Forget This

For this exercise, let’s forget everything about Jesus except one things…thing*.

Jesus is innocent of anything that could deserve the Roman penalty of death. Pilate said so. Not that we use him as our source of truth, but (pause) he was the guy in charge, Romanwise.

Who killed Jesus? The promoters were local leaders who did not like him. Fine. Hate him. But kill him? They did not have the authority to do it. Enter Pilate. They need his approval. Pilate allows it. Then we have the soldiers who carry it out.

Let us look closely at these three kinds of people. Religious. These guys condemn him to death. The verdict is unjust on its face. The method is sneaky. But they are not satisfied with an unjust verdict, They work hard to carry it out. They coerce the governor into approval! They threaten him with another riot. He cannot bear another event in his jurisdiction that would surely get back to Rome. Rome does not fire governors. They execute them.

This puts Pilate almost in a ‘him or me’ situation. He folds. But the raw hatred of the ones who demand the death of Jesus is what we are looking it here. Do they go home and consider it a good days work? Why do they hate him? Easy one. He threatens their world. He is undermining their authority. They are threatened directly by him. So, for love of their existing power, they engineer his death.

Back to Pilate. He saw a threat and found a way to sleep easily that night. My job remains secure, he thinks.

Last, we look at ordinary guys, Roman soldiers. They collect their pay. They also are not just fired. They lose everything if they do not do as told. They are told to kill Jesus using the Roman method. But it is worse than that. They seem to enjoy their grisly work. This guy was important just last week. Now he dies. Hammer that nail. Hoist this cross.

Now, where are you in this picture. You can only pick one. Do you have religious power? Do you have political power? Are you a working person? If you don’t work, where did your money come from? Successful business? Investment? You have money based on a structure that pays out money you need.

You and I are these people. We are there in that very moment. We are people who rely on a system that gives us power and money. But there is more. They thought about their position in the system and decided to go ahead with an execution. It was for their own benefit.

Now we look at the heart of each one. Do we see any hope? Do we see any thought of justice? Or a thought of right and wrong? We do not. This is the effect of our disconnect with goodness. The opposite of goodness is self-interest over all else. An agreement with others around us that our interests come first. And this very fundamental state is common. It can be called several things including sin. The state of a person without continuous reference to God is called sin.

Can anything be done to change this state that results in a heart hard enough to help kill an innocent? Yes, but it may be good to see where we are on the road to a stone-cold heart. Yes, you will arrive at that state. You may have already done so. An abortion planned by a guy and a girl would qualify. Have you said a leader that you don’t like should die? That qualifies. Have you cut off a relationship that does not serve you? Again, the beginning of a plan to rid yourself of a person you hate. Cain killed his brother because he was an annoyance to him. Killed him dead.

How can you become good? How can you rid yourself of evil thoughts? Any thought that is unkind toward another person is a step on the way down. I’m including myself as I write this. The answer is: you can’t; I can’t. Go ahead and try. Try as hard as you like and see if I am right. You will eventually agree with me. You cannot attain to inward goodness. But there is a cure. Follow him who showed us what sin does to people.

The marker in time is the killing of Jesus. It is also the event that led to change in the human heart for many. How? Don’t know. Faith? Foolish trust in God? Believing the one who came back from the dead? Call it whatever you like. You reach out into the invisible and will find One who touches you back. You can connect to the Eternal. Jesus made it possible.

All Power

All power has been given to me, in heaven and in earth…

Jesus speaks these words before he leaves. He has done all he came to do. Why does he say this? He has done what no man has ever done. He has lived his whole life pleasing his Father, God. He was never far from men. He was waiting in the wings for his coming in the flesh. Now all power is given to a man: The Son of Man.

And what does he do at this moment? He gives his work to men. He sends them into the world to do his work: teach men, baptize those who believe and preach the kingdom of God. This is what he does with his power. He does not use it to revenge himself on his enemies. He does not ask for monuments to be built in his honor. He gives power to men to make disciples.

This is the work of God: to arrest minds in their thought, to convert, yes, to change men with words, his words. Tell them what I told you. I will be with you. How? By the Spirit, I will be with each one of you. And now we have the Spirit of God, the promise of the Father. To them he gave power to become the sons of God even to them who believe on his name.

