Category Archives: Forgiveness

So Far As It Depends On You

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Tailgaters annoy me. Not the barbecuing-before-the-big-game tailgaters, but the ones who zoom up on my tail going 65 in a 50, because their business is so much more important than my business.
tailgater Then, because I have tendencies that I am most definitely not proud of, I am tempted to slow down, which becomes even more of a temptation when someone is driving the speed limit next to me and the tailgater can’t get around either of us. (Evil grin.) But then I think about Romans 12:18:

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Practically speaking, this means I am not going to purposely antagonize the crazy-eyed guy behind me in the big 4-wheel drive pickup with the Pit Bull and the gun rack. Not because I’m afraid of him, but because I’m a Christian. (And – maybe a little because I’m afraid of him.) (Incidentally, I don’t have anything against big pickups and Pit Bulls and guns, so long as they are all controlled by sensible people.)

Seriously, though. In the middle of a chapter chock full of exhortation to actually do the opposite of what we feel like doing to people who aren’t nice to us – Paul makes sure we know that we bear responsibility to maintain peace.

This particular chapter has been on my mind a lot lately after recently finishing a study on Romans. “Live peaceably.” It’s easy to say, and I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t so easy to practice.

It means not speaking unkindly to the waiter who is slow, gets my order wrong, and forgets to refill my tea glass.

It means not taking out my frustration on the innocent sales clerk who tells me that the sweater I want is not, in fact, on sale – even though I found it on the clearance rack.

It means that I will assume that “I like your hair better when it’s long” really means “I like your hair better when it’s long” instead of “your new short haircut makes you look like a poodle.”

It means that I will extend grace to my husband when six pairs of dirty socks pile up next to his side of the bed.

It means that I will not use Facebook, or Twitter (or any of the other social media outlets that four-year-old children understand better than I) to bait, belittle, provoke, or hurt the reputation of any soul.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

What else does it mean?

• I will choose to stomp out irritation before it blooms into anger.
• I will respond with patience to someone who should know better.
• I will treat those with whom I disagree (religiously or otherwise) with dignity, respect and kindness.
• I will not seek revenge against someone who has hurt me.
• I will include and welcome newcomers and outcasts into my circle of friends.
• I will pray for and be kind to someone who has hurt my child.
• I will view an adversary as someone loved and treasured by God.
• I will remember the positives about an individual, and forget the negative in them.
• I will expend time and energy seeking to lighten the load and enrich the lives of others around me.
• I will respect those with different dietary habits than mine.
• It means that when I am young, I will respect my elders, and when I am older, I will value those who are younger.
• I will hold myself to the same standards I expect from others.
• I will not act or think haughtily toward anyone.
• I will hurry to make things right after a disagreement, and be the first to forgive, eager to make things right.
• I will recognize my own weaknesses.
• I will overflow with a spirit of humility and fight against self-promotion and self-importance.
• I will not pout when my opinions and ideas aren’t followed.
• I will look for and focus on the endearing qualities of an individual whose personality might not knit together with mine.

I’m sure you can think of many more examples, and I would love to hear them.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Even the crazy-eyed, truck driving tailgater.

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Meet An Old Lady

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An old lady in the Costco parking lot got really mad at me yesterday.

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(By “old” – I mean that she appeared to be in her late sixties. My apologies to my friends who may be advanced in years – YOU aren’t old!)

I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that the entire city of Austin decided to go to Costco yesterday, and there was an automobile slugfest in the parking lot. I was on the wrong side of the aisle when I spotted her pulling out, and as she was backing up, I pulled slightly forward and to the right to get out of her way.

What followed was a lot of arm waving and rude gesturing and angry eyes and words I couldn’t hear (thankfully.) As I sat there in disbelief, she laid on her horn and then gunned her fancy BMW SUV toward the hood of my car. The look in her eyes was memorable – as was the nervous look in the eyes of her passenger – a woman that looked old enough to be her mother.

Maybe she’d had a bad day. Maybe she’d just had someone shout at her. Maybe she was sick. Maybe she hadn’t started her Christmas shopping yet. Didn’t she know it’s the most wonderful time of the year??

But I couldn’t help thinking of something that my mother passed down to me (and has given to a lot of other women) – an essay called “Meet An Old Lady”. The author is unknown. It might take you a couple of minutes to read – but it’s sobering and well worth the time.

“You are going to meet an old lady someday. Down the road ahead, ten, twenty, thirty years; she’s waiting for you. You will be catching up with her. What kind of old lady are you going to meet? That is a rather significant question.

She may be a seasoned, soft and gracious lady. A lady who has grown old gracefully, surrounded by a host of friends – friends who call her ‘blessed’ because of what her life has meant to them.

She may be a bitter, disillusioned, dried-up, cynical old buzzard, without a good word for anyone or anything – soured, friendless, alone.

The kind of old lady you will meet will depend entirely upon you. She will be exactly what you make of her – nothing more, nothing less. It is up to you. You will have no one else to credit or blame.

Every day, in every way, you are becoming more and more like that old lady. Amazing, but true. You are getting to look more like her, think more like her, and talk more like her. You are becoming her.

If you live only in terms of what you are getting out of life, the old lady gets smaller, drier, harder, crabbier, more self-centered.

Open your life to others, think in terms of what you can give, your contribution to life, and the old lady grows larger, softer, kinder, greater.

