Sunday, March 31, 2013
It is approaching midday as Cleopas and his unnamed friend are preparing to leave Jerusalem. The Passover and the Sabbath have now passed and things are beginning to calm down around the ancient city. The crowds are disbursing, returning to their home towns. Cleopas had hoped to leave earlier but was delayed by a rumor that Jesus' body was now missing from the tomb. Some of the women claimed to have been greeted by angels at the gravesite where they were told Jesus had risen. When the rest of the disciples went to the tomb they found that it was empty, but there were no angels present.
As Cleopas and his friend set out on the seven mile journey to Emmaus, they are greeted by a stranger on the same path. In these times it was common for people to try to travel in groups due to thieves and bandits along the roadways. As expected Cleopas and his companion are overcome with confusion, disappointment, and depression as a result of the events that have taken place the past few days. They now have very little to live for as their hopes of deliverance for the Jews was stolen away and killed in a matter of a few hours. At one point the stranger asks them what their conversation is about. Cleopas immediately assumes that the man must have just arrived in Jerusalem and has no clue what has occurred. He tells him about Jesus and how they expected Him to be the deliverer of the Jews. They also express their disappointment at His death.
The stranger then asks them a question, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?" At this he begins to teach the men of all the things the Scriptures said about the Christ. This conversation lasts the duration of their journey. As the sun is setting into the evening hours, Cleopas and his friend reach their destination. The stranger continues on by himself when Cleopas pleads with him to stay the night with them. After some convincing, the stranger decides to stay. After dinner is prepared the stranger breaks bread and gives thanks to the Lord for the food. As the bread is broken, the men both noticed he prays for food in a way that is strangely familiar. Suddenly they realize this is no stranger, they are in the presence of Jesus!! As soon as this realization takes place, Jesus disappears. Even though it is late, the two men immediately begin the journey back to Jerusalem to share the news of what they have just experienced.
And so here we stand today. We were not there to witness the events of 2,000 years ago. Like Cleopas and his friend we never saw the empty tomb and all we know of Jesus' resurrection is from what others have told us. Like Cleopas and his friend we are now left to walk the road of life in the presence of a Savior we may not always see, resting our faith on a testimony brought to us by ancient stories. And like Cleopas and his friend, we too have the responsibility to share the news of our experiences with our friends!
It is my hope that this week we have all had the opportunity to grow a little closer to God by taking a little closer look at Jesus' final week. I love you all and I pray that we all will enter this next week compelled to "...go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Let us always remember that final promise, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt 28:18-20). Happy Easter!
Saturday, March 30, 2013
As the followers of Christ awake this morning they are greeted by a brief glimmer of hope that it was all only a dream, the same feeling many of us who have unexpectedly lost loved ones experience that next day. All night they replayed the events of the previous 24 hours in their minds. Again and again they see that strange encounter between Jesus and Judas, over and over again they see Judas greet Him with a kiss, they see themselves running for their lives in the garden, again and again in their mind's eye they see Jesus writhing in pain as He was whipped, beaten, and tortured. The sounds haunt them as they can still hear His cries with each clank of the nails being driven. What a horrible night. Then, in complete exhaustion, they finally fell asleep. Now as they begin to stir in the early morning that faint glimmer of hope quickly vanishes and is replaced with dread, shock, emptiness, and sorrow as they soon realize that it was not a dream. They quickly scan the room and their eyes fall on the empty bed Jesus would have occupied. He really is gone, the man they had spent almost every waking hour with for the past three years was now gone. Worse than that is the realization that they were wrong about this person who they thought was the Savior, the Son of God. They almost feel betrayed, yet at they loved Him too much to be angry. All of this is compounded by the fact that they all know that they are marked men, and that if they are not careful, they might all meet the same fate as there leader.
They all wonder, "Can this day be any worse?" As those words are pondered, suddenly the door to the upper room bursts open. They all jump, fearing the Romans are coming for them. Only it is not a soldier, instead it is one of the other followers with a shocked look on his face trying to catch his breath. "Judas!" he blurts out. "Judas is dead! They just found him outside the city gates." “He hung himself next to the ravine!” It looks like the branch broke because when they found him he was laying at the bottom with the rope still around his neck and his body mutilated from the fall.