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Measure

​He measures us and makes his divinity fit our souls, and our souls are able to take the measure of him because he created us in his image and made us worthy. He alone is complete and can fulfill our every longing. God’s grace restores our souls and teaches us how to comprehend him through love. He is incomprehensible to the intellect. Nobody’s mind is powerful enough to grasp who God is. We can only know him by experiencing his love. 

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Enoch – God Finds a Friend

Adam was the first man. Enoch came a few generations later. Enoch has a very short biography. He seems rather ordinary until he has a son. We can put his whole story right here:

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 

After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 

Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

This is a short biography. And each line is important.

 His son is Methuselah. Maybe you heard of him. “As old as Methuselah.” But when Methuselah is born, things change for Enoch. This event was when Enoch became God’s first friend. Enoch walked with God. He continued to do this for 300 years. It becomes the characteristic of his life. 

Enoch is the first man who had a good, continuous relationship with God. After 300 years, Enoch disappears. He’s gone. He didn’t die. God took him. God liked this guy.

Why are we given no details? This is a personal relationship between God and Enoch. And God is interested in the individual. There are no groups with God. He is well able to focus on each person. 

Enoch has no good example to follow. He cannot say, “I will be like …” Enoch is not given a great decision like Adam. He is not given a great task like Noah, his grandson. He lives an ordinary life but does so in an extraordinary way. He walks with God. No one instructs him. No one shows him how to do this. He blazes a new path in the world very quietly. His story is often overlooked because it contains no dramatic events until the end.

No one has made a movie about Enoch. He does not leave a method behind. His example tells us that we must find our own relationship with God. What is remarkable is that Enoch walks with God for 300 years. And what began with an ordinary event, the birth of a son, ends with this dramatic event: he disappears. He has no grave. No one witnesses his final moment on earth. No one sees him go. But God takes him none the less.

Enoch is not an old man by contemporary standards. God decides to end his earthly time early. He wants his friend closer to him. In this, God shows his approval of Enoch’s life. Enoch walked with God and ‘he was not’ for God took him.

    Enoch is an example of faith. It says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” 

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Isla de las Munecas

The Isla de las Munecas is part of Xochimilco which means “flower field.” It all started when their ancient leader, Acatonallo, invented a system of agriculture that increased the production of corn, beans, and squash. Xochimilco began to dominate the area and even had a female ruler for a while who is credited for a number of distinctive dishes that are part of area’s cuisine today.

Xochimilco survived Hernán Cortés army in 1521. Also, the Zapatistas 1912. It remained a great agricultural area, shipping its produce to Mexico City. Two thousand barges a day traveled on the waters in traditional rafts that were pushed along the shallow waters using a pole. But sadly for Xochimilco, more water was wanted in Mexico City. The water tables became lower until canals near Mexico City began to dry up making their traditional and cheap method to get goods to market nearly impossible.

In the 1920s, most of the water supply of Xochimilco was going to Mexico City and the urban sprawl of Mexico City was reaching Xochimilco during the mid 20th century. In the 1970s, the federal government began to replace the lost supply to the canals with treated water. The treated water is clear, but not drinkable due to bacteria. However, it is used to irrigate crops. More recently, illegal building is taking place. These settlements are even filling in canals to make “new land.”

But among the islands, you can find a small one with a strange history which never intended to be a tourist destination. The island is known as Isla de las Munecas (Island of the Dolls).

This small island is home to hundreds of rather terrifying dolls. The dolls are scary enough during the day, but in the dark, they are particularly disturbing.

Don Julian Santana Barrera was the caretaker of the island. One morning a young girl and her sisters went swimming in the canal but the current was too strong. The current pulled one of the sisters all the way down the canal and when Santana Barrera saw the young girl, she was drowning. He was unable to get to her before she died. He found a doll floating nearby and hung it from a tree as a sign of respect for the girl. He became haunted by the spirit of the girl. He began to hear whispers, footsteps, and anguished wails in the darkness even though his hut was miles away from civilization. Driven by fear, he spent the next fifty years hanging more and more dolls, all over the island in an attempt to appease what he believed to be the drowned girl’s spirit. Those who knew Julian said he was driven by some unseen force that completely changed him. After 50 years of collecting dolls and hanging them on the island, Julian was found dead, drowned in the same spot where the girl had drowned so many years before.

