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Then Jesus told him, ‘You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me’.” John 20:29

Robert Burns wrote that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. I’m not sure my plans for Saturday were particularly well laid out, but they surely didn’t turn out as I expected.

Originally, I was going to spend a free day cashing in a reward at one of the local Starbucks, lifting weights and then catching my favorite baseball team on the telly.  What occurred was that I did go to the S-bucks, but the rest of the day went in a different direction.

The actual major events don’t matter in this tale so much. What is important are the little decisions I made and the small circumstances and interactions of the day. They made me ponder their meaning.

I suppose this is because I just listened to an audio recording by Jerry Bridges on the Providence of God. At the time I began thinking of the accrued happenings on this October day, I was focusing on the negative (something that my pessimistic nature is prone to).

After some little misfortunes occurred, I began to wonder if Bridges was right in his assessment that God is in control of every little thing. If He was, then I questioned why these things were happening to me.

Was I being punished or disciplined? Or were these incidents just a product of a fallen world? Why was life so difficult?

Perhaps it would be best to provide a short narrative for these hours. I woke up not sure of the plan ahead, which is common to my shoot from the hip nature.

I decided that I would walk into town and catch the bus to Starbucks. In fact, many of the events of the day were influenced by my lack of wheels.

I am addicted out of necessity to being a ped. No, I am not involved with performance enhancing drugs. I just walk everywhere I go, especially when the bus system is not reliable.

The bus service in my town is reduced on weekends. At 9 am there were no busses. Besides,  I needed to get some exercise.

However, when I arrived in town, I learned that the bus over to the Starbucks would not leave for almost an hour.  I think I just missed it.

So I decided to hop the bus to the WalMart. I had an errand to run at the Best Buy near there and decided to “redeem” the time.

As it turned out, due to the local university’s Homecoming football events, the bus had to take an alternative route. This detour dropped me about two blocks from the Starbucks, my original planned destination.

“Wow,” I thought.

It was a cool and crisp autumn day, and as I sat at Starbucks sipping my coffee  I thought,”Maybe I’ll go to the game.” One of my friends was at a major NASCAR event, and another buddy of mine had just gone to see Notre Dame play.

So I was thinking,”Well, if my friends can have all this fun, is it so wrong that I have a little once in a while to.” I have to mentally justify these kinds of expenditures because I am on a limited budget.

Now, my school, which is also my employer, isn’t exactly Alabama, but they aren’t the Little Sisters of the Poor either. They are in a mid-level college conference, and generally do pretty well (except for this year).

I said to myself,”Look. This is what is available. Sure, the game is not a major deal. But it will be nice to experience some college football of any kind on a day like this.”

Not knowing the bus situation, I just decided to walk down the road I was already on to the stadium. It’s a straight shot of about two miles.

Before I left,  I went grocery shopping to buy any non-perishables I could carry. I do not live near a grocery store, so I have to take these opportunities to buy food when I have them.

In the middle of rearranging my stuff into my backpack, a kid whose job it was to snare carts whacked me on the knee with one. Now, it really didn’t do any damage, but I had the same emotional response some students do when they get a grade they are not happy with. I was “shocked” and “disappointed” at this fellows lack of care.

He asked me if I was ok, to which I replied while wincing, “Yeah.” Now, as I walked away, I noted to myself that the pained reaction was for effect. I mentally kicked myself and asked God why I had to be so dramatic and why I didn’t just give the kid a break.

Before I began the walk to the game, I stopped to get a lunch special from a Chinese place. I ordered among other things egg drop soup, which was too hot to eat and looked like its name: it was a gooey concoction of yell slime. I didn’t eat it.

After eating lunch, I did the walk. Arriving at the stadium, I bought my ticket and went to the gate.

I had to have my bag checked and I thought for sure I would be accosted about the food in there. It has been my common experience lately to have people with any kind of authority use it. Sure enough, I was told “they don’t like people to bring food in here.”. However, the gentleman checking my bag let me in anyway.

During the game, I filmed events from my laptop. On my school’s first touchdown, the quarterback threw a beautiful pass to a receiver who made a spectacular catch in the corner of the end zone. My camera was ready and I began filming from my laptop. Unfortunately, a group of students walked right in front of me up the stadium stairs as I was filming, oblivious to my grimace.

One staff person finally told me,”You can take pictures of the game, but you can’t film.”  I thought,”Thirty thousand people with Smartphones which have video capability and he has to pick on me.”

Now, I was already non-plussed by this man because he kept walking up and down the stadium stares with a watchful eye and seeming glare. Frankly, he gave me the creeps.

Going out to a quick three touchdown lead, my university’s team lost the game in the end. They were knocking at the door with 8 seconds to go and couldn’t punch it in. I listened to disgruntled fans complain about the play-calling of our coach and watched as one guy berated excited fans of the opposing team.

“Hmm. These usually wonderful students are not as nice as I thought,” I said to myself.

Leaving the stadium, I was hoping to catch one of these bus shuttles I had seen. The regular bus service had already ended and the schedule on the school’s shuttle stop noted that it did not run there on Saturday.

I just missed a city shuttle as it turned a corner. I asked a female police officer directing traffic if she knew about these shuttles, and she said she didn’t. But she also added,”You had better stand back or you are going to get hit by a car.” My mind went to, “Yep. Another unnecessary rebuke from a police officer.”

I waited for about 10 to 15 minutes and a shuttle never appeared. So I walked down the same street I had walked down three hours earlier. As I trudged along, three shuttles from the stadium passed me within 20 minutes.

I made a turn down a long road that runs through campus and to the greenway, which leads to my neighborhood. I arrived home about 90 minutes after leaving the stadium, in the dark, and hungry.

When I got home, I turned on the television and learned my favorite baseball team had just lost in the last inning for the second night in a row. They have now dug a deep hole for themselves to make a World Series.

The end to a perfectly topsy turvy day.

After reflecting on this Saturday, though,  I came to the conclusion that the doctrine of God’s Providence was not really the issue here, at least for me. What really mattered was whether or not I believed that God loved me and was trustworthy enough to help me in my circumstances.

If in fact God is in control of all good and bad things that happen to me as Jerry Bridges says, then the question for me is , “Does He use them for my good?.” This well known verse from the Bible seems to say he does:

And we know that God causes everything to work together[a] for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28)

In retrospect, when I review my supposedly negative experiences from Saturday, I realize that many of the things that occurred were quite helpful. Here are some of the positive effects of these apparently “bad” events:

1) My early morning bus didn’t come, but the one I DID take led me to my planned destination anyway.

