Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Giving Thanks Always

Ten voices shouting with pleas for mercy, for a touch from the miracle worker.  All of them outcasts and allowed no human contact other than among themselves.  A band of brothers, united by disease. Race, enemy boundaries and class were dissolved as basic needs for survival and support melded them together. Now they dared hope that this Jesus prophet would take up their cause.

Jesus hears them, and calls out to them to go to the priest.  Knowing the law required a priest's examination to be pronounced healed, they go with flickering hope in their hearts.  On the way, each one senses the wounds sealing up, the disfigurements smoothing into normalcy and the joy welling up from a reservoir they thought would never fill again.  Laughter and tears filled the priest's office that day as he struggled to finish the exams in the midst of the uproar.

After the ten were free to go, I wonder if they hurried to family or worried about where to go next.  Did they feel any loyalty to try and stay in touch with each other? What former forbidden activity would they engage in first?

Only one thought to return to Jesus and offer thanks.  He was the foreigner, the one who knew rejection because of origin, not just the shunning from an unclean body. He had reason to be grateful. And when he knelt there at the feet of the healer, he received the blessing of knowing his faith had brought salvation.  He was restored not just in body, but soul as well.

I like this quote by commentator, Matthew Henry.
-“Temporal mercies are then doubled and sweetened to us when they are fetched in by the prayers of faith, and returned by the praises of faith.”

As Jesus highlights the importance of thanksgiving, I'm reminded to live in greater gratitude for his amazing gifts to me- salvation, mercy and goodness that follows me, the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide me, His presence living in me... Expressing that appreciation doesn't always come naturally; I make it intentional in listening to worship music or recounting the blessings in each day as I lay my head down at night. 

A story is told of Matthew Henry when his wallet was stolen.  That night he wrote in his diary what
he was thankful for:
-that he had never been robbed before
-that his life had been spared in the robbery
-that his wallet didn’t have much money in it
-and that he was the one robbed and not the one robbing!

Sharing Christ's goodness with others pays the thanks forward. I am more aware of ways to thank others for their gifts to me.  Handwritten cards cheer any mailbox contents. How about this idea I read recently?

A man gave his wife a journal for Christmas.  She was chagrined as she didn’t like to journal and knew she would never make use of it. Then she noticed that the journal was dated for the previous year and the entries where already filled in.  Her husband had written 365 things he had noticed or observed about his wife, one for each day of the year, that he was thankful for or appreciated about her. 

Anyone want to join me in this way of saying thanks to a spouse?  Shh...It's the surprise factor that makes this gift special.

In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. I Thes. 5:18.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Book Review-The Centurion

"Then these words, these very seditious words, stole past his lips. 'Surely this was the son of God.'"

The Centurion from the Biblical account who uttered these words at Jesus' crucifixion is our main character in this book by Ken Gire. Gire writes the story from a Roman view point, creating Lucius Alexander Titus as a courageous leader in the Roman army who aspires for higher service to the emperor and the glory of Rome. The unusual circumstances of the crucifixion drives him to know more about Jesus and his followers.  He also sees a woman there whom he once met before, Mary Magdala. When he discovers the group of believers he apologizes for his part in Jesus' death and spends time mingling from them and learning to know them and more about their God.  When he makes his feelings of love known to Mary, she acknowledges her mutual feelings but refuses to allow a relationship between them. Jesus is her first love, she is committed to working in the Kingdom of God, she doesn't have time for a love affair because Jesus will be returning soon and Lucius' love would be a distraction.

Lucius is crushed and angry.  Duty calls him to another region and, except for letters Lucius sends her, he and Mary have no further contact,until later in the story.  There are ongoing glimpses of Mary's life and her sadness in missing Lucius, but she has chosen to stay true to her cause. 

Much of the story tells of Lucius' battle forays and his eventual disillusionment with the Roman empire.  There are many scenes of violence portrayed rather graphically.  While Lucius doesn't hold allegiance to the gods of Rome, like most of his fellow soldiers, neither does he ever have a defining experience of becoming a Christ follower.  He makes a difficult choice in the end of the story that could possibly be interpreted as a conversion, but I wasn't convinced.  The last scene in the book is very moving, so don't read the end of the book first if you want to experience the unexpected ending.

While the book held my interest, I would have liked more character development and less battle descriptions.  The author shows his word skills well in describing his settings. If tempted to skim these details, I was always rewarded by noticing closely,  the interesting word structures chosen to describe the imagery.

The last 55 pages of the book are in a section called "Sources".  The author includes these notes, full of other resources and information,  to give the reader more background on the history of the era and the lives of the characters.  He also hopes to give encouragement to writers by sharing some of his creative processes and how he arrived at some of his decisions in writing the story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.