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1 Timothy 4:6-16: Mourning Into Dancing

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

At the Pool of Bethsaida

If ever we are in doubt as to how to serve as a role model when in community, Paul’s letters to Timothy are a mine of wealth.  Regarding slavery, the rights of women and children, and respect due to non-heterosexuals, we understand the thinking of the times.  We take all of this in its ancient context and shift it to the twenty-first century, adding all that has been revealed to us over the millennia about these topics.  Despite the change in science and understanding, this is still good advice for us to consider . . . and it is the only way to build community . . . the only way to build Christ’s kingdom.

Call everyone to unity through diversity.

Remove contempt and profanity from our thinking.

Walk away from silly myths.

Demonstrate trustworthiness by our actions.

Express respect for all in everything we think, do and say.

Persevere, work on ourselves, mark progress.

Nurture the gift of self that we bring to the world.

Paul advises Timothy that the best way to form and build community is by persisting in performing these simple tasks which come together in such a big way.  We are to look for the joy which awaits . . . usually hidden in some conflict.

This all reminds me of a verse from today’s Gospel (John 5:1-16) when Jesus asks the crippled man at the pool of Bethesda: Do you want to be well?  Despite the fact that Jesus knows all our unspoken thoughts, he asks this man if he wishes to be new?  This particular man replies in the affirmative, and he is healed.  This having happened on a Sabbath, this man must work to defend his cure.  This causes conflict.  Usually, as Paul tells Timothy, celebration is accompanied by grief . . . and this is something we must expect; however, our sorrow may turn into dancing if we follow the advice given to Timothy.  This is often difficult to understand.

Do you want to be well?  Jesus asks us this frequently, yet are we prepared to take up our mat and walk, despite the pain?  We, like Timothy with Paul and like the man in today’s Gospel . . . are free to answer either yes or no.

Do you want to be well?  Paul calls Timothy to ask this question of his fledging congregation, despite the conflict.

Do you want to be well?  We are likewise called to ask this question of one another, to seek common ground amidst our differences and look for unity, despite the barriers.

Do you want to be well?  We are called to rise to this challenge, despite the fact that we often wish to wallow for awhile in our tears.

Today we pray: Paul describes to Timothy and to us how we might allow God to enter our lives in order that we become a beacon for the community.  When we hear Christ’s voice how will we reply to his call?

Do we want to be well?  Let us shed our paralysis and persist in outrageous dreams and hopes.

Do we want to be well?  Let us transform our addictions and self-satisfaction through the fire of the conflicts we are willing to share.

Do we want to be well?  Let us redeem broken promises with forgiveness.

Do we want to be well?  Let us turn from our idols to the one true God.

Do we want to be well?  Let us be willing to allow God to exchange our sorrow for joy.

Do we want to be well?  Yes!

 Amen.


Adapted from a reflection posted on March 26, 2019.

Image from http://home.comcast.net/~londonjr/artwork/atthepoolofbethesda.htm

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Wisdom 18:20-25: Intercession

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The faithful will always have a priest willing to intercede for them.  Today we read about Aaron who intercedes as a spiritual leader for the Israelites; every day we have Jesus who intercedes for us in all that we petition.

Bridge-building is important to a Christian community for without the lifelines that we toss out to connect ourselves to one another, we run the risk of sinking into oblivion.  Just as camel caravans link the living water and sheltering palms of desert oases, we reach out to one another so that we do not become stranded in the lonely desert parts of life.  We must celebrate life where we find it . . . and build bridges to call together the limbs of Christ’s Mystical Body.

Forgiveness – both the asking and the granting – is the essential construction material that we will need for these Jesus bridges.  There is no one among us who has not needed to ask and to give forgiveness and so we pray.

The world is rent asunder by our refusal to forgive, we pray:  Bring us, Lord, your perspective of hope. 

For the hardness of heart we have shown toward those we have hurt, we pray: Bring us, Lord, your openness of heart. 

For the breaches in relationships we have allowed to live and grow, we pray: Bring us, Lord, your depth of wisdom. 

For the resentments we have accumulated, we pray: Bring us, Lord, your counsel and courage. 

If the Lord rescues me from the snare of my faults, should I not extend the same hand of rescue to my neighbor?  Resentment, grudges, retaliation do not help the one who offends me.  They merely confirm the breach between us.  Bridge-building is costly, as the cross demonstrates, but the people stranded on both banks are all freed by the bridge.

