Category: forgiveness

Choosing Sides

Are you old enough you remember the days of “choosing sides?”  

Two captains would be chosen and they would take turns picking their teams from all those gathered to play.

It was a terrible experience… especially if you were last to be chosen.  

That meant you were the least wanted of all those gathered to play.  What a humiliating experience!  (I say that because I was often the last to be chosen.)  

If you, as captain, were lucky enough to get the right picks then victory was almost certain for your team.  

Choosing sides filled the air with anticipation and whispers of “choose me”, “choose me…”  None of uhttps://i2.wp.com/www.civilwarstlouis.com/image5/titles/Choosing%20title.jpgs wanted to be humiliated by last place but we all wanted to play on a winning team.  

The whole experience was one of emotional scars for life, but if you got the right team, what fun that was!  

You were sure to win and usually did.

If only Billy was your pitcher then you had it made.  If you could get Sam for a batter then the game was yours. Getting the right players made a win almost guaranteed.

As I read a passage in Psalms this morning I thought back to those days.  It made me wince and smile all at the same time.

The Psalmist wrote,  “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me.  It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.”

The text rehttps://img1.etsystatic.com/138/0/12865351/il_340x270.1081307595_dokf.jpgads, “the Lord is on my side.”

As I read those words my mind flashed back to the days of choosing sides and I imagined being picked to be on God’s team, to be on His side and He being on mine.  

The Lord is for me, He’s on my side!  

 

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Finding Forgiveness

“I need to forgive.” 

This simple sentence haunted me for years.

I was reminded of this last night as I attended a Casting Chttps://fscog.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/finding-forgiveness.jpg?w=281&h=211rowns concert.  I love their music.  It just cuts right to my heart.  Over the years, it has had a profound affect on me.  Their music has encouraged and challenged me to deal with things I was ignoring in my life.

I struggled with forgiveness for many years.

In my mind, I knew that I needed to but I just could bring myself to forgive those that I felt betrayed me… my heart needed more time to respond.  I learned the hard way that the heart takes more time to heal.

You may not be able to relate exactly to my story, but chances are by the time you’re reading this article, you know what it feels like to be lied to, betrayed, forgotten, rejected or in some other way wounded by someone you loved and trusted.

I have yet to meet a person who has made it through this life without facing one or more of these wounds. And because we understand what it feels like to be injured in this way, we also know how truly challenging it can be to offer forgiveness.

For years I thought I understood what it meant to forgive.

https://marriagemissions.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/Time-to-Forgive-AdobeStock_59582002-copy.jpgThen just about the time I thought I had a grasp on the whole process of understanding forgiveness, something would come straight out of nowhere and remind me that I had a long way to go.

The hurt and resentment we sought to leave behind would resurface from time to time. Maybe it was triggered by someone’s offhand remark or by an old song from back in the day.

That is how it would happen to me.  I would be driving back home from work, listening to songs as they randomly came up.

Then that song comes on… the one that took me back to another place and time.

Suddenly I am filled with all the anger, hurt, frustration and resentment that I feel towards people who betrayed or hurt me over the years of my life. 

It would be clearly evident that I still struggled with forgiveness.

On the outside, I would hide it, twist it and lie about it if I needed to, but I wasn’t going to forgive. On the inside I didn’t want anything to do with forgiveness.

I thought I would grow into it over time, I assumed, this burden and I would grow strong enough to carry it. 

As the years went by, I tried to forget. It worked, for the most part. When you carry a grudge long enough, it didn’t feel like a grudge anymore. It just felt like life. https://i.pinimg.com/736x/16/da/d6/16dad6f443ecaae385abba9b17912111--let-god-let-it-go.jpg

Like putting on clothes each morning, I would just get up every morning and strap on my bag full of anger, hurt, shame, bitterness, frustration and the lack of any desire to forgive those that you had an issue with.

As matter of fact, I thought about it rarely. When I did think about it, I prayed it would evaporate into thin air, and that maybe I would evaporate with it.

In some ways, it did evaporate. In many ways I did forget.

After all these years, I still have a lot to learn about the process of forgiving someone.

But I have learned this…

We forgive in response to wounds and betrayals. A part of ourselves is broken. A relationship has crumbled. The potential life we imagined for ourselves lies in ruins. I am learning that I am still broken.

