Sunday, June 30, 2013

Write What You Know

"I remembered Thy judgments of old, O Lord; 
and have comforted myself."
Psalm 119:52
(KJV)

I love reading in the Psalms.
I love the fact that David was honest.
Don't get me wrong.
I am not happy to know that he failed and displeased God.
My heart breaks to know of the things he did
and the horrible repercussions that followed.
I do not rejoice in the thought of his sin.
But, I love the fact that David was a man after God's Own heart,
even though he was human...
in spite of the fact that he was flawed....
regardless that he failed in a big way.
God used him mightily,
and through his failures, 
through his paths to restoration and forgiveness,
we find hope.


David wrote the Psalms based on 100% personal experience.
He didn't live a perfect life seated upon a pedestal of self-righteousness.
David didn't interview other people,
listen intently to their stories,
take careful notes of their life experiences,
then write it all down to compile such a beautiful book.

The things David wrote were drawn from a very personal place.
The encounters with God of which he wrote were not written based on hearsay.
David's  relationship with God was very close.
His experiences with God were on a very personal, first-hand basis.

David wrote from his own life.
This is why his writings are so effective.
So inspired.
So deep.

It is one thing to hear about the love, mercy, and forgiveness of God.
It is quite another to live it, breathe it, and experience it 
on the most intimate and personal of levels.

Had David never failed God, how could he write with such passion about His forgiveness?
Had he never personally experienced the bitter taste of remorse and regret,
how could he have ever coined such poignant accounts of its torment?
Had he never sinned, how could he explain its repercussions in such vivid detail?

There is nothing like personal experience.
Most assuredly, it is the best teacher, 
and writing from its perspective, 
without question, lends the heaviest dose of credibility.

Someone can speak all day long about the life experiences of others,
and while there is a certain element of help to be found from hearing second-hand tales,
somehow the depths of effectiveness are not as strong 
as knowing the speaker speaks from the depths of their own heart.

Aren't you glad the men and women of the Bible were not perfect?
Aren't you thankful that God allowed their biographies to be included?
Doesn't it fill your heart with joy to know you are not the first person who ever sinned
and fell short of the glory of God?
Doesn't it relieve a certain amount of pressure to know that God, in His Divine wisdom,
forgives, restores, complete accepts, and yes, bless His name, even uses 
deeply flawed, seemingly hopelessly imperfect people?


One thing I appreciate most about David is that he was brutally honest.
He may have tried to cover his sins for a period of time...around a year, to be exact,
but when everything was boiled down and the rubber met the road,
standing in Nathan, the prophet's presence, 
confronted with the truths of reality,
David humbled.
He acknowledged his sin.
He confessed.
He admitted his own fault.
He took full responsibility.
He didn't fight it, nor did he try to longer hide it.

God let him know that nothing he did was covered...at all.
David realized the truths of Hebrews 4:13, 
though it had not yet been written.

"Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: 
but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do."

So, David repented.

This happened more than once.
Well, not the same, exact scenario, obviously.
But, David made mistakes all throughout his life.
He was human.

He wrote from a very human, personal perspective.
He took those life experiences, and he wrote about them.
I am eternally grateful that he did.

Because, in David's words I have found a spot of light in the deepest darkness,
time after time after time.
In his words, I find comfort, because he personally knew what he was talking about.
If he came through it,
if he failed and was restored,
if he found God to be true,
then, by His grace, I can, too.

During my studies,
I learned something that has probably had more impact on my personal writing
than any other single thing.

It is this.
"Write what you know."

Write what you have lived.

Writing from the heart is real.
There is no pretense.
No hypocrisy.
No fantasy.

Writing from personal experience is believable.

So, I encourage you, my friend.

What is your life story?
What unique experiences have you lived?
What are your failures?
Your problem areas?
In what areas have you experienced God's forgiveness?
How have you found God to be...to you...on a personal level?
How did He express Himself to you?
Based on your own sins and His redeeming grace,
how could you help and minister to others?

We live in a dying, hurting world.
More so than I have ever seen.

God needs people to fulfill His mission of love.
He chooses to use human instruments...
flawed, battle-scarred, and imperfect though they be.

Bringing your life to God, with all of your hang-ups, issues, imperfections, and checkered past,
and fully surrendering it all to Him, 
brings to His Kingdom a most precious element.
You are unique.
Loved enough for the Son of God to lay down His life for your salvation.
Valuable enough for God to bring to the place you are right now.

