Can Brokenness Bring Blessedness?

Recently, I read two books on the conjunction of brokenness and blessedness.  First, Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way: a daring path into the abundant life.  She points out that blessings can be found within our brokenness.  Everyone eventually suffers pain in life.

Paul admonishes Christians to rejoice in pain, sorrow, disappointment.  James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The pain we experience brings new joys as we learn and gain strength.  Ann uses an Hasidic rabbi’s illustration:  you cannot have more water in a bottle until you pour some out.  Likewise with our lives, the more we pour out of ourselves, the more life we will experience.  She writes, “Love is not always agreement with someone, but it is always sacrifice for someone.”

Psalm 51:17  A broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  God will help us to find solace and even joy in our pain.

The second book is Finding God’s Blessings in Brokenness by Charles R. Stanley.  Dr. Stanley says right from the start, everything God touches in our lives is done out of love.  God affects our lives to help us change, grow, mature in spirit, and to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit–all because He wants the best for us.  God wants to break us from our love of self to free us to love God, thus loving others more than oneself.  He wants us to recognize anything we have of value comes from God.  God promises to bless us and make us a blessing if we are obedient to Him.  But first we have to be broken to the point of needing God’s help more than anything else.  Then we begin to receive the blessings and can thank God for the trial He put us through.

While contemplating these books, I realized negative experiences happen in my life which exemplify God’s love for us, illustrating the blessing of brokenness.  A verse I cling to, and one you have heard me mention repeatedly, is Romans 8:28  “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord.”

It was lunchtime and I was headed out to pick up my grandson.  Being hungry, and knowing he would be hungry, I washed a large bunch of grapes, placed them in a bowl, and took them to the car.  My dog Toby also came along on this trip.  Upon arriving, I got out of my car to speak to my grandson’s older brother.  When I returned to the car, Toby had eaten all the grapes!  Just recently, I heard that grapes and raisins are poison to dogs, affecting their kidneys and possibly bringing death.

I texted my far-away nephew who is a vet.  He said I must get him to vomit.  I didn’t have the necessary products and with my vet’s office closed, I decided to endure the expense of the Emergency Animal Clinic and save my dog.  When the technician reappeared, she said, “Along with the huge amount of grapes that came out, was a Chick-Fil-A sauce package.”  A few days previous, I had purchased their grilled chicken wrap with yummy green sauce for my lunch.  I always eat half the sandwich and save the other half for another day.  I keep a box in my backseat for hiding things from a lurker.  I stuffed the wrap in there thinking Toby could not get to the bottom.  Well, he did, as I already knew, but I didn’t realize the entire package of the yummy green sauce was missing as well.  If we had not forced him to vomit, that package had sat inside him for three days.  It could have blocked some passageway in his system and required surgery costing much more than the expense of a forced vomit and been far more upsetting and painful for Toby.

A favorite saying of mine:  “When God puts a tear in your eye, it’s because He wants to place a rainbow in your heart.”

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Make Your Bed

Make Your Bed:  Little things that can change your life…and maybe the world

By Admiral William H. McRaven

Reviewed by Nina Walsh, June 28, 2017 at Chautauqua Institution

This is a magical little book that can bring one hope, healing, and health. It is the kind of book which is good to buy in quantity and keep in a closet, so that you can give a copy to a those you come across who need it.

Admiral William McRaven, US Navy Retired, used the ten lessons he learned as a Navy SEAL as the outline for the Commencement Address he gave in 2014 to the graduates at the  University of Texas at Austin. These ten lessons are basic, not only to the military, but to dealing with the challenges life brings. Since that speech, many who heard him that day wanted to know the back stories which shaped his life and inspired his career. So Make Your Bed was published this spring.

Lesson 1:  Start your day with a task completed. The Admiral’s SEAL training was at Coronado, across the bridge from San Diego.  The SEALs in training slept in a room with four beds and a closet for uniforms. Immediately upon rolling out of bed, a trainee begins the day by making his bed. A day he knows will be filled with uniform inspections, long swims, longer runs, obstacle courses, and constant harassment from the SEAL instructors.