Forgiveness is that healing that mends the broken part of us.

Mending takes time.

Forgiveness cannot take place without honesty, boundaries, space, distance and time.

Forgiveness is a process. I am learning that we forgive one day at a time.

It rarely comes as a single, discrete decision. We talk about forgiveness like it’s a single, one-time event, and in my experience, it’s just not.

Forgiveness isn’t an event any more than brushing your teeth is an event.  It is something you must do over and over and over again.

I am not sure it gets easier with time.

In fact, one of the few things that has helped me heal from my past is to stop saying, “I forgive you” and start saying, “I’m forgiving you.”

Jesus talked at length about forgiveness. Once, Peter asked him, “So, look, how often do I have to forgive? Seven times? Will that about cut it?” Imagine the look on Peter’s face when Jesus said, “Make that seventy-times seven.”

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/anger/files/2015/06/blame-e1433261975140.jpgStrictly speaking, Jesus wasn’t just telling Peter how many times he had to forgive a repeat offender. He was also telling him—telling us—how forgiveness works.

I need to get up each morning and instead of strapping on that backpack of hurt, I need to wake up with the intent of forgiving.

Many days it’s the same person I forgave yesterday.

What would happen if, just for today, you thought about the person who has hurt you most and said to yourself:

“I am forgiving you. By that I mean, I’m not going to blame you or hold you responsible for my life or my future any longer. The power to shape what is coming is mine now. I take it back for myself. I reclaim my power. And that grudge I’ve been carrying, well, it’s hurting me more than it’s hurting you, so for that reason, I’m going to set it down, move on and forgive you.”

Those of us that struggle with forgiveness, we don’t have to make any promises about the future. Except that if we have to, we may need to forgive again tomorrow.

Ultimately… it is how we find the way to forgive.

Sometimes the heart needs more time to accept what the mind already knows.

My Own Worst Enemy

I have an enemy that I deal with daily.

I face it constantly.

The battle with my worst enemy will continue till the day I die.

My enemy is not the Democrats, nor is it the Republicans.

It’s not the President.

It’s not Clinton, Obama or Bernie Sanders.

My own worst enemy has nothing to do with politics.

It’s not the Russians.

It’s not North Korea.

It’s not Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan.

My enemy is not an Atheist. 

It isn’t the Muslims or Islam.

My enemy isn’t ISIS, Nazis, anarchists.

It’s not the liberals or conservatives.

My own worst enemy is not CNN, MSNBC or Fox News.

It’s not FACEBOOK or Twitter.

My enemy isn’t homosexuals, transgenders or bisexuals.

It’s not Black Lives Matter or the Trumpsters.

My enemy is much more insidious than any of these. 

Much more deadly and dangerous.

For you see…

My own worst enemy is…  ME.

Related image

(Paul speaks very clearly in Galatians 5 about our battle against the enemy within…ourselves.  All too often we look to others, or things, to be the source, the cause (and usually the blame) for our sins and our problems.  Although sometimes there can be external forces, ultimately all responsibility lies at our doorstep.  Our greatest battle is truly against our own flesh, the sin nature that resides in each of us.  So, in fact, our worst enemy is ourselves.)

 

 

Play the Ball Where the Monkey Drops It

I recently was told a story about when the British colonised India. They were in Calcutta and some of the English people were trying to establish a Golf Course.

However, there was a problem – Monkey’s surrounded the Golf Course – and Image result for tee shotwhatever it was about the game of golf, these monkeys really enjoyed both watching and taking part in the Game of Golf. So when one of the Golfers took a swing and knocked the ball into the Fairway, these Monkeys would run along, grab the Ball, and start throwing it around.

Obviously, the Golfers didn’t like this, so they tried doing a few different things to solve the problem.

The first thing that they did to try to control this situation was to build high fences around the Golf Course – not such a great idea considering it’s was Monkeys that they were trying to keep out! Not surprisingly – the Monkeys just climbed the fences and carried https://i2.wp.com/www.golfvacationinsider.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/costa-rica-monkeys.jpgon with their game.

The next thing they tried to do was to lure the monkeys away from the Golf Course. I don’t know what they did – maybe they shook bananas at the monkeys – but when they were shaking the bananas at some of the Monkey’s, some of the Monkeys went after the bananas  and the rest ignored them.

