star

As a child I truly believed a wish on the first star of an evening would come true, so I was very careful with my wishes. I later began to see my wishes were prayers, and God would hear them, not a star, meteor or a comet.

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Is sentimentality inborn or learned? Are some more inclined than others? Some call themselves romantics, some pragmatists. Some are just complicated.

People can be influenced by movies. Disney especially is heavy on making fantasy appear real. Or maybe it’s circumstances. Some so dire, dark or sad a child, by nature optimistic, desperately wishes for the magic.

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When I finally determined that power which I perceived as magic was gifted within each person I wanted it to change the world. I wanted love and light in every heart and, for years could not understand why I couldn’t create this. Which was when I learned where the gifts came from.

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I had to realize I did not create this gift, any more than I created me. I admired people who were so confident, so sure of themselves, so certain of their todays and tomorrows, and who could laugh at the mistakes and pains of their yesterdays.

I wanted that. Yet I realized that this, too, I could not create or change. I had to accept them first, all of it, before it could become manageable. And then I had to give the burdens to Someone else. There are days when I still feel the burdens, then I remember that I am promised  to never be alone with them. No longer impeded by them. No, they will never disappear. They are woven into the fabric of my life. But I have Someone who takes them for me because He truly and deeply loves all humanity and wants that no one will carry life alone. I am so grateful for this love, mercy. For this forgiveness that I do not deserve.

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Because it’s not because of who I am, but Who He is.

So when I become anxious or frustrated facing a daunting task or challenge I remember I am not meant to carry it on my own. Willful, independent, self-sufficient as I believe myself to be there are some times I need His help more than ever.

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No, this does not mean the task is easier. I still have it to carry. But He gives me strength. No matter what: clarity, stillness, peace, grace are gifts He gives.

I am still learning to turn to Him, to trust Him, to accept them.

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strength

Nerves of steel. Iron willed. Rock solid. Unflappable. So many images to describe someone who can withstand adversity. Even capricious betrayal.

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Someone convinces me that s/he is sincerely in my corner, only wanting to help, but instead of my normal step back to consider the thing I jump right in, believing this person is actually the genuine, concerned, true clear thinker that I am not at the moment.

Mistake. At rescue dog Lulu’s expense.

As a person said, after the altered-universe nightmare was over, hindsight is 20/20. Yes. And I know this. I have known it since I entered into a marriage that should never have happened.

When does one finally learn? When do I get to look back and not say “hindsight is 20/20”?

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Sure, she likely needed the treatments she received, but I needed to make that decision. I am old enough to know better. I need to remember it is almost never that anyone else has my best interests in mind or even at heart. Certainly not when s/he is insisting I do something their way. I need to not worry oh gosh what will s/he think of me if I make a different choice.

Lulu mattered. Not the controlling person.

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Mercifully Lulu is none the worse for the experience. The same cannot be said for me. It was not the expense. It was visiting my little dog and seeing her collapse in exhaustion because she cannot sleep in a tense environment with 24-hour noise, prodding of needles and not eating, receiving fluids because she is too terrified to drink on her own.

It was seeing her wild-eyed, cradled in my arms unable to relax until she slept. It was being home without her, my other rescue dog, Lily greeting me when I came home from visiting Lulu sniffing every centimeter of my arms and hands, going to the back door to look for Lulu, who was not there.

It was going to pick Lulu up on my appointed day to bring her home to be met by the ICU tech telling me, no, Lulu is not going home, and me replying Yes, Lulu is coming home today, and bringing her home.

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Thank God Lulu is fine. But now I have another person to put on my “Not to be trusted” list. A person who encouraged me to do a thing and resolved issues vicariously through my experience.

Whatever. I’m just glad it is over. And Lulu is home. The lump on her throat which appeared is still there but not a bother to her in any way, and an emergency vet experience made her no better than her own vet would have. She did need care beyond what I could offer, but not dire.

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But then I will never know. And I have trust issues. The person who told me Lulu needed to go there may have meant well but I know enough to know that people also can have an agenda. So I can remember, if such a thing should ever happen again to say thank you, I will consider the suggestion. And think about it.

And pray that there are no other dire circumstances at the same time, like a broken tree falling in the backyard …..

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too strong to cry

For years after my husband and I divorced I did not cry. I might say could not but since I cry easily these days I would guess I could have but for whatever reason just didn’t.