2) God protected me from harm when a careless grocery store worker slammed my knee with a cart.

3) My egg drop soup was not eatable, but I learned what NOT to order next time AND I enjoyed a nice chicken and broccoli dish there.

4) The guy who checked my bag at the stadium could have in fact denied my entry. But when I explained that I did not have a car and had just gone grocery shopping, he said,”You don’t have a car here.” He was confirming my story to see if I was believable. When he believed me, he let me in. He was polite and nice about it.

5) The events staffer was just doing his job. It’s not his fault Osama Bin Laden committed a heinous terrorist act which has led to today’s overbearing police state environment.

6) The police officer I met actually was trying to keep me from getting killed. In addition, she pointed out the nearest bus stop.

7) I missed my planned weight lifting program this day. God replaced it with 6 to 8 miles of walking.

8) It was an absolutely gorgeous day to be outside for as long as I was.

9) I have noted that my youthful determination to never let a sports team get me depressed is still there. My take on my baseball team this year has always been that they have had a great season no matter how it ends. I have just enjoyed the baseball.

10) While I want my university sports teams to win, I don’t really have a dog in their fights.  Their teams represent my workplace, not my alma mater or hometown.

In essence, my delays, near misses,unfinished plans and unfulfilled desires don’t really matter much except in the economy of a loving God.

Of the above, I think near misses frustrate me the most. “Nuts. The Orioles were close to the World Series and didn’t make it after 35 years of not being there,” I think.

One of my most common near misses is  missing great pictures. Most of the time it is the result of the event occurring before I can get my camera ready, not an obstruction like at the game on Saturday.

But I have learned from one of the great near misses of all time. One of Jesus’s disciples, Thomas, missed the Lord’s appearance to all His other followers.

Thomas didn’t believe that Jesus had been resurrected. He complained that unless he saw the nail scars in the Lord’s hands, he wouldn’t believe.

Thomas wanted proof! As a result, he has gone down in history as “Doubting Thomas”.  I don’t think I would like to be give a moniker which would be used as a negative byword for two thousand years.

When Thomas finally did see Jesus, he exclaimed,”My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)

In fact, as the Life Recovery Bible notes, Thomas went on to exhibit great courage as one of Jesus’s apostles. Church history credits him with founding the church in India.

Thus, I know I can repent of my own doubts and have faith and still have a successful life.

It could be worse. At least I am not my school’s football coach, who has to wonder what happened on that fade route on fourth down at the end of Saturday’s game!

If he is a man of faith, it would help him to believe that Jesus is at work regardless of appearances.

 

 

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Matt Saracen

“The Lord gives both death and life; he brings some down to the grave but raises others up. The Lord makes some poor and others rich; he brings some down and lifts others up. He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump. He sets them among princes, placing them in seats of honor. For all the earth is the Lord’s, and he has set the world in order.”(Hannah, I Samuel 2:5-9).

Matt Saracen stands at the door of his girlfriend Julie, his face caught appearing as if it is a mouse caught in a trap. She has just told the always-under-control former quarterback of their town’s championship high school football team that his father has been killed in Iraq.

In the television drama “Friday Night Lights’, Matt is the everyman, nonplussed while dysfunction reigns around him. He is concerned but unmoved while watching his friends from the team get in one fix after another.

Matt has enough to deal with on his own. Now graduated,  the young man has held it together all during high school as he watched his grandmother fade away with Alzheimer’s, except he has done more than watch. The young man is her caretaker. Dad’s off playing soldier and his Mom is nowhere to be found most of the time.

Although both Mom and Dad make occasional forays into Matt’s life, he really doesn’t know either one of his divorced folks. They co-wrote the book on absentee parents.

Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper rolled into one, Matt is now the signal caller who is blindsided by an onrushing defensive end called “Death”.

In the aftermath of learning the news of his Dad’s passing, Matt still carries on– distant and in-check. Surely, he has just taken a hit of the kind Joe Theismann received from Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor on national television during a game between the Washington Redskins and New York Giants. (The damage to Theisman’s leg shocked everyone and caused even he-men NFL players to gag.)

Yet, Matt sits at his Dad’s wake in silence. Julie tells him,”You haven’t moved from that chair in an hour.” Matt calmly replies that this is no problem because people are coming to him. That’s Matt Saracen: always in control.

He isn’t always staid, however. The rigidity in Matt’s demeanor begins to loosen when a representative of the military shows up to pay respects to his Dad. The impeccably dressed soldier tells the son that everyone says his Dad was quite a man, with a wonderful sense of humor. Matt walks away in a huff.

He goes drinking with his old football buddies and expresses to them how he feels about his Dad. Hanging out at night at a football field, Matt says:

“I gotta get up there in front of everybody and say good stuff about this man. And all I really want to say is, ‘Here lies Henry Saracen, his mother annoyed him, his wife couldn’t stand him, and he didn’t want to be a dad, so he took off to be in the Army because that’s the only way he could come up with to get out of here and ditch all your responsibilities, and no one could call you out on it, and that worked out great so you just decided to enlist four more times, and that ended up getting you killed, and now here you are. And all you left behind is a mother with dementia, a divorced wife, and a son that delivers pizza. Thank you for coming, 100 people I do not know.’ You know what the worst part is? Even if I did get up and say all that, I don’t even know if I’m saying it to him, because I don’t know what’s in that damn box. It’s a closed casket — might be someone else, someone funnier or a bunch of rocks.

As a result of the push from his old pal, the loser alcoholic and immoral former fullback Tim Riggins, Matt insists upon reviewing his Dad’s remains. Saracen, the man whose emotions are so hidden that he appears to be without a face, begins to unravel when he sees that indeed his Dad truly does not have one anymore. For once, his eyes fill with tears.

The independent Saracen at least does the smart thing under cover of politeness. He runs for help.

Saracen keeps an appointment, even though he is late. Matt makes a late-night visit to Julie’s family, headed by Eric Taylor, his former football coach. Matt has been invited to dinner, but that isn’t why he is there.  Picking at his food,  Matt slowly reveals his true feelings in front of the caring and stunned Taylor clan.

