The Curse of Thorns

…Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground…”

God speaks these words to man after he disobeys the one-and-only command God asked of him in the garden. (Genesis 3, ESV)

Until then, life was perfect. Man lived in unity with all of Creation and with God. They would walk together and talk. But, the day he decided that he desired to be like God, he realized how little authority and power he had. He is the image of the Creator but could and would never be God Almighty. In his desires, man sold his birthright of the earth to Satan and death took hold.

Thorns and thistles did not exist until this point.

A scientist I know explained thorns as: a leaf, branch, or flower whose potential is cut short. Something beautiful and life giving, when its potential is cut short or not fully realized, becomes painful and intrusive. A thorn is not good for anything. It only causes pain and hardship.

victoria-2016-90When the curse fell on mankind and his relationship with was God severed, potential of the earth and those in it was cut short.

So, it is no minor detail to flip to a story written almost 1500 years later of Jesus. Matthew 27:27-31, Roman soldiers, completely unaware of the curse, twist together a crown of thorns and beat it into the skull of Jesus to mock him, saying “Hail, King of the Jews!”

Onto Jesus the curse of the fallen potential of man and the earth was placed.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

The Prophet Isaiah foretold the coming Messiah who would take away the sins of the world, bearing the curse of death upon himself.

Even knowing this, how many still live like we are under the curse? The day Jesus died Death lost its power on mankind. Jesus took back our birthright for us. We no longer have to live with the potential of who we are cut short or not fully realized.

The curse is broken. Are you producing flowers or thorns?

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No Mere Mortals

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

C.S. Lewis

Camping2013-103I was reminded of this quote by Lewis as I spoke with a young man today. It is part of what I love about being a writer. It is what I love about traveling around the world.

In every culture, people group, country, and situation I have been in, I have never met an ordinary person. Everyone is extraordinary with a story to tell; a background that requires us to stop and listen.

I was painting and chatting with this young man. He is about 19-years-old. He has written and illustrated a children’s poetry book. It was number two on Amazon out of all books in its category. He works with youth, he is outgoing, and he is musical. Just five minutes into our conversation, I knew this young man was special. In the midst of it all, he was completely humbled by the success he has seen in his young life.

Then, my mind went to the homeless man I met on the street a few weeks earlier. I sat down with him, or rather invited him to sit with me at an outdoor table in my favorite coffee shop. He poured out so much of his story. He shared some crazy and disturbing facts about his life. Rather than be repulsed, I asked him more questions. Wanting both to understand where he came from, but also for him to start to recognize some patterns in his life.

As I listened, I prayed that I could bless this man and love him without knowing how I could do that. I felt like God told me to just listen to him. At the end of our conversation, he looked at me and said, “This is great. I have felt so disconnected from the rest of the world for so long. It’s nice to have someone hear me.”

Wow! Humbled and blessed to be that person who got to listen to him.

He was not ordinary. Not because of the drugs or his state of being, but because inside of him was a beautiful creation. Maybe he missed the mark on his potential, but that did not decrease his value as a person.

No one is ordinary.

Finally, I think of the little two-year-old I live with. She is as cute as a kid could possibly get. She is spirited to say the least. While she requires a lot of energy and attention, this child is incredible. She is so smart. She is so considerate and thoughtful in a way only a child can be. She makes me laugh with some of the random thoughts she expresses. She is anything but ordinary.

I wonder, just wonder, if we raised our children to build upon and encourage their strengths rather than try to make them “normal” what kind of generation we would see?

I wonder if we listened to people and did not make assumptions we could see and bring out that extraordinary potential?

One of my biggest frustrations is seeing wasted potential in people. However, rather than judge their situation, maybe I can hear them. Maybe if I treat them like they are extraordinary they will start to believe it and act on it.

I truly believe that people live up to standards we set for them.

Let’s be honest about our society for a minute. We are much quicker to criticize than take time to try to change anything. It’s easy to see the negative. It’s a lot harder to see the positive and nurture it. But, if we want anything to change, we have to take the harder route.

No one is a mere mortal. Maybe if we started treating people like they were immortal and extraordinary they would live up to that. It really could make all the difference in the world.