I Can’t Stand You

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong ~Mahatma Gandhi

I like just about everyone. I try extra hard to find something good about the students that other teachers avoid. I spend time with people who grate on my nerves just so I can discover what makes them who they are. I give bad drivers the benefit of the doubt, and I believe the best of everyone’s intentions.

My neighbor calls me “Mary Sunshine” in a derogatory tone.

But there are times when I just can’t bring a smile into my voice. I just can’t give another ounce of love. I can’t face “them” and instead walk the other direction.

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Friend and Physician

Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. ~Helen Keller

Jesus had friends, good, strong, devout friends. And yet, at the end of his life, they deserted him.

Paul, too, had friends. Some he considered as sons, and others he gained mutual strength and benefit from. One of those friends was Luke.

In Acts 27, Paul embarked on a voyage, not of his choosing but of his destiny. Much like Jesus, he headed to his life’s trial to appear before the ruling authorities. In Paul’s case, he was on his way to Caesar.

But unlike Jesus, Paul didn’t get to walk across town and be tried. He had to make a long journey by ship.

A trip like no other.

The men on board suffered at least two weeks of an extreme storm. After fourteen days of no food and being battered by the waves, Paul’s life was in danger again. Fearing shipwreck, the soldiers threatened to kill the prisoners. Finally, the ship ran aground and broke apart. Luke and Paul swam to safety and most certainly began treating sick and wounded men once they reached the island.

After a few months on Malta, they boarded another ship and headed to Rome. Luke accompanied Paul and stayed with him the two years that Paul was a prisoner in Rome.

Wow. What a friend.

Sickness, beatings, a bad reputation, traveling in want and need, storms and shipwreck, political trials and imprisonment.

My own efforts at friendship pale in comparison.

I forget to call or text. I think about taking over a meal when I hear of a bad time, but the food never makes it out of the pantry. I say we should get together, and then another year passes. A crisis happens, and I cringe at the wrinkle it puts in my schedule.

Lord, teach me to be a better friend. I want to be a friend like Luke.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV

Tell Your Story

If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story. ~Orson Welles

Share your testimony.

You know you’re supposed to. You really want to. You marvel at those who do.

But you just can’t.

You aren’t an imprisoned serial killer turned Christian. You haven’t given up a lucrative job to work for a non-profit. You haven’t had cancer or lost a loved one.

What do you have to share?

Paul is a great person to imitate. Don’t worry; you don’t have to be flogged, imprisoned, shipwrecked, or martyred.

Paul defended himself before the king, and he started right where all of us start- birth. He was born into a believing household. He studied God and his word.

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Nothing Bad to Say

It is not living that matters, but living rightly. ~Socrates

Governor Festus had taken over Felix’s office, and he was confounded about what to do with the prisoner, Paul. King Agrippa and his wife Bernice stopped for a visit and the king offered to hear Paul’s defense.

Festus brought Paul before the royals and explained that the Jews were ready to tear Paul limb from limb, but he, Festus, had been unable to find anything wrong with the man. He had committed no crime, said nothing deserving of death. In fact, if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar he could have been released.

That had to have been music to Paul’s ears.

Paul and Peter were brothers in Christ, apostles sent to different communities but with one purpose. They met on several occasions. I imagine they compared notes, prayed together; we’re told that they confronted and instructed each other.

Their camaraderie must have at one time included a conversation like this:

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority:whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 1 Peter 2:12-15 NIV

Paul had lived his life doing good. He submitted to the authorities, and he received commendations to the king.

How are you living?

Have you given your money to the poor, fed the hungry, and been condemned by brothers and sisters as ‘holier-than-thou’?

Do you tell your children no, screen their emails and chat rooms, and refuse to have cable in the house only to have your children slander you, your friends question your integrity as a parent?

Do you care for your elderly parents, putting off cruises with your own friends, to make sure Mom walks every day and Dad gets to have coffee with his buddies? It’s the right thing to do, but you cringe under the half-concealed anger your friends display.