The bed consisted of a steel frame with mattress. The bedding included a sheet to cover the mattress, a top sheet, a gray wool blanket which had to be tucked tight, a second blanket required to be folded expertly into a rectangle and placed at the foot of the bed. The single pillow needed to be centered at the top of the bed intersecting at a 90 degree angle with the blanket at the bottom. Any deviation from this standard was an automatic “hit the surf,” then roll in the sand until one was covered from head to toe with sand – called a “sugar cookie.”

The trainee stood where he could watch the instructor from the corner of his eye. The instructor checked the hospital corners, took a quarter from his pocket, flipped it in the air several times, then allowed the quarter to fall to the bed where it should bounce several inches allowing the instructor to catch it mid-air. The instructor then swung around to face the trainee, not saying a word, but looking in the trainee’s eye, nod. There was no praise, as he had reached expectation. The Admiral writes, “doing it right was important. It demonstrated my discipline. It showed my attention to detail, and at the end of the day it would be a reminder that I had done something well, something to be proud of, no matter how small the task.”

Years later, as a young SEAL aboard a special operation submarine, he was berthed in sick bay where the beds were stacked four high. The doctor insisted that the men make their rack every morning, remarking, “if the beds were not made and the room not clean, how could the sailors expect the best medical care?”

When Saddam Hussein was captured at the end of 2003, the Admiral would visit him once a day to ensure his soldiers were caring for him properly. He writes, “I noticed, with some sense of amusement, that Saddam did not make his bed.”

He ends the first chapter with these words: “…all understood that life is hard and that sometimes there is little you can do to affect the outcome of your day…soldiers die, families grieve, your days are long and filled with anxious moments. You search for something that … that can motivate you to begin your day, that can be a sense of pride in an oftentimes ugly world. … not just combat. It is daily life that needs this same sense of structure. Nothing can replace the strength and comfort of one’s faith, but sometimes the simple act of making your bed can give you the lift you need to start your day and provide you the satisfaction to end it right. If you want to change your life and maybe the world—start off by making your bed!”

Lesson 2:  You Can’t Go It Alone.  McRaven discovered in SEAL training that you must rely on someone else to help in difficult tasks.  During early training, they were required to carry a rubber raft everywhere.  If someone was ill or injured, others had to pick up the slack.  This lesson taught them you cannot make it in combat alone.  You need help.

Twenty-five years later, McRaven jumped from a C-130 Hercules at twelve thousand feet.  It was a doomed jump from the start as the propeller blast thrust him tilting forward.  Once leveled out, he then found a jumper directly beneath him who was just opening his chute, hitting McRaven at 120 miles per hour. He pulled his rip cord and somehow he managed to entangle both legs in his risers, each leg bound by a different riser.  Struggling to become free, when his canopy caught air, his pelvis was pulled apart.  He landed two miles from the drop zone, was quickly rescued and taken to a hospital.  His wife was given the duty of nursing him.  As he felt sorry for himself thinking he may never be a SEAL again, his wife gave him the tough love he needed.  He writes, “None of us are immune from life’s tragic moments. . . You cannot paddle the boat alone.  Find someone to share your life with.  Make as many friends as possible, and never forget that your success depends on others.”

Lesson 3:  Only the Size of Your Heart Matters.  Wearing and carrying their morning swim equipment, the SEALS in training stood on the beach for their instructors to harass them some more.  The surf was eight feet high that day and coming in lines of three.  The tall instructor asked the shortest recruit if he could survive those waves, encouraging him to think about quitting before he was hurt.  Then he leaned into the young man whispering something to him.  This short recruit was among the first to finish the swim that day.  McRaven asked what the instructor had whispered to him.  “Prove me wrong!”  And the young man did!  I have to say, when I read this portion, with the outcome, it literally gave me chills.  But now I have given it away and spoiled that cool response for you.  Sorry.

