Curtis Peter van Gorder is a writer and pantomime artist and facilitator, living in Germany. See Elixir Mime website.
“Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.”If there was anyone who knew all about that, it was probably Mother Teresa. After having lived among the poorest of the poor in India for nearly 30 years (and she would continue to do so for nearly 20 more), she was awarded the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. She began her acceptance speech with the words, “Life is life.” She went on to explain that all human beings are special and of great worth, no matter who they are, and that only when we have learned to respect that fact can we begin to help them improve their lives.
“You have to hear about this book I just read!” My normally laid-back friend was quite worked up. “I tell you, it’s happening soon!”
“What’s happening soon?”
“The end of the world as we know it!” My friend launched into a series of facts and statistics to try to convince me. “Did you know that over the past 20 years, the Arctic Ocean has been warming eight times faster than it did over the previous 100 years?”
I was in India, a few days before the monsoon season arrived...
Everyone in India looks forward to the monsoon. You can read predictions of its arrival and follow its daily progress around the country in the newspapers. The heavy rains clean the dirt that has accumulated over the months. The rains also help to cool things down. Without them, not much will grow. The monsoon is India’s lifeblood.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
“Them” were the Roman soldiers who had been following Pontius Pilate’s orders when they nailed Jesus to the cross to die. They had been following orders, but they had also been cruel and vicious in their mocking and whipping, proving what was in their own hearts. “Them” were also those in the misguided, manipulated mob that had called for Jesus’ death and forced Pilate’s hand—the same common people who had hailed Jesus as their King only a few days earlier (Mark 15:6–14; Mark 11:8–10). How cruel, how awful, how unjust! How could Jesus say that any of these people didn’t know what they were doing? To a certain degree they had to, but they didn’t realize the enormity of what they were doing—that they were killing the Son of God.
I was going through a rough time in my relationships with others. Instead of “winning friends and influencing people,” as the title of the famous book by Dale Carnegie suggests, I was losing friends and putting people off. It was time to get some help. I picked up my prayer telephone and dialed Jeremiah 33:3—“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”
Jesus picked up right away. After the usual affable greetings, our conversation went something like this. …
One day I was out and saw a new electronic scale that takes a person’s weight, correlates it with his or her height, and plots a graph that shows whether that person is underweight, the correct weight, overweight, or obese.
The people selling the scale were eager for me to try it, so I did. To my horror, the heartless thing pronounced me obese. OBESE! What were those slim, trim salespeople snickering at? I had a clear mental picture of what “obese” looked like, and I didn’t fit it! Or did I?
When I was in primary school, I wrote a report about Juan Ponce de León , the Spanish conquistador who in 1513 went looking for the legendary fountain of youth but found Florida instead. The story fascinated me, though I couldn’t quite grasp why people would search so arduously for a cure for aging. Growing old was something I saw happening to only a few folks, most notably my grandparents. Back then, old age was something far, far away. But now that I’m in my mid-50s, that port of call is on my horizon and gets closer with every passing year.
If Thomas could tell us what he experienced when Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose from the grave, I think it might go something like this. ...
A lot of people read the Gospels and think how wonderful it must have been to be one of Jesus’ first disciples, especially one of the twelve whom He chose to be closest to Him while He taught and worked miracles. Those three and a half years with the Master were wonderful, because He was wonderful—perfect, in fact.
Planting seeds and watching them grow can be a wonderful, gratifying experience. Of course, planting a few seeds in a flower pot and farming are two different things. I once thought farming would be easy and attempted to plant corn in an abandoned field that my family owned. I rented a tiller and dug up the ground, bought some seed corn and planted it, and hauled water to help the seeds germinate, but I had planted too late in the year and frost killed the shoots when they were still tender. Next I tried to grow spinach, but the bugs had a feast and I got their leftovers. After those experiences I was thankful that I didn’t have to make my living by farming. They did, however, give me a greater appreciation for farmers. I will never again take a single ear of corn or leaf of spinach for granted!
The past 24 hours have been disturbing, terrifying, wonderful. It started with an order from Caiaphas the High Priest, Caiaphas the puppet of Rome, Caiaphas whom I serve. “Malchus do this! Malchus do that!” And of course I must do as I am told. I am the puppet of a puppet, here to carry out his dirty work. And this was the dirtiest job I had ever been given.
My orders were to pass on the High Priest’s instructions to the captain of the temple guard, go with him and his men to seize Jesus, and take Him to the judgment hall. We’d done this sort of thing before when we’d arrested other rogue teachers, but this time something in me resisted my orders.