice if he wanted to keep Sarah happy. Hagar and his first-born son, Ishmael would be cast out, homeless and destitute in the desert of Beersheba with no promise of a future, and certainly none of the coveted inheritance. It would come through Isaac, Abraham’s second son, born to Sarah. He would receive God’s covenant blessing and favor, and all future generations of the Jewish nation after him. But, the God of Abraham did not turn away from Hagar and Ishmael. He heard her cry, and saw her distress. He would spare them both, provide for them, and through Ismael many nations would be born. (Paraphrased; Genesis, chapter 21 in the Old Testament Bible NIV.)
The above story is true. When I read about Sarah, Abraham, Hagar, Ismael and Isaac I think about the division, hate, and turmoil in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians, and people and cultures of other Middle Eastern countries with the ongoing conflict. One might think that what was written centuries ago and recorded of stories like Abraham’s might be of little consequence to us today. But, what was written back then by those who lived and recorded their stories is relevant to our lives today. It comes back, bigger, more profound. The two most basic things we need most are love and acceptance. They can unite and bind us, but. if we have neither only divide and separate us. The characters in the story below are fictional, but their situation and circumstances could be real. It is not just their story, but one in places all over the world.
Tel Aviv, Israel – present day
“Why did you wait till now to tell me?”
“Gamal, your father deserted us. I never saw him again after that. I felt shamed, as if it was all my fault. So I left, moved closer to the settlements and just tried to blend in.”
“Like a Jew.”
“I had to find work, to support us…even though…” Sahar said, through her tears.
“Even though you were pregnant with a bastard’s son.”
Sahar shook her head, overcome with the emotion coursing through her like a hot iron.
“What about Sam’s father?”
“I was working in Jerusalem at a shop on Haifa Street when I met him. He was serving in the Israeli army then…At first I wanted nothing to do with him. He was Jewish. He came in often, was kind, and gentle…”
“And he married you.”
“Yes. We were married by a clergyman from another faith, because the Jews would not accept me, nor my people him.”
“So he captivates the pretty damsel, and off they ride into the sunset with her bastard son in tow.”
Sahar screamed at him. “Stop calling yourself that. You’re not! I never thought of you like that.”
“No? But, I was the curse that came with the shame of a sordid love affair with a man from Gaza…”
“We were a family. I tried to raise you both the same. I loved you. I never told Sam’s father anything…about your birth, or father. He accepted you and was willing to raise you as his own. He was not Orthodox so my past was not an issue with him. Then, one day…while on duty…with the military, rockets came. He was out there, trying to pull people from that carnage, but there were…Palestinians out there, shooting at them, and he was hit. He died, soon after.” Sahar’s shoulders shook, her cry intensified with every breath.
“And Sam? What does he know?”
“He only knows about his own father, how we met, how he died. Nothing about yours.”
“Then why tell me now, mother, after thirty years, making me believe I was Jewish, instead of…the son of a Palestinian?”
“Because your ties with Israel’s enemies affect your relationship with Sam, and his position in the army. You are brothers for God’s sake.”
“For God’s sake?” He laughed, sarcastically. “Your God does not care about us.”
“Gamal! What are you saying? The God of Abraham and Isaac is our God! We have no other. He is God to all.”
“We come from different people, mother. Or have you forgotten that?”
“I don’t serve Allah!”
“But, I do!” He said, his eyes glaring at her, cold and dark. “Goodbye, mother.”
“Gamal!“ She yelled after him, but he did not listen. He was gone, slamming the door behind him, shutting himself off from her, Sam, and all that he knew.
Joyce E. Johnson © 2016
Footnotes: Last year I posted short fictional stories under the title, Acid Rain, the first one under the title of Brothers Divided where Sam, a Jewish Israeli defense officer comes against those in the Arab nations set on destroying the Jewish people and the country of Israel. You can find those stories here. The above story is fiction also, and the prequel to Acid Rain.
Branches that hang heavy with fresh fallen snow
on my blue Spruce trees; such a beautiful sight,
lit only by ice crystals under a glowing white sky,
they are but a few of my favorite things.