The third thing attempted was to capture the Monkeys, but for every one that they captured, there was another Monkey or two, left.

They couldn’t solve the problem and decided that they had to bring about an innovation – and the innovation was a ground rule that said – ‘from now on we play the ball wherever the Monkey drops it.

As you can imagine, playing this way could be rather frustrating. For example, the ball is driven well down the fairway close to the hole – only to have a monkey run off with it and drop it somewhere far from the hole. On the other hand, the opposite sometimes happened. A terrible shot might be picked up and delivered close to the cup. It didn’t take long before golfers realized that golf on that particular course was quite similar to our experience of life – there are good breaks and there are bad breaks and we cannot entirely control the outcome of the game called life.

Like it or not, life is all about playing the ball where the monkey drops it. 

That means that many times in life you will have to play the ball from the rough.

Life has a way of messing with our game plan. We tee life up just the way we like it and make a good swing for success, and then things change; sickness, opposition, Image result for Golf balls in the roughfinancial hardship, relational breakdown, betrayal, divorce or our own poor choices, and we find ourselves with a bad lie playing out of the rough.

In moments like that we must master the skill of playing the ball where life drops it! It has been well said that life is 10% what we make of it but 90% is how we respond to adversity.

We cannot control what happens around us, but we can control what happens within us in response to what happens around us.

In life, sometimes you will have to just play the ball where the Monkey drops it.

 

 

Step Outside of the Boat

I’ve been thinking a lot about when Peter, James, John, and the rest of the Twelve disciples accepted Jesus’ invitation to follow Him, they committed and dedicated themselves to patterning their lives on His. 

Me? I get out of bed and I meander to church for the 11:30 service on a Sunday morning and I somehow I want to get credit for my effort.   Getting to service a somehow I have caught myself wanting to get a medal for my “commitment” and “dedication”.

Is this what it really means to follow Christ?

As I write this, I am ashImage result for Boat floating in the wateramed of ever wanting “credit” for in my walk with Christ.

I have always been amazed that these men gave up everything in this life to follow Him.  I cannot imagine that type of commitment to follow Christ.

In particular, I been drawn to the story of Peter walking on the water. Or more specifically his failure to walk on water.

Each disciple would struggle to follow Christ.

But struggling to follow Jesus’ example doesn’t make them failures. On the contrary, their mistakes and missteps show us an important dimension of what it means to follow Jesus.

And I think that may be why Matthew tells the story of Peter’s attempt to walk on water.

Like Mark, Matthew shares the story of Jesus walking on water. In both Gospels, the disciples have gone ahead of Jesus in a boat. The weather gets rough. In the predawn hours the disciples spot Jesus strolling across the lakImage result for Jesus Walking on Watere.

If we stick with Mark and stop with that, the passage tells us only that Jesus is divine. That’s an important message, and Matthew conveys it as well. But then Matthew adds the bit about Peter getting out of the boat. And it’s important to ask why he included it.

Scholars have concluded that he had a source that Mark lacked. But that still doesn’t explain why Matthew decided to include the episode in the larger story he was telling. My guess is that he wanted to show us what discipleship meant in light of what we had just learned about Jesus’ identity.

Following an incarnate God means that we would be set an impossible example to most ordinary people.  Jesus is urging us to walk on water. And He knows what that will mean for us. Let’s look more closely at the passage.

Peter says to Jesus, “If that’s you, tell me to come out there with you.” Peter climbs Image result for Peter sinkingover the side of the boat, takes a few steps, and then he sinks. Jesus grabs him up and hauls him into the boat. He says, “Oh you of little faith. Why did you doubt?”

We have all heard lots of sermons about Peter’s faith deficit. We’ve been told that if he had only had enough faith, he would never have sunk. Frequently we’re harangued about our own puny faith and told to buck up.

Well, I don’t buy that.

For starters, remember that Peter was a disciple. He took the risk of imitating Jesus doing something impossible. It’s what he had signed up for. Besides, Peter had already come to expect Jesus to do and say unthinkable things, for example…

Turn the other cheek. Don’t imagine that violence will solve anything.

Forgive the unrepentant. Repeatedly. How you feel about it isn’t the point.

Love your enemy. Even the dangerous one who hates your guts.

Give your stuff away because someone else needs it. Don’t even ask about who deserves it.