He hasn't cut you off, abandoned you, left you to live out the rest of your days in misery.
He has work for you to do.
Yes, you.

Just because you failed Him,
just because you sinned,
just because your life is a tangled web...
doesn't mean you aren't worth something to God.


God seems to love to see people like you and me come to bow at His feet.
I believe He thoroughly enjoys forgiving us, washing us clean, making us into new creatures, 
and sending us out to tell others all about it.

Because that is the ultimate, best way to spread the good news of the Gospel.
When it happens to you...on a personal level.
That is the most credible of all stories you could ever tell.
That is the most effective of all ministries in which you could ever engage.

Being able to say, "I've been there" holds the heaviest amount of weight and the most credibility.

I've been dealing with a problem area...one that has plagued me for years.
I have severe, and I do mean severe, anxiety...
almost every, single day.
It rises within me...I can actually feel it start and escalate...
 until it is literally and profoundly affecting my health.
I don't know why I can't just trust.
Why am I consumed with such fear, in certain areas?
When I know God has always been faithful?

I beg God to help me every day...and He does.
I plead His mercy...and it continually flows.

I wish I weren't so flawed...so deeply marred.
I wish I were perfect...and victorious...every second of life.
I continually aspire to be virtuous.
I struggle in so many areas.
Sometimes I feel like such a mess.
I know God must look down and shake His head sometimes, 
wondering when in the world I will get it right.

But, I am trying.
I aspire.
To be like Jesus.
To please Him.
To make Him smile.
To make Him glad He saved me.

I write with honesty...from a place of human brokenness.
From a place very personal...from what I know.

I send it out...from my heart to yours....
in hopes that someone can take comfort in knowing they are not alone.

I usually stick to the King James Version, at all times.
However, I do like to read others and often find they shed a facet of understanding.
I am very careful on this, because there is always an element
of the dangers of misinterpretation and alteration.
God is faithful to give wisdom and discernment, if we ask Him to.

That being said,
I would like to include
the New Living Translation of Philippians 3:13,14,
of which I am particularly fond.
This verse literally speaks my heart.

"No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,
but I focus on this one thing:
Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
I press on to reach the end of the race
and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us."


David reached the end of his race.
He died, a man after God's own heart.
He left a beautiful journal behind that contains invaluable 
nuggets of wisdom, comfort, solace, and hope....
all drawn from living and walking through daily life in the presence 
of a forgiving, merciful, loving God.

Sometimes, I just imagine David writing...
in a cave, while being pursued by King Saul,
on a hillside, while keeping careful watch over his sheep,
in the woods, after killing the lion or the bear,
on the floor, face saturated with bitter tears, begging God's forgiveness,
in the temple, heart full, worship flowing from the depths of his soul,
inside a tent, near the battlefield, rejoicing in the defeat of Goliath,
alone, in his room, reflective, quiet, secluded, and subdued,
on his throne, weighted with responsibility, in dire need of Divine intervention and assistance.

David was a real man.
He lived and walked and breathed.
He failed miserably.
He triumphed majestically.
He loved passionately.
He hungered and thirsted for God.
He sinned deeply.
He admitted his wrongs.
He confessed his sins.
He was human.
Not unlike any one of us.

What if David had kept it all to himself?
What if he hadn't shared?


How sad to open our Bible and not find the longest Old Testament book.
How bereft of comfort our funeral services without Psalm 23.
How hopeless our sinful plight without the words of Psalm 32 and Psalm 51.
How depressed our betrayed spirit if we couldn't turn to Psalm 55..
and read about the time David was the victim of cruel betrayal.

David wrote what he knew...what he felt...what he experienced.

Now, isn't it time you started telling your story?
Go ahead.
Take the first step.
Allow the ugliness of  your tests transform into the beauty of  your testimony...
like David did.


Someone...somewhere...needs to hear what you have to say.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Unpassable Cups

"And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, 
O my Father, if it be possible, 
let this cup pass from me: 
nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."
Matthew 26:39
(KJV)

"Mama, I don't want to go through this again.
I don't wanna do this.
I just can't take any more.
Mama, I can't do this."
Zach's eyes were filled with tears as he sat across from me in the front seat of the car,
as we swerved with the curves through the mountainous West Virginia terrain between 
Mom and Dad Smith's house and the hospital.


I listened.
I let him vent.
For as long as he needed to.

