Sharing

A Prayer Brings A Second Chance

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          I met Claire (not her real name) when I met with a business group at a local coffee shop.  When the meeting was over, Claire casually mentioned she’s recovering from two debilitating diseases (Lyme and Chron’s diseases) and they have taken their toll on her body for nearly two decades:  not being able to get out of the bed for months on end, a neighbor repeatedly finding her sprawled on the floor where she had fallen, not driving for five years, and, worst of all, almost total loss of her memory.  Then she told me about her miraculous healing.
 
     
          I was fascinated to hear her story.  My enthrallment increased because I had started a book on prayer, and I was petitioning to have people with interesting prayer stories identify themselves to me.  Actually, two people identified themselves on the same Saturday, a minor miracle itself.  I’ll tell you about the other amazing recovery from cancer in the near future.
          I knew that Claire and I did not have time then to chat, so I invited the small, 50-ish woman to meet me for coffee the following week.   This story poured out as Claire, dressed stylishly in jeans with the knees out, a white sleeveless top, and tear-drop earring that moved back and forth as she shook her head.
     Formerly an executive with a company that included frequent travel, she was forced to live on disability.  “I hated sitting still and not working,” she said as we sat at a small, rectangular table in the empty children’s section of the coffee shop.  The privacy of being hidden by bookshelves allowed us to talk freely.
     A native of a mid-western village of about 500, “I finally decided to leave,” she says.  Then Claire, who has other past traumas, explained what it was like for a friend she had worked with two years earlier to try to give her a hug, only to have her recoil in fear because she didn’t know who was a friend and who was trying to hurt her.  “I started shaking and crying,” she said.  Then, the hurt expression on that his face asking;  “How can you not know me?  I could see how much it hurt him.” The woman who used to do math calculations in her head and a normal recall of people and places, could not remember much besides her parents, who took control of her life, including her financial affairs.
  
     Finally, she recalls, the pain, fear, anguish became too strong and sitting on her bed, she took a handful of pills, narcotics, painkiller and whatever else she could find in a suicide attempt.  Reds, yellows and other colors of the rainbow, from a nearby nightstand.
                When I lie down I say,
                ‘When shall I arise [and the night be gone]?’
                 But the night continues,
                And I am continually tossing until the dawning of day, Job 7:4          (Amplified Bible)
          She remembers, like an out-of-body experience, the ambulance squad responding.  Hearing a paramedic asking:  ‘Who’s going to tell her dad?”  Smelling the strong odor of tobacco on the breath a female EMT.   And plans to take her body to a nearby funeral home.  “They all were crying.”  It was a town where everyone knew each other.
          Then the strangest thing happened.  She woke up.  She looked around the bedroom, and the pills–every one— was laying on a table across the room!  How’d they get there?  She says that a pile of books, her Shih-Tzu dog, and other stuff on her bed did not allow her to simply reach over to the table.  Even if they had not, because of the queen-sized bed, it was too far to reach.
          She was dazed and angry.  “Why God,” she asked, “did I wake up?”
What happened to the ambulance crew?  Were they there?  
How could it be?  She remembered taking the pills, putting them in her mouth, swallowing them.  The bitter taste.
          Did she really take them?  Was it a just a vivid dream?  Did God spiritually intervene?
          Claire, who describes herself now as “a real strong believer,” thinks it was God, and so do I.  He may have been telling her it was not the time for death.  That she is needed here. Or that He has other plans for her life.  Claire would tell a skeptic, “You can take it for what  its worth, but I took those pills.”
  
          Not a Christian at the time, Claire decided some things needed to change.  She met a personal trainer who led her to faith in Christ.  Now, she describes herself as a “seer,”  who believes in supernatural things.  “I go out with the expectation of seeing God’s work every day.” She calls them “God bumps–what we might call goosebumps–describing God work.  “Whenever I share about God’s mercy and blessings, I don’t want to call them goosebumps,” like the bumps on your arms that might be caused by a scary situation.
           Part of the change was getting away from people who knew her but she didn’t know and moving to a seaside Atlantic Ocean town.
          Since then, Claire has founded a nonprofit organization that promotes awareness of Lyme Disease, adopted a daughter, and started her life again.  All of which, lest to say, would not have been possible if the suicide attempt had been successful.
          She frequently walks and takes pictures on the nearby beach.  Nearing the one-year anniversary of moving with her daughter–Claire shows a picture of the teenager standing at the water’s edge, silhouetted against the rising morning sun.  The girl has her hands raised above her head like a football referee signaling a score.  It is symbolic of their new North Carolina life.   It is a tale of a Job-like transformation from despair to triumph, as Claire continues to walk with God.
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Is Christ’s Death on the Cross like Capital Punishment?

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Pope Francis

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Although I am not Catholic, I have always appreciated the Pope’s stance on the issues of the day.  How we treat the poor, the unborn, and divorce are all issues of the Pope’s leadership for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics and many others, Christian, and non-Christian worldwide.