See everybody—simply everybody—as infinitely valuable in themselves. Nobody is here to serve your agenda, gratify your desires, or live up to your expectations.

Eat with sinners. Befriend outcasts. Get over yourself.https://i2.wp.com/www.catholicsistas.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/get-over-yourself-300x138.jpg

For Jesus, this is what it means to live. This is eternal life. This is love that resembles God.

And, yes, at first it will be like walking on water. Impossible! You will sink. And that is where the growth begins. Once you’ve been brought back to the safety of the boat, will you step back out on the waves again?

When Jesus welcomed Peter out on the waves, He probably knew that Peter would sink. Who wouldn’t!

Jesus wasn’t setting a test for Peter, waiting to see if his faith measured up. At Peter’s own request, Jesus encouraged his insanely risky behavior.

When Jesus talks about Peter’s little faith, he’s not sayingImage result for step outside the boat “deficient faith.” Sure, Peter’s faith isn’t where it will eventually be. But neither is he utterly faithless. His faith has room to grow. Just like ours.

Faith does not grow by spiritual strain. It grows when we stretch ourselves to attempt to step out of the boat and attempt walk on water again and again.

To do those things that Jesus teaches us to do when everybody around tells us we’re naive or just plain crazy.

As it turns out, learning how to live comes down to learning how to love.

In truth, we grow in faith, when we get over ourselves and love our neighbor as if our own life depended on it.

So, step outside the boat… sure you’re going to get wet, but it is in that commitment, dedication and desire to become like Christ that makes all the difference in the world.

I believe our life depends on it. 

Words Matter

Words matter.

Words have power.

Words have consequences.

They can help.

They can heal.

They can guide.

Or

They can hurt.

They can wound.

They can deceive.

Words promote life or death.

Your words matter.

They can spread joy.

They can spread happiness.

They can spread love.

Or

 They can spread disappointment.

They can spread sadness.

They can spread hate.

Words promote life or death.

My words matter.

They can be sweet.

They can be encouraging.

They can be kind.

They can be refreshing.

Our words matter.

Choose them wisely.

https://media.licdn.com/mpr/mpr/AAEAAQAAAAAAAALbAAAAJDE5MTVhM2I4LWJhZWUtNGY1MC05ZDEyLTIzMzNiZDcwODcxZQ.png

Thoughts at 3:00 AM

3:00 AM… I woke up suddenly in a rush. 

No… I wasn’t having a panic attack but rather I was finally aware of what has been bothering me for the past few weeks.  I did not wake in fear but in clarity.

Let me first state that I do not have permission to write this, nor have I talked to her about this before I post it.  In truth, I am afraid to ask permission.  This perspective is mine and not hers.

Image may contain: one or more people and closeupIn addition, for the record, I do not speak for her.  I have not earned that right.  It’s her arena, it’s her court and she has the ball.

I am not even on the bench coaching like I have done so many time for her in the past.  She doesn’t need me to coach her.  She won’t hear me say things to her about taking the last shot or not passing the ball. I surely will not be blaming her for anything.

Again, these are my words, my perspective and I own it.

Here is my issue…

As many of you know, my sister-in-law has cancer.

The language used to talk about cancer patients often focuses on battle words – those who are cured “won” or “survived,” while those who die from cancer “lost” their “fight or battle.”

But is cancer really something to be won or lost?

Cancer didn’t ask Lynn if she wanted to have a little competition.  Lynn didn’t ask to have this.

I know people mean well. I have been guilty of this as well.  I know people don’t do it intentionally.  I know they want to encourage Lynn, but lately, I get angry when I think (intentional or not) that someone could be  symbolically blaming Lynn when she is having a rough time after chemo, or that her numbers aren’t good.  It’s as if when we use terms for her to “keep fighting and battling cancer”  Lynn must have given up and not have fought hard enough against it. 

Trust me…   she knows how to “battle” and she knows how to “fight”.

Lynn is an athlete. One of the best I ever witnessed. She understands competition.  She understands what it is like to be in the middle of a challenge, when the game is on the line. Those are the times in her life she chose to get into those competitions and games. She was an active participant by her own choice.  She chose that competition and she knew that there would be a winner and a loser.

I now refuse to use the word “battling” or “fighting” in reference to cancer. 

