A Very Strange Mother’s Day… May 13, 2012


It wasn’t really Mother’s Day, since no such holiday existed in Nazareth, Galilee, two thousand years ago. But to Mary, it probably felt very much like a Mother’s Day blessing. Her eldest son, Jesus, had returned home from his traveling and escapades and had been invited to share the scripture in the local synagogue. How proud she must have been! How much she certainly advertised to her friends about the upcoming event. Now, she didn’t totally understand his work. From all of her upbringing, “work” entailed labor, sweat and toil. He had rejected the life of a carpenter to become … well, she wasn’t quite sure WHAT he had become. But she was proud of him–especially on this day, when he was going to be the center of focus during the worship.

The morning arrived. They handed him the Book of Isaiah, and he read a passage about being anointed to preach the gospel to the poor, sent to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, recovering of sight for the blind, to set at liberty those who were bruised and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. Mary’s heart was filled with such pride that she was barely able to absorb any of the content, focused on the beauty of his voice and the courtly nature of his demeanor. He closed the book and sat down. She wanted to applaud, but years of propriety prevented such an unacceptable gesture.

Then he did something strange. He spoke again. Usually the reading would conclude the presentation. He told the gathered that today the scripture had been fulfilled in their presence and in their ears. Disruption. It made her nervous when he did such things. Ever since he had been a boy, he had found many moments to grant her pride–but occasionally came up with that bizarre thought that she would have to ponder in her heart.

The people were impressed with his speaking. He continued. He told them that they probably wanted him to share his work in Nazareth as he had in Capernaum, but that “a prophet had no honor in his own country.” He continued by saying that in the days of Elijah there were many widows in Israel who were in need of provision, but God sent Elijah to a Gentile instead. He also said that God did the same thing by ignoring the lepers of Israel and healing a Syrian named Naman.

Mother Mary became more nervous. It seemed that her eldest was trying to incite the gathered and taunt them. Her instincts bore out–because they rose up as a mob, took him outside the city, intending to throw him off the cliff onto the rocks below. How had it gone so wrong? she thought. He escaped through the crowd and continued his work.

It seemed that she was never able to connect with him. Even though she had birthed him and raised him, he had reached a point in his life when his choices had to be his own and his mission born of his spirit alone. Every time she tried to be mother to him, her offerings were rejected. Once, at a wedding feast in Cana, she encouraged him to use his gifts. He pushed her away. She also heard that strange things were going on in his work and she feared for his sanity. So she sent the older children out to bring him home–and he told the crowd that his mother, brothers and sisters were anyone who did the will of his father.

That hurt. A mother wants to know that her son loves her, but also that her influence continues. Matter of fact, throughout his life and work, to some degree they remained estranged. She had to learn what every mother does–that even though you carry your children in your womb, and you wean them, caress them and love them, and your instincts tell you to encourage them but keep them close to your home, still, there comes a time to let them go, maintain a presence of each of them in your in your heart–and step away.

But to her credit, rather than alienating herself and becoming hopelessly offended, she stayed with him. She stayed with him when the tide of public opinion turned against him and he was executed. She remained, along with several other women, to attend to his needs on a Sunday morning, when burial was required, and she was there when the tomb was empty and her eldest son rose from the dead.

She was so glad that on that very strange day of a mother’s pride, back in Nazareth, when the crowd rejected her child, that she didn’t follow in their footsteps. Because being a good mother is understanding that you have birthed a child for the entire world–and for God’s pleasure. Somewhere on the journey, he iwll need to separate and find his way.

Mary was an intelligent woman  and an excellent mother. She let Jesus go, to be who he was supposed to be, making sure that she never broke their bond.


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Voices… January 9, 2012


Honk-honk. Changing lanes on the freeway, you are suddenly cut off by the car behind you, which ends up in a barrage of honking horns. A flurry of anger–and a voice inside you expressing your will. What is that voice? What jumps to the forefront during the selection process of our reactions? We have two voices–one we were born with and one we learned. They vie for audience in our heart and soul and try to fill the amphitheater of our minds with the preferred profile for every situation.