At first, he reverts to form. Telling Julie’s Mom Tami that he doesn’t like carrots and the meat  touching his vegetables, he stands up and apologizes for being rude. “I’m just having a ‘moment’ here. I’m just having a moment,” But he  finally admits, “I don’t think I’m ok.”

Weeping and his profile marked by excruciating pain, Matt half unintelligibly tells Mr and Mrs. Taylor, as Julie watches in shock, “I hate him. I don’t like hating people. But I spilled all my hate on him so I don’t have to hate anybody else so I can be a good person…you know, to  my grandma…to all my friends…to your daughter. That’s all I want to say. I just want to tell him to his face that i hate him. But he doesn’t even have a face.”

But that’s as far as Matt will go in revealing his emotions, at least in public. Saracen excuses himself and heads out the door into the night, sobbing as runs down the street.

Julie, crying, tells her Mom that she  wants to go after him. But Erik Taylor, the tough yet inwardly tender coach, goes instead. Catching up to Saracen, and in his strong masculine voice yelling, “Matt!”, Erick gets the boy’s attention. “I’m walking you home,” he says. The two head down the street, with the normally unaffectionate Erik’s arm around Matt.

Somehow, Matt’s decision to open up to Erik, Tami and Julie pays off. He has a kind of epiphany.

The next day, at the grave site, with family, friends and military trappings surrounding him, Matt eulogizes his Dad. He tells a funny story about Henry Saracen, one he observed as a six-year old. Matt acknowledges that his Dad was indeed funnier than he let on.

“I guess he was private in that way,” says Matt. “But one thing he was not private about was his service.”

He was in the army for 20 years and that was something he was proud of. He missed some of my birthdays and he missed a lot of me growing up, but I think the point is I got to grow up. And I got to have those birthdays. You know, he went to do a job that many people don’t want to do. Because of that we all get to be here and we all get to grow up. And we get to have our birthdays.”

One by one, Matt’s closest friends kiss him, touch him and leave the scene. Only Saracen, Julie and a couple of soldiers and gravediggers remain. The latter begin shoveling dirt on the casket.

Matt stands up in his suit and takes the shovel from one of the diggers and begins to shovel dirt. Eventually, he is vigorously pitching dirt alone. Only Julie is there with him.

Matt is burying not only his Dad, but his own painful demons and past as the screen goes black.

This episode, called “The Son” was rated by Time Magazine as the best show of the 2009 television season. I can see why. I have never been so moved by a scene as I was when watching Matt at his Dad’s funeral. I admit to weeping over it, and I am not the only one.

Entertainment columnist Shirley Li wrote about the deep effect the episode had on her. In an article entitled “I’m Still Not Over…Matt Saracen from ‘Friday Night Lights’ in ‘The Son'”, Li notes:

“To be honest, you can just say the words Friday Night Lights to me, and I’ll probably start tearing up. FNL fans know what I mean: The series as a whole was just the perfect mix of heartwarming and tragic storylines, and as a crier, I’m particularly vulnerable. Coach’s “we will be tested” speech in the pilot? Sobs. The Mud Bowl? Waterworks. Tyra getting into college? Niagara Falls on my face.”

But nothing made me bawl more than season 4′s “The Son,” which centered on Matt Saracen and his struggles to grieve over the death of his father, a man he hated. I didn’t need a Kleenex for this one; I needed a towel.”

And I still do. Because anyone who has lost someone understands how hard it is to grieve and to go through the numbness that happens in the aftermath. And for Matt — awkward do-gooder Matt Saracen, number 7 and former QB1 — his father’s death doesn’t just numb him, it destroys him.”

Even as I wept, I was trying to get to the core of my feelings and learn why was I so emotionally affected by a cotton pickin’ TV show. What I have learned is that I could relate to Matt on so many levels.

I had my own absentee Dad and experienced the same emotions as Saracen did in “The Son” growing up. Yet I also, like Matt, have come to an understanding that my father made a  contribution despite his imperfections. I  continue to grow in admiration of him as I get older. Unfortunately, it’s too late to express my feelings to Dad, so I am left, like Matt, shoveling dirt on old pain.

On the other hand, I could also understand Henry Saracen, who I have seen alive dealing with his son on FNL. I have in some ways become Henry, and my own Dad. I am separated by hundreds of miles from my family as I give all my time to my job. The year before I took this position, I was at home but unemployed. The pressure on our  already stressed family was immense. Finding no position that would support us locally after 9 months of unemployment, I left town in search of work.

The financial pressures have lessened, but my absence from my kids especially troubles me. They are growing up, as Matt Saracen did, without a father present in the home. I am afraid that they will have to go through the same experience that he did in “The Son”.  I don’t want them to have to deal with that pain.

I just hope  they stick with God, and me. I don’t have the answers. God does, though.

The Bible tells the story of a woman named Hannah who had a family situation that was not optimum. Her husband had another wife. Although Hannah was her husband’s favorite, she was childless. The second wife, who was fertile,  made Hannah’s life miserable by trash talking about the latter’s barrenness, The other wife, Peninnah, did this  to deal with her own pain over having to play second fiddle to Hannah in her husband’s affections.

The taunting brought Hannah to tears, and not just once. The Scriptures say she wept every time she experienced Peninnah’s attacks, and was so distraught during these occasions that she couldn’t even eat.

At the beginning of its discussion about Hannah, the Life Recovery Bible notes;

“Living in a dysfunctional family does not automatically mean that an individual will turn away from God. Neither does turning to God guarantee that the problems of a destructive family situation will go away. Reaching out to God, however, does ensure that we will have a far better chance of coping  despite the devastating circumstances.”

If I were writing the sequel to “The Son”, I would have Matt Saracen on his knees in prayer. This is the action Hannah took in her grief. She prayed. God answered her prayers and gave her a son.

Yet, despite the answered prayer, Hannah still had to give up being physically present with her child. In fulfillment of a vow to God, she sent her son Samuel off to be raised in the Temple in Jerusalem.

As a result, in God’s plan, Samuel became the leader of the nation of Israel from all of this.

It’s hard to understand why the barren Hannah would have to give up a son when she finally gets one after years of pleading. But my experiences as an educator help me grasp it some. As a teacher, I occasionally tell my students when they question me,”I know what I am doing.” God tells us the same thing.

I don’t understand why I experienced the things Matt Saracen did as a child or why I have become Henry Saracen. It’s complicated.

