So, I’m a country girl, and I noticed a few things about the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem a couple thousand years ago yesterday. I’m also reading Suzy Flory and Patrick Barrett’s book, Sanctuary, but that’s only loosely related, as it’s about a donkey sanctuary that saved a man. Anyway …
We country people know a few things about domesticated animals. This would explain why I noticed Jesus specifically asked for a colt that had never been ridden. Now, that could be about purity to go along with His humility, though I’m not sure. However, I am sure I wouldn’t choose an unridden donkey colt for a parade mount. If you’ve ever ridden a green horse, a calf, a donkey colt, or a bucking bronc, you know they all enjoy introducing their riders to the dirt, face first. So what? So, Jesus not only controlled oceans and seas, wind, demons, disease and most of the time the Pharisees, he also could ride a donkey colt right out of the chute, so to speak.
But that’s not all. I also noticed the disciples covered the donkey’s back with their cloaks before they put Jesus on him. Now that could mean recognizing Jesus’s royalty. Could be, but … I’ve ridden quite a few horses bareback. Let me just say it doesn’t take long before horse sweat seeping through your jeans onto your inner thigh begins to chafe. I imagine denim and cloak cloth are about the same, and I believe the disciples were looking out for their Messiah. Way to go, boys!
And finally, you’ve heard the joke about the farmer driving his donkey to market. The donkey balked and the farmer hit him in the head with a two by four. It got him going, but the farmer’s wife yelled, “Hey, don’t hit our donkey with a two by four. We need the dude.” The farmer said, “That’s one.” They went on a ways and the donkey balked again. The farmer let him have it in the previous manner. The wife … never mind, I forgot the punch line. But you get the point that donkeys balk. But you didn’t read anything about Jesus’s donkey balking on the way into Jerusalem, did you? Even with all the Hosanna hullabaloo the crowds were making. Moral of my story: (I’m not certain there is one.) It might be that even donkeys can experience the peace of God that passes all understanding. Have a peaceful Holy Week! Um, and I didn’t just compare you to a donkey, honest. Might not be all that bad, though. There was one who could see an angel in the Old Testament.
After a long walk from Nazareth with Daniel’s family, finally Elizabeth’s shaky soprano drifted over her wall, her words from a psalm of David Mary recognized. “You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” The swish of her broom kept time to her song. She had waited so long, no wonder her joy.
Mary tapped at the gate with one hand. The other caressed the cotton tunic over her stomach. Would her elder cousin understand her confusion? “Elizabeth, it’s me.”
Elizabeth’s singing stopped. She opened the gate. Her silver hair escaped the veil that covered her wrinkled head and belied the obvious bump under her clothing.
“Mary!” Elizabeth’s hand flew to her own womb and her eyes bulged. “Our little John recognizes the mother of our Messiah, the tiny One you carry!” She hugged Mary and kissed her cheek.
“The angel said you’d understand God’s moving among us. … I only wanted to marry Joseph and raise a big family with my carpenter. And now … ”
“Have you told Joseph?”
“He didn’t call for the elders to stone me. He said, ‘We’ll just call it off.’
And I couldn’t … I came to you. The angel said I’m favored, but I feel … favored … and not favored, all at once.” She searched Elizabeth’s eyes for understanding.
And got it. “Dear girl, come in. You look pale. Tea and cakes will revive you. Gabriel spoke to Zechariah too, to tell him about John. You must have responded with faith. Zechariah questioned Gabriel and can’t speak now.” Elizabeth smiled, but then shook her head.
Mary accepted tea, and they relaxed in the courtyard. “Yes, suddenly Gabriel stood there in the room with me.
“He’s not a little fellow.
“I could barely manage to accept his assignment. There’s no evidence I should mother the Messiah. Why me, out of all the girls in Nazareth? Anyway, I asked him one question. How? I really am a virgin, Elizabeth.
”And yet, my womb warmed with life when God moved over me. I know Jesus grows inside me. I know, and yet I am … I don’t know how to do this.”
“Will my father disown me? My mother insisted I come to you because of what Gabriel said, but her skeptical look broke my heart. What will the townspeople say? I don’t want to return to Nazareth. I’m glad Gabriel told me about you. But … ”
Elizabeth cupped Mary’s arm. “Dear girl, you needn’t know how to do this. I know for certain our God guides us who live in faith. You need only put one foot in front of the other in the direction He leads.”
Tension left Mary in the light of Elizabeth’s words. “Could I stay with you for a while? Could you talk with me about Jesus and John? Please?”
“Of course, for as long as you need. A visit will shorten the time of my waiting.”
Mary stayed three months, gaining courage for what lay ahead and strengthening her faith. After she kissed Elizabeth goodbye, Mary looked to heaven and said, “The Lord has looked with favor on the humble estate of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is His name.” And yet, in this generation, not everyone thinks me blessed. She took home with her all the wisdom Elizabeth had shared before it was time to bring John into the world.
I’m hosting a Christmas blog tour this month. Writing friends participate, and you’ll find nine blogs over the month, with everything from adaptations like this to ideas for Christmas movies and kindness. Look for the rest of this story the week of Christmas.I hope you enjoy the journey.
My friend and critique partner, Dave Parks, has recently published a terrific book about Elijah, and is about to publish another. I invited him to tell you about himself and his work, and here is what he said:
What book did you publish?
What’s the Book About?
Twelve-year-old Elijah tries to rescue a slave girl. A few years later he gets beat up trying to save a baby from being burned up by Moloch the rain god. He storms off to the capital city and tells the king: “Neither dew nor rain until I say so.” He doesn’t know where those words came from.
