been a while

i haven’t written anything in a while. it’s like my brain is taking a vacation from writing ideas. so what to do? just sit in front of an empty screen? it’s what a lot of folks who write say–no matter what, set aside a time each day to write and STAY there, even if you don’t write anything… so, i’m writing something. happy now?

seriously, i have adopted a new mindset for 2007; LOVE THE LIFE YOU’RE LIVING. does that sound simple to you?

I’m going to use the verse by Paul, “I have learned whatever state I am in to be content.”
(now what state am I in again?)

more on this later.

I Can Never

In past weeks, on one of the discussion boards I frequent, we discussed in great detail one day what would happen to the person who dared to ever hurt one of our children or grandchildren. We held back no contempt for such a one who would commit a heinous crime against a family member, nor did we hold back the description of exactly what we’d do to such a one. And then it happened—in a matter of two weeks, three killings at different schools in our country; a principal killed by a sick young man, a young girl killed by her abuser just as her rescuers broke through the door, and ten young girls tied together so they couldn’t run away from a deranged man who killed five of them and left the other five critically wounded. And the world watched in horror and revulsion.

All of those events were horrible, and family members lost precious loved ones. Yet my greatest focus has been on those ten little girls who were tied together and killed or seriously wounded. They were members of a peaceful, quiet Amish community—children who didn’t know much about the world’s events that weren’t shared by their parents or leaders and who, most assuredly, had no idea of the horrors being committed in schools across their nation. But then it happened to them, as they quietly held classes in their little one-room schoolhouse, on a quiet morning like any other in their community. There are surfacing stories of bravery shown by the girls and peace even in the face of sure death. In shock, I watched it all on the news—the outside world intruding into their lives with ambulances, police cars, crime scene investigators, news reporters and curious onlookers.

Yet what has affected me the most about these losses, and I believe will continue to affect me for the rest of my life, is the complete and total forgiveness shown to the man who killed their children and that community’s outstretched arms of comfort for his widow and his children. Wow. As I read the accounts of these gentle souls, who washed their own dead children’s bodies and prepared them for burial, yet taught forgiveness and compassion as they did so, I am confronted by my own lack of forgiveness. I am ashamed by my previous words of condemnation on such a one who would dare ‘rock my world’ with violence. I am also challenged to learn the lessons taught by this community and by others who have faced terrible losses, while all I have done is talk about the “what ifs” should I ever lose a family member in such a way.

Where did the Amish community find this ability to forgive? Why, the same place we all can find it—in the Holy Bible. Jesus told us to forgive others as we would have them forgive us. He told us that if we did not forgive others their sins against us, God would not forgive us for our sins. With His own dying breath, He forgave those who had conspired against Him and murdered Him. **

How many times have I held unforgiveness in my own heart? Too many. How can we, who call ourselves followers of Jesus, stand in our righteous indignation and decide that we cannot forgive one who hurts us? Certainly, some of the hurt is real; but much of it is pure pride. My husband, a pastor, was chided by a church member several years ago for constantly preaching past the noon hour. My husband smiled at told the member that he didn’t much watch the clock as long as the Holy Spirit had a message to convey through him, and that if the member felt he needed to leave exactly at noon, then he should feel free to do so, no hard feelings. The church member perceived my husband telling him he wasn’t very spiritual and quit attending church for a while, until my husband visited with him and apologized for any perceived affront to his character. Do you know what this lifelong church member told my husband? “Well, I’ll have to think about it—I may never be able to forgive you.”

Yet when one community suffered the horrifying loss and wounding of ten of their precious children, they took God’s Words seriously—they forgave, and they leaned upon God for their comfort. No threats of lawsuits, no angry words of recrimination, no raging at God.

How can I ever do less, now that such a standard has been set for me? May God forgive me for my past spirit of unforgiveness. May He renew my spirit with a desire to be more Christ-like, no matter the situation. May we all accept the challenge set before us by this community of people who refuse to hate.

