friends

The Four Friends: A Lesson in Compassion

I read in the book of Mark today a very familiar story. It’s the one about the paralytic who had some pretty amazing friends. Jesus was speaking to a crowd so large that there wasn’t even room to enter through the front door. No elbow room here. The man could not get in to see Jesus because he was physically unable to move his own body. That was the first challenge. The second problem came in the form of a crowded room. He had friends, though. Friends who knew his deep need, knew that Jesus could help him, and cared so profoundly for him that they had to get him to Jesus.

When the front door didn’t work, they resorted to the roof. They “removed the roof above where He was. And when they had broken through, they lowered the mat on which the paralytic was lying”. These friends had some unshakeable faith and some serious tenacity. They literally would not take “no” for an answer when it came to getting their friend to Jesus.

Big Faith

As I read this encounter this morning, I was struck by the following verse: “Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven.'”  This is followed by words directed at the Pharisees in response to their questioning whether or not Jesus had any right to forgive sins. Leave it to the Pharisees to have an argument while a man comes through the roof! Jesus then heals the man.

Let’s go back to the faith part. The faith of the friends.I think these four friends are pretty spectacular. They gave up their day and physically worked hard to get their friend to Jesus. Even though seeing Jesus was impossible, they found a way. I get the impression that these friends knew the paralytic very well. Perhaps they had watched him live with this disability and had felt his pain with him.

Bring Them To Jesus

I want to be like them. I want to be the type of friend who has lived with the needs of others and loves them so deeply that, no matter the obstacles, I’m bringing them to Jesus, especially, when they have no strength to do so on their own. When my friends are strapped for faith, I want to carry the load. I want to know them so well, that I actually know when they are in need.

Are They Really “My People”?

Can I be this for the people I so enthusiastically call “my people”? Am I willing to inconvenience myself for the benefit of a friend or a neighbor? Am I willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of my friends’ spiritual, physical, or emotional well-being? I may not tear a physical roof off a building or lower them down on a mat but can my friends count on my prayers of faith to hold them up when they are too weak to pray for themselves? Can they count on that text message of encouragement or the card in the mail that lifts their spirits? Can they rely on that meal or offer to babysit when they are too overwhelmed to know which way is up? Do my actions reflect those of the 4 friends? Or do I spend my time, like the pharisees, focused on the law instead of on active compassion.

I want to be like the four friends. I really do.

Jesus,

Help me to live like the 4 friends lived. I want to live with sacrificial love as the banner of my heart. Help me to see beyond the every day inconvenience to the eternal impact of a simple text message or unexpected meal or card in the mail. May I find myself on my knees more than using my fingers to tap, tap the “I’ll pray for you” comments on Facebook.  May I truly know my neighbors and my friends to the point of knowing their needs and desires. Help me to walk with them through their most paralyzing days and rejoice with them in the miraculous days that follow. And when my faith waivers, may I be so richly blessed to benefit from the love, faith and strength of those carrying my mat and ripping off roofs to get me to Jesus. And like the man in the story, whether it’s my miracle or the miracle of a friend, may You be glorified.

Patty

A Little Dignity

There’s so much weightiness in the news.

Shootings.

Brutality.

Tragedy.

Prejudice.

Fear.

Mental Illness.

Rage.

Sadness.

Cruelty.

Misunderstandings.

Retaliation.

Judgement.

Calls for Grace, love and action.

 

#Orlando

#Iraq

#Lousianna

And now #Dallas

 

What to do? How to respond?

I read the rants and prayers and calls to action and hashtags that rip at my heartstrings. I want to act. I want to respond. I want to do something that speaks Christ’s love.

And as I sit in bed thankful that my sweet children are safe and in their beds with full tummies, clean clothing and pretty much not a care in the world, I realize that this blessed life is not mine to take for granted.

When they wake, they’ll have that joyful spark of life that comes with youth and innocence. As they age, the innocence will slowly be replaced with a more sobering view of the world and the pain that comes with the package of a fallen world.

Oh how I long that the world would be a different place. That my children would not grow up with all the hatred that is so imbedded in our current society.

What can we do as parents raising children in a very cruel world?

  • We must choose to not respond with cruelty.

The most recent version of Cinderella has these wise words to impart upon its hearers: “Have courage and always be kind.” Cinderella had it rough but she chose to be brave and extend kindness despite the way she was treated. 

Ephesians 4:32 (NCV) “Be kind and loving to each other and forgive each other then just as God forgave you in Christ.”

I say this verse (at least the first part) to my children a minimum of once a day. The second part, however, has grabbed my attention lately.

Forgive. I can’t possibly begin to understand what those who were targeted in Orlando felt or feel. I can’t begin to understand the decades and decades of pain my black friends have experienced. Those precious people of Iraq who live in a war zone. I just can’t even begin to truly comprehend their pain. I am white and have privileges simply based on the shade of my skin. I have, however, found myself wronged. I have been profiled for my actions and have been slung through the mud for doing that which I believed to be honorable. I have received hate emails and facebook messages. Told to “go to hell”. All because I thought I was doing the right thing. When this happened I wondered if I should ever try to help anyone again. If this is what happens when you love others?  But the BIble says, “…forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ.”

My sins are not your sins but they are sins all the same. Christ died for me, for you, for the snipers on the roofs last night in Dallas. I know. That’s hard. For Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. For President Obama and former President Bush. For Osama Bin Laden and Mother Theresa.

We cannot allow ourselves to return evil for evil. We cannot teach our children to live a life of retaliation.

  • Love like Jesus.

Social media is showing us how far we have yet to go on our journey of holiness.Although the true origin of this quote is unclear the sentiment is good: “preach Christ always; if necessary use words”. I fear that we have turned this upside down and it reads more like: “preach Christ always and if necessary use actions”.