But God has a plan, and He knows what he is doing. The Scriptures say He loves me, and I have to rely on that. But my response to my circumstances shouldn’t stop there. I have to do more than passively receive His love.

One of the most oft-quoted Bible passages of all time tells me how I should respond. Not only that, it tells me why.

 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else.” (Romans 8:28-32.)

God is a much better Father than Henry Saracen, my own Dad and me. I can trust Him to take care of my life and the lives of those I care about.

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 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil;  my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:5,6).

As Christmas Day approaches, my nation is reeling from a terrible massacre of 20 innocent six and seven year old children in Connecticut by a deranged 20-year old. He also killed six adults in the school, using a military-style rifle, before shooting himself in the head with a pistol.

Five days later, the country is in shock. The usual issues have popped up, i.e. the need for gun control and the requirement that we do some soul searching about how we treat the mentally ill.

One commentator wrote that such mass killings today are prompted by three things: 1) extreme anger 2)isolation 3) too much time on the Internet.  To me this is a scary cocktail because I see all three operating in my life at times.

What is particularly troubling is isolation. As a person of faith, I find the feeling of being abandoned by God as the worst form of this.

One former pastor turned politician, Mike Huckabee,  got into  some trouble with some people of one political persuasion when he answered the question  “Where Was God?” He told his listeners in an interview that this was an interesting question since for the last few decades we have been kicking the Lord out of the public schools.

In an episode of the old TV series Touched by An Angel, Monica the angel finds herself in a situation where she too asks the question,”God, where are you? Why can’t I feel you with me?”.  She has witnessed a building blow up due to a bombing with a lot of people inside.

Earlier she had met a little girl named Madeline who was to be her assignment from God. This child was in the explosion. Monica  watches as her colleague the Angel of Death approaches the building, and her heart breaks.

That’s it for Monica. She walks away, walking down the road to who knows where. She has left her post.

As she walks, a charming man in a black sports car offers her a ride. Monica knows who the fellow is.  It’s Satan, otherwise known as Lucifer, the Devil and a host of other names.

Satan has seen his chance to knock an angel out of the heavenly realm and wastes no time tempting Monica. He is conniving, helpful and clever. Why, he understands Monica. After all, he tells her, I’ve been there.

Monica and Satan are now out in the desert, and he says to the distraught Monica,”I remember when you walked through the desert unshod,  unafraid, an angel of God.  Confident of your divine mission.”

Monica is upset, but she tells Satan she wants to be alone. He tells her that she doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to do. “We don’t have to be friends”, he says,”but we don’t have to be enemies.

Monica replies,”You are the enemy.” Satan’s rejoinder? “I’m not the enemy. I’m the alternative. That’ s what you’re looking for isn’t it?”

Satan even asks Monica to come work for him. “You don’t have to work for Him you know. There are options.”

Monica doesn’t want to forget God, though, as the devil suggests she do.  But Satan doesn’t quit. He even asks her where God is as she has done?

When she tells the devil that God is where He has always been,Satan asks,”Then what are you here for?” Monica answers: “Because I am hurting.  Because as much as God loves them they hate each other. Oh, they say the words and they write the books and the songs about love and they make the vows of love, but they don’t love!

Satan then lets Monica observe a scene where she is a human wife and mother. This is because Monica thinks that just maybe she could love better than they can.

The devil offers her this chance. Monica is drawn to this opportunity. “I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to be a mother”, she tells the devil.

After that, despite Monica’s protest that she is God’s and belongs to Him and that she is returning to Him, Satan continues his deceptive assault.  When Monica tells Satan that she will find God again, he replies:

“Where? At Madeline’s grave?  Year after year, century after century Monica, you watch the suffering and the sorrow.  All you can do is stand by and utter the words that sound so hollow every time you say ’em: God loves you.”

After more arguing, including a theological one about the meaning of suffering,  and more temptation to become human, Satan asks her,”How long can you go on like this? Lost between heaven and earth. You must be so lonely.”

Monica tells Satan,”Sometimes.” And as she weeps and falls on his chest in tears, she says,”Sometimes I am.”

Satan sends her off to the desert to think about his offer. He tells Monica to find a high place and when she is ready to just jump. He’ll be there to catch her.

As a viewer, I know that this is like receiving an offer from a slick used car salesman. However, as Monica walks, Satan sings to her.

The devil is known as an angel of light, and his song is beautiful and seemingly promising. Furthermore, it seemingly gives Monica dignity as the lyrics tell her that she gets to make her own decisions apart from God.

No one here to guide you

Now you’re on  your own

Only me beside you

Still your not alone

Truly no one is alone

Sometimes people leave you

Halfway through the wood

Others may deceive you

You decide what’s good

You decide alone

But no one is alone (Mandy Patankin)

Monica eventually comes to the precipice,  and Satan is there to catch her.  She utters the same words to the her Heavenly Father that Jesus did on the cross to God–“Why have you forsaken me?.

Right after this  a bouquet of Monica’s favorite flower , the lilac,  suddenly grows from a stone. Satan has told her as a human that lilacs will smell much sweeter.

However, God has just revealed Himself as the Creator of all beauty.  He is trustworthy and greater than t he ugliness Monica sees in the world.

Satan may have wooed her. But God is the better Romancer.

She is not alone in any sense. Knowing he has been defeated, Satan fades from view.

Monica asks God for  forgiveness. She tells God she wants to come home.  She is restored and returns to her duties as an angel who takes care of humans.

Jesus knows what it’s like to be abandoned.  When He  turned 12, he went to Jerusalem with his parents for the Passover feast. After it was over they headed home, but soon realized that Jesus was not with them. They had forgotten Him at the feast.

After three days they found Him.  His mother said to Jesus,“Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Jesus replied, Why were you searching for me?” Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house (Luke 2:48,49)?”

Popular preacher T.D. Jakes says of this incident,”They found him right where they left Him: in his Father’s house”.  Jakes exhorts today’s believers not to forget Jesus themselves while celebrating the feast that bears His name.

Isolation is a terrible thing. It opens us up to all manner of evil and Satan’s lures. As I said, it scares me, especially if I there is a sense that God has left me.

Mike Huckabee offered viewers one other explanation as to where God was at that school during the killings. He explained that while evil was present, God was there in the presence of the first responders and the teachers who courageously protected their kids.