"I've gone through all of this so...many....times.
I hate hospitals.
I'm still not over losing Nana, Mama.
It's only been a little over a year."

What had started out as a trickle of tears,
had turned into a full-blown meltdown.

The mother-heart in me went out to him in a million ways.

"I know, Zach.
I know.
I am SO sorry",
was all I could seem to think of to say.

Everything he said was true.
What could I do to change any of it?
It had happened.
It was happening again.
We had to deal with it.

"Mama, I can't stand to lose someone else.
I don't know why this is happening again.
Especially, so soon."

"Zach, I am so sorry.
I don't like any of this either.
You don't know what I would give right now...
for an ordinary day.
But, the thing with Granny is that she is still here...with us.
We can still pray for her.
Maybe God will give her more time.
At least, we can still ask, right?"


"Yeah, Mama.
I just don't want to go to the hospital and see her like this.
I just don't want to go through this again."

My mind went back to a sweet, little four year old boy,
and that rainy night in 2005, when we got the phone call.
Mom had been involved in a serious car accident.
I rushed out the door, carrying him in my arms,
shaking with fear over what we would find,
a few miles down the road where the wreck had happened only a few minutes before.

We reached the scene and our friend, Andy, was there.
He offered to hold Zach and keep him comforted 
while I did what had to be done.
Deeply thankful he was there, 
I gladly accepted his kindness, 
as I handed a traumatized Zach into his arms
and rushed to the crumpled, white car on the side of the road.

Mom had collided with a pick-up truck 
that was pulling a trailer hauling lawn equipment.
I reached her car, terrified to peek inside...
not knowing what I would find.
I still remember the eerie glow of her headlights, 
shining downward into the ditch where her car had come to a stop,
and the twisted, distorted metal on what used to be the front end of her car.
I finally mustered the courage to try to open the door.
It wouldn't budge.

"Mom!" I screamed from outside the window.

I could hear her voice inside the car...weak and scared.

Unable to pry her door open, I crawled in through another door.
She was awake and coherent....
her glasses lying on the opposite side of the car.
The impact had been violent.
They had collided at about 55 mph.
I looked down at her leg.
It was bent, and her ankle was mangled.
It had received the hardest blow.

Soon, the ambulance arrived, and what followed was some of the longest days of Mom's,
and Zach's...
and my life.
Daily trips to the hospital for literally weeks on end.
Daily trips to the nursing home, afterwards.
Grueling physical therapy for Mom.
Long, exhausting days for us.

There were moments when there just wasn't anyone else...
to do what needed to be done...
except Zach and me.

I look back on those days and wish I could somehow erase them from Zach's memory...
and my own.
There was nothing pleasant about them...at all....
other than the fact that we were together.

My mind raced forward three and a half years later to 2008,
and a sweet, little seven year old boy,
who was then too big for me to carry in my arms....
sitting in a hospital room on the 7th floor...
waiting for the dreaded news of what was going on with his Nana.

She was so sick.
It ended up being life-threatening....again.
A colon-removal operation, 
weeks and weeks of hospital stay, then the nursing home...again.
Zach was such a trooper...through it all.
Right by my side.
We had no choice.

I fast-forwarded to three years later to 2011....
and a sweet, little ten year old boy,
wounded and hurting from the aftermath of one of the most intense spiritual battles
our little family has ever endured.
It had only been 10 days...since the worst of it.
And there we were.
Same positions.
Different hospital.
Mom was facing death...again.
An emergency surgery in the middle of the night.
Weeks of recovery afterwards.
Life-altering adjustments to be made in the months following her hospital release.

Unbelievably, eight months later, in April of 2012, we found ourselves
 in a hospital emergency room...again.
Mom was in such severe pain, that even frequent shots of morphine had little effect.
I will never forget the way my heart tore right down the middle...
just like the curtain that separated Mom from Zach.

On my left hand, was Mom.
Writhing in pain.
Every few minutes saying, "I hurt....oh, I hurt!"
And Zach on my right hand, 
anguished eyes,
pleading with me to get him out of there.

He was at the breaking point...literally.
So was I.

But, what do do?

"Cheryl, please stay with me.
Please don't go until they get me into a room."
Mom's voice was getting weaker by the minute.

"Mama, please take me home now.
I can't stand to stay here a minute longer.
Please, Mama."
Bless his heart, Zach couldn't have been more pitiful.
I couldn't have felt more torn.

It was the middle of the night, and I knew Kevin would be off work soon.
All I could hope for was that he wouldn't be delayed.