I did not cry for my failed marriage. I did not cry for our son who would be shuttled between two states and so many dynamics of family. I did not cry for abysmal relationship mistakes made years after. I did not cry when my taskmaster Father for whom I worked in business blamed me for any and everything that went wrong, personnel, technical, anything. I now realize as a business owner he wanted me to understand what it meant to take responsibility but I was in overload in that department already.

I did cry when my mother died, 7 years after my divorce. The floodgates opened. She and I had drifted apart because I had too many tightropes to walk and could not relate to anyone. But when she died I snapped back to reality. Six years after she died my little dog of almost 16, with an enlarged heart, enlarged liver, degenerative disc disease and latent seizures had to be put to sleep.

I cried harder for my little Piper than for my mom.

As my son grew and life came back into focus my perspective became more balanced. I suppose sometimes you have to go off the deep end to see what’s right more clearly.

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At first I moved very slowly because life was newer, fresher but not strange. Having come to the end of myself I handed me off to God. I knew at once how badly I needed Him, how much I depended on Him. For breath, for wisdom, guidance, peace, grace, comfort, understanding, forgiveness, life.

And though I was still somewhat confused that purpose and vocation could be but were not necessarily one and the same thing that, too became clearer. First I was a child of God. Next a mother. Then a provider, sister, daughter, friend. And nothing is compartmentalized but can interchange.

Life, I learned, is rather fluid.

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Sometimes we find a niche and alight for however long.

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Other times, we fly.

I write this post after my son called to tell me he is in Tennessee with his father. His step-mother, a woman whom I have never got to know (why would I have) is not expected to live through today. They said that though on Thursday when she was admitted to hospital for sudden pain that has turned out to be a super-resistant infection.  And she is still here.

So I told my son I will pray for her, this woman, a virtual stranger but she is important to my son.

So she is important.

And I will pray.

And I cried. For a woman I do not know.

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“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”   –Psalm 23:4

“For He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.”    —Psalm 91:11

 

where to

My father defied definition. He was a force.Whether of nature or not I am uncertain, yet he taught me so much, and nothing at all. He shared family history with my brother. He shared magic with me. Mostly tricks that he either explained, laughing, or I figured out to his delight. But something else. I wish I could put into words…

He taught me whenever anyone thinks they know it all they are dead. We never stop learning. He taught me to play chess. He showed me how to dig sand fleas for bait when surf fishing. He took me to Lincoln Center to see the magic of the Nutcracker ballet. We sat at a table with a beaten up aging boxer and his girlfriend at IMG_0088.JPGPaddy’s Clam House to eat lobster. We sang the Air Force “Wild Blue Yonder” and the Army marching song though he was with the FBI during the war because of a mountain climbing accident. But as I grew up we became contentious. We argued about just about everything. I reached an age where neither he nor anyone could teach me anything — I knew it all.

Of course, I didn’t, but our arguments were legend. When I worked for his company the shouting matches caused more than a few employees to quit and I couldn’t blame them.

We especially argued about Christians. Faith. Dad had always been a man’s man, self-made, self-sufficient. He saw Christians as weak, helpless, dependent. Almost like welfare recipients which he had complete disregard for. And emotions ran high when we had arguments about God, or Jesus or anything that was a large part of my faith. So we stopped talking.

That was not the answer. Eventually we began talking again but not about religion. Then he got older, began getting sick. Looking back I wish I’d done so much more. I wish I had read the book of Acts to him. He’d especially have admired Paul I think when he was shipwrecked. Dad loved sailing, all things maritime really and I think this might have hooked him at least a little into being interested in Christians. Especially how Paul became one. Earth-shattering if anything could be.

There are many places in the Bible where heaven is described. Ezekiel, where that contraption with flashing wheels and the being with the heads of an eagle and a lion, wings, talons… nothing I can visualize well, no matter how many times I read it. I also believe heaven is nothing like we can imagine so anyone that tries has to use the words we know which probably don’t even come close.

Dad became very sick after a fall where he broke 7 ribs and went through three or four bouts of pneumonia. My brother called me to tell me Dad’s doctor had told him we needed to be with Dad. So we flew home. Dad was in intensive care and the nurses kindly allowed us to stay with Dad all day. One morning one of his therapists came in to work on opening Dad’s lungs after breakfast. Dad had fallen asleep after eating. This was no small man. Nothing he did or said could wake Dad. He came back an hour or so later, same thing. Dad slept on. Throughout the day various people came to do things or speak with Dad, no response. Sleeping soundly.