Image result for Define yourselfNow I know she is not dealing with this by choice but I know she will “fight” and I know she will “battle.” She has proven that she is a warrior. But, for me, those words and terms can only be used by Lynn and her journey with cancer.  She owns them. Only she can define who she is during this journey.  I get frustrated when people so quickly throw those words out about something they know nothing about.  That includes me.  I have no right to use words like “fight” or “battle” when it comes to her experience.

In addition, friends, family, loved ones and those without cancer often consider cancer patients “heroic soldiers,” but I am sure that Lynn doesn’t feel very heroic when she’s going through chemo. I am sure just wants to take her medication and do what she’s told to do.  I can only assume that after a day on a chemotherapy drip,  that Lynn feels the battle is being done against her and doesn’t have the ability to “fight” it.

In my opinion, the use of the word ‘battle’ places the responsibility of getting better upon the patient. This opens up the possibility that it is the ‘strong’ or ‘deserving’ patients who survive having cancer, and that those who die from it are somehow lacking in moral fibre or will.  This is dangerous and makeImage may contain: 2 people, people smiling, stripes and outdoors me angry.

The idea of cancer as a “battle” unnecessarily romanticizes cancer as a disease when there is nothing romantic about it.  Even though the battle has been lost we persist in reassuring ourselves that the deceased has ‘given it everything’. Like so much that is said about cancer by people who have not had it, it is uttered more to reassure the speaker than those having treatment for the disease.

The truth that cancer happens to the best among us as readily as to ordinary mortals. Cancer happens.  Food still needs to be bought and prepared and eaten. Bills need to be paid.  Mom’s need to be moms. Activities go on and life has to be lived.

Life waits for no one.

Unfortunately this is the side of cancer still very much missing from everyday portrayals of the disease. People prefer stories about the outward signifiers of cancer, for example stories about being ‘brave’ for being seen for the first time without any hair.  I’m sure that Lynn did not feel “brave” at that first look when her hair was gone. Image may contain: 1 person

I did not see a heroic soldier.  I did not see brave.  

I see Lynn.  I see my sister-in-law.  I see the girl who I sat with many times just talking about “stuff.”  I see the athlete that loves competition.  I see the “lay-up” for her 1,000th point in high school.  I see one of Ohio State’s biggest fans. 

I see a mom that loves her kids more than life itself.

I see a person who always put others in front of herself.

Image may contain: 1 person, weddingI see a mom at her daughter’s wedding… dancing. 

Lynn gets battered with a load of drugs. People want to use the words “brave” “battle” and ”fight”, but it’s not a great three-part TV drama on Lifetime, full of heroic and brave moments.  It’s a long grind, a slow car crash that will last for months or longer.

Lynn didn’t choose to be affected by cancer and because she has cancer, doesn’t mean she cannot make mistakes or be selfish, but it almost becomes an expectation of Lynn that because she is a cancer patient that she somehow must become “strong”, “brave” and “heroic’ and “courageous” with this curse of cancer.

Here is the truth, some days cancer has the upper hand, other days Lynn does.  She lives with it and she lets its physical and emotional effects wash over her. But she doesn’t fight it.

Next time you are tempted to use the word “battle” or “fight” Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, indoorplease pause to question the use of cancer as a battle, with its inevitable logic of valor, winners and losers.  It may be difficult to change such a deeply rooted practice.  I am sure that words like “fight” and “battle” make the top-ten list of words commonly associated with cancer. Unfortunate words like “die” and “suffer” comprise the remainder of the list.  I believe a word like “journey” might be a better replacement for “battle” and “fight.”

I choose to encourage Lynn to keep on pedaling, to keep on her journey and let her alone choose the “fights” and “battles” in her life.  Again, in my opinion, those “words” are for no one to determine or to use except for her and her alone.

She is committed to be in it, to win it.  I can only encourage her, tell her that I love her and I am praying for her.

I am sure some people will read this and may get upset with me.  That is not my intention. I honestly am not judging anyone. This is just something that has been on my heart and mind and I was getting so frustrated with some of the things I was reading on her FACEBOOK page.  I reserve the option to acknowledge that I may be over-reacting to well-meaning people’s words of encouragement. 

Either way, God’s got this. 

Those with the need to continue to use those terms as a war metaphor as a “battle” against cancer, I do not have to ask myself what side I am on and I am sure neither does Lynn.