He thinks anger motivates him, so the Lord’s “Hide at the Brook” must mean he’s hearing things. Not until Moloch thugs have him hiding under a thorn bush does he pay attention to the Lord’s voice. The story follows the Biblical outline, ending with a chariot of fire and the mantle falling on Elisha.
How did you get the idea for the book?
In Kings and Chronicles, I became fascinated with Elijah and Elisha, Ahab and Obadiah. Then I remembered “Elijah was a man with passions like ours.” (James 5:17)
Did he have a temper? Get discouraged? Notice the ladies?
The feel and texture of this story drew me into the ancient world of the Bible.
– Gary Endermann
“Grab that goatskin!”
Elijah patted the donkey’s rump. “Excuse me.” As he dove beneath the belly, his knee slid through a pile of fresh droppings. Hmm…. Better than a sharp rock. He poked his head out the other side.
A mother with a baby on her back jumped away and pulled two dirty-faced children with her. Elijah favored them with the smile which had sold dozens of skins of Tishbe wine to camel pullers on the King’s Highway, but the children screamed and grabbed their mother’s knees. As Elijah scooted past, most of the donkey dung fell from his knee.
“He’s getting away.”
A bronze-colored chariot stood in his path. No time to run his hand over the rail or examine the wheels. He leaped the shafts and lunged for the gate of the fort.
A load of melons hanging from both sides of a donkey blocked the opening.
From behind him a shout—“Hey, grab that kid in the goatskin. Stop him!”
Elijah nodded to the donkey’s open-mouthed owner, stood tall, sucked in his belly, and squeezed sideways past the bulging sacks. Sandals slapping planks, he dashed across the bridge then down the grade and into the trees. He ripped off the goatskin, jammed it into his pack, and slipped into his robe.
Little Obadiah bloodies the nose of Ahab, his friend.
The two growing boys race stallions and run from Syrian assassins.
As adults, Obadiah and King Ahab stand together and fight invading armies.
Then King Ahab marries a witch.
Queen Jezebel steals children from distant backyards and shoves them into brothels.
She kills her critics.
How can the friend of the king rescue fugitives from the queen?
Here’s an excerpt:
“Do you pray, Uncle Biah?”
Obadiah dangled an empty prickly pear stick from his fingers. “Do I pray? Um, well.” How do I answer this child, Lord? He cleared his throat. “My conversations with the Lord lack the poetry of David or Solomon, but we talk a lot, and he listens in on my thoughts.”
Ruthie hunched her shoulders. “Was that a yes or a no? Do you pray?”
Obadiah sighed at Yeskah. “Little Hammurabi.” He took a long breath. “Yes, Ruthie. I pray.”
Have you been to the Holy Land?
In 1964, Delphine and I toured the Holy Land for three weeks.
Delphine Parks, Dr. DeWayne Coxon, President of Jordan College, and Dave Parks at The Dead Sea.
In 1984-85, we worked at the archaeology dig at Oboth, the Rift Valley oasis where Moses headquartered about 1300 BC (Numbers 21:10). When we weren’t digging, we led busloads of tourists around Israel, introducing them to the Biblical sites. Plus, we made personal jaunts exploring Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan.
I wandered Elijah’s village in Gilead and trudged his paths in the Jezreel valley. Stood in his footprints on Mt. Carmel. In Zerephath, marveled with him at snow-covered Mt. Hermon. The songbirds of the Bible hovered in me with rock badgers, Absalom oaks, and the usual rain shower at 1 pm.
What kind of person are you?
Delphine, my wife of 39 years, died of cancer in 2000, and I miss her every day.
Two years later, I married Vickie. Every day I thank the Lord for Vickie.
I taught English at colleges in Michigan and California.
2002-2010, we taught English at universities in China then retired ten miles from the Alabama Coast.
“Turn” is my word for this year. Specifically, in baffling or important decisions, turn and ask Jesus first. Sounds like a piece of cake, right? Easier to write than to do, at least for me. You see, I have this hangup. It’s bred into me to say yes and scramble to accomplish whatever need someone presented or whatever good deed needs doing. HOWEVER, this is not biblical. Have you ever noticed that Jesus didn’t heal everyone in Israel? There were still sick, twisted people when He headed back to Heaven. That’s because He talked over His earthly mission with His Father, every day, all the time. He turned, and then He obeyed. That’s how He managed to be gentle and lowly, even in a human body.
There’s an important truth there. He talked it over with His Father. We call that prayer. The trick, for me and you, is to turn off automatic response in favor of discussing the current situation with Jesus. Sometimes I don’t even get my whole thought out before Jesus starts answering. Sometimes he taps me on the shoulder before I have a thought. Other times I ask and ask and He just says, “I’ve got this.” Finally, of course sometimes I ask Him and He says nothing. That is a dead giveaway that I need to stand in place, not rush off to anywhere. But I’m still practicing, sometimes I still forge mightily ahead and don’t ask.
Nevertheless, He loves me. Whatever his response, I know He loves me and will give me His best answers and His best in everything. So this year, I’m practicing. Won’t you join me? Turn and ask.
I grew up listening to people argue politics and religion while they said it’s okay to talk about anything except politics and religion. Neither one is worth arguing about, and here’s why I think so.
Religion always turns out to be man’s twisted interpretation of what God thinks. Whether you’re talking Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Muslims or whatever. Politics also has the drawback of being dependent upon the interpretations of men. So getting your undies in a twist about either is useless.
A much better plan is to find out about God and apply what you find only to your own life. That should make such a drastic change that people will notice. When they ask what changed, tell them what you found out and how you apply it. Sounds simple, but it’s life-changing and takes a lifetime. And for me, it’s a wild ride. (You’re welcome for one of the world’s shortest blogs.)