At around 5 that afternoon Dad woke. He opened his eyes, blinking slowly and looked around the room. “Is this Heaven?” he said.

I asked him if he could tell us where he had been, what he had seen. He would begin a sentence only to stop abruptly, then begin again, stop again. I realized he’d been given a wonderful gift.

A friend of mine, a Priest, who I’d asked to visit Dad came by just after. I told him about Dad’s day, how no one and nothing would wake him, what he’d said upon waking. My friend slowly smiled. He sat with us a bit, asked a prayer then left.

Sometimes people, badly bruised and hardened by life’s knocks, twists and turns, are shown what is ahead for them. We none of us ever truly knows another’s heart.

God does.

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The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.   –Isaiah 40:8

darkness

I have the same problem with Holy Saturday that I have with Good Friday. Good Friday? When Jesus is crucified? I could never see much good in it at all. People refused to see Jesus as Messiah. He made a lot of important people angry telling them the truth about themselves so they decided by killing Him it would make their unhappiness go away.

It didn’t.

Like a guy I used to work with often said, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Removing someone, moving to a different place will not change the person you are.

But Jesus could have, if they had listened, believed. So the same goes for Holy Saturday. What is holy about the death of a Savior?

When I was little like most children I was clueless about certain things. Church was a place you were polite and wore pretty clothes that you couldn’t make mudpies in. You could keep trying to destroy your brother during the week but not on Sunday. Or so I thought. Very thankful we grew up, neither of us destroyed the other and we are good friends.

But holy? The day after the man who was purported to be the Messiah dies? Savior of the world? He was the Son of God. Why did He die? Why didn’t He conquer the Romans?

Because He came to conquer our hearts. He came to overcome sin and death for us by sacrificing Himself on the cross so we by having faith that He is the Savior our own souls are saved. That was why He came. In love. Why that terrible Friday is good.

When God tells Moses to relay a message to Pharaoh, Pharaoh hardens his heart. Time and again Pharaoh relents only to change his mind and demand even more work, more bricks, less provision. So for the 9th plague God tells Moses to “stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.” (Exodus 10)

Imagine. A darkness so deep, so oppressive, so blinding you can feel it. I have a hard time imagining what that is. Feelings are quite sensitive. Some more than in others, but we all feel. There is the dark when you wake at night from a sound sleep and stumble to get a glass of water. The dark that is in your mind when you know there will eventually be light. The darkness that can be felt is heart darkness. The dark of hopelessness. A darkness that may even take the breath out of your lungs? Maybe.

When I worked in northwest New Mexico I visited a monument in Arizona called Canyon de Chelly. It is not federally owned and has existed for more than 5000 years, home originally to Anasazi tribes. If there was anyone else at the canyon the day I visited I never knew it. The silence there, even when the dusty desert winds blew, was so profound it had a presence.

That must be what darkness that can be felt is like. A sinister, empty presence. A void but one that, having no structure, nothing tangential can still touch you, consume you. So by Holy Saturday, Jesus had died, He was buried. The disciples and other believers must have been terrified. They hid. Their hopes were shattered. Jesus had told them He would destroy the temple and raise it in three days but even though they knew He often spoke in parables who would have suspected He meant Himself? Not me, had I been there.

This is part of all He did for us. He took our sin, the certain threat of death to the cross. He took the inevitability of separation from God. He remained in the abyss of that terrible dark alone. He and His Father were separated in what must have felt like eternity.

So maybe this is why it’s called holy. It was His sacrifice for us: that He endure what God sent Him to save us from.

Thank You God.

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broken Love

So I was driving somewhere this week and the radio station I happened to be listening to was asking what people were planning to do with their loved one for Valentine’s Day. One woman said she and her husband never planned anything for Valentine’s Day. Their marriage was one in which their love is such they do not need a special day to show it.

I’d never heard that one before. Impressive.

So much hype comes with days like this– birthdays, anniversaries, remembrances. It doesn’t have to be like this.

After my divorce I was a complete mess. There was a comic strip I used to read, “Beetle Bailey”, this scrawny private in the military constantly being beaten to a pulp by his superior, Sarge. The comic would show this with a flattened remnant of an individual, feet and hands sticking out oddly, a few teeth gone.

That’s what I felt like.

