Sunday, April 20

Why I Praise Jesus

On Palm Sunday, as we now call it, when Jesus rode a donkey and everyone threw down their coats along the path, or waved palm branches over his head, or whatever they did to show His worth, while they sang His praises, the Pharisees saw this and asked Jesus to rebuke his disciples. And what did He say?

Luke 19:40 (NASB) "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!"

I do not know about you, but when I get up in the morning, roll out of bed and my feet hit the floor, the first thing that can be heard (other than Lance's excited patter of feet that I am getting up to let him outside for a break), is usually "Uh." It's a groan as pressure hits my knees from standing on my feet. Or, if Lance is truly silent, a person would hear the "snap, crackle, pop," of those said knees. Maybe a hip, or ankle, too.

Mornings are not a pleasant thing for me. No matter how congenial my joints might be, I am not a very good morning person. Forget the whole joke of needing coffee before talking, I need it to be noon before talking.

To be cheerful before noon. To be ready, awake, and "talkie", in any capacity, requires thought and effort, sometimes even the night before as I mentally prepare myself and physically set the alarm clock. (I definitely cannot do spontaneous mornings).

But then I get asked, how I can say such a thing when I am all smiles, laughter, and perhaps even fun whenever someone sees me, even if it is an early morningbefore noonlike on Sundays?

Romans 8 refers to creation groaning, as it waits for the coming of our Lord.

Yeah, I know. I am weird. But I would rather step out in faith that it will be a beautiful day and sing His praises, then to sit unhappily and let my joints be the only noise He hears coming from my place.

Not to mention, every time I make a groan, I mentally hear that verse in my head and think that the last thing I would want would be to start hearing things…like the rocks littering the path to the road, to cry out His name. Or my joints to groan all the louder, just so He would hear something. Anything.

Another thing I have learned about faith. It requires stepping out. When I sing His praises, it is not always about feeling it, it is simply about stating it.

I do not know if you have noticed, but smiles are as contagious as a yawn. Even if I do not feel like smiling as I pass a stranger on the road, if I smile, the smile is rarely NOT returned. And the cool thing I have discovered is that when it is returned, suddenly mine feels bigger, fuller, and genuine, even if it did not before.

I have found that praise works like that too. The more I praise Him, no matter how I really feel, the more feeling is put onto the back burner and the more praise becomes genuine. The more I want to sing His praise from the proverbial rooftops, and not because I have to or need to, but truly, truly, want to!

It's contagious, people! So come on, join in…before the rocks take your place!

Today is Easter! What better day to make a joyful noise unto the Lord, to shout His praises, and sing our thanks, then on the day that death died and we were redeemed?!


Today is Easter and all I can think about is death.

If death can have a non-morbid side, let me clarify that I am not thinking of the morbid kind. (I am NOT suicidal).

Did you not hear? Today is Easter! The day we celebrate Jesus' death and resurrection, the death of death, the life of Love, and our redemption!

Twenty-odd years ago (OK, going on thirty-years, but who's counting?) I almost died. Twice. I was three years old. And again, a few months later when I was about four years old.

When asked those crazy questions by friends, "how would you rather die, by such-and-such or this-and-such?" My answer has always been "as quickly as possible! Definitely not drowning!"

Dying can be scary. Laying there gasping for air, fighting to live, fearful that I would not be able to take another breath. That nobody was truly listening, or could help me, even as the EMTs worked frantically over my little body as they quickly took me to the nearest hospital.

Dying might be scary, but death is not.

I could care less about pearly gates or golden roads, to me heaven is Jesus. I get to sit on my Daddy-God's lap, bury my face in his chest, in a never-ending hug. Literally, never-ending! What could be better than that?

Whether I died, or just almost died as a child, what I remember is a lot bigger than just those two minutes of fear and gasping for air.

My mom will say that I had been having problems breathing, and so at night she and Dad would check on me. Regularly. Dad will say that some nights he even slept in my doorway, just so if I suddenly went silent, he would know and be right there.

Then one night, I did. I fell silently. Mom says she ran to the phone and called 911 and Dadbecause we lived in a little apartment on a college campussays he ran outside to wave the ambulance down when it came.

