The Judas Kiss

Matthew 26:47-49. “And while He yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed Him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He: hold Him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus and said, Hail, Master: and kissed Him.”

Not too long ago, I heard this even taught including Roman centurions.  I’ve searched all four gospels, and I find no  mention of Rome at this point. This was strictly a Jewish matter  still.  No appeal to Rome was made until  the final decision was made to kill Jesus, and then the appeal was made because the Jews  did not have the right under Roman rule to perform executions without Roman sanction.

The scriptures clearly state that the crowd was made up of the people from the chief priest and elders. This was a religious matter, and of no particular interest to Rome until accusations were made that Jesus was teaching the overthrow of Rome and the setting up of His own kingdom.

The most important piece in these verses, though, is the behavior of Judas. Determined to earn his 30 pieces of silver, he had agreed with the priests and elders that the One he would greet with a kiss would be Jesus, and they were to arrest Him immediately.

How do you think Judas approached Jesus at that moment?  Was he bold, swaggering, defiant? Timid, cautious? Hesitant? Angry? Taunting?  I can’t imagine, really.  Surely he must have known that Jesus could stop him with a word or a glance.  Surely he was fearful of the reactions of the other disciples.  Was he insane? Or was he simply an evil man with an evil heart, willing to take a great risk to gain a bagful of silver coins?

He approached Jesus, kissed Him on the cheek. This was not an unusual greeting between two men in that time and place.  The greatest irony, to me, is that he then said, “Hail, Master!”

“Master”?  Really?  No, not even close.  Of course we know that Jesus was and is always the Master; however, Judas had certainly not allowed Jesus to be the Master of his own life, of his heart, of his thinking.

Bedtime Thoughts

You know, I’m sitting here at a very good computer, writing words that people can see all around the world. I have a comfortable study for my writing and other office work. I have sufficient lighting, a pretty good chair, and treasured pictures of my grandkids just above eye level. Behind me is my beautiful organ.  Beside me are my bookshelves.

Across the hall is a full bathroom with hot and cold water, a flush toilet, and a full linen closet stocked with toilet paper, an assortment of soaps, shampoos, and other products  that we deem necessities these days.

In the next room, I’m soon going to climb into my incredibly comfortable air bed, cocooned in my clean sheets and my down comforter, supplemented tonight by the quilted bedspread and an afghan I made years ago.  I will prop myself on two fat pillows and enjoy reading until I fall asleep.  Around midnight, the timer Terry attached to my bedside light with turn that light off.  I don’t even have to turn out the light, for pity’s sake!

I will sleep lulled by the wind blowing around the corners of the house, knowing it is cold and snowy out there but that it doesn’t matter because I’m safe and warm, and I’ve had enough to eat today.  More than enough.  I’ve been dressed in warm clothes, I have comfortable furniture, a Bose, a TV set, a stack of books, my knitting bag all in the living room where I spent most of the day.

My kitchen is slowly looking better all the time as Terry continues to work on the renovation. I have everything anyone could ever need.

I have a husband who loves me, and that’s saying quite a lot some days.  I have four adult children who love me.  I have nine beautiful, intelligent, talented grandchildren who seem to love me, too.  I have friends who are glad to see me, and who always have encouraging things to say.  I have a church that I’m just getting to know, but already good connections and attachments are developing there.

Do I deserve all this? No, of course not. And sometimes, when I’m tempted to take it for granted, I just have to stop and whisper a “Thank You, Lord, for all that you have given me. Thank you for safety and comfort and warmth and food and clothing and all the rest. Thank You most of all for loving me not because I am good, but because You are good.

“Thank You, Lord!”

Valentine’s Day

Music has always expressed my thoughts and feelings.  It’s no different today as I think of the greatest Lover of all time, the One Whose love was so deep and strong that He allowed Himself to be nailed to an old rugged cross in our behalf.  I’m not going to preach today, or even say a whole lot more.  I’m going to share a beautiful old song with you that expresses it far better than I ever could.

Friday Counseling Issues: When it Goes Well

Another topic suggestion from Kathleen Duncan:  What has been the most encouraging outcome you have seen in one of your cases? Pick a case you thought might never get better, but they did! What made the difference?
After  nearly 14 years in the counseling field, that’s a tough one. Since the newest memories are the freshest, I think I’ll tell you about a couple I just started seeing about a month ago.  We’ll call them  Dan and Fran.