So with whatever was left I decided to self-destruct. I became involved with some unsavory characters. I drank too much. Even though I had a child and managed to look respectable I also struggled hard to dig further into the hole I found myself in. Not sure how bleak I hoped to make it but one morning I woke to see my son standing in the doorway to my bedroom. At that point I realized what I had been doing. Ignoring that which was important. Living in a black pool of anger and resentment regardless of any cost.

So  as I walked into each new day I functioned. I cooked, I cleaned, I took care of my son as far as my brokenness would allow. Hoping no matter what I said or did he could know that the brokenness was not his fault. Hoping he could know love despite the personal chaos I had created. I kept an orderly home, worked, paid bills on time, for all intents and purposes things looked fine. Normal, whatever that is. But inside I was a wreck. No order about my thoughts, just survival. Life. Later in the year my son was visiting his father. I found myself reading a little religious magazine I’d subscribed to but never read. I kept the issues I received bound in rubber bands. No idea why. And one day I came across them.

It was a sunny, fresh day. I took them outside to my condo’s little patio and unwrapped the rubber band. I sat in the warm sun, taking them one at a time I read through each one. Each telling me no matter what God loves me. That His Son died an undeserved, humiliating and unimaginably painful death because my pitiable human life is such that I cannot come before my Creator on my own.  Because of His incredible love His sinless Life died for my sinful one. No matter how bleak, how dark, how distant, how bad. Before I was halfway through reading these little booklets I was in tears. A complete mess, but a good mess. It was the old me, the stubborn, angry, bitter me melting before Him Who came to save me. It was me realizing, understanding maybe for the first time ever that there was nothing I could do or be to make myself good, acceptable, clean. It was me seeing this One, this Perfect One who came to this planet to save all people from self and sin, and He was holding His arms out to me, His heart open as it probably always had been but I never saw it. And in Him I saw true hope.

I walked into those arms. I have never felt lost again. I have been alone but seldom lonely, wrong but He is always quick to forgive when I come to Him honestly and tell Him everything. I have been sad from rejection, from hurt but He has always comforted me. I have been afraid, maybe of something I imagined but afraid just the same and He has given me courage. He strengthens me, nourishes me, refreshes me, guides and instructs me, sustains me.

His love has been since before this world and will be, forever. And He won’t ever let me go.

So even though today or any day I find myself at a place of fogginess where I can’t see the road clearly in front of me I know He is here. I know whatever direction I take, wherever I go He will be with me.

I won’t be perfect. But life will be ok. And it will be right. And true. And real.

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For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

 

 

Surprises out of not

My son was here last weekend for a pre-planned visit. Well I say pre-planned but his planning is generally only a week or two out from his date of travel unless he goes someplace for work. I was grateful to see him and for once there were no heated arguments or harsh words.

Nor should there be. He is in his 30s. On his own since college. We need to be able to get along. However, he has had a living-together arrangement for about 5 years now and I seem to irritate him often since this began. If I ask about what she does. If I comment on how much he eats at restaurants or on the run. If I ask about his exercising. This time was the best so far and as my dad would advise me, “it takes two to make a fight”.  So I stayed calm, did not ask questions on incendiary issues. Seemed to work out ok.

I think this is easier said than done. Dysfunction existed since before therapists made it so popular in the 80s when everyone appeared to not only have a therapist but talked profusely about it. Yet this is a catch-all word and I think diminishes that which it means to expose. The fact that even though everyone is different, even though each of us has (and is entitled to) opinions of our own, somehow hostility, anger, condemnation creep in and before long there’s an explosion, hurt feelings, blaming, misunderstandings that have become barbed wire walls near impossible to get through.

Some of this comes from historic feelings. Relationships that have “buttons” that are activated by a gesture, facial expression, or certain words. And most are imagined or inflamed by our feelings, then clung to like life preservers. Like the flip side of happy memories, these are the nightmares we often gloss over, push to the recesses of our minds or somehow justify hoping they won’t come back and haunt us.

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But they do. I remember in the early 80s when my divorce was just over. I anesthetized those feelings rather than work through them. I mired myself in work, avoiding the personas I had now become: divorced single woman and parent. I could not bring myself to face this alone, which was what I was. Rather than ask God’s help, find a good church where supportive people usually abound I stuck it out on my own and made things much worse with many many mistakes. So like Charles Dickens’ Marley I forged a few chains that I persisted in dragging around rather than try to find the key which would unlock them and free my life from them and their accompanying false guilt and self-imposed perpetuated humiliations.

