The Economy of Forgiveness

Aaron’s uncle posted an article on Facebook that I will encourage every one of you to read. It can be found here: http://www.mbird.com/2015/09/from-the-magazine-the-losing-economy-of-forgiveness/ It is long and full of concepts that may be hard to understand. But it is truly a wonderful read. If you want to spare yourself some time, I will likely sum up the gist of it in this post.

The topic is forgiveness and how rarely humans truly give it. According to the Bible, forgiveness and love go hand-in-hand (Luke 7:47). That’s common knowledge and something we have heard many times. But if we truly analyze the principles that make up love, as described in the Bible, and apply those same words to forgiveness, would we be surprised?

Love is described in 1 Corinthians 13 in a beautiful way. I will take each trait of love and replace it with forgiveness. Ponder if you truly feel you can say these things are true in your life.

Forgiveness is patient, forgiveness is kind. It does not envy, boast, and is not proud. It does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. Forgiveness does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, and preserves.

Did that step on any toes? For me personally, the ones of being patient, not self-seeking, and keeping no record of wrongs really hit home.

Often times I find myself “giving” forgiveness as if I am handing out candy at Halloween. “Oh here, have some forgiveness.”     It’s certainly not that easy.

Sure, I may truly think I forgave someone, but then I find myself being frustrated by the traffic on the highway or the guy at Wendy’s who got my order wrong. I must realize that forgiving the big things will lead to forgiving the small things. If I truly haven’t forgiven my friend or family member who has wronged me, I am just harboring bitterness which will find an outlet elsewhere in my life. By extending forgiveness to those around us, we develop a different mindset. As it says in the article, “The world is no longer our own personal villain, but an unpredictable place full of people like us.” Remember that. The world is FULL of people just like us. That, in itself, deserves some grace because sweet Lord, that means there are many out there who are stretched thin, tired, pushing the envelope and a deadline.

Why then, is it so hard to forgive others? Put like that, it should be easy right?!  Forgiveness means surrendering the control we all too often pretend we have. This means the first thing I must do is ADMIT that things are beyond my control! Oh yeah, not happening.

I think this maybe one of the things in life I struggle with most. Relinquishing MY control over MY life to someone, anyone, else other than ME. In order to forgive someone, I must admit that I was not in control of their actions, thoughts, or words. I have to admit that each person has their own choice. And that means sometimes the choices they make affect me in a negative way. Obviously, if I had control of the situation or individual, they would not have done said thing that now requires forgiveness.

This also leads to the premise that much of our unforgiveness stems from a longing for and resentment at a world that doesn’t exist. Since we don’t have control over the world, it isn’t perfect in our eyes. Period. However, this doesn’t stop us from wanting that to be the case. There are millions of books sold and therapists seen in order to find the secret to creating the perfect life. It’s extremely hard for us, as individuals, to even grasp the concept that sometimes our good actions and intentions will go unwarranted to those around us.

The author brings up a valid point. In order to forgive, we must let go of our anger, which is often a hard thing to do. This is because often times we believe we benefit from our anger. It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy, a never-ending circle. He says, “Forgiving acknowledges the severity of the problem and surrenders its need to fix it.” It means being able to look at a person or situation that we don’t like, and accepting that fact that we don’t like it, but can’t change it. It’s tough. It’s like saying, “Even though you were an asshole, it’s not my problem; it’s your problem, and I’m not going to stay mad at you, because that’s you, not me.” WOW! If only I could view things from this perspective, life would be a lot happier place! Instead I find myself angry at the “asshole” instead of just accepting the harsh reality that someone did something I didn’t like.

How long should we continue to forgive? How many times is enough? When are we allowed to throw in the towel? The answer Christ gives us is never. Never. Ever. Our duty as his people is to constantly and unequivocally continue to forgive one another.

The biblical story of the prodigal son is known by Christians and nonbelievers alike. A son strays from his family, spending their money, tarnishing the family name, seeming to have no remorse for his actions. One day he finds himself returning home, scared of the reaction he will face when he does so. However, as a perfect example, we are told that he was forgiven.  When you think about it, it is a story of incredible restraint—all that hurt, all the wasted money, all the waiting. But none of that. There is instead only the embrace and the robe and the fatted calf. That is the kind of forgiveness we are called, mandated, to give.