These prayers and thoughts are adapted from yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT, and as always, when I think about bridge-building, I am aware that there is a difference – although small – between pardoning behavior and allowing abuse to continue.  There is a reality that exists in bridge-building that comes into being when we empower people – they are freed from a former unhealthy behavior that has stunted growth and dried up life.  When we enable people to continue in an unhealthy behavior, we become part of the problem.  When we gently confront people, we set into place the pillars of the bridge.

When we allow Christ to show us what tool to use next, what material to bring out of storage for use as the struts and cables of the bridge, we begin to make links, we will see that we are building a bride that will last for all time.  We will also see that it is a bridge of and to salvation.

This work does not happen without physical and spiritual exertion; but when we have the Master as our project planner, the work becomes less arduous and less frightening.

When we find ourselves stranded in a small, backwater oases, looking through the burning sun in the day and the cold darkness of night . . . waiting for something to appear on the horizon . . . we will know that it is time for bridge-building.  Let as ask the Master Planner to intercede for us . . . now . . . today . . . and all days.


Adapted from a Favorite written on March 18, 2009.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.17 (2009). Print.

Image from: http://www.cepolina.com/photos.asp?V=Rotorua_bridge_mist_water&S=Rotorua&A=all and http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g147290-d149576-r125773547-Mount_Isabel_de_Torres-Puerto_Plata_Dominican_Republic.html

For more thoughts on intercession for our enemies see The Jesus Bridge page on this blog: https://thenoontimes.com/the-jesus-bridge/

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Isaiah 21: Fall of Babylon

Friday, March 15, 2019

Francesco Hayez: Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem

Today’s reflection follows yesterday’s Noontime reading and here we see the Babylonian Captivity is a seminal episode in our Judeo-Christian history; it is an experience against which we measure many others.

A cruel site, revealed to me.  Trauma, upheaval, betrayal, suffering, turmoil – this is what Isaiah sees coming.  The conqueror will be conquered.  This is unimaginable.

I am too bewildered to hear, too dismayed to look.  Terror, shock, horror, panic, dread – this is what we fear is around the corner, up the street, in our own backyard.  We turn away confused by what we see and hear.  Nothing makes sense.

My mind reels, shuddering assails me.  We are so upset that we make ourselves ill.  This is an experience we know.  We also know that we cannot endure unless someone somehow brings us relief.  We struggle to stay afloat; we flail our arms to remain upright.  We cannot believe we are in this situation.

For thus says the Lord to me: Go, station a watchman, let him tell what he sees.  We pull ourselves together and decide that rather than fall completely to pieces we have to trust someone.  Tentatively we put out a hand to God.

And I stay at my post through all the watches of the night.  As long as nothing more happens we can stand erect watching, waiting for our deliverance.  We scan the horizons to see how God will come to our rescue.  We wait and keep watch, fearful yet hoping.

Francesco Hayez: The Babylonian Exile

Here he comes now: a single chariot, a pair of horses; he calls out and says, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon, and all the images of her gods are smashed to the ground.  We hear the news we never thought we would hear.  The impossible has taken place.  An old foe has fallen.  A former enemy begs forgiveness.  We are stunned and know how to respond as the truth of our deliverance seeps into our consciousness.

Oh my people who have been threshed, beaten on my threshing floor!  What I have heard from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, I have announced to you.  At first we think we have miss-heard, misunderstood but it dawns on us that God has brought about the impossible.  God has answered our prayer.  And although others may encourage us to take revenge upon a vanquished opponent we choose to react as Jesus asks.  We give thanks, and we heed the words of St. Paul to the Colossians (3:12-14).

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.  And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. 

And so we pray . . .

Good and generous God, we are tempted to crush the enemy we see fallen; but we know that you call us to intercede for those who have plotted our downfall.  The enemy who wished to annihilate us has in turn been vanquished; you have saved us from destruction.  Help us to forgive as we have been forgiven.  Remind us to bless as we have been blessed.  Let us love as we have been loved.  Amen. 


A re-post from March 15, 2012.