This is funny if you’re not fighting about who does what chores, or if, for instance, the husband objects to doing any houehold chores!
This is a fairly young couple, both working at responsible jobs although not being paid as much as they’d like.  I’m not going to go into detail about their issues.  Let me just say that it was clear they had developed a habit of talking AT each other instead of WITH each other; that they had persistent habits in their efforts of communication that I have often referred to as “the crazy dance.”  It’s as if someone had choreographed their statements and responses, and they had learned the routine so well that they just didn’t know how to break it.
They’d been together for a long time, since high school.  No children.  Dogs they adore. A house that needs a LOT of work that they can’t always do without some professional help. He’s more laid-back; she’s more uptight. She’s ordered, he’s catch-as-catch can.  In terms of personality, you have a strong choleric/melancholy (Fran) married to a strong sanguine/choleric (Dan).  That’s a strong leader type, detail-oriented perfectionist with a happy, people-oriented  leader who isn’t quite as strong as she is.  He has no problem with missing a dish or two when he has kitchen duty. It drives her crazy when he doesn’t do the whole job.
Are any of you recognizing yourselves?  Most of us have this type of conflict to some degree.
To complicate matters, she was struggling with some pretty severe depression. She had medication, but wasn’t faithfully taking it. So there were all the difficulties associated with depression.
Here’s what we did:
1.  Take your meds.  You won’t sleep well or be able to function well until the fog lifts off your brain. Promise?  Yes?  Good. (She’s following through, and the difference is visible)
2.  I introduced them to one of my favorite communication techniques, called Active Listening, or Speaker/Listener.  You can learn about it here, or from hundreds of other sites if you just search “active listening.”
3.  We discussed their nonexistent sex life, and I suggested they have dates with the ultimate goal of intimacy. If you schedule it, you will think about it ahead of time.  It’s one of the best aphrodisiacs I know. (And they have to kick the dogs off the bed and out of the bedroom!  Good grief!)
I shared with them  that what they are experiencing is SO normal! I got them laughing with my own stories of fussing over different ways of folding the towels on putting the toilet paper on the spindle. How silly is it to fight over these things?  They are not the hills you want to die on! They are so insignificant that the best way to deal with them is to laugh.
There are some basic principles I always emphasize in marital counseling:
1. If either partner HAS to win ALL the time, the marriage is doomed.  No one wants to be the one who HAS to lose.
2. You don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to.
3. Not every disagreement needs to turn into an argument/fight.  Sometimes, you can agree to disagree as long as neither partner is hurt by doing so.
4. You need to learn/develop the gift of forgiveness; you need to be able both to give it and receive it.
5. Humility goes a long way toward smoothing a rocky path.
6. Humor is a great aphrodisiac.
7. How you disagree isn’t as important as how you make up afterward. Mercy, kindness, forgiveness, and letting go are far more important than winning.
Obviously, we’re just scratching the surface here.  I could write on this topic for a long time.
One thing I don’t want to leave out, though, is spirituality.  I am a Christian, and my counseling is always strongly based on biblical principles and values. If the couple I’m working with share those beliefs, then of course we weave God’s Word throughout the whole process (One thing I never do, though, is start by preaching “wives, submit. . . .”  There’s a right time and a wrong time for that. Something else I could spend a lot of time writing about.) The truth is that God created male and female, and He ordained marriage.  He loves it.  He told us how to do it.  When I can use the Word, the counseling process is a joy. If I’m dealing with someone who objects to “religion” in their counseling, I can still teach biblically sound behaviors and ways of thinking.
This couple is doing very well.  They like Active Listening, which, when properly used, eliminates anger, debate, accusation and pain.  They’re learning to separate the important from the unimportant. They laugh a lot in my office, which is a total delight to me.
Believe me, it’s not always like that. Not at all. And those times, those couples, are enough to break my heart.

Rise, Let us be Going

Matthew 26: 42-43. “He went away again,and prayed, saying, O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.  And He came and found them asleep again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh He to His disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest; behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray Me.”