But what I remember is a completely different story then what my parents will tell. I remember walking out of my bedroom, standing beside my mother as she was on the phone, and shortly after my dad left to hail the ambulance, when another man entered our apartment. He stopped in front of me, knelt down, and as He held my hand, he told me what was going on.

I could hear myself cough from behind me, back in my bedroom as my body gasped for breath, and slept on…and yet, I stood in the dining room, listening to this man tell me that Mom was calling for help for me and that I needed to go back to bed for the time being. I remember reluctantly heading back to my room.

Later, once the ambulance came, and I was in it, I vaguely remember waking up and gasping for air…

But the rest. The blanks between heading to my room and the beginning of the ambulance ride, or between that moment of gasping for air in the ambulance and waking up MUCH later in the hospital (I think it was about a day later). Are things that I am not sure I could ever explain. Or understand. And some of it, sadly, is locked in my memory where even I barely catch glimpses of it.

I remember mostly feeling peace. I remember holding Jesus' hand throughout it all. I remember, when needed, as we looked down through the tree tops, or through the rooftop and into the hospital, He would explain a little about what was going on. But mostly, I just remember holding His hand, sitting beside Him, and knowing no fear, no pain, nothing evil. Only peace. And love.

I have a deep, abiding, friendship with Jesus to this day. And I attribute it back to that day, to the day He held my hand.

I know He will never leave me, nor forsake me.

I know He loves me, even unto death.

I know death will never separate us.

I know He is, and always will be, my best friend forever.

Nobody, no matter how crazy they might say I am from the stories I share or the things I have seen, heard, or done, either past or present, can ever take away what we have, together. Because that day, He showed me things that have no words, or earthly equal.

But if I had to explain it, I would say He showed me that day what Love truly is. What He truly is.

And that knowledge (if one can call it that), can never be taken away.

All I know is that every day, I want more. I want to spend more time with Him. Do more for Him.

No matter how little, or seemingly inconsequentialbecause mobility does limit or tire me some daysnothing can separate us. And nothing else can fill His place in my heart, my being.

I do not know how to really explain it. I just know.


And in the end, that is the biggest reason I sing His praises.

Because He gave so much, so that I could have so little (in comparison). And yet, that little, seems like so much because He gave it. And yet, it seems like nothing compared to my longing for more. Of Him.

It is as though the day of my dying, was the day our friendship began.

I was "saved" when I was about three years old. And while I do not know if I was saved before or after my dying, I do know this…

It is as though the day of my dying, was the day He reached out. He started it. And I would be remiss if I did not accept it, return it, finish it, hold his hand back. Whatever, you will.

I will forever be eternally grateful to Him. For His death, His reaching out, Him, always and forever standing by my side.

As I child I used to "witness" to others by telling them: "People might say He died to save us from sin, but I say He died so we could be best friends. And He is one friend I know will never leave me, never forsake me, is always by my side. And that is why I think everyone should 'accept' Him into their 'hearts', so they can have a friend such as Him! I know for a fact I would not be alive today, if not for Him; He truly never left me!"

And that is how I still feel today.

No matter how redundantEnglish teacher-friends of mine will have a fitI will always and forever be eternally grateful to Him.

I would not be alive, today, if not for Him. And I mean that in more ways than one!

So, today, on Easter, the day we give thanks for death's death, for His resurrection, our redemption, etc, let me add to the chorus of "believers" and say "THANK YOU, LORD! I AM ETERNALLY GRATEFUL"

He alone understands what I mean when I add: "Lord, You may not understand just how grateful I am, but I am. Truly."

May the Lord's blessings be on y'all (my readers)
today as we remember why we sing His praises. Forever. Eternally.

-Hannah Joy_ous

Thursday, April 10

Lesson from Lance: Temptation

OK, in truth, this is something a person can learn from any dog during the training process.

It does not matter how well a person thinks the dog is already trained, it is always advised never to allow the dog to be tempted to do something they should not. The philosophy is "if the dog never learns it, he never will."

For instance, Service Dog, unless it becomes necessary in their training, are never taught to "shake" or offer their paw, because once one paw is the air, it is too tempting for them to try and jump up. To lift the second paw and plant kisses on the unsuspecting person's face. And, often, even if it should become important for the dogs training, it is not allowed until they have been not doing it for at least a year, and then it is brought back in as a "Cue" or something they do only when asked.