Witnesses have claimed they had heard the dolls whispering to each other, while others who were on a boat near the island said the dolls lured them to the island. Of course these witnesses are exaggerating but the truth is that the Isla de las Munecas is a very creepy place that marks the casual visitor.

The locals believe that the Isla de las Munecas is a charmed place. After Julian’s death in 2001, it has become a tourist attraction, where visitors bring more dolls. The island has become famous and has even been featured in articles and TV shows. Although the actions of Don Julian were innocent, it ended up being portrayed as a real nightmarish destination. Soulless eyes follow visitors as they visit the small island which is actually a floating garden. You go through maze-like canals, surrounded by lush greenery and singing birds, but soon your boat is slowed down by a swarm of lily pads and the canal falls ominously silent. You turn along a bend in the waterway and see a surreal vision of hundreds of dolls hanging from trees on the tiny island.

On a more happy note. there are many festivals and celebrations that occur through the year. One is the Feast of the Cross on May 3, which has been celebrated for over 400 years. The Niño Dios of Mexico is an image of the child Jesus called the Niñopa. The image is over 435 years old and was made from a local tree. “Niñopa” means “child of the place”. It can be seen as it is shown around the area by the mayordomo that pays all the expence.

Xochimilco holds major events for Day of the Dead including costume parades, exhibitions, especially of altars, in cemeteries, museums, plazas and more. the cemeteries are lit with the glow of numerous candles. “La Cihuacoatle, Leyenda de la Llorona,” takes place on the waters of the old Tlilac Lake. Spectators watch the event from trajineras that depart from the Cuemanco docks and travel the canals to reach the lake.

The church maintains a very large atrium, which was meant to hold large congregations of indigenous peoples, who were ministered to by the monks. The west gate has three arches, which represent the Spanish, indigenous and mestizo peoples of the area. The nearby church contains its original 16th century main altar and is covered in 24karat gold leaf. There is a depiction of the Virgin of Xochimilco as well.

The San Juan Bautista Tlateuhchi Church is fronted by a large juniper tree, said to have been planted by Cuauhtémoc to commemorate the alliance of the Xochimilas with the Aztecs to fight the Spanish.

The La Santisima Trinidad Chililico Church is noted for its James,_son_of_Zebedee” equestrian statue.

The “Flor más Bella del Ejido” (Most Beautiful Flower of the Ejido or Field) Beauty_pageant”> is an event dedicated to the beauty of Mexican indigenous women. “Flower-woman” representative of Mother Earth and fertility. This flower-woman is based on the goddess Xochiquetzal, the goddess of flowers and love.

The Feria de Nieve (Ices and Ice cream Fair) takes place in each April. Flavored snow was consumed in the pre Hispanic period, eaten by the rich and made from snow from the nearby mountains and transported through this area. In 2009, the event had its 124th anniversary.

Xochimilco’s economy has recently focused on flowers and ornamental plants as well as the traditional agriculture.

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Kierkegaard Quotes

Short Snippets of Kierkegaard

Saddest Thing

It is the saddest thing of all if a human being goes through life without discovering that he needs God.

Convinced

The highest is this: that a person is fully convinced that he himself is capable of nothing, nothing at all. But God in heaven is capable of all things.

God

Your very greatness makes you invisible, since in your wisdom you are much too far away from man’s thoughts for him to be able to see you.
In your omnipresence, you are too close to him for him to see you.
In your goodness, you conceal yourself from him making it impossible for him to see you, because if he did, then; he himself would become nothing.

Repeat

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jet lag

If you change time zones as quickly as we can, you will experience what is called jet lag. That means your body’s internal clock is different than the local time. Symptoms of jet lag include sleepiness during the day, insomnia at night, poor concentration, confusion, hunger at inappropriate times or lack of appetite, and general malaise and irritability. How can you deal with it?

Four or five days before you leave, try to match your sleeping and eating times to those at where you are going. This can really help if it’s only a few hours different. For big jumps, you need to do more.

Take it easy on coffee and heavy foods the day before you fly. Be sure to drink water while you’re in the air. Be aware that drinking alcohol will dry you out even more. Bring eye drops, moisturizing lotion, lip balm, and wipes with essential oils for your face. Make sure the packaging can be part of your carry on. Avoid liquids in sizes that are not compliant. Check with your airline on what they consider carry-on luggage.