So when Pope Francis last month reversed the church’s position on capital punishment–stating it is “inadmissible” because it “attacks” the inherent dignity of all humans,” as reported in USA Today, an American newspaper, I listened.

“The Vatican said the pontiff approved a change to the catechism, which gives worshippers a go-to guide for official Catholic Church teachings on subjects ranging from the sacraments to sex. Previously, the catechism said the church didn’t exclude capital punishment “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” says USA Today.

My previous view of capital punishment is that it’s wrong to deprive another of her or his life, except in limited and extreme circumstances.  My reason reflected the fact of racial and economic imbalances in those executions and the number of inmates on Death Row found proven innocent by organizations like the Innocence Project.  I believed that some people, like terrorists who killed scores of innocents, though, deserved to die.  Of course, their deaths would not bring those people back to life, but it gave me some satisfaction.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 6:23

But it wasn’t until a Facebook post on the page of a friend, a retired Methodist pastor in Indiana, that my view radically changed, like a slap in the face, being dunked in cold water, or an electric shock.  He wrote simply “Kudos, to Pope Francis,”  Then came the surprising words from a woman responding to his post:  ” Try to remember that your salvation is the result of the death penalty.”

What?  My life being spared?  I have never killed anyone, stolen anything, or been arrested.  What did she mean?

I had never thought of salvation–deliverance from God’s wrath– in comparison to capital punishment.  I had been condemned to die, but by going to the cross, Jesus stepped up and took my place.  Yet it seems a good comparison.  In one the courts condemn an individual to death.  In the other, God sentenced us to die ( the wages of sin, Romans 6:23) but loves us so much that He provides His only Son to die in our place.

Is there any greater love?  “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend,”  it says in John 15:13.  Jesus set an example of this love when He followed the agonizing path to the cross.  Without this sacrifice, no one would have eternal life.

Adam and Eve existed in a perfect world, but they chose to sin.  As a result, they were forced from Eden to live in a world of hardship and the death of the physical body and the soul.  The world we live in today.

How do you feel about capital punishment now?  Does Jesus’ sacrifice affect your opinion?  Is there a comparison between the two?  For me, like the Death Row prisoner who gets a reprieve from the governor,  I am so relieved and thankful.  And I grant my fellow humans–any and all on them–a reprieve from death, no matter how gruesome, the number murdered, or the circumstances.  They deserve punishment, but not death.

And I thank Pope Francis for pointing that out.

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Starting a Conversation with a Stranger

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“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling,” 1 Peter 4:8

I admit it, I am not the most hospitable person on the world. I’m one of those persons who never learned to smile. Most of the time, I’m stone faced.  I’m a proud introvert.  I don’t mean to be standoffish, but sometimes I am.

But is that an effective witness for Christ? Was Jesus an introvert?  How many opportunities to witness have you, and I, missed?  For example, when Jesus was travelling through hostile Samaria and stopped by a well.  He starts a conversation with a woman, then offers her “living water,”  as told in John 4:10.  A pretty extroverted act.

Clearly, Jesus was not an introvert. He often started conversations with strangers.  And we must emulate Him. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

We must be bold in sharing!  While screaming the gospel on a street corner may not be the best way to share, we do not want to be a closet Christian either.  “But whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in Heaven,” it says in Matthew 10:33.

We must be hospitable to others.  Our kindness will create opportunities to witness.

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“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Saying Grace is a Thread in the Fabric of America

womanpraying“And he (Jesus, at the Last Supper) took the bread, and, when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them,” Luke 22:19

Truth be told, saying grace around our house is a hit or miss proposition.  I usually remember if it’s a more formal occassion, like the wife and I at dinner.  But eating with the grand kids I may forget.  Though when I remember, it’s likely to be monotoned “God is great.  God is good.  Let’s us thank him for our food.  Amen,” from Austin, my six-year-old grandson who usually leads grace at family gatherings.

If I’m by myself, say at McDonald’s, I usually forget to blesss the hamburger and fries.  Or for meals with acquaitances–like a business lunch–it’s sometimes ackward to wait for a break in coversation so you can silently pray while your peers may or may not say grace.

If I’m self conscious folding my hands and blessing the food, I push through and say grace any way.   How can I let being self conscious stop me, when the Lord again has provided a meal.  I’m reminded that many people around the world–including those Americans–are hungry.

A recent survey by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation of 1,686 Americans found that saying grace is a common practice.  Eighty percent of African-Americans, sixty percent of Hispanics, and forty percent of whites regularly say grace at least a few times a week, according to the poll.  It also found that 74 percent of white Protestants and 52 percent of Catholics say a quick prayer of thanks over their food.  The survey is filled with intriguing statistics.

“Saying grace is a widespread practice in the United States.  About half of all Americans take a minutes to say a prayer over their food,” according to The Post’s story.

Like threads laced through the fabric of a quilt, the majority of Americans say grace.  It is another ritual that makes us Americans, American.

 

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