Monday, May 8, 2017

Varied Results



Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

The other day I read an account of a woman who struggled with forgiveness. One day while volunteering at church she saw a woman sobbing in the back row. By the author's words the woman had “badly mistreated” her. Still she felt compelled to reach out. She did and found that her enemy had a good reason to be heartbroken. She found forgiveness in her heart and the two became friends. That's so nice. Doesn't it sound just like a thing God would do? Sure it does. I believe, however that God often does things a bit differently.

Through the last few years I've had opportunities to reach out to people who have been less than kind to me. I've been called upon by people who have treated me as less than but suddenly when they need help or prayer, find that I have value after all. I've reacted differently in each situation. At times, I have willingly responded to what I see as God's call on my life. Other times I've reluctantly responded and less often, thanks to God's grace, I've grudgingly responded. The results have been varied as well. I have had the experience where that connection opens the door to friendship but more often than not, the relationship doesn't change. The person to whom I've shown kindness, has received the kindness and seemed to appreciate it only to return to our original state of interaction once the issue is resolved.

At first I took that personally and so hard. How could that be? I obeyed my Abba. I reached out or responded to a person He set in my path, just to have her relegate me to the fringe of her life. As my faith and trust has matured I've come to see that my Abba always has His hand on my heart. The outcome to my responding to the call is not the important detail. What truly matters is doing God's will.

We can pray and hope that the kindness we extend is returned to us directly but when that is not the case, as often it is not, we need to know and believe that our Lord is never, ever outdone in generosity. Any kindness, favor, mercy or grace we extend to another will be poured into our own lives in ways that we could never ask or imagine.

Forgive as you are forgiven, not anticipating instant reconciliation or gratification. Give whenever you are offered the opportunity. Let grace flow in and out of your life because grace is always victorious.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

New Friend


 

You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 25:43-44

Over the past couple of months I've made a new friend at work. This is an odd friendship as it is not with a co-worker but with a child. She's a fifth grade student at my school who I met while doing my student dismissal duty. At first glance we may not seem the most likely of friends, an older woman and a young girl and then it gets odder.

The older woman in the scenario, me, tends to be pretty straight forward about what she believes, that Jesus Christ is Lord and I wear cross earrings or pendants fairly often. The young girl also wears a symbol of what she believes, on her head, covering her head. Got the visual now?

Our friendship started one day when she asked me if I like football and if so, what team? I'm a Redskins fan and she is a Bengals fan. Better represented, I'm a fan. She is a FAN. Before long she was watching my games as well as her own, so that we could discuss them. Don't you love her? I'm telling you this kid! She's adorable.

Then the week came for serious make it or break it time. This was the week that would seal or destroy our friendship. Our teams were playing each other. For the week leading up, my little sweetie would ask me every day to promise that no matter the outcome of the game, on Monday we'd still be friends. The big day came and miracle of miracles (perhaps not for either team but for us) our teams tied! More bonding!

That same week another teacher on duty with me pulled me aside to ask a question. “How is it that you love that kid?” She asked me, no accusation in her voice, just true bewilderment. She went on to comment on what she sees in me, all very nice. (I wish that I were the person she sees.) Then she asked again, in light of what she sees as deep faith in Jesus, how could I love that particular kid? A kid who, to her, represents the enemy, the people who attacked our country while those very children were attending “our” schools.

I get where she's coming from, I do. However, I don't see an enemy when I look at my little friend. I'm not blind. I see the thing on her head but I also see and hear her heart. She's darling! And, she wasn't even born in 2001! Beyond that her manners are impeccable. She's kind and obviously being raised well.

So, my response to my co-worker? “I don't really think about any of that. I see an adorable kid who loves football and is being raised well. To be fair, I am aware of our differences. We're told to make disciples of all men. I may be the only Jesus that little doll is seeing right now and someday, that may make a difference.”

I didn't set out to “save a soul.” I didn't even set out to make a friend. All I did was respond to a child. By doing so, perhaps I've planted a seed, perhaps not. What I know for sure, my co-worker is right, on the surface, she seems to be on the side of our enemies. What I also know for sure is that my Father said to love my enemies and in this case, this precious kid makes that so easy.

Maybe we should all try looking beyond clothing, skin color, professed beliefs and start looking at hearts. Some are sweet and some are bitter, either way, we're called to pray for them. If we don't that makes us wrong, not them.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Fear Not


 

So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Do not be afraid, or depending on the translation of your Bible, fear not. Those words are said to be in the Bible 365 times. Stop for a second and let the significance of that sink into your soul. 365 times we are told not to be afraid, to fear not. 365. That's one time for each day of every year.

Regardless of the circumstance, the story surrounding the words, just consider the significance of the number of times they are used, 365. So what day is the fearful one? On which day of the year should we be afraid? None. Not one day, because like every moment of our lives, every hair on our heads, Abba has it covered. Jesus came to save us from the power of fear and death. There is nothing we will face that isn't already known to our Father in heaven, our loving Abba, who day by day loves and cares for us.

There is no place we can go, no action we can take, no circumstance that can come along that can separate us from God's love.

Fear not. Easy for me to say right? Wrong. Through my numerous years of life I've had many, many opportunities to feel deep fear and I'm sorry to say that too often I've succumbed to those fears. I'm still learning to have a verse from God's love letter ready to combat those fears. Psalm 23:4, Isaiah 41:10, Luke 2:10, Psalm 25:1-3, Psalm 56:3-4, Psalm 91, to name just a few. There are so many more verses, verses that use the words, “fear not” or “do not be afraid” and verses that just breed confidence. Search for them, find them, make them your own and then, fear not, Abba is with you.