One of my dearest friend's daughters was a registered nurse who worked in the cystic fibrosis ward at our local children's hospital. Hers was a most demanding job and one I certainly could not do. Watch children die. How does one have the heart and nerves to stand such grief?
By telling stories. AnnMarie told the children marvelous tales about Jesus. What Heaven is like, how gentle and kind God is, how Mother Mary listens to children's prayers, and how a Guardian Angel sits on each bed silently protecting the child from harm. Everyone loved AnnMarie’s happy endings.
Cystic fibrosis children make many visits to the hospital. Sometimes their stays are lengthy. AnnMarie soon became a favorite, not only among the children but with their parents. She became the most requested nurse on staff. Each family clamored for her attention, children claimed her friendship, and each dying child's fear was calmed by her soothing touch.
No one knew the real AnnMarie, the young lady whose heart ached for her patients. They only knew the cheerful, smiling nurse who held their hands and told the most awesome stories about life in the Hereafter. Her stories became real, and better than life. They were so wonderful that AnnMarie seduced herself right into death's arms. It was a death where she could join all those children whose hands she had held while they struggled, attempting to take their last gasping breath.
Her suicide came as a terrible shock to those of us who knew and loved her. We never knew the depth of her despair. She never let us in on the fact that the mask she wore had become her great seducer.
How many of us are being seduced by the mask we wear? To what end is our mask leading us?
"WE WEAR THE MASK: We wear the mask that grins and lies, lt hides our cheeks and shades our eyes This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile And mouth with myriad subtleties. Why should the world be overwise, ln courting all our tears and sighs? Nay, let them only see us, while We wear the mask. We smile, but, 0 great Christ, our cries To thee from tortured souls arise. We sing, but oh the clay is vile Beneath our feet, and long the mile; But let the world dream otherwise, We wear the mask!"
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)
Scriptural Readings by Johnson & McCormick
Luke 20.46.47 "And in the hearing of all the people he [Jesus] said to his disciples, 'Beware of the scribes, who like to go about in long robes, and love salutations in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation." The Reader's Digest Bible
Matthew 12.22-37 "Then a demon-possessed man - he was both blind and unable to talk - was brought to Jesus, and Jesus healed him so that he could both speak and see. The crowd was amazed. 'Maybe Jesus is the Messiah!' they exclaimed. But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle they said, He can cast out demons because he is Satan, king of devils.' Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, 'A divided kingdom ends in ruin. A city or home divided against itself cannot stand. And if Satan is casting out Satan, he is fighting himself, and destroying his own kingdom. And if, as you claim, I am casting out demons by invoking the powers of Satan, then what power do your own people use when they case them out? Let them answer your accusation! But if I am casting out demons God has arrived among you. One cannot rob Satan's kingdom without first binding Satan. Only then can his demons be cast out! Anyone who isn't helping me is harming me. Even blasphemy against me or any other sin, can be forgiven - all except one: speaking against the Holy Spirit shall never be forgiven either in this world or in the world to come. A tree is identified by its fruit. A tree from a select variety produces good fruit; poor varieties don't. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For a man's heart determines his speech. A good man's speech reveals the rich treasures within him. An evil-hearted man is filled with venom, and his speech reveals it. And I tell you this, that you much give account on Judgment Day for every idle word you speak. Your words now reflect your fate then: either you will be justified by them or you will be condemned."' The Jesus Book
NOTE: Rev. DJ offers two scriptural offerings, each representing masks at its worse, one a person who showed himself before the world a pretender of spirituality and the other who offered a falsified friendship:
Luke 18.10-14 '"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed this prayed: 'I thank you, God, that I am not like the rest of mankind - greedy, dishonest, adulterous - or, for that matter, like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all that I get.' But the other kept his distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven, but beat upon his breast, saying 'God, have mercy on me, sinner that I am.' It was this man, I [Jesus] tell you, and not the other, who went home acquitted of his sins. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Revised English Bible
John 6.71 "He [Jesus] was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him." New Revised Standard Version
Hope exists for Jesus goes behind the mask to enlighten our lives as seen in
John 9.5 "While I am in the world I am the light of the world." The New English Bible
If, within, you are a satisfied, well-balanced individual, then this sense of wellbeing will reflect throughout your life, with all whom you have a relationship, and in your life’s work. We achieve the balance only through knowing ourselves, acceptance of self, and doing the hard work of what we want or need to change. Our work is enhanced by knowing we are never alone in our journey.
Today's Prayer "Father in Heaven, today I hid myself, not once but several times. Somehow, it is all right for You know who I am; well, at least most of the time, but I had yet to find the courage to truly expose myself - warts and all, to other people. I mean, we play so many roles in life: mate, lover, parent, instructor, leader, boss, disciplinarian, and on goes the list. Each different role makes it easier to come across as a little bit more or a little bit less than who I know myself to be. I know that primarily it is fear, fear of appearing different, fear of not being liked or accepted, fear of making a mistake—fear, fear, fear, that holds me back! Jesus walked among danger every day. He knew that He needed to be about His Father's business and kept His mind focused on the job at hand. We don't see fear in Jesus' work, just obedience. Jesus didn't worry about being liked. He knew Your love and that love gave Him a reality that we, too, can readily offer a response. I know You want this for me also. I am going to try harder to be the authentic me. Your love for me, and Your patience, will enable me to put the masks aside. Just image: maskless! Amen."
Embarking on a journey through BC Crothers’s “Be a Better Person” book was like stepping into a new realm of self-awareness and spiritual enlightenment. From the very first chapter, ‘Priority One’, to its thought-provoking conclusion, this book guided me through a remarkable exploration of the human spirit and its capacity for growth and transformation. Her writing is infused with humility yet authoritative, making the path she lays out both challenging and reassuring.
I wholeheartedly recommend “Be a Better Person” to anyone on a quest, not just for self-improvement but for a profound, holistic transformation. It is an essential guide for anyone eager to embark on the rewarding journey of becoming their best self, infused with wisdom that only comes from deep introspection and a connection with the Divine.
Matthew ScottATTICUS PUBLISHER
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