Take things to help you sleep like a neck pillow. Experiment with it before you go. There are several types. Maybe borrow one from a friend to try before you buy one. Sleeping may be easier with a window seat. Ear plugs and an eye mask may work for you. Again, use at home before you go. People buy these things at the airport and find some of them useless after paying high prices. Small pillows and blankets are available on long flights. Alert your neighboring passengers if you want to be wakened for meals. You can bring your own snacks, too.

Try this: bring an extra pair of socks and put them on after removing your shoes. You can walk around the plane and sleep in more comfort. As soon as you sit down, make this change so as not to bother others later. You can add slippers if you can fit them in your carry on.

Move around the plane if you can every few hours. The flight crew don’t like this so keep moving. Or stand in line at a rest room shifting from one foot to another. In the restroom, do a little stretching and dose your face with water. Then move on to another rest room line.

Realize you will not be at your best when you land. Make all your landing and transportation plans before and follow them. Someone will offer you a ride at a higher price as you try and get your bearings.

Speaking of being groggy, use sleeping pills wisely. Don’t try something new or you might miss your connection. Consider taking melatonin instead. You can get it over the counter and this can naturally reset your body clock. 3 milligrams a half hour before you go to bed for several days after you get there can ease the transition. Another pill to take is a low dose of aspirin. Take this a few days before you go to deal with the inaction of your body on a long flight. Low dose is less than 100 grams. 3 baby aspirin will be enough.

If your flight offers breakfast just before you land, great. If not, eat breakfast as soon as possible. Now you can drink that coffee. Resist the urge to sleep all day after you arrive. Don’t drive a car for a couple of days. You won’t know when extreme sleepiness will hit you. Go with others and get outside in the sunlight with light activity in those first couple days. Walking really helps reset your internal clock. Remind friends or business associates that you may have to go home early if your body wants sleep. 

Doing Good

“…Jesus of Nazareth … went around doing good…”

What if you decide to do good? If you want to, you can have Jesus as your model. What was his method? His friend, Peter, wrote this: “God empowered Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and so he went around doing good…” Jesus promises this same Holy Spirit to his followers: “…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.”

Did that happen? Not long after Jesus said that a strange event took place. On the day called Pentacost, they were all together. Suddenly a sound like a violent wind was heard. It filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw fire above each others heads. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to speak in different languages that they had never learned.

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Peter explained the phenomena as one predicted by the ancient prophet Joel. The apostles expected the Holy Spirit to fill everyone who believed the message of the gospel they spread as charged to do so by Jesus. So the same power Jesus relied on is available to all his followers.

So if we do good as empowered by the Spirit everything will go smooth. What? Not so? The message clashes with the common view of life. Jesus had mixed reviews on his actions. Those opposed to him arranged his death by crucifixion. The story did not end there.

Ignoring his detractors, Jesus revealed himself alive and well after his death to his surprised followers. After convincing them of his remarkable return to life, he told them to spread his message even if they receive similar opposition.

What if we find this same reception. Yes, we speak to the Master: they reacted badly to my good act! He says, “I know, I had the same thing happen to me.”

That is the test. If you go on doing good as well as you can, you find God at your side. Why? He is all about doing good in a bad world. If you quit, then you lose your purpose because your purpose is to do God’s kind of good in a bad world.

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We get general direction from the words of Jesus. Let’s be clear about this: not the Bible in general, but specifically the words of Jesus. He is the focus of everything. And we get more specific help from the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes this help is quite clear. Sometimes it is just a friendly push in a direction. You understand more as you go along. What I am saying is this: if you are trying to do the will of God as spoken by Jesus, God will not let you work alone. He will be right there beside you. Sometimes you will feel it. Other times, not so much. But he will direct you and he will redirect you if you go wrong.

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What? I could go wrong? Of course, you could go wrong. Or something goes wrong and you don’t understand it. In fact, something will go wrong. Then what? Quit? Okay, but this is not faith. Faith goes on even when you don’t understand it. There will be opposition against the good you do. You will be tempted. You will get discouraged. You will have a setback.

But your very weakness is your strong point! Be weak toward God. I don’t understand this. I don’t know why this is happening. You told me to go in this direction and it has gone wrong. Guess what? It was always going wrong for Jesus. Read the story closely. Things were always going wrong. He was criticized for doing good. A lot. But be of good cheer, Jesus kept going. He never stopped.