I too have realized where God is in my own community.  Jesus is right where I left Him. He is over there at the church in my town that I’ve been staying away from for so long. And He’s there in the pastors and people who go there.

It’s a foolish thing to walk away from God. He’s the only source of beauty and love in this sometimes ugly world.

 

 

 

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“So do not fear, for I am with you;  do not be dismayed, for I am your God.I will strengthen you and help you;  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).”

My oldest son and I have both gotten into a reality show called “Stars Earn Stripes”. The premise of the show is that male and female celebrities, through feats of dare and do, make money for charities  which benefit those who serve or have served in the military.

Each star is paired with a real soldier who mentors them. These men are the real deal. They are decorated snipers and members of special forces.

As part of the show, the authentic servicemen put their celebs through tough training. They teach them how to fire a weapon, stay afloat with a huge amount of gear on, and safely perform acrobatic-type deeds.

After this period of training, the teachers and their celeb students go off on a difficult mission. The whole scenario is definitely meant for the testosterone set, as there is plenty of shooting and a lot of explosions.

When the stars achieve a favorable outcome, they are awarded “stripes”. This earns them money for their designated charity.

Failure in the main mission means relegation to a “shootoff” between another competitor.  If the star loses, he is eliminated from the show.

In one episode, a male star is troubled by the prospect of having to jump out of a helicopter high in the air. He is to only be secured by a tether. His destination is a rooftop, where he is to land.  After touching down, he is to rappel down a sheer wall.

This man is not the macho type, and in fact it is not clear why he is even a celebrity. He is one of those people who is “famous for being famous”.  When he is shown, the subtitle on the TV screen notes that he is an “entertainer.”

However, he has proved his mettle to date. In a previous show  his female celeb partner, a wrestling diva, tells an interviewer that this man is a weak link. Yet, he comes through with flying colors.

Now, as he looks at this week’s task, he is scared to death. He walks with his trainer, telling him his doubts. He is torn because not only is what he is being asked to do is unsafe, but because he does not want to let down his comrades and the charity he is seeking to benefit.

Finally, his team jumps on the helicopter. At the moment of truth, this star jumps into the air, lands on the building, and rappels down it. He successfully completes the entire treacherous mission and stays in the competition.

Afterwards, his mentor and the Army general in charge of the show commend him. In their lauds,  they tell the star that his ability to face down his fears and still accomplish the task he was given is the definition of true courage.

I could relate well to this celebrity’s predicament.   These days I too am facing the prospect of taking on a job I am not temperamentally suited for.

Furthermore, I know it will be a test every single day.  One of my close friends, when I told him of this job, said to me,”If you take it, bring a gun.”

When I think of myself in the day-to-day situations involved in carrying it out,  I think of all the things that could go wrong. I become fearful.

Yet, I don’t have much choice at the moment. Like this star, I have people depending on me to overcome my fears and move on to success.

The longer I live the Christian life, the more I understand that it is made up of one trial after another similar to those portrayed on “Stars Earn Stripes”.  However, I am learning that as  I encounter these difficulties, I gain insight into the thoughts of the Scriptures, which tell us to rejoice in our trials.

The Bible tells us that to successfully negotiate our tests, we need to exercise single-minded trust in God. As the celebrities put their safety into the hands of their expert soldier mentors on “Stars Earn Stripes”, we are to put our faith in the God of all wisdom who is capable of bringing us through (James 1:2-6).

In the past I have seen trials as something just to endure so I can move on to greener pastures. My mental image of them is like that conjured up by William Shakespeare in “MacBeth”.

“Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble!”

However, I no longer view them as annoyances (or worse) which get in the way of what I want in life. I now see them as the essence of life itself.  I have learned that life in God is indeed to be a daily trial of  faith.

The reason I can hold this perspective now is not because I am deluded or insane. Nor is my view due to some special talents in my possession.

My slant on trials is based on my growth in comprehending the nature of the God I serve.  I believe now that He puts these potentially vexing circumstances in my path so He can show Himself faithful in delivering me through them.

God has a plan for my life that concerns me doing good and glorifying Him. This course doesn’t involve me sitting on my  duff and sipping Dr. Peppers as I watch others participate in combat. The path God has set for me includes  meaningful tasks that accomplish His purposes and give light to others as to who He really is.

Unfortunately, somebody else has a plan for me, too.  This person is known as Satan.

AKA the devil, he intends to have me wallow in my fears to the point where I choose not to participate in God’s purposes for me. Minimally, Satan works so that I  procrastinate in carrying out God’s plan and hide in my foxhole.

L.B. Cowman’s  devotional “Streams in the Desert” notes how God used Paul’s life as an example of a person who endured great suffering, but who refused to be defeated.  In fact,  Cowman reveals that such incidents as the apostle’s  shipwreck were used by God to glorify Himself and shed light on His nature.

Cowman writes of God’s process in trials:

It is a common misconception that the Christian’s walk of faith is strewn with flowers and when God intervenes in lives of His people He does so in such a wonderful way as to always lift us out of our difficult surroundings. In actual fact, however, the real experience is quite the opposite.  And the message of the Bible is one of alternating trials and triumphs in the lives of a “a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1), everyone from Abel to the last martyr.

Indeed, in God’s scheme of things He uses trials to give us the big time rush of exulting in victory with Him.  He involves us in these difficulties out of his love for us! Amazing.

Having this knowledge in my service manual I know will help me to overcome my fears as I move into my daily missions (i.e., trials).

 

When I am fearful, I must remember the words of the greatest English bard, Mr. Shakespeare:

“Our doubts are traitors, 
and make us lose the good we oft might win, 
by fearing to attempt.”  

Further, I must definitely keep in mind his words as he attests to God’s heart in giving me my trials:

Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.” 
― William ShakespeareHamlet

 

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“Light shines in the darkness for the godly (Psalm 112a).”

“I’m here as a doctor, not a mother”, says Elizabeth Lawson. She says this in reply to Dr. Robert Chase, who connects the last names of their six-year-patient and the doctor when they are introduced.

The doctors on the diagnostic team in the TV drama House look at their boss, Dr. Eric Foreman, with incredulity. However, Foreman insists that they use the woman’s expertise even though she is the mother.

Gregory House, the team head, is not on the case, but with his best friend Dr. James Wílson, whom he discovered in the last episode has cancer. Although Wilson has been trying to hide from him because he doesn’t want his friend involved in his care, House tracks him down.