Have you ever stood there?
Where I stood?
Torn in half between your mother and your child?
Both of them needing you.
Both of them pleading.
The pity in your heart going out...in both directions...with such intensity...
that you feel your physical heart actually ache??

I don't like to revisit those scenes, and I rarely do.
Until another one appears, and with it comes...
unannounced, unbidden, uninvited....
a river of painful, stabbing memories.

Driving down that West Virginia country road a few mornings ago, 


the Holy Spirit began to speak....to my heart and through my lips.

"Zach, there are cups in this life that are unpassable.
No matter how much we beg for things to change,
no matter how hard we plead to be released,
no matter what we do...
the cup is unpassable.
We have no choice...but to drink it.
Do you understand what I mean?"

He was quiet.
I looked over at him.
I had his full, undivided attention.

"Remember Jesus?
In the Garden of Gethsemane?
Do you know how hard He prayed, Zach?
There is a rare physical condition that happens when a person agonizes to such a level of intensity
that their sweat glands literally sweat blood.
(The medical term for this is Hematidrosis.)
That is how hard Jesus cried....and prayed that night.
That is how intense His anguish was.
Blood oozed out of His pores...and spilled on to the ground.
Do you know what He was praying for when His sweat became great drops of blood?
He was praying that somehow, someway, by some miracle...
God would find another way.
That He would come up with another plan.
So, He wouldn't have to be scourged, spit upon,
beaten to a pulp,
whipped,
slapped,
forced to carry a rugged cross through the streets,
humiliated beyond belief,
nailed to the cross,
and crucified for our sins.
Jesus didn't look forward to what He knew was ahead of Him.
The physical part of Him wanted another way.
He begged His Father for an escape route.
Can't you just hear Him, Zach?
Father, please, please, is there not another way?
Can't you come up with another plan?
Father, I don't want to drink this cup.
Please, Father, make another way.
Let this cup pass from Me.
But, do you know what, Zach?"

"What, Mama?"

"God was silent.
The answer was no.
Jesus left His place there...on the ground...to go look for His disciples.
Hoping to find some comfort.
Some moral support.
Something...someone...to ease His anguish.
Do you know what He found?
His disciples were there...asleep...snoring away.
They weren't there for Him.
Not even when He needed them most.
During the most anguished, agonizing moments of His life, Jesus found no comfort.
He went back the second time...to pray again.
He uttered the same words.
The same heart-wrenching pleas.
Hoping that somehow His Father had found another way.
Hoping the cup would be taken away from Him....
that it would pass Him by...
that it could be passed to an alternate substitute.
Again, God was silent.
The answer was still a deafening NO.
Jesus left His place of prayer again, and again, He found His disciples sleeping...
as if they didn't have a care in the world.
How He needed them!
How He longed for someone to change the inevitability of the happenings of that night!
Only His Father could.
He went back one more time....
to ask the same favor of God.
Surely, the cup could pass from Him!
Surely, His Father had found a way!
Surely, this time, the answer would be yes.
Again, He poured out the depths of His soul.
Again, He received the same answer.
The cup was unable to be passed.
There was no other way.
Only HE could drink it.
Only HE could fulfill God's plan.
Only His blood was pure enough...
sinless to the core.
Jesus had to take the cup,
put it to His mouth,
and drink it.


Right down to the bitter dregs.
Every drop of unpleasantness.
Every bit of it.
Until He could honestly, from His heart say, 
It is finished."

I looked over at Zach.
Tears were coursing down the little fellow's cheeks.
The scene before both of our eyes was so real.
It was as if we were there...in person...
watching our Lord beg...pitifully....
only to be told no.

"I know how you feel, Zach.
I don't like this either.
Not one bit.
I want things to be okay.
I don't want to have to do what we are doing.
This cup is unpassable, Zach.
We are going to have to drink it.
We can't change what is happening.
Granny needs us.
Think of all the times she has been there...for us.
For all of us.
If I had my way, she would be there with us...at home.
She would meet us at the back door, with one of her sweet hugs.


She would take our hand and pull us in, 
and everything would be okay.
This is not my choice, either.
But, it is happening."

"Wow, Mama.
I never thought of all of that...in that way....
about Jesus drinking that cup."