SEAL training was always about proving something.  While in college, McRaven was in ROTC and came to Coronado to visit the training facility.  In the hallway, he saw tall, muscular men who looked like SEALS.  Then he saw a slight, almost frail looking man studying the photos on the hall walls.  McRaven was thinking, only in his dreams could this slight man ever become a SEAL.  McRaven was called into an office to talk to a recruiting officer.  After they talked a few minutes, the officer called to the thin man in the hall.  He proceeded to introduce McRaven to Tommy Norris, the last Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam.  This man had rescued airmen deep behind enemy lines.  This quiet, reserved man was one of the toughest SEALs ever.  “Norris proved. . . It’s not the size of your flippers that count, just the size of your heart.”

Lesson 4:  Life’s Not Fair—Drive On!  For some unknown reason, probably just at whim, McRaven was ordered to make himself into a sugar cookie.  Dressed in green utilities, short-billed hat, and combat boots, he dove into the ocean, then proceeded to roll in the sand until every part of his uniform and exposed skin were drenched in sand. Nothing could be more uncomfortable than having sand down your back and in every crevice on your body.  Being a sugar cookie tested your patience and determination.  His instructor asked him, “Mr. Mac, do you have any idea why you are a sugar cookie this morning?”

“No, Instructor Martin,” he dutifully responded.

“Because, Mr. Mac, life isn’t fair and the sooner you learn that the better off you will be.”

Martin was known as Moki to his friends.  After completing SEAL training, McRaven had the privilege of working with Moki, a phenomenal athlete.  Daily, he rode his bike the 30 miles of the Coronado Silver Strand.  One day, he had a head-on bike collision.  The other biker was fine, but Moki was paralyzed from the waist down.  Through the years, he became an accomplished painter.  The author states, “The common people and the great men and women are all defined by how they deal with life’s unfairness:  Helen Keller, Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking, Malal Yousafizai, and—Moki Martin.”  Remember:  Life’s not fair—drive on!

Lesson 5:  Failure Can Make You Stronger.  While in the choppy ocean with his swim buddy, also from ROTC, the two came in last in the class.  Your swim buddy was very important to your success.  You had each other’s back, were physically tied to each other on underwater dives, partner on long swims, helped you study, kept you motivated, thus becoming your closest ally in training.  If one of you failed, you both failed.  Teamwork was of utmost importance.  The swim instructor harassed them with calisthenics, humiliated them, kicked sand in their faces, and pronounced they don’t deserve to be SEALs.  Then he informed them they made the Circus list, saying they probably wouldn’t survive another week.  In the Circus, they were given extra exercise, so that they were exhausted the next day, failing to achieve the standards again.  It was a downward spiral.  After two days of the Circus, McRaven writes, we “began to improve and move up in the pack.  The Circus, which had started as a punishment for failure, was making us stronger, faster, and more confident in the water.”

The final test in the training period was to swim five miles in the open ocean off the coast of San Clemente Island.  Completion within the time limit was essential to graduation as a SEAL.  After two hours, the pairs were so spread apart, they didn’t know where they stood in the pack.  After four hours, they reached the beach, numb, exhausted, and freezing cold.  The instructor yelled, “Drop down!  Once again you two officers have embarrassed your class.”  More pairs of boots appeared in the sand.  “You have made all your teammates look bad.  Recover, gentlemen!” As they stood, they realized they were the first to finish!  “You embarrassed them all right.” The instructor smiled.  “The second pair isn’t even in sight.”

McRaven’s admonition is “In life you will face a lot of Circuses.  You will pay for your failures. But, if you persevere, if you let those failures teach you and strengthen you, then you will be prepared to handle life’s toughest moments.”