Cups of hot cocoa, and hearth fire, warm and bright,
a good book, and soft blanket as I curl up for the night.
I think on such things that are often too short;
they are there for a brief and passing moment,
like each day and time given to us,
gifts that our Heavenly Father bestows.
For all of His children with
loving kindness, He gives us His best,
and in all, it shows;
I shall not waste a single one,
for too quick they come, and then are gone.
But another season, another in time
is soon upon us, and I anticipate
all that is granted, for all is mine.
Joyce E. Johnson © 2016
Christmas draws near as I sit and ponder
The years gone by, the memories, so many
I count myself blessed
For the family I have, my husband, my home
And the children we’ve had.
But, I look at the lives,
and heartache of those,
their loneliness, their sorrow
their loss, and I’m sad.
If it’s only just to pray and in some way
I’ll offer encouragement, or just be kind.
Some suffer what they’ve lost;
A loved one gone
We may never know, or understand
What they’ve gone through
Or at what cost.
Lord, grant them favor, that they find grace
And their Christmas be filled with the promise of hope
And their lives know the Gift you sent us with love
born of a virgin a long time ago
who came to this world a baby King,
to bring us life and bear the world’s sin
the Messiah, Redeemer, King of Kings.
Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope it will be a happy one, filled with joy, peace, good will, and God’s best, and that you will have health, prosperity and good things in 2016.
Joyce E. Johnson © 2015
The Sea of Galilee in Israel; Photo taken May, 2001 while touring Israel just four months before the 9/11 attack on the U.S. Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson
The shepherd struggled to his feet. Smoke rose into the sky as winds carried the smell of death and destruction of Bethlehem to the hillside.
The annual pilgrimage of thousands who came each year to see the place where the Christ child was believed born was only a trickle this year in the wake of all the terrorist attacks.
They are the smart ones, who stay away. The Palestinians did not fear the Jews, or their retaliation to the missiles and suicide bombs, but instead the much darker force of evil who controlled the region destroying and desecrating all historic or religious sites. Like a plague of death their victims fell to their swords, and their black flag now flew over Gaza.
Hassan heard a soft bleat.
One has survived.
He made his way through the carnage to the sound growing weaker with every step and found him half buried under rock and debris carried by the blast. Bleeding, legs broken, but alive his eyes pleaded with silent cries.
As the night grew dark, and now quiet the shepherd tended after the lamb. He supposed the rest of his flock was now dead, or scattered. Like all the nights before when the stars came out he looked up, searching, studying those that never failed to shine their bright light upon the hills of Bethlehem.
A glow penetrated the cave dwelling. A star has fallen!
“Hassan! It is I.”
He shook with fear. Where did that come from!?
“Hassan, you alone have survived. Don’t be afraid. I will be with you. Worship me, Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ sent to save the world from its sin. I came so that you may have eternal life. Believe only in me, and you will be saved.”
He had no understanding or comprehension of what had just happened, or what he had heard. Yet, a calm came over him, seeping into his very soul. Food and water appeared mysteriously before him. Provisions?
He ate. Taking the lamb he rose and walked to where the destroyed grotto now lay in ruins.
It is only a shrine.
Lifting his voice toward the heavens he cried out. “If I stand alone to tell my story I will tell how you came to save me, and that I live to worship You.”
One by one the scattered sheep came back, compelled by the sound of their shepherd’s voice.
It mattered not that he alone survived the attack, but that he was no longer alone. His time remaining he did not know. He was alive. He had this moment now.
Footnotes: The above story is only fiction. Thank heaven for that. Literally. 🙂 Bethlehem was one of the places we visited while on our tour of Israel in May, 2001. Although the U.S. has seen much of its own terrorism (the 9/11 attack and the one most recently in San Bernardino, Ca.) and those in Paris and elsewhere I remain very thankful I live in a free country, and can still worship the living Savior who came to this world born of a virgin, went to the cross to die for the sins of this world, and was buried and resurrected so we can have eternal life. The real story (a much happier one) of the shepherds and Jesus’s birth can be found in Matthew and Luke, chapter 2 of the New Testament Bible.
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46 (NIV)
Joyce E. Johnson (2015)