At this point shock sets in again, only now they are too numb to cry. Another brother, another friend is gone. It is only now that the greater shock begins to set in, and it will soon grow to hatred. Did Judas betray the master? No, he couldn't have, but why was he with the soldiers? They spend the rest of the day trying to make sense of it all. Time seems as if it has halted. There is no energy, no hope, no will to move on, only despair. They are only left to wonder, "What now? What do we do? Where do we go from here?" All is lost.
Friday, March 29, 2013
Matthew ch. 27, Mark ch. 15, Luke ch. 22:54- 23:56, John 18:25- 19:42
As we went to bed last night, Jesus would have just been taken captive in the garden. This morning we are awaken by the shouts of a crowd. Quickly we arise, get dressed and scurry down to the center of the old town to see what is going on. Here we find a lot has happened during our hours of slumber. The man we had seen praying in the garden last night now has His hands bound. His clothing torn and His face battered and bloody. His eyes are so swollen He is hardly recognizable. We can now make out the cries of the crowd to be a death chant, "Crucify! Crucify!" The disciples are nowhere to be found and one of them, Judas, is now dead, hanging from a tree just outside of town. Unbeknownst to most of Jerusalem, Jesus has been paraded around the city during the night to a series of kangaroo courts that attempt to condemn Him to death. At one point Jesus, who has now been separated from His disciples for several hours, is standing in the court yard of the high priest. The dawn is now fast approaching and our exhausted Christ is weary and beaten. Suddenly in the mist of the chaos Jesus hears a roster crowing. He immediately turns and looks over His shoulder, among the large crowd Jesus locks eyes with a single person. It is Peter. When Peter notices Jesus is looking at him, his expression changes to that of pure horror. He melts to tears and runs from the area as he realizes, just as Jesus had predicted, that he had just denied Jesus for the third time.
As sun light begins to break over the ancient City of Jerusalem, Jesus is led back to Pilate. Pilate has very little desire to have anything done with Jesus as he is unable to find any guilt in the man. In an attempt to satisfy the crowd, Pilate sends Jesus off to be scourged, in hopes it will suffice the hostile audience. During this process, Jesus is whipped with a "cat of nine tails" a whip of nine strands held by a single handle. Braided into this whip are pieces of jagged bone and metal, designed to literally tear the flesh from the body. History shows that most people who endured scourging normally died anyway from the trauma of the event. After this, it is quite likely that parts of Jesus' rib cage would have been exposed as His flesh was sliced open as result of the severity of this practice. After this terrible torture, the people are still not satisfied. As a last ditch attempt to free Jesus, and thus save his own political skin, Pilate falls back on a tradition he has with the Jews of releasing a single prisoner at the time of Passover. He intentionally picks out the worst man he can think of, a violent rebel named Barabbas, a man he is sure the Jews will want to remain in custody. Pilate gives the people the option of either Jesus or Barabbas. The plan backfires when they unbelievably choose Barabbas.
Pilate is now caught in an odd predicament. Although history shows him to have been a rather cut throat individual, he has been instructed by Rome to keep things under control in the remote outpost of Jerusalem. If he supports the killing of Jesus, he will be condemning a man he knows is innocent which will not fare well. If he sets Jesus free he runs the risk of a complete riot which could cost him his position. On top of all of this, his wife has come to him and told him of a troubling dream she had about Jesus and warns him to have nothing to do with this situation. In an attempt to relieve himself of all responsibility, Pilate washes his hands of the situation and tells the Jews to do what they wish with Jesus.
Sometime around 8 AM, Jesus is led to a hill just outside the west wall of the town known as the skull. By this time He can barely even stand as a result of the brutal treatment He has endured. He is suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, blood loss, and indescribable pain. His condition is so poor that a man from the crowd is selected to carry the cross beam of Jesus' cross for him. Once at the hill, about 9AM, Jesus' arms are nailed through his wrists to the cross beam. The cross beam is then hoisted up onto a larger stake that has been driven into the ground. When this action occurs, Jesus is pulled up from the ground by His arms that have been nailed to the wood. This act more than likely dislocates both shoulders and possibly His elbows. Jesus, now dangling by His arms, then has His feet nailed to the vertical stake that the crossbeam is now attached to. He will spend the next six hours in this position.