Paul would understand. He went on to Rome and experienced several years of imprisonment all for doing the right thing.

Take heart; you’re in good company.

Stay strong and do what’s right.

For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 1 Peter 2:19 NIV

Wolves, Snakes, and Doves

In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit. ~Anne Frank

Paul may never have met Jesus in person, but he knew Jesus’s mandates and advice. He knew what to do when things got intense.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. Matthew 10:16-17 NIV

Paul’s wool was dripping sweat and the wolves were circling. Instead of running straight into their mouths, he swerved, struck, and hid under a rock while the wolves went after each other.

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Who’s Your Source

Researching a quotation can be fun, but it’s not always easy and many times may require some serious digging. ~Sharon Rickson, New York Public Library

Fake news. It’s all over the headlines. Kind of ironic, don’t you think?

You go to the news to find out whether the news is really “news.”

English teachers and Media Resource Center directors stress to their students to check the facts. Don’t use the first website that pops up on Google. Make sure your source is reputable.

Paul had a reputable source. His teacher was Gamaliel.

Gamaliel came from a line of Torah scholars, namely his famous grandfather, Hillel. Gamaliel lived in the first century AD and held a position of authority and leadership in the Sandhedrin- the ruling council. To study under him was to attend Harvard or Oxford.

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Self-Control and Self-Defense

Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it. ~Lao Tzu

In high school my older son was part of a police PSA video about drunk driving. As an actor, my boy was “arrested” in a night scene. Someone on set took a picture and sent it to him.

Graduation came and went. We had a family party and then they all headed back home. Our family went on a picnic at a local island.

And then I received a phone call from my cousin.

“Where’s Jonathan?”

“In the car behind me. Why?”

Then the sordid details fell into place. My naive son had posted on social media the picture of being arrested as a joke with the caption, “It was a quite a night.”

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An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. ~Henry David Thoreau

I can still see my grandfather walking across the hillside, hands clasped behind his back. He strolled down the lane, across Cherry Tree Hill, and then whistled for the dog to fall in line as they neared the house.

It was his daily constitutional. Gather the mail at the end of the lane, bring it to our house, then walk back to his. The entire trip was about a half-mile of slow, steady thought.

Walking just seems to open the mind and the ears.

Paul and his buddies were in Troas. The last year or more was spent running from one city to another trying to stay alive and yet preaching certain death. Now he gave all the last directions he could before heading off again.

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What was I doing?

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. ~Bryant H. McGill

Why did the music teacher look inside her piano?

She had lost her keys!

We all forget where we put things at times, but do you ever forget why you came into a room? You stride into the kitchen and then stop in front of the counter. “Now what was I looking for?”

Paul found himself in the middle of a very hot kitchen, and he was the one being hunted.

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There’s always something to learn

Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow. ~Anthony J. D’Angelo

I’m reading a book that I find error-prone. Yet, I also believe it contains some truth and probably a lot of opinions that others in my sphere hold. So I keep reading it and try not to set my jaw too tightly.

Exposing our minds to differing beliefs and teachings helps us understand our own beliefs. Sometimes we feel justified in our beliefs, and sometimes we might find that we were wrong.

A Jew named Apollos was living in Alexandria. He was a smart guy, well-educated and an eloquent speaker. But he didn’t have all the facts.

Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos the way of Jesus and suddenly Apollos’s eyes were opened to the truth. His willingness to study further, to listen to others, and to accept that he may have been incorrect led Apollos to be a missionary to Achaia and to lead many more people to the truth of Jesus Christ as the Savior.

But Apollos didn’t just spout off his opinions. No, he used the Jews’ own scriptures to show that Jesus was the expected Messiah. He studied, prepared, and listened to the Spirit.

How do I know when I come across error-filled teaching? Because I know the scriptures. I read God’s word daily. I pray. I listen. I talk to others and process their conclusions. I surround myself with others who do the same.

Are you making sure that you know the truth and are being set free on the right path?

Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come. John 8:19-20 NIV