One is anger; one is fear.

There are probably those who would disagree with me, but I believe we are born with anger. The possessiveness that a tiny child demonstrates when given a toy and merely asked to share it with a playmate certainly demonstrates a bit of rage. It is the jungle juice in us of our more animalistic aspects rising to the forefront to secure our preservation in all situations. Of course, we aren’t in the jungle anymore–but that doesn’t mean that our primal instincts are not present, always jockeying for power.

The other voice in us is fear. Some individuals would considerate it the temperate part of our nature, preventing anger from taking over. But just because the voice of fear is more timid does not mean it lacks ferocity.

The voice of anger within says, “They cheated you! Get them!” The voice of fear says, “They cheated you! Be careful! They could be dangerous, so find a way to cheat them back.”

It is not a pleasant system–and those who promote humans as merely being part of the “jungle of life,” or extol the value of restraint without truly having a redeeming mentality, basically leave us destitute of any virtue, imprisoned by our instincts.

I want to hear the voice of God. It is not some booming baritone speaking from a burning bush. Rather, Jesus tells me that the Kingdom of God is within me and if I have sought out that Kingdom in my life, I can trust that the voice speaking inside me is coming from my Creator. Can we trust it? How do we know that the voices of anger and fear have been dispelled and replaced with the voice of the Kingdom? How can we begin to have faith in ourselves to hear better ideas coming from our inner parts and know that they’re born of the Spirit instead of swinging from trees or filled with trepidation from our insecurities?

There is one way to guarantee the voice of God in your heart–a single path that will allow you the confidence to trust what you hear from within as being God-spawned. Anger and fear leave quickly when one action is taken by the human being: practice telling the truth.

It doesn’t come naturally. Both anger and fear demand a certain amount of lying to sustain their existence. Anger has to blame someone else for everything and fear has to develop a story line to escape notice. Finding true spirituality and a voice of the Kingdom of God within you really is a simple matter–practice telling the truth. And I use the word “practice” because by the time it is needful to tell the truth, if you haven’t been exercising yourself in that direction, the voices of anger and fear will take over and assimilate misinformation. Yes–anger and fear love to lie.

But Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.”  And the evidence of that is simply applied by trusting yourself and your heavenly Father to handle all situations when the truth is brought forth.


Someone asks you how many cans of soup you have in the cupboard, go count them and give an accurate number. If you are questioned on whether you performed a task, speak forth the truth. Don’t say you did and then scurry off to get it done. Because the thing that you and I want above all else is to trust that the voice within us is coming from the Kingdom within us, which is linked to God being within us.

It isn’t a matter of prayer and Bible study. Some of the worst liars who ever lived quoted scripture. It’s about practicing telling the truth. And when the truth is established as a supremacy in your being, it will make you free. Free to do what? Trust your voice. Free to believe that what you hear to do is God instead of pent-up anger and frustrated fear.

Many evangelicals believe that God speaks to us through the Bible, but words of truth cannot live in a vessel of lies. Many more liberal theologians think that God speaking to humans is a bit ridiculous. But the power of spirituality is that it’s within us, not located in a book or a building. To achieve that, truth must be trusted.

Do you want to hear the voice of God? Practice telling the truth–and the Kingdom of God is within you.

You may think it’s implausible for any mortal to be so forthcoming, but it’s like everything else in life. Start with the small things and when the big things come, there will be a history of doing it right. Do I always tell the truth? No. But when I don’t, it’s difficult for me to trust the voice within. But when I know I have a clean heart within myself and those around me, I have secured a home for righteousness–and my voice inside is much clearer and more expansive.

Voices. There are three: anger, fear and the Kingdom.

And to gain the Kingdom voice, all you have to do is practice telling the truth–and it will make you free.


Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:


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