Available: Forgiveness

She trusted them.  They stole from her.  They thought they had fooled her.  They didn’t.  They created a story of untruths.  What started out as an act of goodwill ended up with stolen treasures, lies, loss of trust and possible loss of friendship.  Was it worth it?  Was it worth the risk to take things belonging to another?  Things that weren’t yous?  For what?  A few dollars?

Now when they see each other, and they will, they’ll remember.  They both will.  The thief and the victim.  They’ll avoid each other.  Unable to look each other in the eye.  They’ll both be uncomfortable.  For different reasons.  Ruined friendships for their children.  All because of greed.  All because of wanting more.  All because of wanting what others have.  Was it worth it?

Then there’s the punishment.  What’s appropriate?  Confront them?  Press charges?    How do you really prove guilt without finding the stolen objects?  Deep down, you know who took the items.  You just can’t prove it.  How do you confront an injustice when you can’t really prove it?  But deep down, deep down you know.  And they know you know.

Imagine the fear of getting caught.  Imagine the stories the guilty have had to create.  Imagine the strain on relationships of those who are guilty.  A mother and child.  Both involved.  Why would the mother put that stress on her child?  Why would she lead her child down a path of wrongdoing?  Were they that desperate?  If so, don’t they know help is available?  Would they accept help?  Wouldn’t the fear of getting caught and being punished be more embarrassing than asking for help?

Have they done this before?  Perhaps this wasn’t the first time they had taken from others.  Perhaps they have a history of unpunished wrongdoing.  Have they taken advantage of others’ kindness in the past without being confronted or punished?

All the victim wanted was to get her possessions back.  No police.  No arrest.  Just right the wrong.  She offered mercy to those who had taken from her.  She chose forgiveness. She decided there was too much at risk to publicize the wrong that was done to her.  Going public with the offense would cause embarrassment to the guilty.  Perhaps.  Going public could break up the guilty family.  Perhaps.   Going public would end the friendship.  Perhaps.  But was it right to stay silent?  Is offering forgiveness and mercy enough?  Should all wrongdoings be punished?

I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.                Isaiah 43:25

The Bible tells us that everyone has sinned.  We were born sinners.  We need to right our wrongs.  We need to ask for forgiveness.  If not, we will be punished.  It’s an eternal punishment in the depths of hell.  Who wants that?

We have a forgiver.  One who offers forgiveness for all our sins.  No questions asked.  Mercy is offered for admitting guilt.  Sure.  There may be consequences because of our actions.  Wrongs will have consequences.  Some consequences and punishments are private.  Others public.  But forgiveness is always available.  Always within our reach.  All we have to do is ask.

His name is Jesus.  The forgiver of our sins.  He will wipe our sins off the map.  He will drop them into the depths of the ocean.  He will remove our sins as far as the east is from the west.  He will forget we ever sinned.  Once he has forgiven us.  We’re made new.  New creatures.  Go and sin no more.

Massage Therapy

I was lying face down fully clothed on a floor mat.   She worked with her feet.  Kneading my shoulders.  Her heels would dig into the tightness, trying to release all the pent-up stress.  Attempting to soften the scar tissue from years past.  Working to soothe the aches and stiffness of aging.  At times, she would use her hands to relax the tightness in my body.

She moved to my feet.  Once again, trying to massage out the tightness and pain.  She explained the reason for the discomfort.  She massaged my back, arms, legs – all were tight.

She sat in a folding chair, moving it around me as she worked on different parts of my body.  Fijian foot massage.  That’s what it’s called.  Effective.  Intense.  Unforgettable.

The thing is.  She understands human anatomy.  She can identify problem areas just by touch.  She can manipulate muscles and tendons in a way that soothes not only the pain, but it comforts the soul. She can calm tired shoulders and relax tight back muscles.

At times, the body work was soothing, causing me to relax.  Other times, the pain was intense.  Regardless of the pain, she kept working.  She didn’t work in one area too long, but the work she did was effective.

As I lay face down on the floor mat, I was grateful that she couldn’t see me wince in pain and discomfort as she worked out the tightness.  But when she had me turn over, I tried to be stoic and not show any indication that I was ever in pain.  I didn’t want her to ease up on the pressure.

You see.  I wanted her to work out all the tightness in my muscles.  I wanted her to help me relax, so I would be able to move freely without pain or injury.  I needed this pain as much as I hated it.  It was good pain.  It meant good things were happening.  It was temporary pain.