Twice more, Jesus went off to be alone with the Father, repeating His prayer and submitting to the will of God. Twice more, He went back and found the disciples deep in slumber.  The third time, He did not scold them, but told them to rest while they could, because the hour of His betrayal was at hand. He was fortified by the prayers  He had made to the Father; He was ready to accept what was coming.

Judas had done his work. Jesus was about to be identified and betrayed, as He said, into the hands of sinners.

Let’s not overlook the importance of those  words.  The ones who would come to arrest Him were the chief religious leaders and big shots of Israel.  They were men of power and authority, who expected to be given the best seats at a party. The expected the rabble that they so detested to bow before them and be humble in the presence of such august power.

They considered themselves to be better than others.

And Jesus said they were sinners.  Just like everyone else.

Watch and Pray

Matthew 26:40-41. “And He cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with Me one hour?  Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,”

Did Jesus go back to where Peter, James and John were resting to look for some encouragement or support?  We don’t know. We only know that when He came upon them, they were rolled up in their cloaks, fast asleep.

Have you ever been astonished by this scene?  How could they sleep, after Jesus had made it so clear that terrible things were about to happen?  Why were they not in earnest prayer, as the Rabbi was?

Jesus woke them. He said, “Couldn’t you stay awake to watch with Me for even an hour?  Watch and pray, because if you don’t you will enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He was warning them yet again of trials to come, knowing that in their spirits they wanted to be loyal to Him, but that when the hammer fell, they would succumb to fear and doubt.

It is not the weakness of these men that surprises or amazes me.  It is the patience of Jesus.

Let This Cup Pass from Me!

Matthew 26: 39. “And He went a little farther, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”

The anguish expressed in these words is beyond my understanding.

Had Jesus changed His mind?  Was He no longer  willing to go to Calvary?  Was He so fearful of the physical torture that was coming that He was begging to be released from His mission?

Absolutely, positively not.

His anguish was not for the physical torment; of course, He must have dreaded it just as any other man would have dreaded it.  But that dread was not what He was addressing in His plea to the Father to have this cup pass from Him.

I believe that His soul was sorrowful unto death, His anguish so wrenching that He sweat great drops of blood in His agony, because what He dreaded the most was the moment that God, Who could not look on sin, would turn His face away from His only begotten, dearly beloved Son. I believe that He was asking God that somehow, if it were at all possible, He would not turn His face away as Jesus hung there between heaven and earth, bearing the weight of the sin of all mankind, becoming sin for us, Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (II Cor. 5:21).

Can I prove it?  No. But the fact is, Jesus never hesitated to fulfill His role as the perfect Lamb of God. He only dreaded with all His being the time when fellowship between Himself and the Father would be broken.

He didn’t just die for our sin.  He became  sin, in all its ugliness and horror.

How desolate that must have been for the sinless Savior.

Sorrowful and Heavy

Matthew 26:37–38. “And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith He unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with Me.”

Two things rise to the top of my thinking this morning as I study this passage.  Of course, there are far more than just two matters of importance. We could, indeed, spend hours just on these verses.  They are perhaps some of the most evocative, poignant verses. The words Jesus said to His disciples were so open, so without pretense.

First, He took three with him:  Peter, and James and John, the sons of Zebedee. These three, His “inner circle,” had the privilege of going farther with Him into the garden to watch with Him while He prayed and waited for Judas to do his work.

How amazing it would have been to be chosen to walk so closely with Him at this moment of His great sorrow!

Second, He uttered words that have become very precious to me in my work as a therapist. He said that He was overwhelmed with sorrow; so overwhelmed, in fact, that He felt very close to death.

That’s what depression can feel like. Two scriptures come to mind:

1 Corinthians 10:13

13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Hebrews 4:15

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Tomorrow, I will tell you why I believe He expressed such deep sorrow.  For today, I just want to think about the fact that Jesus Himself, perfect God-Man, was capable of feeling such heaviness of spirit that He felt He was close to dying right there in the garden.  Don’t you think Satan was tempting Him during those moments?  If Satan could convince Jesus to die by His own hand, then the work of Calvary would not be accomplished.  But Jesus was able to bear the sorrow, the weighed-down spirit, the sense of hopelessness because He went to the Father for the strength He needed to face the next  hours of His earthly life.