As we go through our daily routines today, lets remember that from about 9AM until 3PM Jesus was suffering on the cross. During these hours of torment, Jesus still finds the love in His heart to ask God to forgive us for what we did to Him. As the 3PM hour draws near, Jesus' mouth is so dry He can't even speak. A rag, soaked with vinegar wine is then raise up to Him on a stick so He can wet His mouth enough to call out some of His final words. "IT IS FINISHED!" These words were known as a victory cry in this time period. The phrase was often called out at the conclusions of battles. Jesus had been victorious. He had spent 33 years on this Earth living a perfect life and in spite of His desires, at times, to walk away from this responsibility He stayed true to the cause.
Quick work is now made to get Jesus off of the cross and buried prior to sunset as the Sabbath begins. Tonight as we are settling down with our families, lets remember the hopelessness the disciples and followers of Christ must have felt that night. They had just poured the last 3 years of their lives into a man who was supposed to be the one that would save them from their oppressors. All hope, all joy, everything is now gone. The so called "savior" is dead.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
To get an idea of the significance of the next 36 hours we can look to the Book of John. The first 13 chapters of John deal with all of Jesus' life. The next 6 chapters alone deal with this short period of time!
I imagine Jesus must have awaken with a sick feeling in His stomach as He knew He had just experienced His last night of sleep. The story picks up with Jesus asking His disciples to find a place for them to have the Passover dinner. That evening, Jesus and the disciples gather to take part in the Passover meal. During this time, in an act of sheer humility, Jesus washes the disciple's feet. I wonder what He must have felt as He washed the feet of Judas? The feet that would soon be leading the soldiers to capture Him. Jesus begins to tell the disciples of His coming death and predicts Peter will deny even knowing Him by day break. Jesus also identifies Judas as His betrayer to Peter and John with a simple piece of bread dipped in wine, an ironic symbol as Jesus later describes the bread and wine as symbols of His sacrifice. Shortly after nightfall Judas leaves the meal for an unknown reason to the rest of the disciples. While they remain, a conversation about which disciple is the greatest begins. This is an interesting argument for a group of men who in about 3 hours will experience the greatest fall of their lives.
As the meal concludes, probably around 9PM, the group leaves the upper room and begins to walk to the Garden of Gethsemane which is located across a ravine, several hundred yards from the east gate of the city. As they are walking, Jesus uses every last second to continue teaching these young men and comforts them as He speaks of His love for them. Once at the entrance to the garden, Jesus calls for Peter, John, and James to accompany Him away from the rest of the group to pray. Once they are separated, Jesus walks a little farther on and begins to passionately pray to the Father. It is apparent to the disciples that Jesus is under some sort of stress as He has been acting strangely all day. His demeanor has been very dark and here in the garden they see it reach its climax. Jesus is literally brought to His knees by this unknown stress. He actually begins to have droplets of blood form in His sweat. (An extremely painful medical condition that has been observed in people under intense stress where the blood pressure rises to such a degree it begins to rupture the sweat glands)
Here the salvation of the world hangs in the balance. Every moment from the fall of man until now is fixed on this one place in time. God has sent Jesus into the world to save it and in the garden we see Jesus actually express that He doesn't want to do it and pleads God to "...take this cup from me!" Jesus grapples with this decision for an hour or so in what had to be the most intense spiritual battle of all time. One has to wonder if Jesus was still clinging to the slight hope that God would still spare Him? I wonder if His mind wandered back to Abraham and Issac. Perhaps He hoped that God would spare Him at the last second the way He spared Issac? This emotional battle is so intense that an angel actually appears to encourage Jesus. I have to wonder why God had to send an angel to encourage Him? Could it possibly have been due to the fact that when Jesus needed encouragement most, His most devoted followers fell asleep? What if they had been praying with Him as He had asked them to? Would the angel have still needed to come? In the end, we see a man who is completely exhausted and very much alone, suddenly gain the strength to rise to His feet. All hope of being spared by God is now gone and Jesus submits to His fate as He says, "Not my will but Your will be done." At the end of this time of prayer we see the same man who just a short time ago was in tears praying for the test to pass, now having the strength to actually walk out to meet the challenge.