Later, McRaven, as the leader of a SEAL squadron, was fired for trying to change the organization, the training, and the mission.  However, he was allowed to transfer to another SEAL team, in spite of his tainted reputation.  He could have quit, but he chose to weather the storm and regain respect.  Over time, he managed to rise as commander of all the SEALs on the West Coast, and eventually, was in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan as a one-star Admiral.  He realized his past failures had strengthened him and taught him no one is immune from mistakes.  His quote:  “True leaders must learn from their failures.”

Lesson 6:  You Must Dare Greatly.  Using a personal example, McRaven described how important it is to be risky to accomplish goals.  In a training course, a rope is attached to a thirty foot tower at the top and anchored to the ground one hundred feet away.  He chose to hang under the rope with his feet aiding to make his way to the end.  He knew that was the slow way.  It would be much faster, but riskier, to go head first down the rope.  An old vet said with contempt, “That obstacle course is going to beat you every time unless you start taking some risks.”  A week later, he took the plunge earning a personal best.  He said the lesson to overcome one’s anxieties and trust your abilities was a lesson to serve him well.

Operations which SEAL units were forced to work under, meant they always did risky but calculated procedures.  SEALS always push the limits of themselves and their machinery to be successful.  That is what sets them apart.  The motto of the British Special Air Service is “Who Dares Wins.”  McRaven believes each of us should approach life that way.  There is always the potential for failure.  If you operate within the fear of failure, you will not succeed.  It is essential to push the limits to know what is truly possible in your life.

Lesson 7:  Stand Up to the Bullies.  Another SEAL test was a four hour night swim in the waters off San Clemente.  The waters in which they swam were full of sharks – leopard, mako, hammerhead, thresher, and the worst – the great white.  Their goal, to become a SEAL, gave them courage.  Without courage, fear will define your path.  Bullies are the same as sharks.  MeRaven writes,  “They thrive on fear and intimidation…They are like sharks that sense fear in the water.  They will circle to see if their prey is struggling.  They will probe to see if their victim is weak.  If you don’t find the courage to stand your ground, they will strike.  In life, to achieve your goals, to complete the night swim, you will have to be men and women of great courage.  That courage is within all of us.  Dig deep, and you will find it in abundance.”  That is a great statement for graduates.

Lesson 8:  Rise to the Occasion.  The culmination of the dive phase of training had come, the most technically difficult part of training.  Looking across San Diego Bay at the moored warships, there was a smaller vessel, which was their target, between the trainees and the ships.  The men had learned to use the basic SCUBA and the bubbleless Emerson closed-circuit diving rig, known as the death rig as it sometimes malfunctioned.  The object was to swim two thousand meters underwater, place their limpet mine on the keel of that boat without being detected.  If they missed their target, they would end up in the channel where a Navy destroyer could be pulling into the bay.  Not a good place to be!

The divers were called into a circle where the chief petty officer in charge spoke, “Gentlemen, tonight we find out which of you sailors really want to be frogmen.”   He continued telling them how dark, cold, and murky it will be, and easy to become disoriented.  If they become separated from their buddy, he will not be able to find you.  “You must rise above your fears, your doubts, and your fatigue.  No matter how dark it gets, you must complete the mission.  This is what separates you from everyone else.”  That admonition stuck with McRaven for the next thirty years.

The remainder of this chapter details the moving, dignified ceremonies afforded every fallen warrior as they are taken home to their family.  He ends the chapter by writing that we all will have a dark moment at some time.  If it isn’t a death, it is something that crushes your spirit and jeopardizes your future.  He encourages us to “reach deep inside yourself and be your very best.”