#ALLIN4LYNN

Divine Interruptions?

My life is always filled with distractions.

So much so, that I find it difficult to figure out exactly what I shoulImage result for distractionsd be paying attention to.

I have the attention span of a flea, so anything can distract me!

I think most people can relate because it seems like our entire society has a type of A.D.D.

In our technology-driven world, there are endless options of what can pull our focus from what is in front of us.

This can be very concerning.  Especially since every day on my way to work I have people pass me with their head buried into their phone, texting or looking at FACEBOOK. 

In this life of distractions, I am convinced that we are in risk of missing out on the greatest events in our life. How do we re-gain the focus on what is important?  

Focus is important as we pursue our lives.  It is too easy to become distracted by chasing the big-picture stuff and miss the smaller, more significant issues that are probably more important. One distraction leads to another, which leads to another, and before we know it, we’re off course and we wonder how we’ll ever really experience the life we were intended to live.

I’ve discovered some of the distractions that I have experienced might possibly be God interruptions.https://i.ytimg.com/vi/Q296TbSrmT4/maxresdefault.jpg

Say what? Yes… some distractions, I believe come from God.

Divine Interruptions?

Yes, a “Divine Interruption” if you will.

The are intended to get our attention. They might be God’s way of leading us into an important new piece of the puzzle in His ultimate plan for our life. What feels like an interruption in one moment can be the key to unlock another direction God wants us to go.

It’s knowing when God is nudging you or whispering in your ear.  I believe God uses these nudges to move us, to help us gain perspective and re-focus on things that are important.

Unfortunately for me… sometimes God tried nudging until He had to slap me alone the side of the head.

There have been many times I couldn’t take the hint that God was leading me to.

I have never handled interruptions very well.  I am too busy making my own plans.

I can’t help but marvel at how Jesus handled interruptions.

A few weeks ago I wrote about John The Baptist, a story told in Matthew 14, when Jesus finds out about John the Baptist’s beheading. Jesus is saddened by the news. He wants to be alone. So what does He do? He gets in the boat and staImage result for distractionsrts on a journey to get some solace and relief.

But Jesus’ solace is soon interrupted. A large crowd gets word of His plan, and the people make it to the other side in order to wait for Him.

Imagine Jesus as He nears the shore and catches a glimpse of thousands of people waiting to meet Him. 

Most of us would be frustrated at the sight. We’d probably decide it best to send away the crowds. Or maybe we’d stay in the boat and go somewhere else.

But that’s not Jesus’ response. He’s not frustrated.

Matthew says he felt compassion for the people.

Compassion?

Yep. While I’m busy figuring out a way to do my own thing, Jesus would be thinking of how He could show compassion. He doesn’t throw a pity party for Himself. Instead, He puts others first. What would stir up frustration in us stirs up compassion in Him!

Jesus was always available for interruptions.

It always seems to me that whenever Jesus was interrupted a miracle followed.

He seemed to keep Himself open so He could turn what looked like a distraction into the gateway to a miracle.

Have you ever heard about the day Jesus was teaching and some parents took their children to Him so He would pray over them and bless them? The disciples scolded the parents for bothering Jesus; they saw the children as a disruption.

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

He recognized the opportunity to teach His followers about the kind of faith they needed. He knew difference between distraction and divine interruption because He stayed close to the Father, listening for and following God’s plan.

Divine Interruptions are not obstacles to our plan; they are opportunities for us to embrace God’s plan.

God never promised that this life was easy.  If we focus only on the mess of this life, we may just very well miss the miracle God has for us.

I’ve missed too many miracles. I’ve missed too many blessings. I’ve missed many aspects of the life that God wanted for me because I was to focused on “me” and myFalling into place desires.

I believe we need to allow ourselves to be open to Divine Interruptions. God is constantly crossing our path, canceling our plans and sending interruptions in our life to create the change that God wants for us.

When we experience these events… these Divine Interruptions, we think that our life is in total disarray and totally falling apart.

Truth is… if we allow God to do His work… it might finally be falling into place.

One Life: A Life Worth Living

Fifty-six years ago John Lewis used a whites-only restroom in Jackson, Mississippi. Police arrested him and authorities sent him to Parchman Prison. Parchman is the state’s only maximum security prison for men.