"Zach, do you know what Jesus said about those who want to be His disciples?
He gave us three steps.
They must be done in the order in which He gave them.
We can't do step two and three, until we do step one first.
Here is what He said, 
Whosoever will come after Me, 
let him deny himself
and take up his cross
and follow Me.
Denying ourselves is the first step.
That is exactly what He did.
He will never ask you or me to do anything that He was not willing to do Himself.
Jesus won the victory that night in the Garden.
He fought and won the battle....against Himself.
That is how He could go through all that He endured that horrible night.
He got self under control first.
He denied what He wanted to do, 
and He surrendered to the divine will of God.
That is how He could do steps two and three.
That is how He was able to take up that heavy, old, rugged cross.
You and I are going to have to do the same thing....
in this situation."

That night, I was faced with another torn-down-the-middle-of-the-heart scenario,
when Mom S. didn't want me to leave her.
Zachary was begging me to come home with him and his Daddy and Papaw.
He feels insecure during times like this...
is it any wonder?

For a moment, I was back...to last April...with Mom on my left hand,
and Zach on my right.
Separated by a thin emergency room curtain.
Mom's eyes pleading if I looked one way,
Zach's pleading if I looked the other.
Torn...to the center of my core.

I looked at Mom Smith, lying there, frail and ill.

Everything in me wanted to turn and go home with the others.

Yet, she was asking me to stay.

So, I did.

It turned out, she had a horrible night.
Filled with pain.
It would have been so hard on her to be alone.
I was glad I was there.

I read the Bible to her...


prayed with her.
She said she felt comforted.

God met us.

She made it through the long, anguished night.

I know not what the future holds.

I don't know what is going to happen.

Everything within me draws back from losing another parent.
I've lost both of mine.
The thoughts of losing Kevin's is almost unbearable.

Dad S. and I have had quite the conversations lately.
He breaks down and gets really emotional
when he talks of the love of his life...his wife of over 53 years.


The other day, we had a good cry...together....
there in the cistern room
off the back of their house.

It is hard being in their home...without her.
It hurts to look at the rose bushes we planted for her 
for Mothers Day only a few, short weeks ago.


She was feeling so well then.
It is amazing how quickly life can change.
I keep expecting to see her come flittering around the corner,
asking us what we want to eat or drink.

The kitchen seems lonely, as I stand in her spot,
and prepare the meals....
using her skillets, pans, and cookie sheets.

How many times has she taken them out through the years,
worked her magic with food,
set those dishes on the table,
and served those who were hungry?

How many times have she and I stood in that kitchen together,
side-by-side,
peeling potatoes, 
frying chicken and deer meat?

I miss her in every inch of the house.
It seems so empty...surrounded by all of her things...without her.


Dad is so dependent on her.
She lies there worrying about him...day after day.

She told me she thought she heard his voice in the hall of the hospital the other morning.
She sent a nurse out looking for him, worried that he would fall, on his own.

They are so close.
I honestly don't know what one would do without the other.

I plead with God every day to heal their bodies.
To leave them with us as long as He possibly can.

The reality is that he is almost 88, and she is almost 82.
We weren't born into this life to stay always.
It is appointed unto every living person to die.

Losing parents is a normal part of life.
It is an unpassable cup.....
that is revolting and bitter to the very dregs of its contents.
Drinking it pierces a huge hole in the human heart that nothing or no other human is 
ever able to adequately fill.

It hurts...to drink this cup.

But it can't be passed.

There are certain valleys through which we each must walk.
There are certain situations we cannot avoid.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said,
"Be still sad heart and cease repining;
Behind the clouds the sun is shining,
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life a little rain must fall..."

Losing a parent is more like a flood...
a torrent of rain...
that leaves behind a scarred aftermath.

I guess that is why I dread it so.
I've walked this vale...twice.
Bereft of parents am I.

Kevin didn't shirk from sharing it...when it was placed in my hands.
Nor will I desert him...when the cup is here...
and unable to be passed....from him to another.

How about you, my friend?
Have you been handed an unpassable cup?
Perhaps a circumstance that is beyond your realm of understanding?
Have you begged God for a different outcome,
only to be met with cold, hard silence...
as if the Heavens were brass?
Have you searched for an alternate path,
only to be told there is none?

There are some things that only you can do.
There are places that only you can fill.
Cups that only you can drink.
Sometimes the responsibility, however unpleasant,
has to fall on you.

God orchestrates it so.

If He hands you an unpassable cup, it is because He trusts you to drink it.
He knows you can....even when you believe you can't.

You can get through this.
You will get through this.