The lack of forgiveness seen in our society is a large part of the reason that our country is going down the drain. I appreciate the justice system and fully understand and believe in our power as a people to exercise such rights. However, there are some things that we do that have been proven to be ineffective. Yet we continue to do so. Now if that’s not moronic, I don’t know what is. For example, how many people do each of us personally know that has been in trouble with the law because of some type of affiliation with drugs? Though some will argue the punishments for such offenders are not strong enough, other times they throw these people under the jail. I find myself asking, what good does that do?

I have a cousin who is a good guy, a loving father. He isn’t the most educated or successful business person, but he works hard. Yet he can’t seem to shake his drug habit. This causes the chemistry in his brain to react in a negative way and causes him to do things he otherwise wouldn’t do. I am not excusing his behavior in any form. However, I would think that if the system would extend him some mercy and grace and help him get clean, rather than throw him in jail with other substance users, he may be a little more likely to stay clean once he gets out.

We can lock up our enemies or try one more “tough love” measure, but not only will the measure fail us in the long run, it will eventually close off the roads to any kind of heartfelt reconciliation or hope. 

I will end this post with a thought from the article that I found most compelling.

Within the realm of grace, nothing is earned, but everything is given. 

I have received grace time and time again. I will continue to receive it every day of my life. I did not earn it. I do not deserve it. There is nothing I could do to either lose it or have more of it. I am supplied with the exact amount that I need for the day, no more, no less. If I receive such lucrative bounty from my Father in Heaven, can I not extend it to my fellow man as well? After all, we are all living together in this unpredictable place, and we are all alike in more ways than we realize.

 

Charleston Tragedy: Race, Religion, & Mental Illness

The tragedy in Charleston, SC this week was horrific. Regardless of who the shooter was, what his background was, what color his skin was….he was a disgusting individual. Notice I didn’t say sick. A sickness can be cured, it is something that one recognizes and treats in order to get better. This young man was not sick. He was deranged and cruel.  There is no sugar-coat for that type of person.

I have read an article and seen one news story so far that has tried to analyze his mental state and it appears these sources are leaning towards the “mental illness” card. To that I say, STOP IT! Working with those on a daily basis who are suffering from mental illness, substance abuse, and life trauma, I’ve seen someone who is sick and ill. If I’m being honest I can even say that there are some who come seeking “help” for their illness who, after assessing their circumstance, are really just cruel and malicious like this boy. These are the ones who give the mentally ill a bad rep.

For this young man  to walk into a “Black” church (more on that in a minute), where he was definitely out of place, and for him to still be accepted and welcomed to join them at the table. For him to sit there for an HOUR and listen and participate in discussion surrounding Christ….and then to say he wanted to kill Black people and open fire on these innocent people….that is not mentally ill. That is mean. Call it what it is. We have to stop allowing these types of people to hide behind a label. A label that millions of people actually deserve, and for those who do suffer, the stigma is increasingly negative. This guy is the reason why.

As humans we are really bad about judging others. It’s a part of our sinful nature, and it’s never going away. But it can be controlled. The only way for this to truly happen is to get to know others of opposing cultures. However, sometimes this makes things worse because the stereotypes are true. We all have to stop living out the stereotypes and learn to become our own person. If we don’t want to be perceived a certain way, we have to stop acting that way! Otherwise, when people meet us, they will only be let down to know that we are “just like everybody else”.

Another way to stop enhancing the stereotypes is to educate ourselves on what the perpetuating force is for the judgement and alienation. I saw a discussion online between two individuals were multiple studies were cited. One stated that those who had more ethic names were shown to be less productive on the job. Also, young black males were shown to be least productive on the job. Therefore, many find it okay for employers to base their decision of hiring on such studies. If two individuals have the same qualifications and research shows that the young black male with the ethnic name will STATISTICALLY not do as well, they probably won’t be the one hired. Which from an employer standpoint, makes sense. But from a life standpoint, it doesn’t allow those males to beat the stereotype and prove the research wrong. There are two sides to every coin.

So what can we do about it?

I say, assimilate. Don’t give up your home culture or cultural identity completely. But when you are in public in the United States, make sure you are able to fit in relatively easily. Culture is very important, but so is a good job and having the means to be able to provide for a family.