Jesus was touched with the feeling our our infirmities, our weaknesses. Depression itself is not sin; however, we can be tempted, in our depression, to sin. We can lose faith; we can feel that God no longer cares for our heartache; we can become so wrapped up in our grief that nothing can penetrate the darkness that surrounds us.

But God.  I love it when the scriptures describe such utter darkness of the soul, followed by the words “But God. . .”

He always has a way of escape for us. He always will give us what we need to find our way out of the darkest places of our hearts.  He, too, has suffered torment.  He is the  Wounded Healer. No one understands like Jesus.

Old Age is a Gift

Reblogging from Morning Story and Dilbert. I really like this 🙂

Morning Story and Dilbert

Morning Story and Dilbert Vintage Dilbert
January 12, 2012

I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body! I sometime despair over my body – the wrinkles, the baggy eyes, and the sagging butt. And often I am taken aback by that old person that lives in my mirror, but I don’t agonize over those things for long.

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I’ve aged, I’ve become more kind to myself, and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend. I don’t chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn’t need, but looks so avant-garde on my patio. I am entitled to overeat, to be messy, to…

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Friday Counseling Issues: A Drug-Addicted Daughter

Here’s the next idea from Kathleen Duncan for my Friday Counseling Issues post:

Write a letter on encouragement to a friend who just found out her daughter is an addict.


Dear Kathy,

My heart is broken for you. I’m having a hard time finding words that express how deeply I am grieving with you over this horrible mess your beautiful, talented daughter is in.

I know you love the Lord, and that you have prayed faithfully for her all her life. I know you must be asking, then, “Why?”

And I want to tell you there is no easy answer to the why of all this.  It’s not a good question to ask when you’re in so much pain.  Instead of asking  why, I think you may do better to ask what– What are you to do?  What can you learn that will help you and your husband endure this situation?  What can you do to help your other children as they watch their sister crash and burn? What are the boundaries you  must set to best help her?

You’ve asked for my counsel, and in a way I wish you hadn’t, because it’s not going to be easy to hear.  I understand your intense need to rescue her, but I have to tell you that you can’t.  There is very little you can do to rescue her until she comes to you asking for the right kind of help.

Addicts are liars. Please understand that while she is using, she is not to be trusted. She will assure  you that she has stopped, and she just needs a place to crash, or a little money to pay the rent, or to put gas in the car, or to buy groceries.

Don’t be fooled. The most important thing in an addict’s life is the substance she is abusing. Everything she says and does is aimed at securing the next fix. Don’t give her money.

Should you let her come back home, if she has moved out on her own?

Only if it will do no harm to your other children. If you can afford it, or her insurance will cover it, the best thing for you to offer her if she needs a place to stay is a good rehab facility.  And she needs to be there for more than 30 days.  She needs to be supervised; she needs to have no access to her dealer or to anyone else who can supply her with drugs. It’s very hard for you to take on the responsibility by letting her stay with you.  She will lie to you, and go around you, all the while promising that she’s clean.  Having a drug-addicted child in the home puts a huge strain on your marriage. I really don’t recommend it.

The only financial help you should offer is toward rehab. Period.

You have to draw some strong boundaries with her, paired with consequences that you are willing and able to enforce. Tough love is necessary.  If you let her stay with you, she is basically under house arrest for the duration. If she has a job, that’s the only place she is permitted to go without you or some other family member being with her. If she crosses that boundary, she will be required to leave.

You can’t be soft on this.  It doesn’t matter how many promises she makes. She will break those promises in a heartbeat to get to her drug or choice.  The drug controls her.

Rehab is the best option. If she refuses to go, then you are left with very little recourse except to involve the law. She is breaking the law. What she is doing is illegal. If she refuses to comply with your rules, then you are going to have to let her go her own way or you’re going to have to get legal help to force her into rehab.

In the meantime, I know that you will never stop praying for her’ that you will never stop loving her.  I remember when she was born, too.  I remember how beautiful she was, how precious.  She is still precious.  God loves her just as much now as He did the day she came into your lives.  She is His workmanship (Eph. 2:10), created by Him for Himself (Col 1:16). The Holy Spirit  is the only convicting  factor that can break her will and bring her to repentance, but you can earnestly pray and seek that God will do this work in her life.

And I will continue to pray for all of you. Never in your worst nightmares did you imagine this to happen.  I am so sorry. I love you.  Please keep me informed.

In Christ,