Saturday, June 29, 2013

Devotion for today: Forgive and forget: really?

Eph 4:26-27, 31: “In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold... Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
 John 15:5: ...For without Me you can do nothing.
 2 Pet 1:9:...For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
 Luke 6:37: Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

It is one thing to settle an argument with someone by saying “Look, I am sorry. I failed to see your point. Let’s start again and this time let us both be open-minded.” It is another to say, “Look. I am sorry I stole your project and presented it to the boss as my own and now have the position and raise you deserved. Let’s just let it go and I promise I won’t do it again.” Hmmm. I have a feeling the first situation will not only bring the forgiveness asked for, it will also be a situation easily forgotten and not impede the established friendship. I know the second situation is never going to end like that. Forgiveness is tough anyway because we cannot stand to have our pride injured. That is why it is hard to ask for it and it is hard to give it. But let’s be honest. When we feel we have been grievously wronged, and have suffered because of it, we not only have our pride to deal with, but tremendous feelings of anger and hate, and a desire to seek revenge and see the perpetrator punished by none other than God Himself. Forgiveness seems impossible. And if we are the one who committed the heinous act, we usually do one of two things: make light of it as in the example above, or refuse to ask for forgiveness at all because we know how wrong we are and to admit it is to face the wrath and anger of the one we have wronged.

The problem is really what is mentioned in the first Bible passage above. When we experience a hurt, we open a tiny hole in our armor against the devil. We cannot hold onto the virtues and defenses we have worked so hard to achieve in our spiritual lives, because to be hurt emotionally is just like being hurt physically. It is painful, and not easily forgotten. That is just what the devil needs to move in and take over our thoughts. We continually review the situation in our minds, seemingly at times against our wills. We just can’t let it go. We seethe with anger and thoughts of “How could he do this to me?” This usually leads to talking about this person behind his back to any willing and sometimes unwilling listener. Doesn’t sound too virtuous or God-like, does it? That is because it isn’t. It is the devil and he is having a field day with us. The longer we ignore the situation, the worse it will get. That is why the sun cannot go down on our anger. But that is easier said than done!

It is easier said than done, unless we turn to God. For without God, not only will we not forgive, we will never, ever be able to forget. Think back to the worst physical pain you ever experienced. The broken collar bone you got playing football, the 18 hour labor you experienced delivering your first child, the burning sensation when hot water spilled on your arm are not things easily tossed out of our minds. We don’t dwell on them, or we would never play sports, have babies, or drink tea again. Yet we don’t forget. We simply put them aside and move on. Emotional pain is much worse. We trusted someone, and he betrayed us. We loved someone, and he broke our heart. We believed someone, and he was lying all along. How do we “get over” this? We can’t, not completely unless we let God enter our hearts and help us. We must turn ourselves over to God, who is love and mercy Himself. Remember, God is a spirit and as a Spirit He can enter our hearts and stay there if we let Him, and if we let Him, He begins to dwell in us, and we in Him, and our hearts are softened and we can say to Satan, “Go to hell and stay there. I will not be consumed by hate and anger. I can and will forgive, and by the grace of God, I will in time ‘forget’ for all things are possible with God.”

It is here we remember that this very God living in our hearts forgave us our sins, over and over and over, and will do so over and over and over until we die. This is the same God who died for our sins although He had none Himself. If nothing else works, remember that. We must forgive, for we have been forgiven by God, and if we don’t forgive, then we are placing ourselves ahead of God and saying, “I worship my right to be angry more than I worship You, God.” Those are not good words to say. No, never.

So, our formula for forgiveness and forgetting goes like this: handle your anger quickly and bravely before the devil has time to harden your heart. Seek forgiveness quickly if you have harmed someone before you have enough time to thoroughly justify your misdeed. Always pray hard and long to have God, the Spirit of love and mercy, enter your heart and do what you cannot do alone: forget and move on. I am not saying enter into denial; I am saying to replace the repetition of the offense in your mind with love for the individual who harmed you. That is what God has done so many times for you. That is the high road. That is true freedom. Forgive and forget…really? Yes, really.

 Rule #2 for evangelization: Forgive everyone who has ever harmed you. Seek forgiveness from everyone you have wronged. That is being Christ to others in a most powerful way. That will bring people to God faster than any book you can recommend or any lecture you can give. And remember to smile!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Devotion for today: Love shines in your eyes

Proverbs 15:30: The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the body.

I was recently holding my little seven week old granddaughter, Elena. She was staring at me intently, and then, for the first time, she broke out in a big smile! Keeping her eyes fixed on mine, she did it again! I made what I considered to be appropriate little noises and she did it again! She knew me! No, my nay-saying friends, it was not gas. It was recognition, and she was happy to see me! What joy!