Many parents don’t think about this the day they give birth to a beautiful girl. They want people to know their child is unique and special, so they come up with a name that is hard to pronounce and not phonetically correct. Down the road, this could ultimately be a disservice to the child. After all, most people who become of very high importance have names that are easy to pronounce and easily recognizable. Do you want your child to be the President one day? Give them a name people can say and will remember. Even if your child doesn’t become President….it would be nice to be able to remember the name of the car mechanic as well. In the society we live in, especially those of us in the South, so much of our collective culture relies of being able to greet individuals with a smile and by name. Think about that next time you want your child to have a special name.

The same premise applies to those who learn English as a second language. Bilingual and multilingual individuals are extremely valuable in our country. It would be ideal if every business establishment was able to employ at least one multilingual person. That way more people can be reached! Because odds are, if you can’t talk or communicate with the person, not much business will get done. However, many individuals where I live who are bilingual don’t even utilize it. I’m not sure if they don’t think they are valuable or there is a market for them, or if they just want to follow in their parent’s footsteps. Either way, these individuals could educate themselves and capitalize on their value to our country.

Third, parents must have responsibility for the way others perceive their children. People are judged not just by their names, but on the way they talk and dress. Children begin to develop language skills at a very young age, even prior to entering school. Parents and caregivers are their primary source of education on language skills. If parents are not educated on the proper way to pronounce words, read, or speak…their children won’t be either. Some say that their way of talking is just an accent. However I think the accent is not the problem, it’s the ignorance on how to actually speak, or the laziness not to care to learn or carry out what they know. This not only perpetuates the stereotypes but sets the children up for failure as well. An accent is the way words are said, the sound of a long A or short O. However, leaving letters off the word or changing the letter within the word is not an accent. This is a learned behavior that becomes a choice once who learns the alternate way. Children who learn to say “axe” instead of “ask” go into Kindergarten at a disadvantage. It makes them the target of bullying if their classroom primarily consists of those who say it properly. It makes it a lot more difficult for them to learn to read and write. Because children are taught to sound things out. And they will sound them out and spell words the way they say them. That’s just a fact.

When I was in middle school, we were forced to wear uniforms beginning in the 7th grade. I’m not 100% sure of the reasoning but I can guess two things…1. To keep children from focusing on name brands and alienating children who could not or chose not to afford such things and 2. To keep children from wearing suggestive or vulgar clothing. This trend has trickled all the way down to Elementary School now, but stops in high school and children are again allowed to wear whatever they choose, within reason. I know there are many children who become involved in adult activity how are “good” kids, however, it’s safe to say the majority of kids who become gang members or teen moms didn’t begin their behavior overnight. It all starts when children believe they are older than their age. They want to dress, act, and talk as if they are the age they wish to be. Therefore, parents who think clothes are just a fashion statement are SADLY mistaken. Teens today are already developing more quickly than in past generations. A fourteen year old today looks nothing like I did, that’s for sure. And if this girl wears a low cut V neck shirt, or a tight or short skirt…she definitely doesn’t look fourteen. What parents must remember is that you are in control of what your children wear! If you don’t want your daughter to be perceived as a slut, don’t buy her clothes that resemble a street walker. That’s common sense.

What does this have to do with the tragedy in Charleston? Children, regardless of race or religion, are a product of their environment. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

Teach your child what is right and good. Help educate them and nurture their creativity and independence. Ensure that YOU as a parent have done everything in your power to make sure they will be a fully-functioning and productive citizen once they are an adult.

Ashamed to Shame

Today I read an article that brought potential Republican Presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, under fire for an excerpt from a book he wrote 20 years ago. The excerpt was discussing the use of public shaming to decrease the number of children born out of wedlock, repeat offenders, and those on public assistance programs. Feel free to read the article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/09/jeb-bush-1995-book_n_7542964.html

There are several things I see wrong with this article.

First of all, quoting a small excerpt from a book written in 1995. This assumes that Mr. Bush’s stance on these major issues hasn’t shifted at all in the last 2 decades. Come on, yeah right. And shame on the Huffington Post for finding fault with the candidate by using such old material. If you want to attempt to sway the public vote, find something recent. If you can show me that he still feels this way, and then you want to reference the old book to prove he has always felt this way…that’s fine. But don’t try to pull the wool over my eyes using material 2 decades old. That’s misleading and I don’t like it.

Second, I hate Mr. Bush’s choice of words. Though I think I understand Jeb’s point, what a horrible way to put it into words. From reading the excerpt I think what he is trying to say is that, as of 1995, an influx of individuals were having children out of wedlock, and he thought the trend needed to stop. His idea for causing this trend to stop was by increasing the negative stigma attached to those effected. This is where our agreement stops…..I do agree that the trend should be reversed, but there is a better way to do so.

