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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Run or Ruin?

We've all probably heard the adage, "There is no 'I' in the word 'team.'"

That may be true, but there is a big capital "I" standing between the words "run" and "ruin."  That "I" belongs to each individual who has the choice of either running or ruining his life. No mother, father, sister or brother can abscond with that "I" and save a person who is bound and determined to ruin his life. Believe me, I've tried. I've watched others try. The best course of action I've found is to ...

Let Go and Let God




Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Old Grudges

... have a way of not going away. Yesterday I conquered one, and felt the wonderful freedom of forgiveness wash over me.

My mother has been gone for over ten years, and I have been holding onto a resentment on her behalf ever since. I confess to being guilty of the same charge I leveled at others in my impassioned post from August 9.

The history in brief is this: as I've shared previously, my family lived with estrangement for many years on my mother's side. The main culprit has never admitted to any wrongdoing, but professes ignorance to this day as to the reasons for the rift. My mother never joined a church, attended a twelve-step program, or read any self-help books that I'm aware of; yet, somehow, she must have been guided by a Spirit that slumbered inside her from a long-ago salvation experience, to take the high road. And so she did. How well I remember the "reunion" at my mother's sick bed (which would soon become her death bed) after a decade or more of not speaking -  the haughty tone taken by the offender, to which my mother (no shrinking violet herself) chose not to react. Instead, she conducted herself like a lady, setting an example of grace and mercy for the sake of the younger generation, who had expressed a desire to end the silence.

After Mom's passing, I found myself disgusted and angered by the octogenarian offender. While we rarely talked about those years of separation (in fact, we rarely talked at all), on at least one occasion she tried to villify my mother in a charade of make-believe bewilderment about Mom's choice to put distance between them. I hung up the phone livid, and have struggled to feel kindly towards her ever since. It was as if, since Mom couldn't be here to feel furious herself, I had to carry the vitriol for her.

Recent years have brought much heartache and ill health to this family member. Yesterday I saw her for the first time in several years. Her home, once lovely and regal, is crumbling around her. She is quite frail and can barely walk. The family she produced has known much suffering. I decided then and there to let go of the past, tell her I love her, and mean it.

I can think of no better way to honor my mother's memory than to follow the path she opened to reconciliation, even with (perhaps especially with) those who don't know they need it.


Check out Newsboys' Million Pieces

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Lack of Mercy

Morsels for Meditation...: Barbara Anne Horton Whitten Parrish


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Reinforcements

"Satan is gathering his forces," a prayerful mother warned her military son, Lt. Gen. William (Jerry) Boykin, who was preparing to serve in the Army's Delta Force. Alarmed, Boykin cried out to God in prayer, wondering if he had mistaken the call he was sure he had heard from the Lord to serve his country in that capacity. Penetrating his anxiety, an unmistakably almighty voice reassured him, "I know, Son, but so am I."

Like Elijah fleeing from Ahab and Jezebel, I was ready to give up the other day. Daily stresses (which were so fleeting I'm having trouble remembering them already), compounded by the unholy choices of people I care about, were dragging me under the waves and choking the life out of me. I could barely get out of bed, and when I did out of necessity, I had to slog through hours of desperate, disheartened thinking sent by the enemy to discourage me. Like quicksand, despair sucked me down, every movement worsening the state in which I found myself.

Then the Lord sent in His reinforcements.

Just as God promised Elijah He had plenty of people rallied to help with his mission (1 Kings 19:18), nearly 3,000 years later, He conveyed that same message to me.

Last night I received a call from the troubled child of God to whom I referred earlier in this post. He informed me his situation is improving because a believer he barely knows has taken an interest in him and is putting his money where his mouth is. Seems this fellow is allowing himself to be the hands and feet of God in a stranger's life. Remarkably, my floundering friend is willing to accept the help, even under the strict conditions laid out by his benefactor. This, after I had personally exhausted my own resources in trying to bring about change, and finally felt a heavenly nudge to "let go and let God." As soon as I obeyed, cringing at the consequences conjured up by my imagination, He brought in the next phase of the artillery. Jerry Powell, a missionary I once knew, put it this way: "God is never late, but rarely early." I can't get over how He is always right on time.

The outcome isn't certain, and the miracle is far from finished. But help is on the way. Stunned and humbled, I can only rejoice.

