Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Firefighter Challenge

This past Saturday night I attended a fundraiser involving firefighters from across the state.  It was a blast and the firefighters were all good sports and seemed to be the most genuine people.  Throughout the evening, we attendees treated these guys and one gal as if they were celebrities.  We were getting their autographs and having our pictures made with them as if they were famous movie stars.  For that night, they received admiration.

It wasn't until the next day I realized the significance of the event.  The right people were treated like heroes.  We freely give our adoration to movie stars, rock stars, and athletes, and so many of them really don't deserve it.  But all across our country, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and other civil servants risk their lives for us, and we take them for granted.  Rarely, do we think of them as superstars.  But, they are the real superstars.  They are the people who will risk their lives for you and me - people they don't even know.  "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."  (John 15:13, NLT) These men and women who would die to save us deserve our admiration and adoration every day not just at a special event.

So, I want to challenge you to make May "Firefighter Appreciation" month.  Take the time to send a note to your local fire department or fire house and say thanks.  I believe the guys I met Saturday would really appreciate it.

If you take the challenge, let me know.  I'd like to know about it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mercy Triumphs

A few weeks ago I completed a Beth Moore study entitled Mercy Triumphs.  It was about the life of James, the brother of Jesus.  My prayer at the beginning of the study was to be a different person when I finished and I believe I am.

The title came from James 2:13 (HCSB), "For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn't shown mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgment."  The NLT version says, "There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others.  But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you."  Wow!  I see the big target across my chest, and I felt the piercing arrow of God's conviction when I read it.   You see, there was someone I needed to show mercy and it was long over due.

Five years ago, I had a friend I believed would be a friend for life.  That is until romance happened.  My friend had never had a romantic relationship before, and to say she completely lost her mind is an understatement.  We had been friends for eight years, and suddenly, I was expendable.  She was a part of a couple now, and we all know about the universal law that says if you are part of a couple, your single friends are no longer necessary.  I mean, what does a woman, who now has a partner, have in common with a single woman?

Over the course of six months, she went from ignoring me to carefully planning ways she could hurt me.  She didn't feel compelled to maintain our relationship, but I wasn't supposed to go on with my life.  I was supposed to sit at home and wait to see if her romance worked out, and if by chance it didn't then we could pick up where we left off.  When other friends tried to intervene, they too found themselves on the wrong side.  They were supposed to hate me because she hated me now.  Within a year, she had alienated all of her closest friends.  She made one weak attempt at an apology, which went something like this: "I'm sorry I hurt you, but we both did things we shouldn't have done."  I confess I didn't feel gracious and mercy didn't triumph.  I walked away deeply wounded and began working through the stages of grief over this lost relationship.

It took a long time to forgive her, and an even longer time to be willing to show mercy, but God didn't let up.  He kept working on me until I started to feel more compassion toward her.  Just after Easter last year, I sent her a card and explained how much she meant to me, why I had walked away, and apologized if I had hurt her.  I felt better even though I didn't truly feel I owed her an apology. 

God wasn't finished yet.  By Christmas, I had reached a point to where I felt I could actually be friends with her again, and in my Christmas card to her, I wrote how it would be great to see her.  She didn't respond, but I didn't really expect her to. 

Then, I started the study of James.  I realized, I needed to show her mercy.  First, because that's what Jesus would do, but secondly, mercy would free me.  As I thought about this, I realized that while my life had gone on, and I had been blessed with two new friends that I so enjoy being around, I still had room in my heart for my old friend.  I didn't trust her not to hurt me again, but I was willing to take that chance.

So, I began inviting her to things.  I invited her to a movie we showed at church.  She didn't respond.  Next, I invited her to join me and my friends for dinner.  The last invitation was the key.  As soon as I sent the email to her, I felt something inside that I can only describe as God's happiness with me.  I found myself smiling because I felt as if God were smiling, and it felt good.

Several days passed and then I got an email from her.  She thanked me for the invitations, but indicated she wasn't interested in renewing our friendship.  She didn't want to be hurt again.

I felt some sadness, but no anger or bitterness.  I emailed her and thanked her for responding and letting me know how she felt.  I said I understood because I knew how hard it would be to rebuild the trust we once had.  I said I was disappointed, but I would look forward to renewing our friendship when we both reached Glory.  I closed by saying I knew God was fond of her and so was I, and if she ever changed her mind I would consider it a beautiful thing.

Perhaps, she will change her mind some day.  I doubt it.  But, this showing mercy wasn't really about her at all.  It was about being obedient.  It was about being like Jesus.  It was about giving someone something they hadn't earned.  She deserved my mercy because God showed me mercy.  She deserved grace because God showed me grace.

By allowing mercy to triumph over judgment, I set myself free.  Something God knew would happen the minute I could say I will show you mercy.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Living on the Periphery

For most of my life I've felt like a person on the periphery.  Webster defines the periphery as "the outermost region or part within a precise boundary or perimeter."  Peripheral refers to the visual field and of course means "being on the outer area of the visual field."  It may seem odd to think of oneself as only a peripheral, but it's an accurate description for me.

Sometimes I've chosen to be on the periphery.  Trusting people isn't always easy.  After experiencing emotional pain and hurt from others, it's harder to put myself out there again.  Still, other times, I believe others have put me in the periphery.  I'm allowed in to a certain degree, but not into the inner circle. 

Being a periphery person is a struggle because like most people I want to be a part of things.  I want to be a part of the inner circle.