Since the book was published that is referenced in the article, births to unmarried women has continued to rise significantly. In fact, in 2007 the percentage of children born to unwed mothers was 40%, which more than doubled from 1980 (CDC, 2009). Why is this true and what can we do to stop it? Or is it even a problem?

The first thing that must be analyzed is why do women have children out of wedlock? Some are by choice, convenience, or accident. But some are by forced sex and rape. Some pregnancies begin as an accident but then a man makes empty promises to marry the woman and start a family if she has the child. As humans, we can’t help but judge others…it’s in our nature. But do we really take the time to think of all these scenarios in that instance?

Think of the Christian woman who knows the value of a human life. And even though she did not intend or plan to give birth, God has granted her the gift of fertility and she knows she should not abort. Think of the child who is raped but who wants to have the baby to give up for adoption and a better life elsewhere. Think of the woman who had a lapse in judgement and neglected to use protection. That could be any of us. Any one of us could be part of this statistic. You, me, your mother, sister, and friend. We just happen to have been lucky enough to forego the consequences of our actions or circumstances.

Children are largely a product of their environment. Children learn from what they are see around them. This is the case particularly if no one else takes the time to educate children any differently. Children who are born to unwed mothers are more likely to become unwed mothers themselves, unless someone intervenes. Interventions must provide real education, not just textbooks and powerpoints and lectures. In order to truly get through to them, someone has to care, and the woman has to know that. How is this love shown? Through empathy and education. Through taking your knowledge and experience and lovingly sharing it with someone else. Instead of pointing the finger, come alongside these mothers and help them develop self-help skills and reasoning skills to prevent another repeat of their current situation. Bashing someone never produces positive results. Love wins out every time.

Kicking someone while they are down is never the answer. Ever. And besides, public shaming is not going to work anyway. The reason why? The punishment is not connected to the act.

You see, in order to truly reverse behavior, one must feel the full effects of their actions. The true consequences for their decision. My Mama says, “for every action, there’s a reaction.” Oh how true.

On one level, Mr. Bush is right. Funneling these unwed mothers and their children into the system is not the answer. It’s not going to stop or deter anything. Because the consequences are not felt.

You see, for me…I know the effect having a child would have on my life. Because although I am broke, I’m not poor enough to receive assistance. So I would struggle daily to provide for the child. I would be forced to sacrifice my time and money to raise my child. I would not receive food stamps or free child care. And I can promise you, if I did have one….I would make SURE I didn’t have another.
These mothers know what causes children. And though there are some that abuse the system and have children just for the sake of a check, I don’t believe there are many that do that. I truly believe that many parents continue to have more children because they do not feel the effects of their actions. They have little consequences because taxpayer dollars come to their aid.

This issue isn’t just about children born out of wedlock. The same premise could be argued for repeat offenders and those who receive welfare as well. If people don’t feel the full effect of their actions, they are likely to continue to repeat them. And if people don’t have to knowledge or tools to do better, they won’t. There are many people who resent being a statistic and relying on assistance. There are many who are ashamed and embarrassed. I know that’s not all…some brag about and look forward to the assistance. But that’s not all. Using the word ALL and placing every person into a group isn’t a proper representation of the facts.

Maybe we should focus time and efforts in providing these individuals with some tough-love. Maybe we should give them some education surrounding the effects their decision not only has on their life, but the lives of their children as well. Because some don’t mind screwing up their own life, but few want to see their children at a disadvantage. Maybe we should show some love to these people. Embrace them. Be a positive influence. Maybe then they will be more likely to listen to us and appreciate our views.

Just let love win and see what happens.

References

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db18.pdf

Human Worth

How do you put a price on someone’s life? To actually be able to see how much an individual is worth? Is it by the amount of money they make (their net worth), the amount of positive change they have brought to the world (humanitarianism), how many lives they have saved (a hero), how much they mean to those closest to them (a loved one), or simply the price someone will pay to have them as their property (a slave)?

I remember times throughout middle and high school when we would read a book with the topic of death and the teacher would ask us to do an exercise and rank which person we would keep or kill from the story or boat or island; and then justify it to the class. What an odd thing for a 13 year old girl to do. But yet, here at 24, I still find myself and those around me, weighing the cost of a life every day.

