Sunday, March 23, 2014

Severed But Not Forgotten

Today my heart is breaking for someone who used to be very special to me.  She was a mother of two amazing children.  They were all very active in their church and their commitment to one another and to Christ was always inspiring. For a variety of reasons I am unable to reach out to the family to extend my thoughts and prayers.  It is a relationship that was severed many years ago and any hope of reconciliation is gone.  It is a sad situation.  I have always valued my past experiences and the people in my life and it is hard when a wall appears so high that you cannot see over it or hear through it.  

Do you have severed relationships that are beyond repair?  I am confident that many of us do.  For some, we only think it is forever broken - but there are those that are truly severed and will never be repaired.  Do you continue to pray for them?  Do you think of them in a positive light?

I'm being honest in that I'm not sure HOW I do it, but I've never been one to hold a grudge against someone.  I am quick to forgive but, yes, not so quick to forget.  The thoughts are always there but they end with a prayer for well-being, peace and Grace.

Today I think of this lady with admiration in my heart.  I think of her family and I pray that my thoughts will join with hundreds of others in offering them comfort during this time of grief.

Monday, February 17, 2014

An Honest Approach to Exile

Today my heart is heavy for those who are incarcerated.  I write regularly to several people who have, for various reasons and circumstances, found themselves to be in prison.  Some are guilty of their crimes while others are not.  The sentence is still the same and those of us on this side of the wall can and will never be able to comprehend the depth of darkness, loneliness, solitude, and hopelessness that is experienced on the other side of the wall.  We may try and we may work to come up with words to try and bring comfort and hope to the prisoner but in reality we are only comforting ourselves.  There is very little comfort to those in prison.

When Paul was in prison it was nothing like it is today.  Sallust, a Roman historian, described the prison as

 “sunken about twelve feet under ground.  Walls secure it on every side, and over it is a vaulted roof connected with stone arches; but its appearance is disgusting and horrible, by reason of filth, darkness and stench”. 

I am reminded of the slave Onesimus.  Paul mentions in his letter to Philimon, that somehow this slave was able to make his way to Paul.  This is remarkable when we consider the times.  A prison visitor could not simply slip in and out undetected.  They could find themselves interrogated by the Roman Empire for being witness to the prisoners’ words or acts during the visit that were not allowed or that could help in the conviction process. Remember, prisons were not held for the guilty – they were where people were put to simply get rid of them while information was gathered to convict them or, in Pauls’ case, held until the populous opinion faded in to history.  Also, according to Roman law at the time, the testimony of a slave was not admissible unless it was given under torture! 
This puts an entire new light and brings about a stronger sense of respect for Onesimus.  He was obeying his Lord by visiting those who were in prison and he did this on multiple occasions to help Paul, to no doubt assist in keeping Pauls’ meager cell area clean and perhaps supply him with food.   

I have a confession – I have purposely avoided writing as of lately to prisoners.  I find my words often times to feel empty and almost patronizing and insulting.  I understand that to congratulate someone on their seemingly positive attitude is like congratulating a fish for the look of a smile upon its face when it has just been taken from the water.  It is ludicrous and insulting.  It is similar to our standard response when someone dies.  We say, “I’m sorry” and the words feel empty to us and emptier to the one receiving it.  Sure, they know out intent – but intention does not bring about hope and for those in prison, it does not bring about freedom.  It simply reminds them of where they are.

Perhaps Paul was able to witness to the resurrection of Christ to the soldiers and other prisoners.  Perhaps some of the people who were witness to Paul’s spiritual strength (and struggles) had a similar transformation as Onesimus, going from uselss to “special utensils, dedicated and useful to the owner of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21). 

A prison can become a place of some personal and spiritual freedom.  It may grant some an opportunity to surrender even deeper in to the loving arms of Christ.  It may help some answer the call and say, here I am Lord, send me.  However, it is still exile.  It is still and will always remain a separation from the experiences of being fully human. 

Remember in your words and acts to others that you have no idea what turmoil, what anguish, what exile that person is experiencing.  Choose your words carefully and be intentional in your approach just as you want people to do for you.  And today please pray that the injustice, that has imprisoned innocent people, will be heard and handled quickly and correctly in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

In The Exact Manner in Which We Forgive Others...Part I

Trying to come to grips with negative events in your life is hard enough but when they continually haunt you – what is our course of action?

At first we spend time in defense mode – we cry about the injustice and we jump up and down claiming how victimized we are.  We get mad!

Then we mourn the loss of our reputation in the eyes of those who bought in to the negative events that occurred.

Then we forgive those who caused it.

Then we repeat the cycle over and over again. 

We’re human –we have this thing called the ego that continually needs affirming.  We spend so much time worrying about how we are seen in the eyes of one another that we quickly forget that what matters is how we see ourselves and how God sees us (not in that order, of course). 

How we see ourselves is important in the healing process when we have been wronged.  I know this from personal experience having not only dealt with this but still dealing with it and probably always will.  No matter how often we try to put it behind us it always has a way of showing its ugly face.  And that hurts our feelings.

Let me ask you what someone recently asked me.  Do you think anyone really cares about what happened to you X number of years ago?  Something horrible happened to me over ten years ago and still to this day I’m haunted by the lies and deceit and, let’s be honest, by how much my name was dragged through the mud.  Yeah, it hurts and I trust that similar situations still bring you a certain amount of pain and emotional discomfort as well.  But do we really think we are so significant that people actually spend time, still today, talking about it?  I had someone come right out and tell me that chances are a very limited number of people probably remember and even those would need prompting.  She was right – perhaps I was hanging on to something that simply didn’t exist and did not matter to anyone else except my ego – my “public” image.  No one really cared about it anymore truth or not…they moved forward and lived their lives.  While I continually looked back and wanted to repeat it all but this time to change the outcome.  It wasn’t going to happen – it was done.  I couldn’t change it and all I was doing was hurting myself AND being totally focused on my own ego.

Oh Lord in your infinite mercy you have poured forth justice.  You have poured forth forgiveness and you have shown abundant grace.  When we refuse to recognize that during our journey, when we continually pull back that scab to grab some kind of attention – remind us that it is finished.  Help us to move on and move up and move forward.  Help us to put aside this human characteristic of wanting to be seen in this light or the other – help us that even when we are wronged – the only right that matters is our life with you.  Help us to show people that by overcoming these obstacles and by claiming YOUR victory in our lives, we can truly be “over it” and see our life moving forward and ever closer to You.  Help us, today, to really mean the words of the prayer taught to us by Your Son, when we say 

“…forgive us our wrong doings in the exact manner in which we forgive those who do wrong against us”…

In the name of the risen Christ we pray.  Amen.