Check out Newsboys' Miracle Child

Friday, August 9, 2013

Lack of Mercy

        Saints and Sinners

    When somebody yields to temptation 
        And breaks one of man’s or God’s laws, 
    We look for no good in his make-up, 
        But oh! how we look for the flaws! 
    No one cares about how he was tempted, 
        Nor praises the battles he’s fought; 
    His name becomes food for the jackals -- 
        For us who have never been caught.
           He has sinned!” we shout from the house-tops,
             We forget the good deeds he has done,
          We focus on that one lost battle,
          And forget all the times he has won.
         “Come, gaze at the sinner!” we thunder,
         “And by his example be taught
      That his footsteps lead to destruction!”
          Cry we who have never been caught.

      I’m a sinner, O Lord, and I know it,
          I’m weak, I blunder, I fail.
     I’m tossed on life’s stormy ocean
        Like ships embroiled in a gale.
   I’m willing to trust in Thy mercy,
   To keep the commandments Thou’st taught,
    But deliver me, Lord, from the judgment
Of saints who have never been caught!*

   
Lack of mercy really troubles me.                             

Last night I had the ugly chore of telling a repentant sinner he wasn't welcome in another person's home. It was an unsavory, difficult duty that had to be done because others would get hurt if this person were not excluded. This was a utilitarian task made necessary by someone else's leftover resentments. It's complicated; just trust me. The worst of it is that most of the offenses committed were done to my children and me; they only affected the other person collaterally. In other words, the grudge being held was much more mine to forgive. I fail to see how, if I can let go of wrongs done to me in the distant past, someone else has the right to hold onto them on my behalf.


Long ago, I had the privilege of hearing a sermon by Andy Stanley** regarding good works vs. faith. He made the point that the "thief" on the cross was actually referred to as a "malefactor," which carries the implication of a life of hard-core sinning. I'll loosely paraphrase Andy's main point, since I can't locate the exact sermon:


What kind of bad works did this guy do? Real bad. What opportunity did this guy have to make up for his life of debauchery? No opportunity. Yet, Christ transformed his nugget of faith into a ticket to Paradise. All the ill will, missed opportunities, perversion, disgrace, and yes, horrific sin, turned into a pile of ashes when stacked up against the payment being made for same on the cross his neighbor was affixed to.


In other words, Christ did not withhold forgiveness from the lowest of the low.

Further examples of wanton grace include Christ's dealings with Matthew and Zacchaeus, both tax collectors, whose presence was about as welcome as an inflamed boil; the woman at the well, whose low status as a female Samaritan was compounded by a life of sin; and the woman taken in adultery (I've always been disturbed by the absence of her male counterpart, as if her lack of a Y chromosome somehow made her more guilty of an act which required complicity). The common thread in all these scenarios is societal rejection due to "unpardonable" offense. Astoundingly, Jesus, holy God in bodily form, embraced and welcomed these transgressors when their unholy peers would not.

So, someone explain to me please how we as flawed humans (and professing Christians, no less) can pick and choose who is worthy of forgiveness, when God incarnate took no such stance.
I realize forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things, and I'm not suggesting we pronounce BFF status after years of estrangement and hurt. What I am asking for is a bit of compassion and recognition that "there but for the grace of God go I."

The Savior did no less.




* PoemHunter.com attributes Saints and Sinners to Zambia's Changu Chilwesa, written in 2009. However, I seem to remember hearing it much before then. Contacted Ms. Chilwesa to clarify.

** Contacted In Touch Ministries for link to paraphrased Andy Stanley sermon.

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Old Grudges

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Scratching at the Door

Today I noticed claw marks on the outside of my bathroom door. Since my kids' reach is much higher than these were positioned, I can only assume the scars were created by one of the four-legged visitors we sometimes entertain, who apparently have no respect for a lady's privacy.

I hastily open the door whenever I hear scratching on the other side. My concern is less for the damage being done than for the poignant plight of a lonesome creature in my care. Since it is readily in my power to alleviate his suffering, I do so immediately.

The persistent widow knew the effectiveness of continuous supplication. Unlike the animals I care for, she did not receive an immediate answer. However, she kept "scratching at the door" of the judge's chambers until her needs were met. A good example for all God's children to follow.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." ~ Matthew 7:7-8