Fragrance of Faith

Fig tree
…figs just plucked from the tree…

Take a breath and smell this . . .

Fresh-mowed grass.

Bread baked in an oven.

A skunk in your neighborhood.

A rotten egg, diesel engine, or spoiled milk.

A puppy’s breath, orange blossoms, or a Christmas tree.

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There was that time when Jesus ate dinner at Lazarus’ home. What if they’d shared fresh baked bread, grilled lamb, figs just plucked from the tree, and pomegranates with red, sweet juice dribbling down chins? Can you smell the feast?

Were any doors and windows open? Did a gust of wind deliver the aroma of a nearby orchard? Were flowers blooming by the entry? Had Lazarus’ neighbor spent the day pressing new oil from harvested olives? Do you feast in the smells?

Jesus’ disciples crowded into the room. Judas fingered the bag of coins. Peter longed for his family. Thomas ate too much. Matthew told a convoluted story about a tax dodger from Galilee. All of them were road weary and sweat-stained. They couldn’t recall their last bath. Continue reading →

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The Fifth Voice

RembrandtPlease complete the quiz below on Jesus’ familiar Parable of the Prodigal Son.

(ALERT: this is not an open book test. Keep Bibles Closed. Only give answers based on prior reading or your random, desperate guesses.)

1. Circle how many characters speak in the parable:

1     2      3      4      5

2. Where is this Parable found (check all that apply):

___ John’s Gospel

___ In other families

___ Luke’s Gospel

___ Only way back then

___ Mark’s Gospel

___ In my family

___ Matthew’s Gospel

3. Though known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, a better title for this story might be: (choose one answer)

___ The Dysfunctional Family

___ Don’t Judge Me Until You Walk A Mile in My First Century Sandals

___ Unforgiving Jerk of An Older Son

___ (bonus point) Your title suggestion: _______________

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In his insightful 2004 book The Four Things That Matter Most, hospice physician Ira Byock wrote, “I have long thought that the phrase dysfunctional family is redundant.” After reflecting on Jesus’ The Dysfunctional Family parable for the 4th Sunday of Lent, I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Byock. Continue reading →

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Don’t Fence Me In

Pondering walls in the age of Trump is a fool’s quest. Foolish I am.

Since reading a letter-to-the-editor in my local paper, I can’t not respond. This was in the Fresno Bee’s March 11, 2019 edition:

“I’m wondering: Would all those who are so against a wall/fence of some kind on our southern border be willing to take down any wall/fence they may have around their own personal residence so that anyone could wander in ‘at will’ and do ‘whatever’ on their property — and ask to be fed, clothed, housed, and medicated by that home owner?

“Why should we do that with our country?”

This represents one of many letters (and blogs, tweets, videos, etc.) comparing a nation’s border to a fence around a personal residence. Does that analogy work for you?

It doesn’t for me.

*      *      *

As with most homes in my suburban neighborhood, I have a fence. In the twenty plus years I’ve lived on this property, I’ve repaired or replaced nearly every stretch of the fences shared with four different neighbors. While sturdy, and about six feet high, they do fall apart. Fences are relatively easy to build, but require periodic (and maybe pricey) maintenance.

And they don’t keep my neighbors out! Continue reading →

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