Jesus had to surrender what He wanted to the will of the One Who designed His life.
Though He longed for an easier way, there was none available.
So, He took up His cross,
carried it through the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem to Calvary's hill, 
and He drank every drop....
of His unpassable cup.


There are times, my friend,
that you and I must deny ourselves,
take up our individual crosses,
and do precisely the same.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Rainy Lenses

"Judge not, that ye be not judged."
Matthew 7:1
(KJV)


While driving through the mountains,
we zipped past such quaint, inviting scenes.
A photographer's dream....
nearly every inch of the way.

"Oh, can we turn around and go back?",
I asked Kevin, 
after I spotted some kind of pink flowers growing through a fence.

Kevin found a church parking lot,
pulled in and turned around,
drove back to the spot,
dropped me off,
and he and Zach took a drive down an old, country road
to give me all the time I craved to take pictures.

As I stood there,
enthralled with the beauty...
(can I tell you how much I appreciate eyesight?),
it began to rain.
Softly.
Gently.
Just enough to make picture-taking a bit of a challenge.

I didn't want the camera to get wet,
but I sure didn't want to miss those precious shots, either.

So, I shot away.
I got the rustic archway,
the country fence,
the delicate pink flowers,
the green grass and trees,
the cloudy sky,


the red, Georgia clay...
isn't it beautiful?


I love taking pictures...
especially, in the country.
I love the corner of this fence.


After a little while, I saw Kevin and Zach coming around the bend
to pick me up.
Satisfied with my pictures, and glad to get out of the increasing rain,
I got back in the car, and we drove off.

I hit the review button on our camera to inspect the photos.
That's when I saw it.
Rain drops...
showing up as a foggy spots...
in every single one of my pictures.
Once we got back home, and I downloaded them all,
it became even more pronounced and evident.

Can you see it?


Depending on how I was holding the camera,
it shows up on the pictures in varying spots.

I think it is most obvious in this one....


See the raindrop?
Towards the bottom right of the picture?

By the time I saw it, it was too late to go back.
I wouldn't have asked Kevin to do that...
although, I know he would have, if I'd asked.
We were so excited and anxious to get to our destination,
I wouldn't have done that to him for the world.

That raindrops show up in every picture for one reason....
the raindrops were on the lens.
So, every view, every shot, every resulting picture...
had the same trademark.

Every, single thing I viewed through 
that lens was affected by the raindrops.
Whether I was looking at the flowers, the fence, the Georgia clay...
it didn't matter.

Because the raindrop was on the lens, 
it left its mark on everything viewed through it.
And the thing is...it didn't show up until later.
I didn't see it while taking the photos.
I took the pictures, oblivious to the impact that was being made by the raindrops.

Made me think about life.
Our attitude.
The lens of our perspective.
The way we view and look at things.

Whatever is on our lens will affect the way everything looks to us.
Whether we are viewing our spouse, child, other relative,
friend, brother or sister in the Lord, pastor, co-worker,
life-situation, financial status, problem....
whatever or whoever we are concentrating on
will look a certain way, based on how clear and clean our perspective is.

I have been finding myself uttering very annoyed remarks about a particular
situation in our lives.
It just irks me to the point of sheer frustration...time after time after time.
I can't change it.
Because it involves the area in which we live.
I can't make it go away.
It is just a fact of life, and there isn't one thing I can do to make things different.

So, it hit me that the only thing I can do...
is to clean off my lens.
To ask God to remove the residue of negativity through which I view this predicament.
As long as we live where we live, I will have to deal with it.
I don't like it.
Not one bit.
But, I truly desire to stop complaining about it...
to start digging for something good in it.
Surely, there is something good in this...somewhere.

One positive is that it sure makes me pray for tolerance!
And to have the ability to show grace, because God sure has shown a lot of it to me.

Have you ever woke up in a fowl, ugly mood in which 
everything and everyone got on your nerves?
Made you "trifling", as they call it here in the south?

Did it occur to you, at some point, that surely not everyone and everything else was out of skelter?
That perhaps, it was you?

I sure have.
I've done that very thing...more than once, I admit.
And most times, if I asked God to change my perspective 
and clean the lens of my viewpoint,
everyone and everything else somehow mysteriously improved.:~)

Isn't that something?
How that happens?
Kind of like the raindrops left their mark on every, single picture.

That is, until I finally realized it and cleaned them off.

