Did God the Father Abandon Jesus on the Cross?

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

guest post by Russell Joyner

Why would Jesus say something that sounds so discouraging? In Jewish tradition, in a moment of great distress, one should pray.  When all looks hopeless, pray. When you can’t think of what to pray, then recite one of the pre-approved inspired prayers.

In first century Israel, In the middle of the afternoon, around three PM, Jews would stop for prayer.  Somebody was supposed to call together at least ten Jewish men (constituting a minyun / quorum), then lead out in a Hebrew prayer, preferably one memorized from Scripture.  Those who knew the prayer were supposed to corporately join in out loud.

Matthew 27:46 tells us “At about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice…” The ninth hour after sunrise is the time to offer the afternoon prayer.  Nobody else took the leadership to select one of the psalms to pray. So Jesus took the lead, and started the prayer. When 1st century Hebrews started reciting Scripture, they did not use the number references like we do (chapter and verse numbers).  The opening phrase also served as the title of the prayer. Jesus was inviting those standing around the foot of the cross to join him in one of the most dynamic petitions for deliverance ever written, very likely penned by King David himself.

Psalm 22 is a classic example of a “Prayer of Lament” (along with about two dozen in the Book of Psalms).  The Biblical lament expresses a desperate situation, but the whole point is to confess that the situation can be changed by the LORD.  The lament psalms raise a cry out of the depths, fully believing that God has the power to lift a person up, around or through the pit & to set the believer’s feet firmly upon the rock.  Therefore, these Biblical laments are ultimately expressions of praise; admitting circumstances are at their worst, yet praising God for his faithful presence & deliverance. Things may look bad, but my God is sufficient for me. In each case, the complaining lament is shown to be invalid as a truth statement within the prayer itself.  

Psalm 13:1   How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

Psalm 13:5-6   But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

Psalm 74:1   Why have you rejected us forever, O God? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?

Psalm 74:12   But you, O God, are my king from of old; you bring salvation upon the earth.

While the complaint truly springs from genuine human anguish, once the individual looks at the lamentable circumstances through God’s eyes, the logical fallacy becomes clear.

Psalm 22 opens up with this address & complaint: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, & am not silent.”

Some have taken that statement at face value, to conclude that God the Father did in fact forsake Jesus.  I must go wherever the evidence leads me, and the evidence leads me to say “NO”!

The evidence:

  1. The ultimate message of Psalm 22 was trust in Yahweh’s covenant faithfulness: God will deliver.
  2. The way God has revealed himself consistently throughout Scripture:
    • Immanuel literally means, “God With Us”
    • The name Yahweh can be translated, “I Am Faithfully Present”
    • Deuteronomy 31:6 – “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
    • Psalm 94:14 – “I will not forsake my inheritance.”
  3. The opening lines of psalms were used as titles, therefore, mention of title invokes the whole prayer.
  4. Psalm 22:24 itself tells us  “For He has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him, but has listened to his cry for help.”   The initial complaint is corrected by the forthtelling prophecy.
  5. New Testament confirmation:
    • Matthew 27 quotes four times from Psalm 22; Matthew understood the whole represented by the part.
    • “When he offered up prayers & petitions w/loud cries & tears to the one who could save him, He was heard” (Hebrews 5:7).

Jesus gave his life willingly.  He knew the ultimate message of Psalm 22 was trust in Yahweh’s faithfulness.  He also recognized the lament psalm for what it was: a prayer of praise in the midst of lamentable circumstances.  Not a hopeless lamentation.

The evidence & example of Christ leads us to be more willing to express ourselves to God openly without white-washing our problems.  The prayer closet is the place to freely and firmly make your complaint and appeal. When we are at our wit’s end, Psalm 22 can guide us in taking our problems to the LORD.  Don’t despair!

APPLICATION: Do not build your view of God on your feelings, but upon the WORD of God….The BIBLE.  The true & living God has revealed himself to us in the Scripture, that we might know him & obey him.

Longest Celebrity Marriage?

Celebrities, including Hollywood stars, music icons, and famous people around the world have a reputation for short and numerous marriages. But there are always examples to the contrary, and I write this to show that lifelong monogamy is still possible. I personally believe it is only possible by the grace of God.