For more reflections on The Book of Lamentations click on the images above or go to: http://tndickersondiaries.blogspot.com/2011/01/lamentations-highlights.html

Also see The Book of Lamentations page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/lamentations-surviving-ruin/

For more on the Book of Isaiah, go to the Isaiah – God of time and Space page on this blog at https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/isaiah-god-of-time-and-space/

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Numbers 14:39-45: This Cannot Succeed

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Near the Biblical site of Hormah

God always gives us plenty of warning.  Yet somehow we blunder forward, believing ourselves more knowledgeable than the one who invented and then brought into being all of creation.  God sends us teachers, prophets and even the Messiah; still, we put down our head, shove our shoulders forward and stubbornly insist on moving a boulder that we are meant to climb over.  In this portion of Numbers we see the Israelites suffer great remorse yet still they persist in going up against great odds without God.  Why are we such a stiff-necked people?  It seems we are adamant about suffering defeat, unyielding in wanting to live life our own way; we are resolute in being beaten back as far as HormahWe must learn to discern God’s voice.   We must listen when the wise one cries out: This cannot succeed!  And when we are beaten back to the limit of our own endurance, we must pick ourselves up, ask forgiveness, and journey home from Hormah where we have sent ourselves.

Lent is a time for re-thinking and re-aligning.  It is a time of sorting and organizing.  It is a time of turning and returning.  God awaits each of us with open arms and full heart; we can always expect a welcome from God.  The first steps of the going home again are ours to take; but first we must heed God’s voice when it says to us: This cannot succeed. 

And so we pray Psalm 51: The Miserere.  It is believed that this psalm was written by David when his illicit relationship with Bathsheba was brought to light.  (2 Samuel 11 and 12)  We pray today, asking forgiveness for the most recent time that we have gone astray.

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.

It is not our intention to go against your suggestions – we just have a way of thinking that we know our lives better than you do.

Wash away my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.

We do not set out to wander away from your guiding hand – the circumstances of our lives influence us more than you do. 

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.

It is not our aim to put ourselves above you or to pretend that we have better judgment than you – rather it is that we find the influence of our friends to be greater than our awareness of you. 

Wash away my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.

It is not that we disbelieve you so much as we succomb to our own fear.

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.

It is not that we do not love you enough – rather it is just that we have difficulty trusting your wisdom.

Wash away my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.

When we are calm and away from anything that might threaten us we are able to have a clear understanding of how much you love us.

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.

Help us to remain in you, guide us in hoping in you, bring us back from Hormah.  Bring us back to loving you. 

Wash away my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.

We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 


A re-post from March 14, 2012.

For more photos taken near Hormah, click the image above or go to: http://www.openbible.info/geo/photos/hormah 

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1 Corinthians 4: Servants, Stewards, Ministers of Christ

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Ruins of Corinth

Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  In this way Paul describes our work for us; he defines our lives; he makes it clear that no other calling is more important.

It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal.  In this way Paul states his creed; he clarifies his position; he spells out his limits and existence.

What do you possess that you have not received?  With these words Paul points out that all that we have and all that we are come from God; he helps us to see that we can take credit only for following God and being gracious recipients of God’s gifts.

We go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands.  With these words Paul describes his circumstances . . . and he invites us to join him in his holy work.

When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently.  We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment.  With these words Paul tells us that being Christ’s servants, stewards and ministers will not be easy . . . that kingdom building will be a dangerous and difficult vocation.

Which do you prefer?  Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a gentle spirit?  With these questions Paul brings us to the brink of ourselves; Paul calls us to a reality we may not like.  Do we wish to be forced . . . they why do we attempt to force others even though we dislike being forced ourselves?  Do we wish to be loved . . . then why do we not love others even when we wish to be loved?

And so we pray . . .

Good and loving God, you have forgiven all, you have sacrificed all, you have remembered all, and you have loved all.  Make of us the servants you wish us to be.  Remain in us that we might be the stewards you wish us to be.  Guide us as we strive to be your ministers; build with us the foundations and pillars of your kingdom.  For we are nothing without you.  We are all because of you. 

Abide with us as we struggle to be good servants of Christ.  Live in us as we labor to be good stewards of the mysteries of God.  Dwell in us as we learn to be good kingdom builders who minister in the Spirit of the Lord.  Amen. 


A re-post from December 8, 2011.

Image from: http://www.harrys-greece.com/h-taxi-greece/taxi-tours-corinth.htm 

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1 Corinthians 1:10-17: Groups and Slogans

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Church in Corinth must have been a cantankerous lot.  In this citation we hear Paul’s words of exhortation that we all follow Christ rather than divide ourselves into petty groups.  I like Jesus’ admonition to us in the Gospel of Matthew: When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.  And your father who sees in secret will repay you.  In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them.  Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  (6:6-8)

We have the false idea that we may do anything in order to save ourselves . . .  when the inverse is actually true . . . we can do nothing to save ourselves . . . and we best become selves by emptying out the self to make room for God . . . the all.

We believe erroneously that our secret thoughts have no effect on the world . . . but they do, because our thoughts form our actions.