Lesson 9:  Give People Hope.  McRaven called Hell Week the “seminal” event for Phase One of SEAL training.  I assumed seminal meant final.  But I looked it up to be sure.  It is one of those words you can use to mean any number of things.  The synonyms or definitions I found which seem to fit the use here include:  critical, important, crucial, distinctive, incomparable, extraordinary, innovative, unconventional, momentous.  But, you will note, these words are not synonyms with each other.  Hell Week is six days chest-deep in the Mudflats of Tijuana, punctuated with long runs, ocean swims, obstacle courses, rope climbs, endless calisthenics, etc., with no sleep and unrelenting harassment from the instructors.  Only those tough enough to be SEALs survive.  On day three, they were cold, hands and feet swollen, painful skin, when an instructor, using a bullhorn, suggested they join him at the fire for coffee and chicken soup, then relax.  All they needed was five men to quit, and everyone could have relief. The trainee next to McRaven started to move.  McRaven grabbed his arm, but he pulled away.  The instructor was smiling, because, if one gives up, four more will quickly follow.  But then, a Dr. Seuss Whoville moment came when one trainee started a song and slowly everyone joined in.  The trainee giving up, returned and looped his arm around McRaven’s.  The instructor grabbed his bullhorn and shouted for everyone to quit singing.  As the threats increased, the volume increased.  The instructor smiled.  The men had learned another important lesson: “the power of one person to unite the group, the power of one person to inspire those around him, to give them hope.”

Lesson 10:  Never, Ever Quit!  We are at the last chapter; the last lesson.  McRaven reveals 150 men started in his training class.  They were told on the first day, if they wanted to quit, all they had to do was ring the bell in the courtyard three times.  Six months later, only 33 were graduating.  He says, of those who quit, they will regret it for the rest of their lives.  He writes, “Of all the lessons I learned in SEAL training, this was the most important.  Never quit.”

In this final chapter, he relates the story of visiting one of his soldiers in the hospital who had stepped on a pressure plate mine.  His legs had been amputated, blast burns streaked across his body.  After only one week in combat, his life had changed forever.  The man seemed to be unconscious and sedated.  So McRaven touched his shoulder, said a prayer, and turned to leave the room as a nurse entered.  She explained his serious condition, but said his chance for survival was good.  He thanked her and turned to leave saying he would return when the soldier was conscious.  She said, “He is conscious.” He can’t speak now, but his mother is deaf, so he knows sign language.  She handed him a card showing sign language symbols.  What do you say to a man who has lost his legs?  How do you make him feel better?  The patient seemed to sense McRaven’s discomfort.  He began to sign:  “I—will—be—OK.”  A year later, McRaven encountered this young man again – wearing his dress uniform and standing tall on his prosthetic legs.

The last two paragraphs of the book need to be quoted.  “Life is full of difficult times.  But someone out there always has it worse than you do.  If you fill your days with pty, sorrowful for the way you have been treated, bemoaning your lot in life, blaming your circumstances on someone or something else, then life will be long and hard.  If, on the other hand, you refuse to give up on your dreams, stand tall and strong against the odds—then life will be what you make of it—and you can make it great.  Never, ever, ring the bell!

“Remember. . . start each day with a task completed.  Find someone to help you through life.  Respect everyone.  Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often.  But if you take some risks, step up when times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden, and never, ever give up—if you do these things, then you can change your life for the better. . . and maybe the world!”

 

 

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A Story of Dogs, Ship, Presidents, Speed, and Being at the Right Place at the Right Time

Image result for gerald r ford aircraft carrier free images

This morning Fox News was broadcasting the Commissioning of the new Navy aircraft carrier battleship, the Gerald R. Ford.  Wonderful event with Trump arriving by helicopter.  I had the TV on in my bedroom and living room  so that I could see/hear wherever I was.

Eventually, I was sitting on the sofa with Toby, and he was licking his paw furiously.  I noted he had been licking his paw a day or two ago, but didn’t check it out.  Looked this time and the paw is quite red between the claws plus there is a red lump or two.  Called the vet.  It was 11:40am, and they close at noon on Saturday!  They could see him, so I ran as fast as I could (I wasn’t even dressed yet!) and arrived at a very busy office with 2 other dogs, both checking out.