When Wilson tells House that he doesn’t want him around, House replies,”I’m not here as a doctor, I’m here as a towering pillar of strength.” Wilson doesn’t believe that one of the world’s great diagnosticians can keep out of his case.

Two doctors. Two sick loved ones. Two people struggling with their roles in the relationships.

Dr. Lawson obviously loves her daughter Emily. However, Emily has a genetic illness which gives her a life expectancy of 20 years. Her mother can’t seem to come to grips with that and has spent much of Emily’s life apparently being more of her doctor than her Mom. For example, Dr. Lawson has been treating her daughter with an unapproved drug at home as a test.

The doctors don’t know what to think of Dr. Lawson’s duality. As they are observing Emily in an MRI machine, Dr. Jessica  Adams looks at her colleague Dr. Chris Taub and says,”What do you think of her mother?  She called her daughter ‘the patient’. Taub answers,”If my kids were born with an expiration date, I don’t…”. (He is interrupted by Emily’s cry from the MRI machine.)   

Even though Dr. House and Dr. Lawson claim to be dealing with the medical troubles of  their loved ones in chosen predefined roles (i.e., ” “best friend” and “doctor”), it is of course impossible to prevent leakage from the other realm of their relationship. For example,  in one instance Lawson overrules the medical team, saying,”I don’t mean to pull rank here, but I’m her mother.” Chase comments rather sarcastically that he thought she was her doctor.

House attempts to talk Wilson out of a risky procedure he prefers over the counsel of several oncologists, knowing it could kill his friend. However, when Wilson still insists upon doing it, and away from the hospital, House agrees to supervise the treatment medically at his place.

As House begins administering the high dosage of medicine which could just as easily kill Wilson as push him toward a cure, he outlines for his friend what to expect in terms of side effects.

Wilson let’s House know he is wasting his time, saying,”I know, I’m an oncologist.”

House tells him,”If you did you wouldn’t be sitting here”, and proceeds with a list of other side effects.  He has crossed over from the land of friendship to the world of being a medical doctor. Still, Wilson is determined to have the treatment.

Although it is a journey, by show’s end the doctors have assumed the roles they were meant to have. Dr. Lawson removes herself from the medical debates of the House team and becomes the girls mother. When Emily is cured, Lawson talks of going to the aquarium with her estranged husband and  her daughter.

House, having gotten Wilson through the ordeal of his chemical treatment, reverts to form. He leaves silly pictures of Wilson during the procedure on the latte’rs laptop in his office,accompanied by equally ridiculous music. Wilson bursts out laughing hysterically.  His best friend has come through.

Understanding our identity and our role is a crucial thing in life. It is abolutely essential to live a life in God.

Today I listened to a talk by Christian pastor and speaker Jonathan Welton, who talks of how getting an understanding of who he is in Christ delivered him from a 10-year battle with lust.  Welton notes how grasping the power of God’s grace to give him self control and reign in life delivered him (Titus 2:11-14; Romand 5:17).

More importantly Welton also notes how Christ showed him his identity in relation to the beauty of women. Instead of being a predator, a role regularly assigned to men these days according to Welton, he understood God had called him to be a protector of women and their loveliness.

A few months ago I put on my prayer list a request that God would tell me how He sees me. Gradually, He has done that as I read the Scriptures. Here is what He has said so far:
 
1) )I am His child (He is my Father). He bends down to listen to me (Psalm 116:1,2) 2) I am His sheep whom He guides, protects and comforts (He is my shepherd)-Psalm 23 3) I am His marvelous creation (He is my Creator).Psalm 139:13,14  4) I am the main character in a book He is writing (Psalm 139:16).

Gaining an understanding of how God sees me, and my role and His role, has made me grasp how valuable I am to him: I am immensely so.  Welton today enhanced my comprehension of this when he said that that the message of the Gospel is that we are worth dying for.

As we struggle through life we learn about ourselves. The fictional Dr. Wilson learned something in his struggle to get through the administration of potentially lethal medicine with horrible side effects. He learned that he was not particularly empathetic beforehand.

His friend House has pain from a leg injury that is always there. He constantly takes pain pills to alleviate it.  After his chemical treatment, he tells House,”So the way I felt, you feel that, what, most of the time? It really does suck being you, doesn’t it?”

Wilson also comprehended how weak his attempts had been in attempting to comfort his own cancer patients in the past. He now understands, having wrestled in House’s apartment with the thought of dying of a disease he treats for other. He now gets  how pathetic his comments  to patients were. He always told them to avoid trying to figure out what their cancer meant.

Wilson’s journey and ours are of the same kind. It’s painful to get to the truth of who we truly are. There are times we have to face up to and set aside old judgments about our identity which we have developed over time, sometimes decades.

I recently told my pastor that I can’t figure out why it has taken me a lifetime to understand the things I know now about God. I believe I said something specifically about the length of time spent learning who I am in His eyes.

Somehow  I think this long process might have something to do with God’s desire for me to grasp who He is. Jesus Himself went through the same struggles I have had to and will continue to face my whole life (Hebrews 4:15).

 I am called to follow in His footsteps, experiencing the same kinds of things He did. As I do, I get an an understanding of Jesus’s heart, and that although He is God, He is also truly human.

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? (Matthew 5:43-46).”

 

We keep hearing about “the 1 percent” and “the 99 percent” these days. This is because of the “Occupy” movement, which is seeking to trumpet the growing disparity between the rich and the poor.

The gap in wealth between these two is said to be growing in these tough times.  Money isn’t the only thing that seems to seperate these two groups.

The rich seem to think of the occupiers as smelly unwashed deadbeats who should get a job. The 99 percenters think of the other 1 percent as greedy so and sos who came by their position in life unfairly.

This week a large number of Ferraris were involved in a rather high profile smash up in Japan. When I saw the images of these expensive vehicles showing how they had been mangled, I posted a story about them on my Facebook wall and noted,”I bet the 99 percent are clapping.”

You can’t get away from a discussion on the “percenter” these days. Even in Finland, the little country I presently work in, there was a story this week which published the names of the 100 richest people in the country.

What characterizes the debate is acrimony. The rich believe they have earned their money fair and square through hard work and effort and dismiss the 99 percenters as lazy riff raff who could join them if they only made the effort.

The 1 percenters, on the other hand, think the rich have been special privileges which gave them an advantage. They resent the fact that some people come by their money through inheritances, tax breaks or speculation.