I think I may have discovered the longest, if not, the longest current marriage between two television/movie/stage celebrities. And I cannot find their names listed on any “longest celebrity marriages” lists around the internet.

I was listening to the soundtrack of the musical 1776 (about the founding fathers and the events leading to the signing of the Declaration of Independence) on my computer and was impressed by the performance of John Adams played by William Daniels (who also played Mr. Feeny on Boy Meets World).

So I searched his name to learn more about him. I discovered that he is married to a woman named Bonnie Bartlett, who is also an actress. They have both won Emmys for their work (on the same night too).

Photo by Alan Light
Photo by Alan Light

They got married in 1951. That was 65 years ago.

Can you find or name any couples where both are celebrities who have been married longer? I know “celebrity” is a relative term, but in this case they both won Emmy awards for their acting roles, so I think “celebrity” is a fair term to use for both of them.

I would love to interview them and ask them questions about having a long marriage in a culture that has a reputation for the opposite. I’m thankful for them and their example.

Teaching Kids About Street Performing

I performed for a small group of three to five year-olds at my daughter’s school today. They were studying about Europe, so I figured I would teach them about Europe’s rich tradition of busking (another term for street performing). I showed them a picture of a busker at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland as an example of Europe’s street performing scene.

But I wanted to take the lesson a bit further. I concocted a social experiment that I have never before tried (or heard of anyone doing). I counted out fifteen pennies per child and set the money on each child’s carpet square before they entered the room. When they came in, I told them to count their money (an opportunity to practice math) and that the money is now theirs.

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Each child started with fifteen pennies. It was my job to perform and try to earn some of those pennies in my hat. They could keep and take home what they didn’t spend.

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I then instructed them that I was going to perform for them and lay a hat out in front of me. I explained the tradition of paying street performers if you like their tricks and think they’re funny. I emphasized that they can certainly keep their money if they choose. If they didn’t like my show or thought I wasn’t funny, then there is no need to give me any money. In fact, even if they like my show, they still don’t have to give me money. But I as the street performer will respectfully ask that they put something in the hat if they like the show. It’s all voluntary.

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Some of the equipment I used to try to earn some pennies today.

So I turned on the music, picked up my juggling things, and went to work. I was actually performing for seven little children and two adult teachers just hoping that I would earn some pennies for my hard work. I was surprised at how seriously I took it.

After a few tricks, low and behold, they started coming. The children and the teachers began to trickle up towards my hat and drop pennies in at various times when I would do tricks. It certainly warmed my heart to know that they liked what I was doing.

Some kids held most or all of their money back. And that was totally fine. Enough children were voluntarily showing me their appreciation through pennies that it didn’t bother me. In fact, as a street performer, I should still do my work with excellence whether people throw money or not. As street performers, we are always putting ourselves out there and making ourselves vulnerable to the fate of the audience’s appreciation or lack thereof. It is a risk we are willing to take. And if it means no pay, then that’s life and we will go out and try harder the next day.

Thankfully, these kids were generous with their penny throwing and at the end of the day, I counted up exactly one hundred pennies. It was a buck hard earned.

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Here is some of my pay. More pennies came in after I took this shot.

The header image at the top of this post features Kezzie learning to put money in the busker’s basket when she was only one. This gentleman was happily playing his accordion for us in Malaga, Spain while we were on a family vacation.

Teaching Kids About Money

Thanks to Dave Ramsey and other financial teachers, we were inspired to use clear labeled jars to show our daughter how much money she has and how to categorize it. I know that she will grow up in an even more digital world than we did, which means money will become more and more “invisible” as she grows up in the twenty first century. When money is simply an unseen number out there in the cloud of the internet, it is very easy to lose track of how much is there and where it is all going.

So that’s where clear jars come in! It is tangible, real, and visible. She has acquired money through gifts from others as well as through some age-appropriate work. We will let her use the money as she sees fit – and then she will tangibly watch how fast it goes (as well as how it adds up when you save it). She is very much the crafty kid, so we let her take ownership of the process, from the cutting and taping of the labels to the counting out and categorizing of her own money.