The vet isn’t sure what the problem is – allergies, sting, ?  I also told him Toby had eaten 4 ears of corn this week, shucks, cob, and all!!!!  So, in the process of examining him, he stuck his finger up his rear to check for blockage.  Toby did NOT like that and jumped into my lap.  As the vet was talking to me and Toby dancing on me, I asked if his assistant could take a picture.  LOL  I said this needed to be posted on Facebook.

He prescribed a med plus Benadryl.  I asked if they could babysit Toby while I ran to the grocery store next door for the Benadryl.  So we are home now, with meds in his tummy, and he is sacked out.  Sad to say, I missed the actual commissioning.

Image result for gerald r ford aircraft carrier free images

The name of this ship has special significance to me as Gerald R. Ford is the only President I have met, shook his hand, and had a brief conversation!  August 1997, we were vacationing in Vale, CO.  The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra was performing in the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater adjacent to our resort.  Since we met while in college at Rochester, NY, we, of course, attended the concert.  Gerald and Betty were there that evening!  And we sat one row and a few seats away from them!!!  At Intermission, Betty jumped up and ran out of there like an arrow, heading for the Ladies’ Room.  Meanwhile, many were lining up in the row behind us to shake the former President’s hand.  We also jumped our seats and joined the line.  It was only a fleeting moment of greeting, but I had the chance to thank him for what he did for our country after the awful days of Watergate. Later we overheard that Betty’s Secret Service detail was quite upset with her, as she totally was out of their grasp.

The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vale, CO.

 

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Gratitude List

     

A – Apple computers; Astronomy; Ancestors
B – Birds; Bible
C – Car that works; Chocolate labs; Chautauqua Institution; Christmas
D – Dog as faithful companion
E – Energy, enough to accomplish what I want to do
F – Flowers; Fox News
G – God; Grandchildren
H – House to my liking; Helpful Handymen
I  – Ice Cream! Hot Caramel Sundaes on Butter Pecan ice cream; Ice skating
J – Journal for remembering the past
K – Karin, my awesome, talented, intelligent daughter (deceased)
L – Life
M – Money, enough to live on and enjoy; Music
N – Naps
O – Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light. . .
P – Purple, my fav color; Prayer
Q – Questions which help us to learn
R – Restaurants so that I don’t have to cook; Relatives; Rotary
S – Summers with hot temps
T – Texas Hots (only in Wellsville, NY)
U – Universe, our awesome cosmos
V – Velcro
W– Writing true stories; Whales
X – X-rays that find our problems to be cured; X = Christ!
Y – Yoga
Z – Zoos! Love animals!

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Stress Relievers


These are my favorite stress relievers or time fillers/wasters when I don’t want to do something else — like houseclean or organize a closet.  These activities  might  work for you too.  My favorites (not in any order) are —

  1. Playing piano
  2. Chatting with a friend in person or on the phone.
  3. Vegging on the Internet.
  4. Yoga.
  5. Gardening or just sitting looking at my garden.
  6. Reading for pleasure.
  7. Playing a card or board game with a friend.  I want to share my FAVORITE game with you!!!  Three to Thirteen.  Dear friends taught me this game over a dozen years ago.  A close friend dislikes games, but this is one he enjoys.  Anyone with second grade math under their belt can play.  Two or three players need one deck of playing cards.  Four players need two decks of cards, and six need three. The simple premise to win is to have the lowest score.  Eleven hands, from 3, 4, 5, 6, etc. cards up to 13 cards in a hand, comprise the game.  The goal is to make one or more sets of at least 3 cards by having the same number/value cards in a variety of suits or having consecutive numbered cards in the same suit.  Each numbered card is worth the number on the card in points.  Face cards —

Ace = 1 (worth 1 point)
Jack = 11 (worth 10 points)
Queen = 12 (worth 10 points)
King = 13 (worth 10 points)
The Joker is wild (can be whatever card you want it to be) as is the number card for the number of cards in your hand — for example:  the first hand has 3 cards, so number 3 cards in all suits are wild.  The next hand has 4 cards, and the number 4 cards are wild, and so on up to having 13 cards in your hand with the King being wild. When all of the cards in your hand are within a set, knock on the table to indicate you have won. The winner has the lowest score.
The best advice for winning is to not be caught with high cards in your hand unless they are in a set of at least 3.