One Newsweek article I glanced at asked the question whether or not all the hubub would cause the rich to stop spending their dough. Not hardly, said the magazine.

 The Occupy Wall Street website has this point of view:

“We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.”

I sympathize with these comments. Just about everything they describe above has happened to me.

It is easy to become envious when your friends are off to the Canary Islands during the holidays while you have the choice of paying your rent or the airfare needed to go see your family. This is the choice I had to make recently.

When you are poor, you dare not make a mistake. I lost my flat key yesterday.

It cost me 20 euros to replace it. That’s food money for me, man!

One friend has written a novel and wants me to write a review on Amazon for him.  “Just download it. It will cost you 3.99.” 

I think a lot of the 99 percenters know that 3.99 can sometimes be a lot of money. The wealthy just don’t get it.

The last time I was here in Finland, I left my little boring city twice in three years for a total of a day and a half. I couldn’t afford the transportation costs to go anywhere.

My summers were spent down at the harbor reading my books and living vicariously through the people on their lounging on their boats and drinking at the boat bars. I got the same ambience they did. I just didn’t pay as much!

I could go on and discuss “why” I am in the financial condition I am in and the 1 percenters are better off. I suppose I could find pros and cons when it comes to my own decisionmaking and theirs.

However, that’s not my purpose here. What I want to relay is what I see the Scriptures as having to say on this subject of being in the top echelons or as one belonging  to the group that barely scrapes by. There are some lessons on this in I and II Kings in the Old Testament.

The latter part otf I Kings describes the most wicked king Israel had had up to his reign. His name was Ahab (I Kings 16:29-30).

Ahab was king during a severe famine.Yet, he himself had plenty of livestock, silver and gold, and an apparently healthy family (I Kings 17:1, I Kings 18:1-6; I Kings 20:1-7).

Ahab was in the 1 percent. However, it wasn’t enough for him.

He wanted to buy a vineyard from a man named Naboth. However, the latter did not want to sell because it was part of the family farm handed down from generations.

When Ahab’s wife caught him sulking like an 8-year old over this rejection, she did something about it. Jezebel had Naboth killed so Ahab could take control of the property (I Kings 21:1-16).

At this point God had had enough of Ahab’s shenanigans and sent Elijah to pronounce judgement. However, a funny thing happened as a result of the prophet’s rebuke.

The wicked Ahab humbled himself before God.  As a result, God postponed the judgment to after Ahab’s death (I Kings 21:17-29).

If I were in the 99 percent back then, I would really be perturbed at God. “Why Lord, how could you let this greedy, murderous 1 percenter off because of a little sackloth and ashes?!”, I would say.

The thing here to acknowledge is that God loves the one percent, too. Jesus didn’t just die for the 99.

Indeed, he taught this lesson to his disciples. He told them:

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14

Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey popularized a song written about this passage in the late 19th century at their revivals:

 There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold.
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare.
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.

“Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer: “This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.”

But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry,
Sick and helpless and ready to die;
Sick and helpless and ready to die.

“Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way
That mark out the mountain’s track?”
“They were shed for one who had gone astray
Ere the Shepherd could bring him back.”
“Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?”
“They are pierced tonight by many a thorn;
They are pierced tonight by many a thorn.”

And all through the mountains, thunder riven
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gate of Heaven,
“Rejoice! I have found My sheep!”
And the angels echoed around the throne,
“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!
Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!” (Words by Elizabeth C. Clephane)

If we are in the 99 percent, we ought to be praying for the 1 percenters. We can pray God sends an Elijah to them and they turn to God and do His will.

Lately  on my prayer list I have put a request that my ongoing financial struggles would end. I am tired of being a 99 percenter.

However, the Lord seems to be telling me that I am already loaded. I don’t have a huge nest egg or money under my pillow, though.

What He has reminded me is that I have access to Him, who is the richest and most powerful Being in the universe. It is nothing for Him to provide for me, or to even give me a little fun once in a while!

Look at what He did for the people in the time of Ahab’s and his wicked son. Through Elijah and Elisha he provided more than enough for those who came to them, knowing they were representatives of the Lord.

Through them God provided nutritious food, enough money and clean water. In addition, by the miracles of these godly men He protected them from the poor health their poverty could produce (I Kings 17:7-24;  II Kings 2:19-21; 4:1-7, 38-43; ).

However, God didn’t forget the 1 percent. He provided the best health care of a kind not even available to them. He brought a rich woman’s son back from the dead (II Kings 4:8-37).

The truth is that this woman supported Elisha, God’s prophet. She’s proof, you 99 percenters, that there are godly people among the 1 percent and that they suffer the world’s ills just as we do.

In God’s economy, there isn’t a 99 percent or a 1 percent. We’re His children and He takes care of us one way or another.

Perhaps if we thought that way in this day and age, we wouldn’t be doing so much shouting at each other.

 

    

 

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“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you;  you are the helper of the fatherless (Psalm 10:14).”
 
re·sil·ience Listen to audio/rɪˈzɪljəns/ noun
 
[noncount] 1 : the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens
▪ The rescue workers showed remarkable resilience in dealing with the difficult conditions.

 2 : the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.
▪ the resilience of rubber ▪ Cold temperatures caused the material to lose resilience. (Source: Merriam-Webster English Language Learner’s Dictionary)
 
Dan Berchinski has resilience. His main squeeze Rebecca Taber does, too.
 
The Army lieutenant stepped on a hidden land mine in Afghanistan in the summer of 2009 and lost both legs, in addition to suffering a broken jaw and shattered arm. He is now back in the States recovering.
 
At his side is Rebecca Taber. Her relationship with Berchinski is portrayed in the Washington Post this week. 
 
She is a typical young woman in Washington, D.C. where she works and lives, and where Dan is rehabiltating. Like many young people in D.C., Rebecca is smart and determined.
 
She is a former student body president at Yale, has a coveted job at a D.C. consulting firm and is currently on loan to the State of Delaware in an importan post. However, her main focus is Berchinski.
 
Before he went off to war, they had met and romanced a little. However, the relationship did not seem to have much of a future.
 
After Dan was sent home, Rebecca was determined to be his friend and stand by him. She visited him in the hospital several nights a week after work.
 
The friendship has blossomed into romance. When she is not working, she is with Dan.
 