I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.  John 15:1-2

I remember times when I felt another type of pain.  Spiritual pain.  Emotional pain.  Loss had occurred.  Feelings had been hurt.  Wrong decisions had been made.  Many different hurts.  Not all at once.  But seeming to never end.

I have a God who continues to work on the parts of me that are troubled.  My unkind words.  My bad attitude.  My ungrateful heart.  My poor decisions.  My lack of generosity.  My failure to spend time with my Maker.  My humanity that needs to be moldable but is like hardened clay.

The thing is.  He understands humanity.  He created us.  He created us to be with Him.  He created us to be like Him.  Yet we resist.  Then our hearts turn to stone.  Our emotions become cold.  Our patience thins.  Our words sharpen.  Our goals and dreams are self-centered.

Sometimes his correction is painful.  Other times, it is a soothing and calming touch.  He’s pruning the overgrowth and shaping my heart to align with His ways.  It’s a difficult task that He has, but He alone can do it.  He knows the correction is temporary, but has eternal consequences.

He continues to caress my heart so I can feel empathy for those in need.  He faithfully draws me to His Word so He can teach me His ways.  His patience is never-ending on those days when my patience is cut so thin.  He massages the scar tissue of past hurts and lost dreams so I can continue to look forward to the future.  He trims the branches of bad attitudes and ungratefulness.  He leads me in the way everlasting.  Not because I deserve any of this, but because of His love for me.  His Son paid the price so I could be made whole.



Suspicious Characters

He walks the neighborhood. Wearing a hoodie.  In August. Doesn’t turn his head to look at the houses.  Just looks forward.  I’m assuming he lives in the neighborhood.  It’s not a big sprawling neighborhood.  It’s a walking neighborhood.  And he walks.  Hoodie up.  Moving forward.  Looking forward.

I’m suspicious of him.  He seems sinister.  Who wears a hoodie on a summer day?  With the hood up?  Oh, I know it may seem fashionable. I’m not convinced his walks are of a friendly nature, though.  His walk doesn’t appear to be for exercise.  He isn’t exerting himself.   He doesn’t even seem relaxed.  He looks stiff.  He’s walking at a slow pace.   Always looking forward.

He did turn his head once.  He waited as I backed out of the driveway.  He waved.  He turned his head to see if my garage door was going down.  Making me all the more suspicious.  Is he casing the neighborhood?  In my estimation of things, he is.  And I don’t like it.  I think he’s up to no good.

Here’s how my imagination works.  He lives in the neighborhood. He’s begun a walking ritual to appear normal while casing the neighborhood.  He’s memorizing routines.  Watching when people leave their homes in the morning.   He’s waiting to pounce on innocent victims.  Unsuspecting neighbors.  Waiting to break into someone’s home when they least expect it.

Here’s how reality works.  I told a couple of people about hoodie guy.  One laughed.  Made a comment about an old lady who doesn’t understand today’s fashion.  Says A&F is full of young guys wearing hoodies.  Wanted to know if I was stereotyping.

This guy.  I don’t know him.  I don’t know his name.  I don’t know where he lives.  I’m just making assumptions.  He hasn’t done anything wrong.  His actions seem suspicious.  I want to trust him.  I really do.  He just needs to prove me wrong.

So humble yourselves before God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.   James 4:7

There’s someone else who is a suspicious character.  He roams the earth watching everything that goes on.  He notices everyone. He’s not only a watcher.  He’s a doer.  A wrong doer.  He masquerades as an angel of light. He’s known to invite himself to heaven’s staff meetings unannounced.

Yes.  It’s true.  God meets regularly with his angels.  And Satan will pop in at his own convenience.  Check out the story in Job 1:6-12.

But this guy.  Satan.  He has other names.  The devil.  Beelzebub.  Lucifer.

He’s a shady character.  He’s known to walk the earth watching.  People watching.  He pretends to be someone he’s not.  Oh.  He used to be someone.  He used to be God’s best angel.  But he thought he was better than everyone. He wanted to be God.  He was proud.  He was foolish.  He challenged God and God won.  This guy was thrown out of heaven.  So why should I trust him?  Why should I trust what he tells me?  He’s always up to no good.  He doesn’t ever want what’s best for me.  I know that.  Why do I let his voice get inside my head?

He’s described as a wolf.  A roaring lion.  Great dragon.  Serpent.  Sower of weeds.  He pretends to be what he isn’t.  Basically, he’s a liar.  A fake.  A troublemaker.  He distorts the truth.  Twisting words and thoughts.  He’s crafty.  He’s a tempter.  He’s a deceiver.  He’s a trickster. He’s an accuser.  He comes to steal, kill and destroy.  He’s evil.  All the way around.  Pure evil.