Lewis entered that restroom to protest racism in America. He knew that arrest andImage result for wrongfully in prison imprisonment would follow. In the segregated South, during that time in history, black men and even children had been lynched for less.

For the sake of fighting racial injustice, Lewis willingly endured suffering.  Now I can’t say Congressman Lewis and I agree on a lot of things politically but I will say I respect him for standing up against racial injustice and for the fact that he believed in something to the point he was willing to suffer for it.

I am convinced that life’s meaning emerges most clearly when we know what we are willing to suffer for.

I recognize that, for my atheist and agnostic friends, suffering provides the strongest available argument against belief in God. Well, maybe the second strongest argument after Christian hypocrisy, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Let me be clear. Jesus never tries to square all the suffering in the world with a loving God. 

Jesus never says we will not suffer or endure hardship.

Instead, Jesus clearly faces the truth that everybody suffers.

As Jesus puts it, God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)

Your faith does not give you a get-out-of-misery-free card.

Image result for we all sufferJesus does not teach us how to avoid suffering. He teaches us how suffering is involved in making life meaningful. His teaching is summarized in two brief sayings that initially seem difficult to reconcile:

My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24b)

In other words, while we will find comfort and peace in the teachings of Jesus. At the same time, following Jesus involves taking harrowing risks and making significant sacrifices.

The story of John the Baptist illustrates how these teachings complement each other.

After Jesus’ ministry has gotten serious traction, John the Baptist finds himself languishing in prison. It’s bad to be stuck in Herod’s moldy, rat-infested basement. 

I am sure that John soon realized that he wouldn’t leave the palace grounds with his head attached.

John’s blunt criticisms of the establishment and his fierce confrontations with the rich and powerful had landed him in a cell. He had called Israel to a better way. A way that he believed right down to his sandals was God’s way.

After all, he had gotten it from Scripture.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Care for the widow and the orphan.

Do not enrich yourself at the expense of others.

For his efforts he was rotting in jail and facing a grisly execution.

Staring at the walls and fighting back images of the chopping block he soon would face, John started wondering, “Was it worth it?”

Image result for Are  you the OneAnd so, he points and sends his followers to Jesus. He wants to know, “Jesus, are you the one?”

Is God really going to make justice happen? Or am I suffering for nothing? (Matthew 11:3)

Jesus answers by pointing to his works. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” (Matthew 11:5)

I take his meaning to be something like this: Would your life be worth living if you didn’t do whatever it takes to pursue the dream of God’s justice for all?

Sure, you could play it safe.

You might save your life by keeping your mouth shut and by going along to get along.

But in a more significant sense, you would lose your life. You would become a hollow soul. Filled with regret and fear and shame.

Why? Because you would know in your heart that you did not stand up for what you believe.  You did not truly find and fulfill your purpose as a believer.

I am convinced that knowing the life for which you will suffer—for which you will make sacrifices—gives your life clarity and purpose.

You then can live comfortably in your own skin.Image result for a life worth living

Jesus isn’t about playing it safe.

You only have one life.

He urges us to follow Him on the way of the cross. 

There will be some suffering along the way.

It is the only way for you and I to live a life worth living.

 

Eternity is a Long Time to be Wrong

There has always been an ebb and flow to this whole blogging thing.  I did not start writing at height of the blogging sensation, but rather as it was winding down. I’ve never been one to have the timing down and I usually have to play catch up.

I am still amazed that people still read it.

Lately, I’m writing not so much because a whole bunch of people are reading my posts, but more for my own sake.  I write for me now more than ever.  I admit that writing for myself is intentional.   I have been asked by few people about how I kept a blog going for ten years?  I told them the best writing advice I can give is to write with intention. That intention may change overhttps://i2.wp.com/marionroach.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Write-Wiht-Intent-2-300x300.png the years but always write with a positive intention in mind. Writing, for me, should encourage as well as challenge.

Life has changed a lot in the ten years it’s been since I started this blog. The recent years have taught me a lot of reasons to be intentional about nurturing my faith.

While I have always wanted to help people, or at least point people in the right direction (according to my perspective) with the things I write.  I have learned that a few people don’t want to hear what I have to say or they just want to argue, challenge and fight.  I could never imagine how real life is for some people because 90% of their time is spent arguing over things that have no eternal significance.