I am not at all intending to say this would negate the facts: I am still today a single, divorced parent. But through these thirty-plus years, so many mistakes, tears, temper tantrums, epiphanies, set-backs, understandings, disillusionments,  clarifications and owning up to it all by taking responsibility I have survived myself, my vain, futile efforts to struggle and overcome myself on my own only to find it works better when I ask for help. Not just other people’s help. I have found through all the difficult times, hating myself for yet again another hangover, or wondering whether I could make the mortgage payment, have enough to pay household bills and buy groceries, pay for medical bills, eye doctors, vet bills and dentists, there was always enough. Never to where I became complacent, but enough to where I learned to be humble, grateful and generous when I could be. More depth of understanding and compassion because I had been there. And got out of wherever was potentially harmful or self-defeating.

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And overwhelmed that, through it all, the darkness and the joys, no matter how hard I tried to avoid Him, God was the One giving me this strength, provision, encouragement. Turning to Him did not diminish me. On the contrary, like the prodigal son I truly was welcomed, freed from self-hatred and deprecation, loved, forgiven and cleansed. Don’t get me wrong, I still stumble, sometimes even go flat on my face or my rear, but I can pick myself up, tell Him, and ask Him for forgiveness, restoration, guidance.

I will never have arrived, at least not in this life. No one ever does no matter how much we have, achieve, learn or become. Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of Rev. Billy Graham saw this on a road construction sign and had it inscribed on her gravestone:

“End of construction. Thank you for your patience.”

So however many days I am given in this life it may seem sometimes that I’m being hit with a jack-hammer, or covered in rough gravel, or bathed in hot tar, or steam-rolled to perfect smooth flatness then painted with boundary lines from trial-and-error efforts at how to be and in all this process obstructing or slowing other traffic. I will be continually learning, growing, struggling, changing, hoping, aspiring like all of us will. As long as we are living this is what we do. Sometimes I’ll be mired in darkness deep in a valley, or standing on a sun-soaked mountaintop. But I pray wherever I find myself I keep Christmas in my heart.

May God grant each of us grace and humility, peace and strength, and love to carry us through. In Jesus, Amen.

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earthly good

Several years ago I had the privilege of visiting Israel with an Israeli-based organization. I was there 10 days and the tour guide soaked us in Jewish history as well as showing us holy sites where Jesus lived and taught like the church at Cana, Church of the Beatitudes, Galilee, Jerusalem and Golgotha. At times overwhelming, the people in my group and I shared this experience with awe, reverence and humble hearts.

But there was one traveler who seemed to be most interested in attracting the attention of a female traveler. No particular one, just a female.

He seemed a pleasant enough sort, persistent but nice. He was from Colorado and insinuated himself gently but intentionally enough as to remind me of a movie I’d seen a while before, “Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels” with Michael Caine and Steve Martin. It’s a funny film about a couple of con men, I recommend it. (Sigourney Weaver had a movie about two women cons, “Heartbreakers”, also funny).

Anyway, on the flight back to New York I was walking the kinks out of my legs and he offered a cup of coffee. We chatted a short while and he asked which church I attended. At the time I thought it an odd question so I replied I wasn’t really consistently attending and he thought that was ok, most people were too religious to be of any earthly good.

I paused a moment. I’d heard this expression all my life, basically from ne’er-do-wells trying to convince nice people to let their hair down (also heard Luke 12:19 used this way, to which I’d respond with Luke 12:20!).

Proverbs 16:3-9 basically gives advice on living in a way that is pleasing to God. That if you “commit your work to the Lord, your plans will be established”. I’d always heard “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” I’d also heard that we can control our thoughts and thus control our attitudes not just in ourselves and what we do but toward others. The first commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, spirit and soul” and the second: “Love your neighbor…” So what we do really needs to include mindfulness of God, and being considerate, thoughtful and loving of our neighbor who, for a literal person like myself I have to remind me that this is not whomever lives next door or down the street, but anyone. God created each of us, everywhere. So this means any and everyone.

So I wonder when I do or say things, and I have always had an unbridled tongue and an undisciplined mind to my occasional deep regret, the impression or ripples they make. I can’t dwell on this, my little brain hasn’t the capacity. But I offer a prayer asking forgiveness where I have offended, asking encouragement where I have actually done some good. I say done some good because I know there is “no one good but God alone.”