This is a great game to play while waiting in a doctor’s office, at a restaurant, on a plane, anywhere you need to fill time.

The official rules can be found here. 

What are some of your ways to relieve stress of fill in time?

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To Lent or Not to Lent?

I grew up in a Baptist tradition which did not recognize Lent. After all, “Lent” is not a Biblical term and Baptists try to remain true to the Word of God.

Who made it up and what does it mean? I assume the Roman Catholic Church “invented” Lent for the purpose of helping us remember the pain which Jesus suffered on our behalf. The inner ache we experience for a favorite thing, of which we deprive ourselves, does go a long way to help us focus on Jesus’ suffering.  And why did he suffer?  He didn’t have to. He willingly suffered and died to be the sacrificial lamb to cleanse those of us who believe He is the Son of God. And then He rose from the dead to prove His identity as God’s Son!  Our belief becomes our ticket to heaven.

I received an email today titled, “Can Lent Be Happy?” from Kate Shellnutt, the Editor of CT Women.  She considered giving her article a title such as “Happy Lent” but thought that seemed inappropriate.  She called it grim and legalistic to force ourselves to give up something we enjoy.  Then asks, is that “really a God-honoring sacrifice?”  She explains, through prayer and the Holy Spirit, our hearts become transformed by the sacrifice we have made.

I am happy for those who do make the effort to deny themselves of a favorite something.  In so doing, they may find other things they were missing out on.

Personally, Lent as a time of focusing on Jesus’ suffering, makes me queasy.  While well aware of Christ’s suffering for my salvation, I find it too squeamish to dwell upon it.  I push Lent behind me, looking forward to Easter and the Resurrection which remain my focus for this time of year.  I decorate my house with trinkets of new life.  I do remember the Lord’s death adequately through Communion.  While living in Canada where I attended an Anglican Church, we celebrated the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.  Initially, I thought Communion every Sunday would inhibit the specialness of the ceremony.  But it does not.  It only makes it more special.

Happy preparations for Easter!

 

 

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Forgiveness Is Not Easy But Necessary

When someone has slapped you down repeatedly, even when you didn’t realize your denigration for years, how do you forgive?  The only way comes from recognizing how God has forgiven us. Each of us creatures have a sprinkling of less than righteous human characteristics such as tempers, sassiness, unpure thoughts, desire for retaliation, selfishness, egotism, among others.  These peculiarities keep us from achieving forgiveness of others which would ultimately bring freedom to ourselves.

When we say the heady, “If so-and-so can go to law school, then I can too!” it falls short of  saying, “If God can forgive a terrible sinner, then I can too.”  We are NOT God.  Yet, as Christians, the Spirit of God does dwell within us, making us capable of far more than we can imagine. Jesus does command us to forgive 70 times 7, usually interpreted as meaning endlessly. It goes along with the turn-the-other-cheek philosophy also taught in scripture .  We don’t need to punish the offending person as God has promised, “Vengeance is mine.  I will repay, saith the Lord.” Christ followers are forgiven, so forgiven people should be forgiving people.

Long ago, a relative disappointed and hurt me, until we realized she had Alzheimer’s.  Forgiveness came easily then, to just love her. Pity plays a part in the emotional side of forgiveness. It also becomes easy, though painful, to forgive when you watch someone fall into sin and see their character sucked out of them until they become a sham of their former self. Grace is behavioral from the spiritual side of forgiveness. Grace sneaks in as a gift and does not appear comprehensible to us until we come to recognize the grace of God in our own lives. Grace permeates our soul and gradually teaches us how to react.

Do you have a forgiveness story?

Bibliography:

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_science_of_forgiveness_an_annotated_bibliography

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