I've been reminded recently of how we can place people on the periphery without even realizing that we have.  At the first of the year I started attending a Christian women's class, and I truly believe these ladies are for real.  But, immediately I was placed in the periphery because I didn't "join" the class.  Members are put into small groups so they can get to know other members in more social type settings.  There was a lively discussion as to what to do with me since I hadn't "joined" the class and the conclusion was I wouldn't be placed in a small group until I joined.  Obviously, as a "visitor" I wouldn't want to get to know other class members, and obviously they don't want to get to know me. 

And then I'm left wondering why we Christians make it so hard for people to fellowship with us?  Jesus accepted all who came to Him.  He accepted them as they were.  All a person had to say to enjoy all Jesus had to offer was I believe you are my savior.  And all the riches of heaven became available for that person.  Jesus didn't put people on the periphery then, and He doesn't do it now.

Having been reminded of how disheartening it is to be placed in the periphery, I've made a resolution to do everything I can to keep people from feeling like I do right now.  I believe Christians would make a greater impact for the Kingdom of Heaven if we could just love people where they are and for who they are without expecting them to become something else in order to be allowed into the inner circle.

If we could love like Jesus, no one would ever have to be in the periphery again.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Friendship, Loyalty and Love

I've had this post written for weeks and was saving it for Valentine's Day.  It seemed the perfect time to post it, but it actually reflects a commitment I made at the first of the year.

My only New Year's resolution for 2012 is to know and love Jesus more at the end of the year than I did at the beginning.  At the end of February, I will finish reading the Bible in one year.  I have found things I never noticed before, but the reality is, I've read it, not really spent time reflecting on what I've read.  So, I've decided when I finish the Read the Bible in a Year Challenge, I'm going to focus on the gospels so I can focus only on Jesus.

To help me in my quest, I have a visual reminder.  For the last 17 years I've worn a Claddagh ring on my right hand.  The claddagh is a traditional Irish ring made up of a crown, a heart, and two hands.

The crown represents loyalty; the heart, love; and the hands, friendship.  Friendship, loyalty, and love - three things that must be present for a relationship to be meaningful. 

The claddagh can be worn on the right hand with the heart facing out if the person's heart is still available.  If the person becomes involved in a relationship, she will turn the ring so the heart faces toward her.  Some people will use the claddagh as a wedding ring, and naturally they will wear it on their left hand with the heart facing toward them.  This is a sign of true commitment.

On January 1, I moved my claddagh from my right hand to my left with the heart facing toward me to indicate the commitment I've made to do what it takes to be more in love with Jesus on December 31, 2012, than I've ever been in my life.

I'm sure some people may think it's crazy or creepy, but I think it makes me more accountable.  If Jesus is my true love, then I should be showing it every day.  When I put my ring on in the morning, I think of Him because I know why I'm putting it on my left hand.  When I take it off at night, I'm reminded again of why the ring is there.  And, anytime I look down and catch a glimpse of it, I'm reminded to think about who He is and the commitment I've made.

Jesus wants my friendship.  I don't have to be the smartest, prettiest, or most popular girl to have His attention.  He is completely loyal to me.  I may prove unfaithful and turn from Him, but He's always waiting for me to return.  He loves me despite everything I've ever done or will ever do.  He is the only one who will always be a true friend.  His loyalty will never falter.  He is the only one I am absolutely sure will always love me.  Jesus, His love never fails me, and His love won't fail you.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Casting Stones of Hate

Yesterday was Super Bowl final playoffs.  I didn't watch either game because frankly I'm not really interested in professional sports.  But, I was hoping the 49ers would win.  They didn't, but in the grand scheme of life does a football win or loss really matter?

Apparently, for some people, it does.  In fact, for some it seems they've lost their grips on reality.  They've forgotten it's just a stupid game.

The 49ers loss came as a result of a few major bungles by Kyle Williams.  My dad watched the game and he said "you should have seen his face when the Giants' player flipped the ball out of his hands."  I can only imagine how he must have felt.  I can only imagine the pressure one feels when thousands of people are watching you from the stands and millions on television as you fail at what you're trying to accomplish.

And if failing publicly isn't bad enough, then you're subjected to the vehement anger of some of your fans.  In fact, you receive the following Tweet:

@KyleWilliams_10.  "I hope you, youre wife, your kids and family die, you deserve it."

Really?  You fumble a ball twice and you and you're entire family deserve death?

This begs me to ask the age old question:  What is wrong with our society that anyone would think this is an appropriate message to send to another human being over the loss of a game?  A game - people!  It's beyond me that such hate can spew forth over a game.

My questions for this hate-monger are:  Are you perfect?  (Obviously not since the Tweet had misspelled words and run-on sentences.) Have you never made a big mistake...really messed up?  Did this loss personally affect you?  In a week, a month, or a year, are you going to be negatively impacted because the 49ers lost?  Did it make you feel better to wish for the death of other humans over a game?

I don't know Kyle Williams and never will, but I feel such sadness for him.  How terrible it must have been to receive a message of such hate.  If I Tweeted, I'd have to send him a message that said, "I'm sorry people are so hateful.  You're a great player, and the 49ers played a great game.  Obviously, Satan has complete control of the person who sent you such a message.  Prayers to you and your family during this trying time."

The Bible says there is no place in heaven for people who can't control their anger or who hate others.  So, I'll pray that the horrible person who sent this awful message finds Jesus before it's too late.  If not, this person has more to worry about than a football game.