The disciples are awaken by Jesus and jump to their feet as they hear a commotion coming their direction. They have a sick feeling in the pit of their stomachs that something very bad is about to happen. They watch with confusion in their eyes as Judas, who had just left the dinner a short time ago, approaches Jesus and identifies Him to the group of soldiers with the infamous kiss
A fight breaks out and all the disciples, who had just sworn their willingness to die for Jesus, flee the area for their lives. During this altercation a man loses his ear only to have Jesus heal him before being lead away. It is now between 10 and 11PM. Jesus is bound and beaten as He will spend the rest of the night enduring six unfair trials that will eventually condemn an innocent man.
Tonight as we prepare for bed, let's think about the pain Jesus experienced in the garden as He fought so hard to be obedient to His Father's call. Let's not abandon Him to some other distraction tonight. No, tonight let us stand by our Savior in prayer as we failed to do 2,000 years ago and thank Him for choosing to provide us the salvation we so desperately needed.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
There is nothing mentioned in the Gospels about anything taking place on Wednesday. Many scholars believe Jesus may have used today to spend time with His family and loved ones as it is the last day before His capture. As for this day, we are only left to wonder what Jesus might have done. What would we do if we knew tomorrow we were in our final hours? How would we spend these last few moments? Perhaps Jesus contemplated fleeing the city to avoid His death all together. Perhaps He walked the streets of Jerusalem preparing Himself for what He was about to endure. I imagine He probably spent time with His mother Mary, as this was the last full day He would spend with her as her son.
I wonder what Jesus will feel tonight as He goes to bed? Will He even be able to sleep? Perhaps, from where He is staying, He is able to hear the sounds of the thousands of sacrificial lambs that have been brought into the city for Passover. Will He listen to them tonight and think about their common fate? There is no doubt that Jesus will spend the majority of this day in prayer. Maybe we can better learn to follow this example. Maybe we should use today to pray that God will help us to understand a little bit of what Jesus may have been experiencing, and thus gain a better perspective of the incredible sacrifice He made to save us. Maybe as Jesus lays down tonight He will think about His childhood. Will images of His teenage years and His deceased father Joseph enter his mind or will He think of the first day He met and called His disciples? I wonder if He questions where the time has gone and how quickly this night has come, how it seems like just yesterday He was a young boy in Galilee learning carpentry. Maybe He will think of the generations of people who have come and gone who looked forward to His arrival and the salvation He would provide. Perhaps He thinks about the generations to come who have no idea He is saving them before they are even born. Perhaps as His eyes are growing heavy, just before He is finally able to drift off for a few hours of sleep.............He thinks of you.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Matthew 21:18- 26:16, Mark 11: 20- 14:11, Luke 20:1 - 22:6
This is perhaps the busiest day of Jesus' final week. It is a day that is filled with teaching as well as traps by the Pharisees as Jesus wraps up the final few hours of His ministry. The day begins with Jesus and the disciples walking back into Jerusalem from Bethany. As they are walking they pass the same tree that Jesus had cursed yesterday when He attempted to find figs. They notice that today the tree has completely withered. The fig tree, the symbol of God’s blessing, withered and dead, symbolic of what has now happened to the temple.
They proceed into town and head back to the temple. Upon their arrival to the chief priests are waiting for Him. I can imagine they were enraged as they stood in the mess of the broken tables from the day before. They sharply ask Jesus, "Who gave you the authority to do this?" Jesus halts them with a question of His own, one that they can't answer. When the chief priest respond that they don't know the answer Jesus leaves them dumb founded as He tells them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."
Jesus then begins to tell the parable of the Wicked Tenants. In this story Jesus is obviously describing what is going to happen in just two and a half days. He speaks of a man that rents a vineyard to some farmers while he is away on a journey. While he is away the master sends a number of servants to check on the vineyard. The tenants proceed to beat and kill the servants until the man finally sends his only son, thinking the tenants would have to respect him. The tenants instead decide to seize and kill the son, throwing him out of the vineyard. When the master learns of this he returns to the vineyard, kills the tenants and gives the vineyard to others. This is an interesting passage as it alludes to the spreading of Christianity being taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles.