The same is true in teaching a dog to "come" or what some call "Recall", where the dog comes back to you when you ask them to, in a moments notice, no matter what fun or temptations are before them. Most trainers, I have heard, NEVER allow their dog off the leash until they have been doing "come" on cue for at least a year. And during that year, they might be allowed to get on longer and longer leashes or lines, but always, if the dog should never "come" the instant they are called, the owner/trainer has the ability to pull the dog back to them so the dog always equates the word "come" with the movement of heading back towards the person who called them.

When someone does not want the dog to enter a room, ever, for instance--I do not know why a person might allow the dog in most rooms, but not one, but this is an example--they leave the room blocked. So the dog can never enter the room. The person might also stick a foot in front of the dog or gently, with their hip or foot, nudge the dog back if it starts to cross over. Then, as the dog gets used to it and ages, even if the room is no longer blocked, the dog associates the sight of that room as "off limits." And is never tempted to try, because it was never allowed to try.

It is as though the ability to try to do something they should not has been wiped from their memory.

The owner/trainer, might click and treat for desired attitudes or actions, and block or keep the dog from trying the undesired. It does not, usually, require any sort of harsh discipline (the word itself, sadly, is often associated with the word "harsh" but it does not need to be), it simple requires that the dog is never allowed, or enabled to do the wrong, so they never learn to do it or even try it.

For instance, I have a one-year-old Newfoundland (Lance) that is laying by the front door of my apartment, because that is where he always lays and that is just his preferred place--especially when I have the heat on in the winter, because a small draft of cooler air comes under the door and keeps the linoleum cooler. But today is too sunny and nice to keep the door shut, so it is open. And while I trust him not to try and leave, even for a bathroom break, without my permission, I still have the door only half-open so a chair can sit blocking the way.

This not only keeps him from being tempted, or trying to leave without my say-so, but it teaches him that it is OK to look but don't go without checking with me first. It, of course, keeps him from ever starting the habit of running to great a stranger as they walk by, or anything else of the sort. It lets him look, lets him get to know the various changing sights and sounds, but lets him know they need to be usually kept at a distance (so when we walk together, he doesn't try to say "hi" either).

When temptation is never given the chance to be acted upon, it is never taught. Never needed to be excused ("While I did it last time, so maybe if Mom isn't looking, I could bolt again")

I think we can learn something from that.

All to often we think that the temptation is the sin. But it is the acting upon it that is the sin. And if we never act upon, we will never try. We, too, even as humans, can have our mind wiped of the idea to even try for something we should never try.

For example, did you know that scientists and statistics say that if a person never drinks alcohol before their twenty-first birthday, they probably never will?

So what are we being tempted by? And what, proverbial, chairs can we put up in the way to ensure we never look? Listen? Try?

Maybe we would never go to certain sites online, but does it hurt to put up the blocks so we are never tempted, either? Or at the least, to do so is difficult?

Writers are often taught of ways to put up blockers online, not so they won't go online, but so they won't STAY online too long. Research is something that can steal hours of a writer's time, not to mention the "mojo" they had to write that day, too. So setting hour-limits before certain sites kick a person off is a good idea. Possibly for everyone, and not just writers, especially with how addicting Facebook seems to be turning out to be for some!

So again, what might tempt you? And what can you do to ensure it can not? Does not? Or at the least, that you do not act on it...

I am pretty sure, that even though Lance would be fine without the chair blocking the door, that if he has a "Teen-dog" moment and wants to rebel, it would only take a little try of knocking the chair away and suddenly having a very unhappy mother's (mine) attention drawn to him and what he is doing, would stop him in his tracks. Not to mention, he would probably give me this sheepish/ashamed look and duck out of the way as I shut the door and we both lost the privileges of watching the outdoors for the rest of the day.

Simple. why is it sometimes so hard for us to do implement in our own lives?

Don't knock it just because "I would never!" ...lame reason....the LAST resort is to not give in to temptation. The FIRST resort should be to avoid temptation. Period. Whenever possible...