We must allow ourselves to be searched by God, as the psalmist sings in Psalm 139: Oh God, you search me and you know me, you know my resting and my rising, you discern my purpose from afar.

Temple of Apollo in Corinth

Paul wrote to the contentious group in Corinth, telling them that the Spirit moves best when there is a diversity of voices and obedience to the Law of Love.  We too might remember this as we go about our work and our play with those who would follow those other than Christ.

And so we pray:  Help us to listen to one another, to help one another, to witness to your Oneness in us.  Help us to see one another, to empathize with one another, to act as Christ in all circumstances.  Help us to be guided by one another, to find union with one another, to see that only when we bridge differences will we truly be the One you seek.  Amen. 


A re-post from December 8, 2011. 

Images from: http://www.tourismnewsinfo.com/corinth-famous-city-in-greece-with-amazing-view-of-coastal-archaeological-site-and-village-of-ancient-corinth/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrocorinth

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Daniel 6:11: Expectation

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Written on January 7 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Anton Rivière: Daniel

Nearly three years ago we looked at Chapter 6 of Daniel – the well-known story of the young man’s trial in the lion’s den.  We reflected at that time on the vigor of Daniel’s enemies.  Today we might want to spend time thinking about what brought Daniel out of the den: his – and God’s – constancy, his – and God’s – hope, his – and God’s – expectation of goodness.

Even when Daniel hears dreadful news he remains optimistic – because it is his custom to trust in God.

Even when Daniel is sent in the lion’s den he remains fearless – because it is custom to give all to God.

Even when Daniel spends the night with the animals that later attack and kill his enemies he remains hopeful – because it is his custom to expect that God will act for and in him.

Anton Rivière: Daniel in the Lion’s Den

Even when Daniel exits the lion’s den unharmed he remains humble and hopeful – because it is custom to always expect great things from God, and to remember that God converts all harm to good.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation by Mother Elvira Petrozzi, founder of a community with a presence in fifteen countries that opens its arms to the lost and desperate:  The biggest sickness in our world is sadness, indifference, and loneliness.  Like parched land waiting for water, so the world is waiting for those who will proclaim hope.  God has freely chosen us to proclaim this hope.  He has given us the strength to follow him and has put in our hearts the desire to embrace this wounded humanity.  In receiving mankind, the living hope in us must become love in gestures, in works, and in life.  Jesus is telling us to give life, to give ourselves, not only a part of us or a few hours of work.  If we do not give our life, spend our life for others, it will vanish from our hands.  (107-108)

This is what Daniel knows: that the life he has is really God’s life in him.

This is what Daniel believes: that by giving his life on earth, he gains eternity with God.

This is what Daniel does: all that God asks – even when it does not seem to make sense.

Today’s Gospel is an accounting of one of the times Jesus cured a man of leprosy (Luke 5:12-16) and the mini-reflection in MAGNIFICAT speaks to the expectation this man had when he approached Jesus with these words: Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.   “When the leper approaches Christ filled with expectation, his entire life changes”.  (102)  How much better we might be if we approach our worries in this fullness of expectancy.  How much better might the world be if we all were to approach our problems in an expectation of goodness . . . hopeful of kindness . . . joyful in our vindication by God.

And so we pray . . . Good, and gracious, and gentle, and hope-bearing God, you walk amidst us, sharing our sorrow, lifting our fears.  Bring us to you in joyful expectation of your mercy.  Bring us to you in the fullness of your time and your plan.  Give us courage.  Give us constancy.  Give us perseverance.  Give us hope.  Give us the spirit of Daniel as he enters the lion’s den, as he lingers there, and as he comes forth into the light of a new day.  Give us Daniel’s humility.  Give us Daniel’s peace.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 


A re-post from December 6, 2011.

Images from: http://kosarajuraj.blogspot.com/2011/06/miracles-of-jesus-christ.html and http://www.art-prints-on-demand.com/a/riviere-briton/daniel-in-the-lions-den-1.html 

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 7 January 2011: 102, 107-108. Print.

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Isaiah 59: Turning from Sin

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

We look for light, and lo, darkness; for rightness, but we walk in gloom!

In the Northern Hemisphere we are moving from winter to spring when our days are longer and the nights shorter.  As we pull away from winter depths, we are reminded that darkness can easily overcome us and wear us down.

We stumble in midday as at dusk . . . we all growl like bears, like doves we moan without ceasing.

All of this darkness makes us tired and short-tempered; we complain and sink low . . .

We look for right, but it is not there; for salvation, and it is far from us.