He pretends to be someone good.  He’s not your friend.  He’s worse than your worst enemy.  He is the enemy.  Don’t be fooled.

The good news.  God limits what Satan does.  God is more powerful than Satan.  God is bigger and better than Satan.  God is almighty.  God is everlasting.  God is love.  God is merciful.  God is just. God is omnipotent.  He is all-powerful.   God is omnipresent.  He is everywhere at once. God is omniscient.  He knows everything.  There is nothing suspicious or sinister about God.  Only God is God.

Fighting Battles

It wasn’t even my battle.  But I was asked to fight it.  I was asked to fight for someone else’s cause.  It wasn’t a battle that interested me.  Quite frankly, I didn’t even know it was an issue.  It seemed petty once I heard the details.

They wanted certain words to be written to a group of people.  They wanted the sentence worded in a certain way, but they didn’t give me the words to say.  Or the authority.  They just said, “Don’t say it like this”…  They told me how not to say it.

It felt odd fighting someone else’s battle.  I was caught in the middle.  No matter what happens, I wouldn’t be the winner.  It was a very uncomfortable position to be in.  If I’m facing a battle, I prefer to fight my own.  Not a battle I don’t believe in.  I know what my goals are.  I know what my strengths and weaknesses are.  I can’t read someone else’s mind to know how they want their battles fought.

I’ve been asked to fight other battles.  Sometimes it’s a war of words.  Sometimes it’s actions. Sometimes it’s inaction.  Nevertheless, it seems there’s always a battle.  And never mine.  It wasn’t mine to fight.  It wasn’t mine to win or lose.

I’ve wondered what those on the other side of the battle think of me.  Do they recognize that I’m the pawn in the game?  Did they realize my words and actions are sometimes led by the fighter?  I’m only the messenger.  Am I just being manipulated?

My advantage was that I could set the tone.   The “fight” doesn’t have to be nasty.  Perhaps the messenger is the most important soldier.  Trying to please both sides while remaining neutral.  Nevertheless, I was still in the fight.  I wasn’t the general.  I was the messenger.  But does it really matter?  If I’m associated with the fight, am I then a fighter?  I was recruited rather than enlisting on my own.  That only matters at the beginning of the fight.   Right?  Once the fight begins, you’re in.

There’s a difference between picking a fight and facing a hardship.  Getting even or getting your way is picking a fight.  Facing a hardship or loss is a battle.  We pick our fights but battles are another story.  It seems that way, at least.

You shall not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who fights for you. Deuteronomy 3:22

It isn’t in my nature to pick fights.  But I have seen my fair share of battles.  Battles I wouldn’t choose, but they come regardless.  Hardships and trials are battles that must be fought.  They require courage, prayer and faith to see victory.  I can’t fight these battles alone.  I’ve chosen not to.  I know a mighty warrior who fights all my battles.

This mighty warrior has fought battles for many others.

I think of the battle he fought for the people of Israel.  Moses was their leader.  The mighty warrior fought hard.  He brought the ten plagues to the Egyptians when their leader wouldn’t obey.  In the end,  this mighty warrior won.  He delivered his people from a tyrant.

I think of four men.  Daniel.  Shadrach.  Meshach.  Abednego.  All four men were captured and forced to serve a king they didn’t agree with. Yet they remained faithful to their God.  The God who created the universe.

Daniel didn’t waver from his beliefs or daily habit of praying to the only God.  Even when his life was in danger.  Even when others meant harm, God did good.  When Daniel was in the lion’s den, this mighty warrior calmed the lions so they didn’t harm Daniel.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into a furnace when they wouldn’t bow down and worship their king.  The furnace was so hot that the flames killed the soldiers who threw them in.  Yet these three men survived.  They weren’t burned.  At.  All.  They walked out of the furnace.  Fully alive and well.  The mighty warrior fought for them.  He saved their lives.

I turn to this same mighty warrior when I have battles that need fought.

This mighty warrior will fight our battles.  God is this mighty warrior.  God fights for us.  The Bible says he does that in many different ways.  He knows our thoughts.  He knows our strengths and weaknesses.  He knows our temptations.  He knows the battle is coming before we even feel the first punch.  He knows who he’s fighting.  He knows how to fight them.  He doesn’t fight dirty, but he does fight to win.