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Introspective Sojourner

The journey inward following Christ’s path to that person I was uniquely created to be.

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mercy

Make America Kind Again

We’re expert judges. Shows like So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing With The Stars, American Idol, The Voice have given us years of experience and a feeling that we’re entitled to notice the mistakes of others. We have no problem, even though we are not in the industries discussing how a contestant is a little “pitchy”.  It’s easy to walk right on passed the line and declare a song or a dance a disaster, as if we could easily do better. Over a decade of judges like Simon Cowell and their harsh comments have desensitized us and sometimes find their way into our own words or at least our thoughts. We easily compare two dancers, singers and even songwriters now, forgetting that each person has their own gifts and strengths.

I can’t throw the first stone. As I have learned what the judges are looking for I now spot those tiny imperfections and jump to give my opinion to those watching with me. Not that I could ever dance or sing at those levels. I dismiss their hard work and dedication and the situation these reality shows have put them in as if it’s an easy undertaking.

Social media is not much different. We judge politicians, and even the general public without knowing these people at all. Sure some of us are very informed, but all of our life experiences and those things we hold dear color our perception of them. Words are taken out of context and compared with something someone else says. And for some unknown reason we have decided it’s fine for us to judge even common people we’ve never met. We make meme’s of silly pictures, ridiculing them. I can count myself among those who quickly share. I do enjoy a good chuckle. 

When social media first took off we were more careful, cautious with our words. We didn’t get into lengthy discussions with others of issues, some of which, don’t really mean that much to us. We simply get caught up in the conversation. Bullying on the internet is a well reported phenomenon and perhaps many of us have found ourselves on one side or the other of biting comments. We know better. We don’t treat each other this way in person. We’re much more apt to hold our tongue when we disagree face to face. Or maybe that’s just me. Little by little we slide. Little by little we change the line of what’s acceptable – so that we no longer expect people to be good citizens, kind and polite. We shrug off bad days and laugh when we feel like “what a B*!ch I was”. Little by little, that becomes the norm. Our language slightly looser than it was a decade ago. We’re actually impressed when someone is a decent human being. Suddenly they’re considered a hero. Someone who kindly brings a meal to the homeless, or helps a child with their bike chain. These are no longer common place and so, now, we consider them special for being so kind.

It didn’t happen all at once. The slip was slow and constant. I have seen the change in myself. In my expectations, my language and my actions. It’s easy to shrug them off instead of being saddened by the change, or embarrassed. It’s not really embarrassing anymore, if everyone around you is the same, is it? Or is that just me.

For me it’s time to turn around. Start the walk back up that slope. Be intentional about acts of kindness. Put others before myself – at least as often as I put myself first. It’s time to take my standards and place them somewhere above my expectations, not below. I’m only one. I can’t change anyone else’s mind. I can’t drag people up the hill with me. But I can openly admit I’m turning around, so at very least there are others out there who might question me if they find me heading back down. Accountability. I need that and if you find yourself on the other end of my unkindness – feel free to point that out. Because I want those standards of years gone by, and if my actions or my words might inspire you to join me – even better.

Today perhaps America or even the world is the tiniest bit kinder because I made that choice.

 

Written By

Vicki L. Pugliese

Stand and Face the Garden

Don’t rush me to the empty tomb! Don’t skip too quickly from His triumphant entry into the City to His glorious resurrection. I understand the significance. I understand how amazing both are. I am in awe of Palm Sunday. The beauty and celebration of our King entering Jerusalem. It is without a doubt an amazing story, from the donkey being exactly where it was supposed to be (Matthew 21:2) to the celebration of the crowd that would turn on Him in just a precious few days (Matthew 27:22). What disturbs me is when people jump from Happy Palm Sunday to Happy Easter. Wait a minute. You skipped a beat.

Where did my Garden go? I need my time in the Garden! Where did Good Friday go? Where is my dark weekend? I actually need that time.
Our church has a Maundy Thursday service. It is my second favorite service next to the candlelight Christmas Eve service. I even prefer it over Easter. I find I need a Maundy Thursday service to keep my year in balance. It’s a dark service which ends quietly and reverently. It leaves you in that evening place, with Christ facing the weekend to come. It has one rule… all of the music is in a minor key. I didn’t realize it had this rule until someone played a happy song. Apparently I am pretty fastidious about that rule. Don’t rush me to the empty tomb, let me linger in the darkness of the evening.