In many cases we’ll never know what kind of mark we have left. I just remember to use my powers for good, or ask God if He will. This doesn’t give me license to do as I please and just assume God will fix everything, clean up my mess. This makes me ultimately responsible for everything I do or say and to remember that no matter how awful the memory or the feeling brought by that memory or the lack of forgiveness from or for whomever, I am forgiven.

I have said this before but I need to know it again. God sent a Savior, His Son. For me, for you, forever.

I pray to be used for His good, His glory.

 

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Prov. 16:3, 23:7; Luke 10:27, 18:19

They’re so smart, that they aren’t

Have you ever known anyone, even when truth is right in their face, they stubbornly stick to what they believe is the truth? Won’t even consider the plausibility of anything else. Have you ever seen anyone who, because of their own envy, bitterness, fear or whatever refuses to give credibility or even value to a kindness or a good thing said or done because they would have to concede that kindness or goodness to someone else? Or even that it was something they wish they’d done or said but did not because they can’t see past their own self-inflicted limits?  Even though that deed, that kind word, that act was no more than an offering of generosity or hope which requires no pay-back, no applause?

I don’t get it. To me people who are so wrapped up in their own selves, their own (generally) imagined walls they miss everything. They speak of tolerance, they rail against what they think is lack of acceptance yet they cannot see beyond their own intolerance! It doesn’t make any sense.

Reality check?

Take the Values Voter Summit. Several legislators spoke of the integrity of America. The principles and values America was founded upon. Justice, equality, pursuit of happiness, fairness, our freedoms. And yet the Huffington Post said the gathering was pitiable. Worse still the Washington Post avowed those at the summit claimed to “own God”.

Own God?

Were they speaking of the Creator of all mankind, all that is, seen and unseen? The God who loves each individual being on the face of the Earth whether they love, or even believe in, Him or not?

Nobody can own God! What a silly thing to say. I can’t even imagine what prompted anyone to perceive this.

God cannot be bought, sold out, manipulated, coerced, flummoxed, deceived, or fooled.

But those who know Him, His love, grace, peace and truth do know that God owns us in our freely giving our wills to Him. And humbly asking Him to forgive us. His Son Jesus died for us and overcame sin, death and hell for us by rising to life from that horrible crucified death. He owns us in our believing this about Jesus: that, because He died for us, all of us, in the place we deserved to be as the sinners that we are, by His own grace, even the worst of our sins are forgiven. We know and believe this of Him.

So we humbly spit out pride. We seek Him. We find and revel in His grace, forgiveness, and love. We praise Him.

Own God? 

2 Chronicles 7:14

Mega faith?

I occasionally visit a church with 3-4,000 members. A mega-church some would call it. Yesterday a guest pastor gave a sermon based on 1st Timothy 1:12-16. Let me first qualify my subsequent comments to say this: Christianity is lifelong learning for me. Some days I “get it”. Some days I probably should just pull the covers up and wait till the light shines again. Yesterday I got something that made me wonder about not just me, but people in general. The pastor was a heavily-accented Puerto Rican, so he said, but I found no problem understanding every word he spoke. Did he make that claim to apologize for those of us who would not get his message? Give us a scapegoat? That’s not fair. I understood his words clearly, and think I also even understood the basis of what he explained those words to mean: namely, no matter how anti-Christian, ill- or well-intentioned or insufferable we are, God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness are available to each one of us in accepting what Jesus did by his crucifixion, death and resurrection for us. As Paul says in this passage, ” … He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief.” (v v. 12a, 13) (1) God’s love extends to each one of us. Every human on the planet. Every day. You do realize what that means, don’t you? Not just you, or me, but every jail-incarcerated prisoner, every prisoner to addiction or habit, every individual with pre-meditated malice or evil, even every terrorist. Every person.

So I looked over those seated in this vast congregation. I’m thinking to myself, How many of these people who are hearing this sermon, including me, are actually listening? How many of us will leave this place reassured knowing God’s love is for us? For me? For you? And will know the absolute, pure joy of that forgiveness, grace and love that we accept in what Jesus did for each of us? Or do we just get back in our cars, drive to the restaurant to meet other church-goers, or drive ourselves or our families home maybe arguing on the way what chores need to be done or how some offhand comment made us feel? Will we remember what we heard in that sermon by the Puerto Rican-accented pastor?

Will we live it?

(1)Holy Bible, New American Standard version