Did you know it costs $245,340 to raise a child from 0-18 in America (Thomas, 2014)? And if, by chance, your child enters the prison system, you (as a taxpayer) will continue to pay $167,731 per year to house and care for your child (Associated Press, 2013).

Did you know that children who are being sold by human trafficers can be purchased anywhere from $2 to $25,000 per child, depending if you want a little girl from Mozambique or a kid from the UK (Havocscope, n.d.)? Imagine, buying a child…a little human life…for only $2. When compared to a British child, that little girl’s life isn’t worth much.

Furthermore, it costs on average around $3,500 to have a hospital birth in America (Fetters, n.d.). However, the drugs for lethal injection only cost around $100 (Erb, 2014).

Then there are those groups in society that don’t value based on money, but on merit. Doctors and lawyers and engineers are more valuable and important than garbage-truck guys. And I won’t deny, those people are vital and necessary….but so is the garbage guy. Just think…if the 8.1 million people who call NYC home did not have their trash picked up for even a few weeks, what a mess there would be!!! You see, each person on this Earth has a purpose and role to play. The Bible tells us in Psalm 139 that God knew you in your mother’s womb and formed every aspect of you before you even breathed a breath. You are fearfully and wonderfully made! Yet, there are those people around you who live their life putting a price on your head.

In my studies for therapy I have spent a lot of hours both reading about and interacting with those with mental health. I worked for 3 years in an acute-care hospital, surrounded mainly by elderly and dying patients. I’ve watched friends and family enlist in the military to fight for our country and freedom…knowing it is quite possible they won’t make it out alive. I’ve encountered educators who have changed my life, and strangers who have changed my way of thinking. Each and every single one of these people are important.

I was born in the most wonderful country on Earth, to two loving parents, in a neighborhood surrounded by good people. I am white, female, educated, and Christian. I could not be more privileged.

That being said, I can never know how it feels to be another person. Of a different race or circumstance. I don’t know what it’s like to be you, and you don’t know what it’s like to be me. Regardless of our spot on the ladder, there are struggles and difficulties. But I can tell you one thing…all lives matter.

Black lives, white lives, Asian and Hispanic lives, police lives, criminal lives, mentally-ill lives, elderly lives, abused lives, abuser lives, homeless lives, wealthy lives, child lives….they matter.

And you know why these lives matter? Because they exist.

The violence and divide that has plagued our America for too long is getting worse, not better. Those who break a law are being killed over a small misdemeanor charge. Police are scared to do their jobs, for fear of backlash from the public and private sector. What does that say about us, as a nation? What does that say about you, as a person?

Pastor Rudy Rasmus says, “You can never remain unchanged by your circumstances. Everything you encounter affects you, either for the good or the bad.” You play a role in this world. You may not live in Ferguson or Baltimore or Atlanta or any other place of violence…but you are making a difference there.

You see, Pastor Rasmus says something else…he says, “those who see themselves as fellow travelers on the road of seeking God have the greatest impact on people.” This could mean you. People around America are thirsting for a leader…a positive role model who is open and honest and has a heart for the people. Our country is full of those who are manipulative and conniving with a hidden agenda.

Be different to make a difference. Just take the time to do so, and I promise you will see results. That’s what Jesus did, and that’s what we are called to do. When Jesus called out to Peter and Peter jumped right out and attempted to walk on water….he wasn’t very successful. However, Jesus saved him simply by extending a hand. It has been said, “Jesus created the entire universe with a word. Certainly, He could have simply spoken and rescued sinking Peter. In His dealings with people, however, He often chose to touch them.” Have you ever truly thought about that? Jesus touched him, and that simple act saved Peter’s life. Maybe your touch could do the same.

Violence and protest and discourse has become common-place in our world. However, we can’t allow the frequency to determine our reaction. There is a song by Jack Johnson with lyrics that say, “Why don’t the newscasters cry when they read about people who die? You’d think they could be decent enough to put just a tear in their eye.” Yet we have all become numb to the needs around us. We don’t allow the needs we see on television, or even the needs we hear about around our family dinner table, to touch our hearts.

Today, and every day, we need to practice valuing our neighbor….regardless of who that may be. When Jesus commands us to love our neighbor, he doesn’t let you pick and choose. All neighbors, close to home and across town. And if we will just extend that love to others that Jesus shows to us, we can’t help but scream ALL LIVES MATTER!

