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His eyelids, suddenly heavy, fell shut. Inside his mind, he felt a thick curtain fall, muffling the sound around him. My sins…are forgiven. Forgiven? Wiped out? In stunning succession, images whirled past his mind’s eye: a willful boy, a prideful young man, a demanding friend, an angry husband, a harsh father. Then the accident, and bitterness cloaking the will, the pride, the harsh anger, holding it all in to fester and turn to despair. My sins, yes.

All at once he noticed the quiet in the room, not a peaceful stillness, but a tense waiting, underscored with a buzz of murmuring voices, a kind of hissing disapproval. What were they waiting for, he wondered? Was he supposed to speak, to testify?

He opened his eyes, eager now to look at that Face again, and to heard the Voice. But the Face was gone. Instead, far above, the four friends still hung over the roof hole, staring and silent, seeming…sad. Disappointed.

Oh! They think their effort was for nothing! But He knew what I needed. Forgiveness. Yes. I can go home in peace now. All is well.

Then from somewhere over his head he heard it again, that One who had spoken forgiveness to him. “Why are you thinking these things?”

He started, straining his eye balls to find the Face. Was He talking to me? Does He know my thoughts? Why were they wrong?

“Which is easier?” the Voice continued. “To say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat and walk home’?” No one answered Him. Huh. That’s a good question. Both are impossible, I’d say. But…He did forgive me, I’m sure of it. I feel it. So then…

The Voice was still speaking, “But so you know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins…”

The Face swam into his sight again, smiling. Gentle hands moved purposefully near his waist. The same calm, commanding Voice spoke again. “Go on. Get up on your feet, take your mat and go home now.” The Man glanced up at the four gaping friends with a last smile and nod, then he apparently moved away.

The paralyzed man lay still, but the stillness was different now, he could sense it. He took a deep breath, filling his lungs, once…twice…three times. Lord, I believe, he thought.

And he sat up.

At once there was a new murmur of amazement. But no one moved. The anticipation hung as heavy in the air as smoke in a windowless room.

He continued to breathe, slow and deep. He noticed that the straps hung loose. The Man had untied them for him. Then, with careful deliberation, he bent his knees. Smiling, he braced himself with his arms, and clambered to his feet, a little stiff, but standing nonetheless.

Now he was grinning, and above him he could hear laughter and clapping, then the scurry of feet as his friends scrambled down the ladder from the roof.

Bending down, he grasped the edge of the pallet which had seemed a prison. He lifted it with one hand and straightened again, caught between giddy laughter and sudden tears.

He took one step, then two, and the crowd’s amazed murmur swelled to cheering and shouting. “Hallelu-Yah! Praise to the Almighty One! He has done great things!”

He continued to move, with more confidence now, and found himself face to face with the Stranger, who just smiled. His own eyes watery, he opened his mouth to say, Thank you. But no sound came. Even so, it seemed the Man could read the gratitude in his eyes. Nodding once more, He turned towards the door. Four scruffy men had muscled through the crowd and stood there now, silently joyful.

The man who had been paralyzed, still dragging the useless mat, walked toward them. And then all five friends moved slowly through the reverent crowd who parted to watch them go, walking toward the sunset with strong and steady tread.

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Hadn’t heard this song in a long time. Seemed like a good prayer for today.

Walter Bright

With every breath I breathe
I sing a simple melody
But I pray they’ll hear more than a song

Lyric/Prayer

Take away the melodies
Take away the songs I sing
Take away all the lights
And all the songs You let me write
Does the man I am today
Say the words You need to say?
Let them see You in me
Let them hear You when I speak
Let them feel You when I sing
Let them see You

This is my prayer this week – that I will decrease and Christ will increase in me. That His light may shine through me. So that it is no longer I, but Christ living in me.

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Here are some excellent books to read, at Lent or any time of year:

Two Heads are Better Than One

godsbooklover-gravatar991 This Lenten season, I’m taking a moment in this mid-week slot to recommend resources for spiritual growth. Previous suggestions have included a news periodical with a Christian worldview, and a collection of prayers written hundreds of years ago.

Today I turn to my favorite medium, books–real, hold-in-your-hand books. I have three from my personal library in front of me; each offers a somewhat different approach to spiritual formation.

