Saturday, June 19, 2010

A little miracle in the middle of the Mundane

Over the past week, it seems as though everything has gone wrong, maybe not completely wrong but at least a little wrong. A lot of the frustration has been with the toddler who has been acting like…well, she has been acting like a toddler. Last night, my parents came and took the toddler to spend the night with them. Insert sigh of relief; I was going to enjoy a few minutes of toddler-less life. Actually, instead of relaxing, I was hoping to get some class work done. I sat down at my computer but had the most difficult time concentrating because my child had left my house in such a wreck. I got up and started a little cleaning.

I straightened the house, scoured the bathrooms and the kitchen, swept and vacuumed. I was in the last room with the vacuum when I heard this loud crack and something went flying across the dining room. I had sucked up a gorilla paper clamp. Needless to say, the vacuum stopped dead in its tracks. I was so frustrated. I tinkered. I turned it back on. Nothing. I tinkered some more. I turned it back on. Nothing. On the third try, sitting in the middle of the dining room floor with my head in my hands, I prayed. I know it sounds silly to pray about a vacuum but I was that fed up. Low and behold! The third try, that bad boy started right up. It was sucking up stuff way better than it had before. I was able to finish the house cleaning and because my mind was free and clear I was able to get a good bit of homework finished. I even had a little time to watch television before going to bed. It turned out to be a relaxing evening after all.

I woke early this morning to cut the grass. I was hoping to be finished before it got too hot, which in central Georgia means before the sun comes up. I walked out the back door a little before 7:00am. I saw a yard strewn with toys, shoes, gloves, limbs. Ugh, this was going to take forever. By the time I finished picking up everything it was 7:30. I put in my iPod earbuds and was ready to kick it around the yard with my little red mower. I cranked it and made one ten foot pass and it died. It was out of gas. To be perfectly honest, I used profanity this time. I have to explain that my little mower is new to me and I had not yet purchased a can because I was using my dad’s. I didn’t want to wake him that early so I went to the gas station to buy a can and some gas. Do you know how much the gas station sells their cans for? It is highway robbery! So, I went to Dollar General and waited for them to open. Then I went back to the gas station. When I finally got back home and got the mower gassed up it was well after 8:00 and getting hot. I pulled the choke and got nothing. You have got to be kidding me! I try again… more profanity. Then, I turn to Him and simply say, “I have faith that you can and will make this mower run.” I even promised God that if He would start that mower, that I would post to the blog about it. Sure enough, He was faithful to start the mower, so I am faithfully posting about it.

You probably think this is silly to be telling you or God about my mundane madness. But it appears that God wants us to talk to Him about all this mundane-ness. He wants to be a continual part of our lives -- every hour, every minute, every second. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 says “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” The whole verse 17 is devoted to “pray[ing] continually.” Another verse, Philippians 4: 6-7 says "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" I emphasize the part that says “in EVERYTHING, by prayer…present your requests to God.”

I am not saying that God will always fix the vacuum or lawn mower, but I am saying that He wants to hear about it. And, sometimes in the middle of that mundane madness a listening ear is all you need to turn the madness into a little miracle.

On a side note: I have been hearing from a lot of people who are going through or have recently gone through a divorce. To God be the Glory! It turns out that this blog is reaching people – even people I have never met! (And I thought my mother was my only reader. :) ) I want this blog to offer support to those who are hurting from divorce. Until I can figure out how to do it more efficiently, I want to encourage those of you who are willing to share your stories to do so in the comments section. Let me, and others hear about your experience, talk with you and pray with you about it.

One last thing: Several of my friends and I have started another blog that follows our efforts at weight loss and creating a healthier lifestyle. I would love for you to pay it a visit at

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Sunday Evening crowd at our church is a small and unique group. Because of this, Sunday evening takes on an atmosphere of a Bible study rather than a formal worship service. Our pastor has recently begun a series titled What’s so Amazing About Grace? This past week’s mail-out contained a segment that I wanted to pass along to you. It was written by Lewis Smedes:

“When we forgive someone, we do not forget the hurtful act, as if forgetting came along with the forgiveness package, the way strings come with a violin… Forgiving, in fact, may be a dangerous way to escape the inner surgery of the heart that we call forgiving…

Once we have forgiven, however, we get a new freedom to forget. This time (after forgiveness happens) forgetting is a sign of health; it is not a trick to avoid spiritual surgery. We can forget because we have been healed. Be even if it is easier to forget after we forgive, we should not make forgetting a test of our forgiving. The test of forgiving lies with healing the lingering pain of the past, not with forgetting that the past ever happened.

…Can you stop your memory on a dime, put it in reverse, and spin it in another direction the way you can reverse direction on a tape recorder? We cannot forget on command. So we just have to let the forgetting happen as it will; we shouldn’t rush it, and we certainly should not doubt the genuineness of our forgiving if we happen to remember. The really important thins is that we have the power to forgive what we still do remember.”

Over the past few weeks, during this study, I have had some thoughts about this forgiveness. I wonder why some people seem to be able to forgive the most atrocious acts with seemingly no difficulty at all while other people face years of anger and turmoil because of wrongs done them in the distant past. Several posts ago, March 18th to be exact, I mentioned that I don’t know how to reach the point of offering our enemies forgiveness.

Now, however, I think I am figuring it out. In Matthew chapter 18 one may find the "Parable of the Unmerciful Servant." Most every church go-er will immediately recognize this passage as being the “seventy times seven passage.” It is through this parable Jesus suggests that we forgive our brother seventy times seven times for a grand total of 490 times. (Yes, I used a calculator and no, I am not ashamed.) The same church go-er has heard many a sermon on how that seventy times seven does not actually mean 490 times but as many times as it takes even into the thousands. Having heard about 490 of such sermons myself, I have always thought that meant to continue to forgive that many different offenses. Essentially, our brother (or sister) could commit 490 heinous acts against us, but we are charged to forgive each and every last one. But, what if, we look at this passage a little differently? What if we tried to forgive just one offense that many times? What if God recognized that we are human and we will struggle to forgive and will darn near fail at forgetting major offenses? What if God meant to tell us through this parable that every time we remember that offense, or every time we become angry again, or every time we fail at forgiving and forgetting we should sit down, say a prayer and forgive the offense all over again. Perhaps, the intention was to provide a plan of offering that forgiveness even if it takes us 490 tries.

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 21 – 35)

21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"

22Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[f]

23"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.

24As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents[g] was brought to him.

25Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26"The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.'

27The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii.[h] He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.

29"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'

30"But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.

33Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

The painting is Lute Player by the Italian Baroque painter Orazio Gentileschi. He was a follower of Caravaggio and a teacher. His best pupil (and my personal favorite painter) was his daughter Artemisia. She is historically considered the first female painter.