The Pharisees are angered by this story because they know Jesus is talking about them. They instead decide to try to trap Him with a political question. They ask Him if they should pay taxes to Caesar or not? If Jesus says "no" to this then they can report Him to the Romans for treason, if Jesus answered "yes" He would lose much of His support from the people as it would appear He supported Rome. Once again Jesus gives a brilliant answer that leaves them silent. "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."
Time and time again the Pharisees attempt to trip Him up with questions intended to be traps and time and time again Jesus is able to answer them. Finally Jesus leaves the temple area. He and several of the disciples walk about a quarter to a half mile from the temple to the Mount of Olives. From here they can over look the city and the temple and Jesus begins to tell of the future. He foretells the eventual destruction of the temple, an event that took place almost 40 years later in 70 A.D. Jesus concludes with this warning, "Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back - whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'"
I can't help but wonder if Jesus, as He spoke these words, thought about the fact that His disciples would soon be sleeping in the garden when He needed them most, or that Peter, His most loyal follower, would soon be denying he even knew Jesus.
That evening Jesus returns to Bethany where He stays at the house of Simon the Leper. While they are reclining at the table Mary, the sister of Lazarus, takes a bottle of a very expensive perfume and pours it over Jesus. This perfume known as nard, was worth a years income, $30,000 to $40,000 by today's standards. As she is pouring it on Jesus, Judas complains that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus rebukes him and again alludes to His death as He says, "She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial..." Even as Jesus gives ample hints that His death is drawing near nobody seems to catch on.
As Mary is performing this beautiful gesture for Jesus, Judas, perhaps angered that he was just rebuked, slips away in the night to prepare a deal with the Pharisees and the Chief Priests in which he is offered 30 pieces of silver to turn Jesus over to them.
Tonight before we go to bed, I pray that we will remember both the beauty and the evil that was taking place on this night 2,000 ago. And who are we tonight? Do we display the selfless, loving, beauty of Mary in how we live? Or do we act on our own interests, motivated by our own desires like Judas?
Monday, March 25, 2013
It is Monday morning, the dawn has not yet broke and Jesus awakes in a rather grouchy mood. All night images of people peddling God in the Temple courtyard have been running through His mind. He probably arose early and went out alone to pray, as was His custom. (Mark 1:35). After this Jesus and His disciples begin their journey back into Jerusalem. As He is approaching town, Jesus notices a fig tree, the symbolic tree of God’s blessing, on the side of the road. Seeking some breakfast, Jesus approaches the tree but only finds leaves. Already in a bad mood, Jesus is irritated by the tree's lack of fruit, He pronounces a curse on the tree, "Let no one eat fruit from you ever again." Much like the temple He was about to enter, this tree offered signs of hope. It was full of leaves and had every indication that there should be something there to eat. Instead the tree offered nothing, but the empty promise that it had food.
Jesus then proceeds to the temple where like the fig tree, a place of hope has been turned into a place of empty promises by the thieves that inhabit it. And like the tree, God’s blessing was about to be taken from this place.
Last night, He had witnessed the thieves and swindlers selling sacrifices and taking advantage of peoples desire to worship God. At this point, Jesus is both angry and hurt by the mockery that is being made of the worship of His Father. Jesus cries out, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a den of thieves." Chaos erupts as He begins to overturn tables, releasing the sacrificial doves and chasing all of the peddlers out of the temple area.
I wonder how Jesus felt moments after driving these people out. I wonder if He cried as He now stood alone in the rubble of broken tables and scattered cages. Again I wonder if He questioned whether or not we were really worth dying for? I wonder what Jesus did? Did He drop to His knees in frustration with humanity? For some reason in my mind, I picture Jesus sitting alone in the temple staring down at the ground with tears of frustration in His eyes, muttering to God. I can then imagine Him being startled by somebody touching His hand. As He slowly looks up He makes eye contact with a small child who has a badly deformed leg. Jesus' heart melts with compassion and He heals the child. After this more and more people begin to come to Him in the temple and He spends the rest of the day healing the blind, the sick, and the lame. These few moments of sorrow begin to erupt in joy as people who have never walked begin to leap, people who have never seen suddenly can see the vibrant colors that have always been around them. Children begin to sing, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" Reference the children singing, Jesus later says they have "...perfected praise." At the end of this long day, after seeing the joy and the hope He had brought to these people, I wonder if Jesus was encouraged? I wonder if He felt renewed strength to face His fate with every child He heard laugh, with the first expression of every blind man that could suddenly see, and with the leaps of joy from every cripple that had never walked. I wonder how He felt as He walked from the temple grounds back to the small town of Bethany where He spent the night? At least for today, the temple was not a place of empty promises. Today, God was in His house.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
The first day we are going to look at is today, Palm Sunday, found in Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19.