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Me I Want to Be coverThe most recent addition is by an author I have enjoyed in the past, John Ortberg. His 2010 book, The Me I Want To Be, is written with his signature blend of pithy anecdote, biblical insight and practical teaching points, complete with helpful call-out frames (or whole pages) which provide overview or outline of his main points. Its design is eye-catching and its format makes it very readable. Here’s an excerpt from one sidebar titled “What is Spiritual…

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valley photoI discovered a marvelous prayer resource recently, thanks to an online devotional over at another WordPress site, 843 Acres, part of the The Park Forum, an urban ministry in New York City.  It is a volume of prayers written a couple of hundred years ago. I’ve found it under the title The Valley of Vision.
However, since it’s not in my local library, and costs a bit more online than I wanted to pay, I started looking for other volumes of Puritan Prayer and found an e-version online for about a dollar. It appears to have all the same prayers in it.

When I say they are profound, thoroughly biblical and deeply moving, I feel I am still not doing them justice. So I’m going to reproduce one here–partly for the sheer privilege of typing it out. I was particularly taken with this one because it ties in with my Lenten blog today over at Two Heads are Better Than One. But since I tend only to reblog in this space lately, I thought it might be nice to put something different here for a change. Here is the prayer entitled “Morning Dedication”. I have added paragraphs and updated the spelling.

“Almighty God, as I cross the threshold of this day I commit myself, soul, body, affairs, friends, to Thy care. Watch over, keep, guide, direct, sanctify, bless me. Incline my heart to Thy ways. Mold me wholly into the image of Jesus, as a potter forms clay. May my lips be a well-tuned harp to sound Thy praise. Let those around see me living by Thy Spirit, trampling the world underfoot, unconformed to lying vanities, transformed by a renewed mind, clad in the entire armor of God, shining as a never-dimmed light, showing holiness in all my doings.

Let no evil this day soil my thoughts, words, hands. May I travel miry paths with a life pure from spot or stain. In needful transactions let my affection be in heaven, and my love soar upwards in flames of fire, my gaze fixed on unseen things, my eyes open to the emptiness, fragility, mockery of earth and its vanities. May I view all things in the mirror of eternity, waiting for the coming of my Lord, listening for the last trumpet call, hastening unto the new heaven and earth.

Order this day all my communications according to Thy wisdom, and to the gain of mutual good. Forbid that I should not be profited or made profitable. May I speak each word as if my last word, and walk each step as my final one. If my life should end today, let this be my best day.” 

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The Thread of Faith

Two Heads are Better Than One

Princess illus1 “May I feel the thread?” asked Curdie.

“Here it is,” said Irene, guiding his fingers to where she was holding the thin, shimmering strand.

“I feel nothing!” he exclaimed.

Irene looked at him, sad and solemn. “And so you still do not believe me. But I do feel it. And aren’t you glad? I found you in that cave, and brought you out, and I couldn’t have done it without the thread.”

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Scene from all for One's production, 2/6/14. Scene from all for One’s production (2/6/14)

Sometime later, Irene led Curdie to see her great-great grandmother. But Curdie could neither see nor hear her. Sure that Irene was mocking, he stormed off home. “I’m obliged to you for getting me out of that hole, Princess. But I wish you hadn’t made a fool of me afterwards!”

“What does it all mean, Grandmother?” sobbed Irene.

“It means, my love, that Curdie is not yet able to…

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It’s still cold, and getting colder…glad we have plenty of stories on hand!

Two Heads are Better Than One

It’s been a long month. Bitter cold and snow on snow have cancelled classes and events, leaving us huddled in our houses for days on end. And what better way to pass the time than with story?

Our granddaughter has just fallen in love with one of my favorite fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast, and has been let’s-pretending it all day long, for days now. I am startled to find she knows snatches of dialogue by heart, and is singing along on key…just past her third birthday, she seems to have made a quantum leap forward.

Beauty and BeastI’m pleased that she has taken to a story which involves a loving father, a beautiful act of sacrificial love, and a relationship which isn’t based on good looks. Add to that a heroine who loves to read–it’s perfect! I know Lucy is probably not reacting to all these positive character qualities…

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Seems to be as much as I can manage to write ONE blog post per week, so I’m posting it here, too. Some day maybe I’ll have enough time and energy to write separate material for Winnowing..

Two Heads are Better Than One


“Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.”
 Mark 4:7 ESV

thorns

The parable was referenced in a book on fasting. A book I’ve read multiple times. And of course it’s a parable I’ve read dozens of times. But a little voice in my head whispered, “I think I’m living in the thorns.”

I ignored it.

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