The point to remember is that these things don’t always show up immediately. But they will – sooner than you think. These little things, seemingly so unimportant now – attitudes, goals, ambitions, desires – are adding up inside, where you cannot see them, crystallizing in your heart and mind. Some day they will harden into that old lady; nothing will be able to soften or change them then.

The time to take care of that old lady is right now, today. Examine your motives, attitudes, goals. Check up on her. Work her over now while she is still pliable, still in a formative condition. Day comes swiftly soon when it is too late. The hardness sets in, worse than paralysis. Character crystallizes, sets, gels. That’s the finish.

Any wise business person takes an inventory regularly. Merchandise is not half as important as the person. You had better take a bit of personal inventory, too. Then you will be much more likely to meet a lovely, gracious old lady at the proper time.”

I am thankful for that mean old lady yesterday – she reminded me of who I don’t want to become.  I’ve known a lot of gentle, kind, and beautiful “old” ladies in my time. My mother and my mother-in-law are at the very tip top of the list. Gwen Worthy. Ruth Locke. Inaleen Varner. And so many, many, many more! I’m going to meet an old lady sooner than I think – hopefully she will be soft and gentle and kind and admirable.

Rooted in Forgiveness

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“Let me tell you something: I am a man. A sob hit me somewhere around my ankles; it came surging upward…I was just bawling, as I hadn’t since I was a baby. ‘Meester Kinte!’ I just felt like I was weeping for all of history’s incredible atrocities against fellowmen, which seems to be mankind’s greatest flaw…” (Alex Haley, describing his journey back to his ancestor’s African village in Roots: The Saga of An American Family200px-Haley_roots

“Abolishing slavery settles the fate for all coming time, not only of the millions in bondage but of unborn millions to come. Shall we stop this bleeding? We must cure ourselves of slavery. This amendment is that cure. Here stepped out upon the world’s stage now with the fate of human dignity upon our hands. Blood’s been spilled to afford us this moment.” (Abraham Lincoln, from the movie “Lincoln”)

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“A confession, which…comes too late…It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.” (John Newton, former slave trader turned abolitionist) john newton

Last week I finished reading Alex Haley’s saga Roots. Then in Sunday’s sermon, John mentioned the slave-trading captain John Newton, who late in his life penned the words to what we now know as the song “Amazing Grace”. And yesterday, John and I went to see the movie “Lincoln”. Not surprisingly, my mind has been a muddle of questions about how mankind is capable of participating in — and tolerating — the wrongs committed against one another. How could they live with the guilty bloodstains on their souls?

The description of the conditions aboard slave ships is horrific. The separation from home and loved ones; the lack of warmth and nourishment, the rampant disease and widespread filth are conditions that are nearly unimaginable to someone like me who has never experienced true want or mistreatment.

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If my son / husband / father (or any of my loved ones) had been stolen, beaten, shackled, chained, starved, tortured, sold, forced into slavery, and humiliated, I don’t know that I could ever forgive the ones responsible.  Can God forgive them of such?

Could God forgive David of reckless adultery, or of plotting the violent murder of an innocent man? Could God forgive Saul/Paul of his participation in the violence against early Christians? Could God forgive the ones responsible for crucifying His Son, as Jesus asked Him to do? Can God forgive ME?

In the face of his shame David said “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” and “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit,” (Psalm 51). Despite the guilt he must have felt (and the temptation we often feel to deny ourselves forgiveness,) Paul said “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal…” (Phil. 3:13-14). John said “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9).

I’m so thankful that anyone – ANYONE – can make the choice to turn from their past, be obedient to God and receive His forgiveness – even the worst slave-trader and murderer. And I’m so thankful that God is not like me, with my unforgiving, stubborn, prideful, grudge-holding tendencies. HIS grace and forgiveness are full and complete:

“The Lord is merciful and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:8-12

Amazing grace – how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see!

Missing Information

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I found myself a little miffed tonight because several days ago, I sent a certain son of mine who shall remain nameless (but whose name starts with J and ends with acob) a picture asking his opinion about a gift he is supposed to give his aunt. He never responded. Which isn’t all that unusual, but I thought to myself “Well, I guess I’ll choose HIS gift for her MYSELF and he can pretend to be all PROUD when she OPENS it and says oh THANK you Jacob I LOVE it how did you EVER pick this OUT and know what I WANTED?”

Scowl.

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Then tonight scrolling through my messages I saw a red exclamation point next to that picture, which meant, of course, that the picture failed to send.

Oops.

Just another reminder of the times I’ve been miffed over something, only to find out that I didn’t have all the correct information. Maybe I better do a better job of remembering there’s always more than one side to every story.

What does that have to do with losing weight? Nothing, really. But that’s what was on my mind tonight.

Food log today: Back to my usual 2 oz Boar’s Head ham, 1/2 cup cottage cheese AND 1/2 of a small Kerbey Lane pancake, no syrup. Lunch – big spinach salad with 2 oz diced grilled chicken, boiled egg, 2 tsp sunflower seeds, 1 tbsp La Madeleine Caesar dressing, and some pita chips with hummus. I could probably lose weight a lot faster if I didn’t eat pita chips and hummus. We went to dinner with Robert, Tracy, Ally & Katy tonight at Texas Land & Cattle. Unfortunately, they had a 2 for $25 special which included an appetizer. I confess to eating some onion strings and some steak nachos. Not too many, but more than I should have. I also had some bread, a salad with some ranch dressing on the side, about 4 oz of lean sirloin, and 1/2 of a baked potato. Not the best eating day – but not the worst, either.