Just outside the ancient city of Jerusalem, a small band of shabby characters are making their way toward the city. Among them, a man named Bartimaeus. For years he spent his days at the gates of Jericho as a blind beggar seeking spare change from those who would give.....until yesterday. Yesterday he was healed of his blindness and today he is eagerly following the sage who granted him this gift of sight. Sadly, these new and perfect eyes, that today allow him to see the vibrant beauty of the world, will soon show him the contrasting horrors of life as he will watch the man who healed him being tortured to death.
That man now walks with a quiet intensity while the rest surround him like the entourage of a boxer approaching the ring. The men are excited as they fully expect their leader to establish himself as the Messiah and overthrow Israel’s Roman oppressors. Little do they know their leader has all but given up on trying to explain to them that the Messiah is to be a sacrifice rather than a conquer. Jesus is fully aware that He is now living the final days of His life and He is approaching them with courage and dread.
As He reaches a point that He can overlook the city, He begins to weep, lamenting that the people failed to recognize the day of their Savior’s coming, an event that was predicted to the day by the Prophet Daniel.
As He and His disciples are approaching the town, Jesus sends some of them ahead to find a donkey colt, one that had never been ridden. The disciples locate the colt and bring it to Jesus where He then rides it into the city. As Jesus is entering, His followers begin to take their cloaks as well as palm branches and lay them on the ground in front of the donkey. The people cheered as their king arrived, having no idea that within five days they would be calling for His execution. I wonder if Jesus thought about this as He was coming into town? He said that if these people had not cheered then even the rocks and trees would have cried out in worship of Him. The people had grand plans of how Jesus was going to save them from the Roman Empire, and as usual, God had something bigger in mind.
After the procession, Jesus went to the temple. Upon His arrival to this holy place, He finds people using the worship of God as a means to make money. This obviously upset Jesus as we will see in His actions tomorrow. In the midst of this commotion, Jesus chooses to remain silent, He instead slips away for the night. I wonder what Jesus must have thought that night. He had just experienced people cheering for Him, people that He knew had no idea why He was there and people that He knew would want Him dead in just a few days. He then walks into the Holy temple and sees what He later calls "a den of thieves," making a mockery out of the worship of His Father. With the scene of the money changers replaying in His mind, I wonder if His heart began to swell with a burning intensity as He sat quietly that night weaving the whip He will use tomorrow to drive those thieves out of His Father's House? I can't imagine the hurt, the mockery He felt was taking place in the name of God. I imagine He will not sleep well tonight.
It is my prayer that tonight as you lay down to bed, that you ponder what He may have been thinking that first Palm Sunday. It is my prayer that this week more than any other, we really take time to appreciate what Jesus did all those years ago.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
I have come to a realization that the happy man is the one who lets go of all the things in life he can't control and uses those free hands to take firm hold of the things he really can. We can't really control if we get cancer or if a loved one dies. We can't control the stock market or the weather. But there are a couple things we all can control and most of us just don't.
Many of us allow other people to control things like our emotions. All day we ride a roller coster of highs and lows based upon how other people treat us. We place our happiness, sadness, anger, and joy in the hands of those around us, whether we like them or not. We are slaves to how people "make us feel," constantly reacting to how we are being treated. We manipulate our loved ones by placing the burden of our happiness on their shoulders. True happiness is a decision not a result of what someone else does. But if someone has the power to "make me happy" then do they not also possess the power to take it away? One of the great ironies of life is that so many of us spin our wheels trying to control all the things we can't while neglecting the only thing we can............that being ourselves.