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Sarah and I agreed not to dictate to her how much she should put in each jar. We want her to have autonomy and responsibility over those decisions. Of course we will constantly have conversations with her about how we categorize our money and offer suggestions on percentages. In fact, when I let her fill her own jars, she just liked plopping coins wherever she wanted, and her “giving” jar was looking nearly equal to the other three categories. I don’t want to tell her to give 10% when she wants to give 25%! God wants a generous and cheerful giver – and it looks like our daughter is off to a good start. Maybe we should learn something from her!

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As for the categories – we have her doing the obvious saving, giving, and spending. I decided to add “business” because we are encouraging her to explore entrepreneurial ventures as a way to earn money if she so desires. I have a hunch her desire will suddenly manifest itself when she sees the “spend” jar empty! She could purchase art supplies to make crafts to sell on Etsy, for example. When I was a young child, my mother made me buy the lemonade powder for my lemonade stand. If I was making my own profit, I needed to purchase my own expenses. I’m so glad she made me do that.
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What are some tips and tricks you use to teach your kids about money?

The National Gallery of Art

IMG_2403529px-Woman-with-a-balance-by-VermeerIt’s a shame that we have lived in Richmond, VA for the past six years and it was only a few weeks ago that we took our first trip to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Just 110 miles away, this treasure of a museum has got to be one of the greatest collection of things common to the people of America (and the world, for that matter – they don’t check your citizenship at the door). It is free and open to the public.

My vocation as a traveling speaker/juggler is busiest in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. But the months of November through January slow down for me (of which I am thankful). These are our family “summer” months, if you will. So my first free Saturday of this period (just a few weeks ago) was a perfect time for a family day trip to D.C.

Usually traffic is real bad between Richmond and D.C., but we sailed the entire way to near downtown D.C. We found free parking at a park that is a short walk from the National Mall (East Potomac Park/Hains Point).

We walked through the main building of the Smithsonian on the way to the National Gallery of Art. Kezzie liked seeing the “princess castle.”

Then we made our way to the Gallery of Art. They have works by Picasso, Rembrandt, Monet, Cassatt, Raphael, Vermeer, Botticelli, Van Gogh, Titian, and many more. I loved many of the landscapes and Biblical art. My favorite was Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance. The light coming through the window, the Mary-like figure staring at a balance, and the painting of the Last Judgement of Christ behind her on the wall – it all makes for tremendous art.

Here are some pics (and art) from the trip:

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Joyn the Journey

IMG_1606This is a shameless plug for my wife’s blog (Sarah Joyner). She just updated the blog with some summer pics and a list of Kezzie’s favorite things. Enjoy!

http://joynerjourney.blogspot.com/2013/09/here-it-is-month-our-family-waits-for.html

Visiting Israel with a Toddler

My wife and I celebrated our 10 years of marriage this past May by visiting Israel and the West Bank. It was a two and a half week trip and we have a daughter who is two. We decided that we did not want to be away from her for that long of a trip, so we brought her along.

We’re so glad we did, because visiting Israel with a toddler is an adventure that is memorable and well worth it. There are some unique challenges, but we would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

First of all, this was a self-made trip/tour. We did not go with a large tour group. We bought our tickets from IAD to TLV, stayed the first week in Jerusalem and the rest of the trip driving around the country in a rental car.

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On the roof of our first accommodation for the trip: the Ecce Homo Convent and Guest House in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
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A lion statue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.
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Dressing up at The Citadel (David’s Tower) next to Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.
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At the beach in Haifa.
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Reading Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

So here are some tips/things we learned about traveling half-way across the world with a toddler (some of these are specific to Israel sites and others are general travel-with-a-toddler things):

1. In-flight movies are your best friend on long-haul flights. We try not to let our toddler watch too much media (we don’t even own a television). But those little monitors on the transatlantic flights are a dream. Our daughter watched Lady and the Tramp three times in a row.

The flight attendants also gave her a little bag of toys and crayons. Of course, we also brought toys and books, but the movies were the real winner. It kept us sane and prevented an already uncomfortable situation from turning chaotic.