If he couldn’t do good in this town, he went to the next one and did good there. He fixed things that didn’t work right. Like arms. Or eyes. Or legs. He gave us the clearest words of God ever spoken by a man on earth. That is why we can trust him always. He loved people. And some people loved him. Is that you? Is that me?

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Yoke

“Take my yoke upon you…”

The yoke is offered instead of labor with a heavy load. But how is the yoke rest-giving? Hard labor was the result of the curse on the ground. The man was not cursed nor is work a curse.

The Lord offers his answer to the hardness of labor. He offers a type of rest. But this is not a rest from labor. This shows that God was not interested in punishing men with hard labor. He put a condition in place to lead men back to God.

Men have tried to minimize the difficulty of labor over the millennia. Mostly by making others do it. Now we are turning to robots for menial tasks.

But Jesus addresses the issue directly. Being heavy laden sounds like an animal with all that can be placed on its back. How is a yoke better?

The yoke is designed for the individual animal. An ill-fitting yoke is useless. The yoke was made to lessen the effort or maybe enhance the ability of the animal. In either case, the hardness of the labor is reduced. The animal moves in a normal way doing useful work.

Jesus embraced life. He did his work without excessive labor. His ‘yoke’ is his method. He advises us to “learn of me”. He wants us to take on his method of working. He describes himself as “meek and lowly in heart”. What does he mean?

First, he is not proud. He has nothing to prove. Jesus is not known for his ego. He is always matching God’s will to people’s needs. He is careful not to fall into the traps that ensnare men. He follows a wisdom unknown or at least unused by men. His simple heartfelt response to human need with God’s power makes faith and love a continuous reality in his method of working.

How does the ‘yoke’ help “being heavy laden”? Carrying a heavy load is a different kind of work. ‘This stuff must be moved to there as quickly and cheaply as possible.’ Jesus is not interested in this type of work. He is not interested in ‘stuff’. He criticizes the accumulation of wealth as a waste of time and effort.

He implies that carrying a heavy load is voluntary. What kind of load-carrying are we doing voluntarily?

Guilt. God does not make us feel guilty. Sin does. Accumulated sin creates heavy guilt. Jesus offers real forgiveness as relief for that very real guilt. He recommends reconciliation between people to fix broken relationship guilt.

Responsibility. Heaviness comes from shouldering too much responsibility. Some things are beyond your control. Many live with guilt for what happened to those under their care. Or maybe they didn’t take enough responsibility when the should have. This, too, can create a heavy burden.

Happenstance. “If only I had left earlier. I meant to.” “Why was I there at that time?” Vague guilt over uncontrollable events plague some of us.

Wasted time. A realization of time ill-spent can add weight to your burden.

Rash actions. Ill-considered or panic reactions can leave a heaviness behind. “I knew it was wrong (stupid/dangerous/wasteful), yet I did it without thinking.”

All of the resulting heaviness, Jesus offers to remove and replace with “his yoke”. The yoke allows the responsibility of the immediate. Under a yoke, there is no consideration of the past. The heaviness of past actions or non-actions is gone. Only the activity of the moment is important.

“Learn of me.” See how Jesus lives. Does he carry burdens of the past? How does he handle responsibility? He works as a son to a good and wise father. His work is therefore valuable and his time is never wasted. His efforts are maximized by God. He recommends “his yoke” and claims it will give soul-rest.

How can it give this? The burden is mostly on God. Jesus takes only the human responsibility of the moment. He is also aware of all external forces. They are under the control of God so he doesn’t worry about them. This is how he can say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus wants to return us to the work as it was at first. Think of Adam naming the animals. Did he think: ‘Oh, there are so many. Will my names be right? How long will this take?’ No, he had none of these thoughts. As each animal came under his consideration, he named it. His work was valuable and a pleasure to do. God approved and the names stuck. God made them; man named them. God had given the man wisdom and he let him use it.

So we see that work is not a punishment. The yoke is the cure for heaviness of heart. The yoke is designed individually for each one. The yoke enables effective and valuable work. God wishes to remove all the heavy burdens we have accumulated leaving our burden ‘light’. Remember that God takes all responsibility for you. The burden of ‘you’ is on him as well. Let us continually follow his words: “Learn of me…”

“Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for you souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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