We wonder, “Where is our God who has promised to abide with us?  Who is powerful enough to save us?”

The Lord saw this and was aggrieved that right does not exist.

Despite the calamity and ruin there is right among us because God takes pity on us, his loved creatures.  God brings us goodness and rightness in the form of a human child, Jesus.

He saw that there was no one and was appalled that there was no one to intervene . . .

God knows that we struggle to overcome the darkness.  God comes to dwell with us as our brother, Emmanuel.

So his own arm brought about the victory, and his justice lent him his support.

St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians that we are no longer strangers and sojourners but fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. (2:19-20)

He put on justice as his breastplate, salvation as the helmet on his head; he clothed himself with garments of vengeance, wrapped himself in a mantle of zeal.

As we approach the season of Lent, we remember Paul’s admonition to put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil, so that you may be able to resist and hold your ground.  Stand firm with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and you feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances hold faith as a shield, to quench all flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (6:11, 13-17)

He shall come as a redeemer to those who turn from sin . . .

Knowing that we are powerless in and of ourselves, our God moves to guide and to guard us.

This is the covenant with them which I have made myself, says the Lord . . .

God keeps his promises because he is good.

The Lord says, My spirit is upon you and my words that I have put into your mouth shall never leave your mouth . . .

And so we will celebrate God’s goodness and tell others of God’s great love.

Nor will my words leave the mouths of your children nor the mouths of your children’s children from now on and forever, says the Lord. 

We find ourselves alone and in darkness.  God sees and hears our plight.  God gives us the chance to reunite with goodness and rightness.  God helps us up out of the darkness when we wear Christ as our armor and when we seek God’s love.  This is predicted by Isaiah.  This is witnessed to us by Paul.  This we can believe.  This we must pass along to our children . . . and to our children’s children.  For this is how we turn away from sin to turn toward what is good and right and just.   This is how we turn to God.

Amen.


Adapted from a reflection posted during Advent on December 5, 2011.

Images from: http://a-christ-followers-musings.blogspot.com/2011/01/fruit-of-spirit-goodness.html and http://soithappens.com/page/3/

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Numbers 21Worn Out

Monday, February 25, 2019

Several years ago we focused on verses 4 through 9 of this chapter in a Noontime reflection about The Bronze Serpent and at that time we noted that this story is often read during the Lenten season when we are called to repent and make reparations.  We reflected on the thought that God in great wisdom and mystery sends a cure to the people that is similar to their disease; and we saw the Hebrews succumb to the temptation to complain when their patience is worn out by the journey.  Just as we travel toward Easter during Lent, and move Advent waiting for the light.  When we have so much invested in our waiting it is easy to give in to the kind of impatience we see today; and we know the feeling of despair that replaces hope when the expected outcome is so long in coming.  We zero in on our disappointment and forget to look at the many victories in our lives.

The episode of the bronze serpent is sandwiched between stories of victory over Arad, Moab, Sihon and Og.  God has accompanied the Hebrews and seen to their welfare; yet the travail of the journey has worn their patience thin and they turn against God.  Although they experience a series of triumphs, they complain about their food and drink.  They want to control the smallest details of their lives and rather than rest in the triumphs they have lived they obsess about the minutiae.  This is a story in which we can place ourselves.

Whether we find ourselves in Advent or Lent, or find ourselves in an ordinary time of extraordinary waiting, we can look at the Hebrews to see ourselves in their impatience; and we can make our own journey through the lands of Arad, Moab, Sihon and Og.   We can examine what motivates us, what leads us, what stops us.  And we can pray . . .

Do I too often steer clear from something when the cure lies in my willingness to enter God’s plan?

Am I too stiff-necked or too impatient?

Do I fear too much and trust too little?

Am I too controlling or too impatient?

Do I complain too much and give thanks too little?

Am I too unwilling or too impatient?

Do I take the victories for granted and throw temper tantrums when my own plans come up short?

Am I focused on self and not on God?

In the hardship of the journey it is easy to concentrate on our fears and wishes; it is difficult to keep our eyes on the prize.  So when we feel this impatience welling up, let us look to God for strength; let us ask God for the stamina we need to see the journey through.  Let us look at the many victories that line the pathways of our lives; and let us remember that when we rely on God rather than self . . . our patience will never wear through.


A re-post from December 3, 2011.

For more reflections on traveling the road of life, see the Journeys of Transformation page on this blog.

Images from: http://jewlistic.com/2010/06/ive-had-it-with-these-snakes-in-this-portion/ and http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx303.htm

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