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ahh, an entertained child
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“I really think the rice and chicken pairs well with the apple juice, would you agree?”

2. Bring a stroller AND an ergo carrier/sling/wrap. That’s what we did – and it worked. We also have a frame hiker backpack, but that is a little bulky, so we left that at home in the States. The Ergo carrier did the same trick (our daughter is on the lighter weight of her age) and was a lot easier to travel with. That way, when we went out for the day on foot (often in Jerusalem), we had the choice of using the carrier when the terrain was bumpy (as it is in the Old City and around the valleys) and the stroller when we walked around the New City. We just planned out our days so that we left the stroller in our room when we knew we were going to do mostly Old City and archaeological sites for the day.

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At Dulles airport before checking in for a long trip!
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Bethlehem.
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“Can I take a nap yet?”
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“Please don’t fall, Daddy.”

3. The financial cost of bringing along a toddler is next to nothing (after paying for the plane ticket, of course). She was over two, so we paid for her plane ticket. But after that, she cost us about zero dollars or shekels. She was free at all museums, tourist sites, public transport, and even most restaurants (because the food comes out Mediterranean style – lots of generous plates for the table to share). She was also no extra charge at all of our lodging situations (which were convents, guest houses, and a bed and breakfast).

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Caesarea.

 

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Standing guard at Nimrod’s Fortress in the Golan Heights.

4. Speaking of lodging, we stayed at five different places over the course of the trip (Ecce Homo Convent in Jerusalem, The Bridgittine Sisters in East Jerusalem, The Masada Guest House at Masada, The Quiet Place B&B in Tiberias, and Stella Maris in Haifa). All five had something comfortable for our daughter, whether a folding crib or a spare mattress that we could lay on the floor – all for no extra cost. We simply checked ahead of time and made sure they had the crib or mattress available.

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On the front lawn of the Bridgittine Sisters Monastery on the Mount of Olives overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem.

5. In terms of safety and security, we had no problems. Like any large city around the world, you need to keep an aware head on your shoulders after dark, but we weren’t out after dark with our daughter much anyway. We felt extremely safe the entire time we were in Israel AND the West Bank. The vast majority of people on both sides of that 1967-border are very friendly and look out for guests and visitors. It helps if you smile and don’t look scared all the time. Israel has some of the best defense and security systems in the world. And though you wouldn’t think it, Israel’s murder rate is LESS THAN HALF that of the USA.

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“Mommy and Daddy want to see archaeological remains at Tel Dan, but I just want to play in this huge tree!”

6. Our daughter also scored lots of bonus trinkets from friendly shopkeepers or restauranteurs. Locals loved meeting her and interacting with her (more so than in the USA). That made us feel very welcome and comfortable in the country.

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A yarn doll from “Mary” at the Nazareth Village.

7. One of the most meaningful aspects of bringing her along was watching her take in the entire experience. I don’t think this will escape her memory as she grows older. We have pictures and videos, and she even talks about things she did in Israel (3 months later). Some friends of ours gave us some kids books about Israel as a welcome home gift. She loves reading those and recalling her trips to Masada, The Dead Sea, The Sea of Galilee, Haifa, and Jerusalem.

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On the Sea of Galilee.
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The gardens at the Ba’hai Temple in Haifa.
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The Israel Museum.

8. We did go through Hezekiah’s tunnel with her (in the Ergo carrier). It was a little nerve-racking at first (the water came up to my waist at one point and the walls of the tunnel are VERY narrow – not to mention pitch darkness). But we finally got her a working flashlight and that calmed everyone down. We used the flashlights on our phones since we didn’t bring our own battery flashlights. It was an adventure, but if I did it again, I’d probably pass on the toddler-on-your-belly-through-Hezekiah’s-tunnel thing.

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Hezekiah’s tunnel with a toddler.

9. We also hiked the snake path to the top of Masasda at 4:30 in the morning with our daughter on my back in the Ergo. That was a wonderful experience – especially when I was passing other hikers and they made comments to me like, “show off….” What I do regret is taking the snake path back down after 2 hours on top of Masada. We should have just splurged and rode the cable car down. Either way, there is a huge complimentary brunch waiting for you at the Masada Guest House if you stayed there the night before.