When my daughter Lauren was little, we were looking at the stories in her Golden Book Bible. “Did Jesus ever smile?” she solemnly asked me, and I had to pause. Did He? The word itself does not appear in the New Testament as far as I know, yet surely He smiled. “Yes,” I replied. “He did.” “How do you know?” she demanded (she grew up to become an attorney) and I paused. How did I know? How was I so sure I was right? I replied, “Well, Jesus loved people very much, and when you love, you smile. Jesus healed the sick; He raised the dead; He fed the hungry; he comforted the sorrowful and He forgave sins. He told people about His Father in heaven and spread Good News wherever He went. Can you bring that kind of happiness to people and not smile when they say ‘thank you’?” “Nope,” she said, “I think Jesus smiled a lot.”

In this Year of Faith, we are asked to evangelize and spread the Good News. Rule #1 in the Sandy Bertini book of “How to Evangelize” in today’s world is simple. Smile. Smile when you buy your stamps; smile when you check out at the grocery store; smile when you let someone cut in front of you. Smile and let love shine in your eyes. Can you picture a dour Jesus raising the little girl from the dead? Can you even imagine a serious, self-absorbed Jesus touching the lepers and cleansing them, then staring stone-faced at the one who returned to thank Him? I cannot. To me, the very name Jesus means joy.

When you heal the sick of heart by listening to their problems and comforting them, smile and let them know they are loved. When you feed the starving soul of a friend in search of life’s answers, smile as you tell them about the amazing love and mercy Jesus has for them. Live your faith unabashedly and bravely, to be sure, but joyfully, even more!! The Good News you are living and presenting will refresh the body and soul of all you meet. Let your eyes shine forth with joy.

When I die, I want to stare full face into the eyes of God, and I want to see Him recognize me, and smile. I want Him to be happy to see me. What joy!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Devotion for today: Shout it Out!!!

Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"

Getting discouraged in today’s world is easy. We look around us and see attitudes, beliefs and practices turned upside down. Those of us raised on the practice of the “natural law and order” so eloquently discussed by St. Thomas Aquinas find all of this disconcerting. What does God have in mind by allowing the war, hatred, human trafficking, abortion, etc. to exist in the world He created, the world He planned and set into motion based on laws He set in place?

I don’t know. I do know that He can put a stop to the world any time He wishes. In the blink of an eye, in the snap of a finger, the stars fall, the sun plummets to earth and the world is no more. We believe we have such power and authority today. Man feels he no longer needs to believe in God, that he can manage this world on his own, thank you very much. In the blink of an eye, in the snap of a finger….

My friend’s daughter recently had an emergency appendectomy. She is 16 years old, and as I sat with her in the recovery room, she shared with me how suddenly her world had turned upside down. One sharp pain in the side, one long night of agony, and now there would be no beach parties this weekend, no end-of-year school celebrations, no final exams to take. She would be in bed, all plans in the dust. She also mused that she was changed. She had been terrified of her surgery and panicked at the thought of “going under.” Now that she was a veteran of surgery, she felt like a stronger person in many ways, one who was forced to face her fears. In the blink of an eye, in the snap of a finger….

My friend was going to the store to pick up her new curtain order. She was hit head-on by a distracted driver and spent two years in and out of surgery and therapy, getting used to a “new” face, learning to walk again, trying to bend her arms. Before this, she was an avid runner, an active volunteer and event organizer, a true go-getter. Now she is learning how to bend her arm so that she can eat. She is also a powerful prayer warrior and intercessor. In the blink of an eye….

We all have a million stories like these. We all know in the depths of our beings that life is tenuous at best, a crap shoot at worst. And yet we get up every morning and make plans. We have faith that we will get back in bed at night and rise again tomorrow. Why? Because we know that this world is God’s, and that He has faith in us and in it. Just as He could end it all tomorrow, He also believes it is worth keeping. He believes we will do good, bring the faith to others, keep the smiles on faces and the value to life, and bring His people back to Him. In the blink of an eye, in the sharing of our faith, in our hand extended in aide, in the love and joy we emit from our eyes, we can bring God’s people back to Him. We are the feet on the mountain; we are the ones proclaiming peace and good tidings. We know the truth, the truth that will set man free.  Let us shout from the mountaintops: Our God Reigns!!!!!

Thank you to all of you who have stayed with me through these difficult months of change and transition in my life. Along with a sick computer, I have had to admit my mother to a nursing facility and close out her apartment. Things were up and down for awhile, but God prevailed and things are good!! I am going on a pilgrimage to Poland in July and cannot wait to blog about that. I am back!!!

God bless all of you!