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Two Thieves

Of all the flesh with which I struggle, forgiveness has never been one of them. Until recently.

Mr. B has waged a four year war against our family’s livelihood without basis. An angry but highly intelligent individual with no intimate relationships, real job or physical limitations, he relies upon government assistance while he spends every waking minute constructing false litigations.  His knowledge of law is eclipsed only by his apparent evil intent to deceitfully twist it to his benefit.

Loving this man is just plain hard. It’s one thing to forgive when the deed is past but it’s an entirely different matter to continue to forgive when you know the detonation is around the next corner. How does one keep the heart tender in these situations?

Hidden beneath headlines of the day to day, lies the story of one who knows. American Pastor Saeed Abedini daily endures mental and physical abuse at the hands of those holding him in Iranian captivity. Around each corner is indeed more suffering but God’s grace and mercy sustain him in such a way that numerous prisoners are coming to Christ. And what about the abusers hearts? Who can speak of what might be happening there?

Over 2000 years ago the perfect Son of God hung on a cross between two thieves. Neither thief was better than the other. Each was guilty, depraved and without hope but only one of the two acknowledged it. Even before earth’s foundation, the One wedged between them knew that sinful mankind would repeatedly tread across His heart. And yet he bore the cost of the world’s sin with his life, and offered forgiveness. End of story, right?

It should be. But it’s so much easier to justify my anger at my enemy because his venom spreads and slowly seeps into me.  The battle begins each time I see his derisive and diabolical web postings or hear he’s pursuing another malicious prosecution. My own cost in this legal debacle is not my physical life. But it might just be death to my rights and my security, all of which should rest in Him anyway.

Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them.  Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more?

Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

I desperately pray that Mr. B will relinquish the rage he spews our direction.  I want deliverance from this trial.  From watching the pain and exhaustion in the eyes of my beloved. But more importantly, my prayer is that he will recognize his own depravity and cry out to the One who can’t be manipulated by any law but will love him unconditionally.  Because in my heart of hearts, I recognize that Mr. B and I are both thieves, for without God’s grace and mercy, I too am desperate for my own way and trudge through the darkness.

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Presence


In a few weeks I’ll be attending my second writers conference in a distant city. There’s nothing like a gathering of like-minded people to stir your enthusiasm and propel your purpose.

As I reflect upon that first conference in Dallas two years ago though, I can tell you little about what I learned as a writer. What I do remember is the front porch theology and validation I received. A dear friend, whom I had not seen for over 25 years, tenderly held my soul and peered deeply into my thoughts as if there were gold to be mined.  She listened, without judgment or reservation, to what moved me and kept me awake at night.  She looked long and deep.  And I felt valued, because in her actions I saw the magnified grace of God.

Isn’t it true that each of us hunger to be seen, to be heard, and to be known like this?

Hannah Brencher wrote a delightful memoir entitled If you Find this Letter. As a twenty something single living in NYC, she wrote encouraging letters and left them in hidden places to be found by perfect strangers.  In one such letter she wrote:

…do me a favor and know the truth: You’re worth it. You are absolutely, unbelievably worth it and you were made for mighty things.  Keep pushing on. Keep pressing. Don’t let anyone in the wide, wide world ever try to snuff out the light you bring.

The letters connected to the common hunger we all have for significance. In Hannah’s journey to help others feel known and valued, she actually found her own purpose.

I’m convinced that we need more intimate conversations like the one I had with my friend. Less talking at each other and more talking with each other. Focusing less on how to fill the silence and more on being present.

And yet, there is weight to presence. This means we have to turn off our cell phones, ignore texts, and accept an incomplete to do list.  It’s a priority of people over plans.

In conversations, I frequently look for those common threads to connect me with others.  Before you congratulate me, let me confess that often those efforts are about my own comfort. But just maybe sitting in the quiet mess of life together is where the magic happens even when your life looks nothing like mine. Validation and significance are cherished gifts when offered to each other.

Maya Angelou once said,

“They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

I enjoyed not only a conference that year in Dallas, but a feast.  I consumed that which could not be taken on a fork or filed in a notebook.  What I tasted was so much more.

Baring Soul

I’ve recently entered retirement.  The air is free and breezy, drawing me into a comfortable rhythm unknown to me for many years.  All the excuses I found not to write have scurried like Arizona geckos into protective vegetation.  I feel a peace within my soul that I didn’t know existed.

Its been over a year since I’ve written anywhere other than my journal. The words were always there though.  Early mornings would uncover them.  Fresh with the kiss of dew, they would sparkle and shine with newness, only to be discovered elusive by evening.  And so it went.  The day bled into evening and night broke through to dawn. But the past months of my silence have given pause to purpose. Time has allowed assessment of my tiny contribution to the conversation of faith.

The Gospels are replete with the significance of small things. Seeds, copper coins, and crumbs of bread dot and inform the landscape of Scripture. This is indeed comforting to one who has only small to give.  God’s truths are deep and full and beyond resourceful with my fingertips only grazing the surface.  It’s this dusting that I offer along with my life fragments.

But I am also a bit of a conflict.  The same one to plunge into mysteries, loves to skirt the waters of cynicism.  I am deeply serious in private but inclined toward lightheartedness and sarcastic humor in the day to day.  For these reasons, I wrestle to project writing that is authentically me yet substantial in truth.

So this is my mantra:

I write simply as an offer of warmth amidst the chill of this post Eden world.

This place will be a basin to collect those words; a place to channel the holy randomness of living.

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