References

Associated Press. (2013). NYC’s yearly cost per inmate almost as expensive as Ivy League tuition. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/09/30/nyc-cost-per-inmate-almost-equals-ivy-league-education-expenses-tied-to-rikers/

Erb, K. (2014). Considering the death penalty: Your tax dollars at work. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2014/05/01/considering-the-death-penalty-your-tax-dollars-at-work/

Fetters, A. (n.d.). What to expect: Hospital birth costs. Retrieved from http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/considering-baby/financing-family/birth-hospital-costs/

Havocscope. (n.d.). Human trafficking victim prices. Retrieved from http://www.havocscope.com/black-market-prices/human-trafficking-prices/

Thomas, E. (2014). This is how much it costs to raise a child in the U.S. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/18/cost-of-raising-a-child_n_5688179.html

Overwhelmed?

Man, what a whirlwind life I seem to be living! For this season I feel like I am in a constant head-above-water battle, but I know that as all things do, this too shall pass. Since writing last I have experienced emotions of sheer joy, relief, anxiety, worry, anticipation, and happiness.

Over the span of 3 months Aaron and I have reunited with estranged family members, got engaged, got in a wreck and totaled his truck, watched our dog have puppies, began the planning for remodeling our future home, dealt with the looming threat of me being unable to have children, and been involved in court proceedings to help ensure our niece remains in a thriving environment. Put that on top of me personally playing the piano at church every week, about to finish grad school in a few weeks, beginning my internship, maintaining my “real” job, planning a wedding, helping friends with babies and showers and moving…

It’s a lot. And I will admit, while I am living it, it seems like normal because it is my life. But writing it all down, no wonder I feel tired in the mornings!

I often wonder why I don’t feel overwhelmed. Tired, extremely, but rarely overwhelmed.

I truly believe that my main source of strength and perseverance comes from God. Aaron and I have been reading Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. We are truly living our life, the best we can, according to God’s Word. And it’s showing throughout our lives. As Perry Noble says, “As our view of God increases, our worry and stress decrease, because it’s only then that we begin to believe that all the things that are over our heads are under His feet.”

Perry Noble also points out some key ways of thinking that create such overwhelming feelings. I’ll outline some for you here.

Thinking you are in control. I don’t believe there is ever a time that God laughs harder at you than when you kid yourself into thinking you have complete control over your life and the things around you. It says in Proverbs 19:21 “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”

Thinking things are totally out of your control. If you are a Christian, and you were born after Christ died on the cross, you have the Holy Spirit living inside you. This Spirit could be characterized as many things such as your conscience or the angel on your shoulder but ultimately, it is God inside your body giving you the power of discernment and courage to overcome trials of the world. The Bible says in 1 John 4:4, “You belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” We have the power to relax and let go of our worldly troubles if we just choose to do so!

Expecting to live an easy life surrounded by good people. Because we live in a fallen world, the world is full of fallen people. We are not much unlike these people, as we all sin every day. However, even if we surround ourselves with people who are only good, Christians and go to church every time the doors open and pray religiously….the world around us is still fallen, and we are guaranteed to feel the effects. Perry Noble says, “When we meet Christ, we are saved from the penalty of sin, but we do not escape the effects of sin – whether that’s our own or other people’s sin or simply the broken world we live in.” No matter how good we try to be, we will still feel the backlash effects of sin.

Expecting to have the energy and time to do it all. I once heard a professor say, “The Bible calls those who will not work lazy, but it calls those who will not rest disobedient.” Wow. Self-care is truly important. In your profession and your personal life. There is no way one person can do everything there is to do. We must learn to let go of some things and delegate them to others.

Accepting sin as a way of life. Now I am just as guilty of this as the next person, but it’s true. We are contributing to our negative feelings by not omitting the sin in our life and just dismissing it. Perry Noble says, “In today’s culture, the temptation is to look at sins and refer to them as issues, mistakes, or problems. And as long as we see sin as something that we need to learn to cope with rather than something that needs to be removed, we will never take the cation necessary to peel the cap off the bottle so we can be spiritually refreshed.” He makes a good and valid point. Some things we are unwilling and reluctant to give up, but we may be amazed at how much more at peace we would be if we did so.