**scripture references: Matthew 6:12, 14; Luke 23:34

© October 2006

Diary of a Vacation

Dave and I haven’t had an extended vacation in about three years, mainly because of finances. So when my aunt and uncle offered us a week in their time share at Myrtle Beach, we jumped at it. We arrived around 8 p.m. Sunday evening, but because of a “computer glitch,” our reservation was not in the system. oops!Stay calm, don’t panic. We had our confirmation information in hand, so of course they had to make accommodations for us. We ended up spending our first night on the 10th floor in a side apartment with an ocean view, but not the oceanfront room we had requested. However, because the mistake was theirs, they cleaned up the room which had been vacated late that night and by noon on Monday we were in our oceanfront room, staring out at the rolling waves. Ahhhhh. Monday was a bit overcast, and the waters were as gray as the sky. Since we are a little older, we didn’t rush down to the beach and throw our blankets on the sand. We opted, instead, to lie on our couches in our sand-free room and stare out the window. This way we avoided all the sand and humidity, and enjoyed the beach from the comfort of our room.

This morning, I awoke early and decided to watch the sunrise. I sat on our balcony and watched as the sun lit the sky, first in a small stream of light across the top of the clouds and then in great brilliance as it rose over the clouds. I taped it to show to my grandsons when we return home next week.

Today the ocean is a beautiful blue, and calm. Through our glass doors I can hear the ocean as it washes up on the shore. I hear children’s voices as they play on the sand. Dave and I watched a para-sailor out in the water a bit ago. It looks like fun, but since large quantities of water and I don’t mix, I’ll just enjoy the fun vicariously. And we watched as a young married couple attempts to enjoy themselves while keeping their two young and very active children in their sights. We chuckled at this, remembering very well those years for ourselves–and thankful it isn’t us this week. We still haven’t gone down to the beach. It’s very warm today, and quite frankly, I’m enjoying sitting in my air-conditioned room way too much.

We’ll venture down to the beach before the week is over. I have to gather some shells as a memento of my stay, as is my habit whenever we go to the beach. Right now, though, we are catching up on some much-needed peace and quiet. No kids to keep up with or entertain, no schedules to manage, nothing to do but what we want to do–I could get used to this!

Church Carpet and the Streets of Gold

Recently I was on a discussion board, and we were chatting back and forth about churches in general. It seemed the consensus among most of the folks was that churches are beginning to fall away from our original calling–to glorify God with our lives and lead others to know the Savior, Jesus Christ. The discussion got very personal for some who have been disillusioned with their local body of believers and the silly things we find to argue about. As a pastor’s wife, I’ve been witness to the many ways we find to argue and the things we find to argue about. For instance, we had a family leave the church because we decided to paint the wall behind the choir loft from brown to white. We’ve had church folk leave because the vote went against them as to the color the new carpet would be in the sanctuary. We even had a fella leave the church–I am not lying here–because we moved classrooms around in our educational building! All the while, our unchurched neighbors failed to hear the gospel of Christ being told by us. My comment to the group was this–“What difference does it make what color our sanctuary carpet is? Someday we will walk on streets of pure gold. But if we don’t get busy and start acting like real believers, our neighbors won’t.”

Not all things about church are bad. Some of the best times of worship for me have come while involved in corporate worship in our sanctuary. I get an opportunity every single week to be involved in the lives of a number of teenagers and hopefully to effect eternal changes in them. Some very fine people attend the local body of Christ (we are the Church; the building is where the Church meets). They are self-sacrificing, hard working, honest people. And I love them.

In every family there are problems–people who refuse to deny themselves for the good of the whole body; “eggshell” people who get upset if you look at them wrong/don’t look at them at all/and on it goes. Those folks won’t be pleased EVER, until they get their lives in line with what Jesus expects of us–stepping out of ourselves and forgetting what we want so that the good of the body can be accomplished. But that’s no reason to stay away.

God made us to need each other. I find the best place for me to find like-minded believers is in my local church. The benefits of being involved in each other’s lives so that we can lift each other up far outweigh any negatives that might occur. I’ll take the church, faults and all.