I don’t like to be rushed through the weekend without sufficient time in the Garden. I have to face the reality of my own selfishness, my own failures. Like Peter, I am sure that even if my Master begged me, I would have failed Him. (Matthew 26:36-45) I would have failed to see the magnitude of the moment until after it passed.

Without proper time in the Garden I think too highly of myself. I afford myself grace too easily or, the most egregious of all, I would allow myself mercy as if bearing the Cross was easy. I will sanitize the weekend if we skip from Palm Sunday to Easter without a second thought; happy to happy. I need time to remember the amazing and scandalous gift that was given to me. I need time to add weight to all of it, including my culpability in the matter… again. I need time for it to break my heart. There will be another year of sin that Christ has paid for, much to my dismay. There is another year to lay at his feet in sorrow.

Now I will be the first one to fall for Satan’s tricks and try and pick up the prior year’s sin. I know I should not touch that. Christ remembers it no more (Hebrews 8:12). He removes our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:12). That sin is paid for, dwelling on it, adding shame and guilt serves no one but the enemy. Now if the Holy Spirit is asking me to repent of an ongoing sin or I need to ask someone for forgiveness, that is different, but shame and guilt are tools of the enemy. He is just trying to weaken the most amazing gift that has ever been given. If he can add a little guilt, perhaps it will tarnish that gift a little. I sometimes have to work hard to not allow Satan to diminish all that has been done for me. This weekend is about facing new sins. Hopefully not sins which are chronic ones.

I need time in the Garden to right my heart. I need to face the dark and scary side of the Garden to see that it is also filled with love. I need to face that horrifying and brutal Cross to see that it carries mercy and grace. I need to look into that final resting place and face death to see that Christ had the last Word and it was love. I have to see His isolation, betrayal and how He bore my sins. I have to stand and face the weekend, the Cross, the Tomb, and all that it has to offer. I have to un-sanitize the horror so I can fully appreciate the beauty.

Then, and only then, I am ready to celebrate on Easter. Then and only then am I ready to say…

He is risen. He is risen indeed!

By Vicki L. Pugliese

Broken Dreams

I imagine his total devastation.  This man who was so easily the first to lend a hand, the first to do his masters will.  I imagine his total heartbreak and bewilderment.  “How could this be happening?!!”  His confusion and disappointment only surpassed by one other.  He must have stood and watched from a distance.  Scared.  Surely something miraculous is going to occur!  This can’t be how it ends!

Peter must have wept as they took his savior down off of the cross.  I imagine so wrapped up in his confusion that he must have watched.  Just in case.  But not too close!

He had denied Christ, just as he said he would.  He failed the man he loved in the garden in His last moments here on earth.  Jesus begged them to pray and they fell asleep.  They failed to see the significance.  They wanted to build an altar.  He was rebuked for cutting off an ear.  He had been so wrong.  Why was it ending like this?

Just a week ago Peter had walked beside Jesus, one of the chosen twelve as they laid palms before him.  Peter had visions of Jesus the King, the Messiah.  He had dreams of freedom from Rome.  He didn’t understand it all but he had such a different picture of Jesus coming into His kingdom!

He saw the miracles and wonders.  He knew Jesus had the power of God.  He saw Lazerus be raised from the dead!  Peter himself had walked on water. His heart must have crumbled trying to understand why Jesus allowed Himself to be beaten and hung on a cross.  Surely Jesus had the power to call down Angels!  Surely He had the power to begin His kingdom right here, right now!  Peter must have been completely lost.

Here is the man Peter adored, knows to be the Messiah.  Peter knows he betrayed and failed Jesus.  And he isn’t even present as He dies.  This horrible, painful, shame filled death and Peter is not beside Mary and John.  He isn’t strong enough.

Peter was supposed to be important.  One of the twelve.  How can they be lowering Jesus from the cross?

To be known for your epic highs, first off the boat, first to swear you’d never leave Christ.  Peter the ever willing, ever eager heart.  This is the heart that must have been most broken and afraid the night Christ died.  This is the heart that must have been deepest in despair.  Peter pained by his own shortcomings and betrayal.

How did this heart that was the lowest of lows become the man on which Christ built His church on?  How does this man become the Rock?  How does this man endure a life on the edge, willing to lay it down for his savior at any moment?  How does he become a man willing to go to prison, endure ridicule and beatings?  How does this man who is missing at the moment of Christ’s death, go on to martyrdom even upside down on a cross of his own?

Because Jesus, his Messiah, the King of Kings, his Lord and Saviour…  Came Back!

And that changed… Everything!!

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