We refuse to forgive others. Another hard one. Maybe the hardest. I’m a grudge-holder by nature. But what I have come to learn is that my “nature” doesn’t matter because I am in Christ and should put Him on display each day. There are those who say, “if that person would just apologize I would forgive them”. And yeah, that’s nice when it happens. But that’s not the example that was set before us. Jesus is our example. and the people who were murdering Him never even asked for forgiveness…He just gave it to them. The example for us is that we must forgive freely – even to those who don’t deserve it. We can’t put stipulations on forgiveness and keep score of rights and wrongs. That’s not up to me. I’m going to be a therapist, not a judge. Besides the fact that not forgiving breaks up families and causes strife, it also is just stressful keeping tabs on all those tally marks for each side! LET IT GO!!!! Please. For your own sake.

We try to force love on others and on ourselves. Love is strong. And it’s a strong action, not an emotion like we’ve been taught. Love is doing, actively pursuing, proving day in and day out the commitment to the other person. Perry Noble says, “Love is determined by what we’re willing to seek out and what we’re willing to sacrifice for.” Knowing that, also know that God loves you. And his love and grace are sufficient. You need no one else’s. It’s nice to have. It makes life more enjoyable. But it’s not necessary. Don’t try to push love on those who don’t want it. Just lay it out there for them to pick up. It’s not hard, though it is work. It should be one of the most awesome jobs you have, loving others.

We expect instant gratification. Guilty! I want it, and I want it now! Yes, please. NOW! Though that’s my thought process most of the time, God laughs again. We must be vigilant, persistent, and enduring on our quest and towards our goals. That shows dedication and love. The Bible gives us one for this in Galations 6:9, “Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Good is coming, but it may not be today. Rest in that knowledge.

Ultimately, these things are all things I have or continue to struggle with. Overwhelming feelings come and go. However, if we refuse to allow our circumstances to shape what we believe about God, we will walk in freedom from fear, knowing that the One who holds tomorrow is good and is in complete control. In writing this post I have utilized Perry Noble’s book Overwhelmed a lot. I encourage you to read it!

Also, please be in prayer for me and my family. We have been going through a lot and are still waiting on answers and concreteness of things. Pray that God’s will be done in all areas of our lives and that his healing hands will be upon my body. Love to you all!

The Least of These

This afternoon I have my first interview for my internship placement. This internship is in marriage and family therapy and counseling. Throughout my studies the past couple years I have come to appreciate those in the mental health field.

It’s not easy being a therapist. It’s not just the fact that people come into your office hoping to unload their problems, which is heavy. It’s not just that you hear stories that make you cry, which is sad. The hardest part is not even watching someone struggle, but who is unwilling to admit that they need help. Those things are hard. Perhaps the hardest part of therapy is learning to overcome your flesh and learn to value each individual.

This has been especially hard for me, but I am confident in saying that I have grown immensely in that area. Passing judgement is a sin, but sin is human’s nature since the Fall. Learning to silence that voice of my flesh is so hard.

However, in order for me to go into the business of soul care and hurt healing, I had to learn to do this. It’s an imperative skill. But that didn’t make it much easier.

In the coming months and years I will find myself sitting across from addicts, rapists, abusers, homeless, and mentally ill. I will see people of all races, nationalities, and religions. I will be surrounded by those who I believe have poor hygiene, misplaced priorities, self-pity, and little motivation to move from the place where they are. I will see people who I think “got what they asked for” or that due to their choices, are right where they want to be in life. I will see people every single day who come to me for help, but aren’t willing to help themselves. Yet I have to control my urge to judge this person and assume that I know their circumstance. Many times we find ourselves comparing our life story to those around us. That’s unfair. Not everyone grew up in a Caucasian, two parent home in the upper-middle-class tax bracket where there were no signs of abuse and neglect. In a home where both parents loved them unconditionally and put their child’s needs before their own. No, that wasn’t everyone’s story. In fact, that was very few people’s story…and oftentimes even those who share my story, end up on a completely different path.

In the very beginning of the Bible it tells us that God created man in his image and with his own likeness (Genesis 1:27). Stop and ponder that for a minute. It doesn’t say only I was made in his image or only my pastor was made in his image. We all were! That makes the human race the most precious creation. Each individual, no matter their ailments or life history, was created in the image of the Almighty God. That means that we each have immeasurable value. I have to train myself to see this value in each person that I encounter. Whether in my career or in the grocery store. This simple revelation will change the entire way that you view others.

Jesus said in Matthew 25, “When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me. Whenever you did this for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.

Wow! That is powerful. Do you have any idea what this means? Those who I mentioned as being hard to sit across the table from are JESUS! Each and every one of them is Jesus. And if I help them, it is the same as if I am helping my sweet Lord.