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“I got up at 4:30am for that.”
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Masada at sunrise was well worth it.

10. Naps. So we were bad parents and didn’t always lay her down for a nap every afternoon. Hey, we were on the other side of the world and wanted to make the most of our time. Of course we were attune to her needs and made sure she was happy and healthy. But on our last full day in Haifa (towards the end of the trip), we laid her down for a nap in the convent around 2pm. We thought we could have a nice family outing that night after her nap. But that didn’t happen. Our daughter didn’t wake up until 8am the next day! That was her way of saying, “If you’re not going to give me a full daily nap on this trip, I’m just going to make up for it by sleeping for 18 straight hours!” She was bushed – and so were we. We just chilled in the room that evening and rested up before heading to a big day in Caesarea the next day.

11. Car seat. We rented from Eldan Car Rental, which was a great choice in my opinion (except returning the car to the Eldan lot at TLV was a little confusing due to some detour signage). We were able to add a car seat to the rental for some $30 extra, which was well worth not lugging a car seat with us halfway around the world.

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The car seat was only about $30 extra on the whole week of a car rental.

12. Sun and Water. We brought plenty of water and water bottles with us everywhere. One of the shopkeepers in Jerusalem told us that a trick some people use with toddlers who don’t drink enough water is to mix in some juice or powder drink mixes. We indeed tried that and I think it helped her stay hydrated! As for the sun, we made sure she had sunblock and a head covering or a wrap for her body or the stroller when the sun was too much.

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The wrap helped in the heat at Herodian.
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Our tour guide at Qumran.

I hope this helps anyone out there considering taking a toddler to Israel. I say “do it!” We made lots of fun family memories and it was well worth every penny and every pound of weight on my back.

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One happy camper.
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One of my favorite pics from the trip. Looking at candles together in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Thoughts from a First-Time Dad-To-Be

My beautiful wife Sarah is due with our first child next month (3rd week of September). We tried, waited, and prayed for 4 and a half years to have a child before we got pregnant. We experienced the pains of infertility, such as seeing so many happy families with children all around us, some of them (with good intentions) asking us when we were going to have children. We would just have to respond with things like, “When the time is right…” if we were not interested in having a deep, emotional conversation at the moment.

Then came the joy of getting pregnant, which came as a welcomed surprise. In the midst of the joy, more fears raced through my mind, such as the health of the baby and mommy and seeing them pull through this amazing journey to a healthy labor and delivery.

So far, so good. Thank you to all who have supported us and prayed for us through this time. We love our friends and family.

With a month to go, I thought I would list out a few things on my mind currently about being a Dad soon.

1. I’ve wanted to be a Dad for as long as I can remember – a main reason being the joy and love and security I experienced from my own father.

2. I’m past the “ready” point. Many Dads have about 9 months to emotionally prepare. I feel like I’ve had a longer waiting period because of the waiting period Sarah and I went through in order to get pregnant.

3. Every Dad I’ve ever talked to would place the birth of their first child somewhere in the top 2 or 3 moments of their lives. All I can say is that I can only imagine that feeling and experience. You can tell me all day long how special that is, but I will never really know what its like until the day comes next month.

4. I get filled with emotion when I am around the babies and small children of our friends. My “Dad” pistons are firing up more and more as each day goes by.

5. I heard someone say that a woman becomes a mother when she gets pregnant, but a man becomes a father when he holds the baby for the first time. I think that has to do with the whole “carrying” concept. The woman is constantly carrying this new life and the man can only feel the kicking and set up the crib. I’m looking forward to my first experience of carrying our child.

6. I have also heard from too many people about the tons of dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and endless crying. I think I get the picture. And I will not know what it’s really like until it happens. Until then, I’m confident that we’ll somehow make it through.

7. Speaking of “until then,” I realize this will be one of the calmest months of my life until about 2040, depending on how many children we end up having. So here’s to quiet nights and a clean house. Then I say, “Bring it on, baby.”