It’s one of the reasons I rarely approve comments to this site. I have been attacked for this as well. They accuse me of “blocking” their opinion and it frustrates them. I always tell them that, “This blog is intended to be a devotional and insprational site. I choose not to make it a platform for theological or political debate, although I will write about what I believe.   I reserve the right to delete any comment without any reason at all.  You are free to write your own blog. If you don’t like my story… write your own.”

Now it is that little term “I will write about what I believe” that gets people going. I cannot tell you how many times I was personally attacked for spiritual and political perspectives I never stated I believed in.

Imagine that…  when you open yourself up and put yourself out there, people will attack.  Regardless of “what” you say, people interpret it in ways never intended for “it” to be taken.  They even accuse you of saying things you have NEVER said.  This is true, regardless if it comes from my friends, my family or someone I do not know.

I’ve grown extremely tired of worrying and having that old feeling of impending drama when I write sometimes. I worry because there are times I wonder what will be taken out of context now?

I am well aware that I don’t have all of the answers.  There are things I am still trying to figure out.  I don’t have to know if there is life out there on another planet. I don’t have to know how certain things happened in the Bible. Because I am white, male and conservative, doesn’t mean I am a racist or that I voted for Trump and I hate all women.

How do people in their 20 and 30’s think they “know” answers to questions that have not been fully answered for hundreds of years?  They want to argue with me over things that have no eternal significance.  They get angry because I won’t engage in the debate.  They get frustrated when I tell them it doesnEternity‘t matter… what matters is what you do with Jesus Christ and the salvation He provided on the cross.  Everything else is secondary.  I can be wrong about a lot of things that are in the Bible.  But an eternity is a long time to be wrong about Jesus Christ. 

Life is interesting how it binds us. 

We can cruise along through days and weeks and even months and somehow ignore our own mortality.  We know deep down in our hearts that we are only here for a moment, that our lives will end in death, and that everything we see and feel and do will be gone.  But somehow, the glitter and complications of life keep us occupied, and keep our minds far away from thoughts about coming to an understanding of what we should do about Jesus Christ, our reason for living, our purpose in life, and our destination afterward. 

Sin and worry are not worth the price you pay.

Focusing only on worldly things is hilariously tragic.

Again… you and I can be wrong on a lot of things, but we can’t get it wrong about what we do about Jesus Christ.  Eternity is a long time to be wrong.

Scrambling to protect yourself against potential accidents, the fear of losing someone, pain, health problems, car problems, home repairs, etc can be overwhelming if you don’t have Jesus Christ.

I honestly do not know how people who don’t have Christ do it.

When I am intentional about focusing my mind on Christ and trusting Him for absolutely everything, I get my peace back.

One day, He will return or I will die and all of this will seem like some silly dream I had a long, long time ago.

While I have no death wish, I look forward to that day.

I have no idea what a carefree, painless, sinless world looks like, but I trust it’s coming. I would encourage everyone to figure out what they beliall abouteve about these great truths, and to clearly examine why and how they have these beliefs. 

You must choose what you are going to do about trusting Jesus Christ.  Getting the “eternity” part of your existence into proper framework is absolutely critical.  What is this life all about?  What happens when it’s over? 

The Bible holds the answers to this. 

Man was created by God, fell into sin, and therefore separated himself from God.  Jesus Christ came into the world as a man, lived the perfect life none of us could live, died the death of punishment that we should have received, then rose again from the dead, proving He was the only begotten Son of God.

Heard it all before?  Turned off by people who profess to believe in Christ but don’t glorify Him with their lives?

But just because I had heard it all before didn’t make it any less true.  And just because God’s people struggle with sin, and some profesAlones Him falsely, doesn’t make His saving Grace on the cross on my behalf any less true!

What I couldn’t deny is how I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was a sinner.  I also knew I was powerless to do anything about it on my own.  I knew that at the end of the struggle with sin I would die in my sins.  Only Christ has the power to save me from this deadend street.  His finished work on the cross is salvation.

Imagine an eternity where all pain, hurt and discomfort doesn’t exist.

For now, I set my mind on Christ and look forward to that. 

I will continue to write about what I believe.

I am still learning and growing. I don’t have to know everything. I just need to know what I trust and believe about Jesus Christ.

Eternity is a long time to be wrong about that.