Though I will never be able to repay Jesus for what he did on the cross for me, and I will never be as perfect or blameless as him, I can serve Him but serving others. Being covered by Him in the eyes of Our Father, I can represent Him through my works here on Earth. I can do as he did when he was here. I can do for the least of these.

To go a step further, we are told in Luke 6, “Lend without expecting to be paid back. Then you will get a great reward, and you will be the true children of God in heaven. He is good even to people who are unthankful and cruel. Have pity on others, just as your Father has pity on you.”

Today I take one of my first steps in pursuing my calling. Pray for me. That I will treat every human as Jesus himself and see the immense value of each life.

Reverend Billy Graham has said, “Just as pastors are called to lead the flock, if you are a child of God, you too are called to your vocation.”

Amen.

East or West?

In his book Hurt Healer, Tony Nolan speaks right to the heart of my work…counseling others or “soul care” as I have talked about before. (For further reading, refer to this link: https://browneyedbrains.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/soul-care/). Anyway, in one portion of the text, Tony talks about the relationship between the German soldiers on the West and East sides of Berlin. Sounds boring, I know, but bear with me. I promise this is going somewhere.

Although Germany was one country, it was split in half due to opposing and non-compromising governmental views. To put it plainly, the East side was Communist and the West side was Democratic. Naturally, those living in the East wanted to go West, but when they tried to do so they were shot and killed. This deterred others from trying to escape. The military enforcers for each side greatly despised the other and the East particularly always campaigned against the West. One day the soldiers from the East decided they would play a trick on those from the West. They gathered enormous dump trucks and filled them with tons and tons of trash, sewage, food waste, etc. While the West were sleeping, the East snuck over and dumped the garbage right outside their barracks. When the soldiers from the West awoke, not only was there a horrible smell but there was clean-up for days. A while passed and things were quiet. One day the soldiers from West decided they wanted to retaliate against those from the East. The next morning, soldiers from the East found a mountain of non-perishable food items outside their door stacked neatly with a note that read, “Each side gives what each side has to give.”

This story is a prime example of what is commanded of us in 1 Peter 3:9, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

How many times do we forget this command or ignore it all together? There will always be those who do you wrong, but we are instructed to rise above. Be the bigger man. It’s hard, but it’s required.

1 Peter tells us that in order for us to receive the blessing intended for us in the situation, we must first extend the olive branch to the adversary.

This can be seen again in Genesis 50:20 when Joseph said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” We must not forget that each part of our journey has been mapped out before us and touched by the hand of the Lord. If we just let him work in our lives and strive every day to be more like his son Jesus, the malicious intent of others will be transformed to good. However, this can only be done if we surrender the temptation of our flesh to take care of business ourselves.

I am just as guilty as anyone with this. There have been times where I don’t wait a moment before striking back at my adversary. Then I wonder why things didn’t turn out like I anticipated in the end. I can’t repay evil with evil. I can’t fight the power of the devil alone. All I can do is call upon God to reign supreme and get the devil back in check. Call on God to help me ward him off.

Each side gives what each side has to give.

This is true no matter who’s on the other side of the fence. Whether it is friend turned foe, family turned stranger, or brother in Christ turned Satan’s puppet…. Each side gives what it has to give.

The glorious thing is that you have a choice what you are going to give. Are you going to repay evil with evil in attempts to out-evil the other person? Or are you going to be the bigger person and practice grace and forgiveness? It’s up to you.

It’s not easy to repay trash with good food. It’s just not. There are people that are hard to love. Hard to forgive. Hard to stomach. But that’s what we, as Christians, are obligated to do. Some may call these people soft or cowards. To just sit by and let others slander their name or spew words of hatred towards their neighbors. But that’s not what God calls them. He calls them brave, he calls them mature, and he calls them good and faithful servants.

As a Christian grows in his walk with Christ, the fruit of the Spirit should be increasingly present in his life. Those things identified in Galations 5:22, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. As a Christian matures, so should his fruit. If you look around and don’t see these things in your life or the lives of those around you, maybe you aren’t maturing like you should be. Matthew 7:16 tells us that a tree shall be known by its fruit. Good trees bear good fruit, and bad trees bear bad fruit. What kind of trees are you picking from when you make you delivery to the “other side”? Like a fruit tree bears what it produces, you give to others what’s in your heart to give.

Which side of Germany are you on?