Dan himself has suffered none of the trauma usually associated with the returning combat soldier.  Greg Jaffe of the Post writes in his article “Love After War”:

Dan carried some anger about the war, which he thought was bloated and wasteful. But he considered himself lucky. He felt responsible for Yanney’s death (note: a soldier under his command) who died shortly before Dan was injured), but it did not haunt him. He experienced no nightmares, no post-traumatic stress disorder and none of the memory loss associated with traumatic brain injury. He still had his hands.

 Later in the article, Jaffe says:

The truth is that Dan is mostly fine. Doctors at Walter Reed view him with admiration and some puzzlement. He has been able to set aside his trauma and move forward with humor and little regret.

A lot of that can be credited to the influence of Rebecca. She set up a white board in his room where she wrote personal and professional “to-do” lists for him. He now maintains them by himself.

He is venturing into business. In the future, he and Rebecca want to attend business school a Harvard or Stanford together.

How many of us could have the resilience of a Dan Berchinski or a Rebecca Taber?  When all hope seems to be gone, what is left?

I doubt many of us think we would have the inner moxie to carry on as they have. I don’t think I have it in me to do what they have done.
 
 One man I admire in the Bible for his resilience is David.  He seemed to bounce back a lot.
 
Once his family members and those of his combat comrades were kidnapped by some raiders while David’s troops were out campaigning. The men thought of stoning David because of his poor leadership.
 
What did David do? He got on his horse and led his men to recapture all their families. (I Samuel 30:1-19).
 
Then there was that “thing” with Bathsheba. He was resilient there, too.
 
“Come on”, you say. This was one of David’s darkest hours. What is there to celebrate about adultery and the murder of your lover’s husband?
 
What is honorable here is that when David and his affair were outed, he didn’t sit in his room drinking a Guinness. He”manned up” and took responsibility.
 
Sure, he grieved over his sin. However, his attitude was more than “sorry that I got caught.”
 
He fasted and prayed and begged God for the child he had fathered with Bathsheba. When the baby died, David had the fortitude to carry on and even comfort his wife Bathsheba. (II Samuel 12:1-25).
 
He made the best out of a bad situation by acting honorably, and so did God. In fact, out of that whole mess Solomon was conceived and born.  You may know him as the wisest man to ever live, the author of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. 
 
 What enabled David to bounce back from his defeats? The Scriptures indicate it was his humility with and hope in his God.
During the Ziklag affair, when he himself was weeping and his men were ready to take him out, the Scriptures say he “found strength in the Lord his God (I Samuel 30:6b).” During the Bathsheba incident, he admitted his sin, didn’t shoot the messenger (Nathan the prophet), and even had the courage to comfort his wife Bathsheba.
 
Shortly thereafter, David went back to being the king and the commander of the army. The Life Recovery Bible says of him:
 
To David’s credit, even though he had made some poor choices, he made a dramatic comeback. He went back to doing the things he should have been doing all along. After a relapse, we would be wise to follow David’s example.
 
Sometimes even bloggers must show resiliency. As I was writing this earlier, I lost a good part of the text I had written. I hate when that happens and think if never returning to piece it back together again: it’s too much work!
 
Therefore, I went and made a cup of tea and read a book. I figured that perhaps God might have some other message here to write later if this particular piece of writing was important. I didn’t expect the message to come so soon.
 
It came from my book,  called “The Judas Gate”, a thriller by Jack Higgins. In the chapter I was reading over my tea, there is an encounter between the antagonist and a priest.
 
Jason Talbot, has just lost his grandfather, a nasty old man whom he hated. The priest is trying to convince him to forgive the man.
 
The priest tells him:
 
“Forgiveness is everything. Christ even forgave Judas when he stepped in through the gate at the Garden of Gethsemane to betray him.
 
Jason replies:
 
“Well, as he hanged himself, it didn’t do him much good.”
 
The priest answered:
 
“Because he couldn’t forgive himself. Once he stepped through that gate -The Judas Gate as it has become known -there was no going back. It is the same for all of us when our actions betray our loved ones, we also betray ourselves.” 
 
Had Judas accepted the forgiveness of Jesus and forgiven himself, perhaps things would have been different. As it was, Judas saw himself as having no hope in this life or the next, went through with his awful task and then killed himself.
 
When Dan Berchinski was laying on the battlefield with horrible wounds, he told his fellow soldiers that the man who had died in the platoon was the lucky one. He felt with his injuries that his life was over.
 
Little did he know as he lay there that out of it all he would get a Rebecca. Post reporter Jaffe writes:
 
Rebecca sometimes wonders whether she would have felt the same attraction to Dan if he had come back from Afghanistan intact. She lists the qualities in him that she most values: his strength, his humor, his ambition. “I am still kind of torn whether these sides existed or whether the injury brought them out,” she said. “The qualities I admire most in Dan weren’t immediately apparent to me.”
 
Indeed, the last sentence in the Washington Post article reads,”Without his injury, she never would have dated him.”

The Art of Manliness blog discusses resiliency today. It says we are more resilent than we think.

The title of his piece is “This Too Shall Pass”.  He goes on to cite studies of how resilient we are after horrible events, which would explain Dan Berchinski’s response. He also mentions how life is filled with “peaks and valleys”.

I am not sure about that. It seems for a lot of us, life is one big crevice from which it is impossible to escape. Things seem to go from bad to worse.

In those circumstances, it becomes really easy to lose hope that there will ever again be any happiness. All we have from all appearances is another day of struggle ahead.

It is pretty hard to bear, whether you brought the circumstances on yourself or this corrupt world just treated you unfairly.  What to do?

In the former case, we ought to learn from Judas, who did not forgive himself. Perhaps others may not ever forgive, but Jesus does.  Indeed, He died so he could offer it to us, so how can we reject it!

The Scriptures do not say it, but David probably forgave himself, too. How could he have ever gotten the strength to get back in the saddle at home or work again otherwise?

Who is as isolated and alone as an orphan? God says he sees what’s happening with those who are alone in their misery and takes care of them.

He is  the only hope we have that life will get better. His support is  the only reason we have to get out of bed in the morning.

When we do, the “woe” has to go and the hope has to flow into our bloodstream with our morning Joe.  The truth that Jesus is on our side is the reason we can still have hope in this life.

For a pessimist like me, that’s hard to fathom, but man, it’s the only way to keep going. My message to myself is, “Why not show a little humility and believe Him for once?”

 

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