You know, I think sometimes it is just that we don't see.
We don't realize.
Until we have left an irremovable, non-erasable mark behind.

It is not that we mean to do that.
Many times, we don't see ourselves...
until it is past the point.
Too late to undo.

Aren't you glad God is forgiving?
That He has a tender heart?
That He doesn't point His finger at us,
and say, "I told you not to do that"?

Because He sees how flawed we are.
He sees the raindrops...on the lens.
He knows it is happening...
when we spew out the gripes,
hurtful remarks,
and ingratitude.

Remember Jesus?
On the cross?

I never can get over His words...
to His Father...
of intercession for the towering, burly Roman soldiers who were responsible for His agony.

"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. "
Luke 23:34

Jesus knew.
These guys had no idea.
They were merely following orders.
It was all in a day's work...for them.
They were gruesome and cruel and wicked.
They took great pleasure in the very thing that now pierces our core
and wrenches hot tears that burn our eyes and sting our cheeks as they fall.

They crucified the Lord of glory.
Our Lord.
Put Him to an open shame.
Humiliated Him beyond words.
Beat His body beyond recognition.
Disrespected, abused, and mutilated Him until He could barely stand.

I look at them with near hatred.
My tolerance of what they did is non-existent.
I abhor the thought of their hot, vile mouths spitting on the One Whom I love more than life.
I have no pity...at all....in my heart for the ones who wounded my Lord.

I admit.  
I would not have begged my Heavenly Father to forgive them....
had I been standing beneath the continual flow of blood beneath the cross of His torture.

I would have been begging God to do something.
To destroy them.
To curse them.
To allow a bolt of lightning to pierce them in half.

I know.
My perspective and the lens of our dear Savior are worlds apart.

His words...torn from swollen, still-bleeding lips...pierce the stony heart inside of me.

How could He do it?
How could He ask God to forgive.....them?

They did not deserve forgiveness.
In my opinion,
through my distorted, marred lens,
I think they deserved to be mercilessly scourged,
spit upon,
cursed,
slapped,
reviled,
skull-pierced with a crown of thorns,
dragged through the streets carrying a splintery, rugged cross on their still-bleeding backs,
forced to walk up a steep hill,
hands and feet nailed all the way through from top to bottom,
then violently raised upright, until the ligaments and muscles and skin 
were ripped right off the flesh of their bodies.

They deserved to hang there...without clothes....humiliated for the whole world to see...
for six hours until the pain of each breath was so excruciating they nearly passed out.

The way I see it, they needed to feel what they made Him feel.
An eye for an eye.
A tooth for a tooth.
Perpetrators turned victims.

They deserved it all....for what they did to Him.

It infuriates me...to think of those soldiers.

So unlike Christ am I!

Lord, forgive me!

I don't love as You loved.
I can't forgive as You forgave.
I can't understand.
When people do me wrong.
When they say mean things..and I hear about it.
When they abandon and accuse and misunderstand...completely.

Why can't I realize that they do not know what they are doing?
Why can't I see that I must love, in spite of all?
That I will only be free as I learn to forgive....as You did, Lord?

You saw the biggest problem.
Hanging there.
You saw into each one of their corrupt, evil hearts.
They did not know what they were doing.
They hadn't one clue.
Who You were.
What You were doing...for them.

You saw that their lens was blurry.
So, You forgave.
You asked Your Father to forgive.
To not hold it against them.
To let it go.

How could You?
Is there hope for me, Lord?
Will I ever be that perceptive?
To recognize the skewed lens of my brother enough to overlook his faults?

And will I ever be able to see my own?
To identify the raindrops on my own lens?
Before I do irreparable damage?

"Search me, O God, and know my heart: 
try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, 
and lead me in the way everlasting."
(Psalm 139:23,24)

I can't see the rain on my own lens.
So, I am negative and critical and judgmental of every, single thing I see.
I can't seem to remember that other people have the same problem.
They look at me, and what they think they see is so far from the truth.
But, they don't know that.
So, they judge and condemn and criticize.

Is there a place so deeply buried in God that I can ask Him to forgive?
The ones who misjudge?
The ones whose tongues are so cutting and cruel?
Those who have condemned me to spiritual death?
Who think I've already died?

Am I suffering as much as He did?
Do my injustices come close....to His?

I hang my head in shame and guilt as I even consider such absurdity.

If Jesus could forgive those who "knew not what they did", 
because their perspective was so out of focus,
shouldn't I do likewise?

Shouldn't you?