I read this post by Brandon Hatmaker a few months ago and it has been sitting with me for some time. I’d like to share it with you as it is the inspiration for the title of this post and has been rocking my world for quite some time. You can see the post in it’s entirety here

Quoting Beth Moore in her book “So Long Insecurity: You’ve Been a Bad Friend to Us” 

“We have dignity precisely because God Himself gave it to us, His prized creation. You and I, along with every other human being on the planet, possesses dignity because God Himself has it and He created us in His image… God didn’t just confer dignity to us. According to Psalm 8:5, He crowned us with it. We are wise to note, that all people have God-given dignity even if they don’t yet have eternal life through Jesus Christ.”

I love this. Thank you, Beth, for the reminder. Everyone has God-given dignity. Even that guy across the street. Or that person who practices a different religion or holds a different belief on a doctrinal issue. Or holds NO religious view. Or holds a different sexual orientation. Or holds a different political view.

God has created everyone in His image. We may be born in sin, but we are born dignified. Who are they to strip you of your dignity? Who are we to strip another of their dignity? Of all we do as disciples of Jesus, may we be known as those who offer dignity back to those who’ve been stripped of theirs. What would Jesus do? That’s exactly what He does.”

Dignity.

A quick google search returns the following definition– the qualitiy of being worthy of honor or respect

When we say all lives matter, are we bestowing upon others the titles of worthy and honorable and respected? As a recent article succinctly articulated, is it glossing over the true issue at hand?

When we pass others on the streets or the grocery store or in traffic, are we thinking:

“You are worthy.”

“You are honored.”

“You are respected.”

We all deserve dignity. You, my friend reading this, regardless of AND because of your culture and beliefs deserve dignity.

  • Talk about it and live it out.

My children are too young to understand all that has taken place in a mere few months. They don’t grasp the concept of hatred and evil. But even at ages one, three and five I can teach my children that kindness is a CHOICE not a response. As they age, the conversations and the actions will get more involved but kindness will always be the common denominator.

I can’t change the actions of a nation or world. But I can change my actions. I can teach my children to show love and kindness to every person they encounter. When they see me showing love and kindness, I am making a difference. I am changing my actions. I am prayerfully changing the spiritual trajectory of my children’s future.

I can make eye contact with the woman with the burqa covering on her head or the elderly gentleman from Japan. I can make conversation with the developmentally delayed gentleman bagging my groceries. I can make a point to smile and acknowledge the police officer a table over eating a meal between calls.

And I can help my children see that all lives matter not because it’s the hashtag of the day or the right thing to do or the admirable lesson to pass onto my brood but because I truly believe it and live it out in my actions.

Today we will bring brownies to the local police station. It’s a coincidence really that a local organization This Side UP! Family has challenged the community to thank our public servants. Dom has been adamant about bringing a sweet goody to our police officers. My children don’t have a clue what news broke out last night. My heart will be heavy. These officers will be on their guard, and the grief of their fallen partners will be oh so heavy.

It’s a small step. It won’t change what happened last night. It won’t change the world. But it just might change my kid’s world a little bit. If I can help shape the lens through which my children see others, and if they can learn to treat others with a little dignity maybe just maybe we’ll see a kinder world in the coming days. 

Not Your Typical Father’s Day Post

It’s been a bittersweet exercise to thumb through my Facebook and Instagram feed today. It’s Father’s Day; a day set aside to honor dads.

Scrolling through the posts, I see the thank you’s to amazing fathers. I witness the blessings and joy these fathers and grandfathers are to their children and grandchildren.

I also see the missing my dad posts. Some are fresh hurts, others said goodbye to their father many, many years ago yet the pain and loss are still very real.

I see another type of post. It is sandwiched between the best dad ever and the I miss my dad terribly. It is unseen because it is left un-said. Not posted. Not voiced.

There are those who have longed for years to be called daddy and have not been able to hear those glorious words spoken from the lips of their very own offspring.

There are others silently posting: I wish I had a dad worthy of this holiday. Whether living or passed on, they wish that they could with conviction say that they love their dad or miss their dad terribly. But the words fail because their dads failed.

It’s a tough spot…father’s day. Celebrating, and rightfully so, those who have fathered well. They’ve made mistakes, of course, but at the end of the day they have loved and lived well the role of father. Today is my sixth father’s day without a father. It is also my sixth opportunity to honor the father, the amazing daddy, that my husband has become!

There’s a part of me that dreads every Father’s day. Each year I grieve a loss. Like a tormented King Saul, my father struggled and fought to be a good man and although he tried, my dad sadly failed more than he triumphed at being the daddy my family needed. Most of my memories are filled with proof he failed. There are a few sweet moments I try to hold onto wishing they would wash away the painful recollections. Sometimes my intellect wins out and I can see and name the psychological demons that so tormented my dad’s mind. In rare moments of grace, I can sympathize and even applaud his fight to overcome his own abuse-filled childhood. In many ways he did overcome. But not completely. Although hurting people hurt people, that doesn’t mean that I deserved to be hurt and that is what stays with me the most.

Amidst my dad’s bi-polar tendencies, my dad lived with epilepsy. My earliest childhood memory involves a thanksgiving gone awry because my dad had a seizure just before we prayed over our meal. Throughout my childhood, seizures and black-outs were a constant and often daily occurrence. I recall one weekend while home from college sitting with my dad on the front porch. I took a chance and began pouring my heart out to my dad. I shared experiences from school, dreams I had for the future, and ideas I was chewing on. One minute he was smiling and engaged, the next his eyes had a distant look. In that moment I knew his body was present but his mind was elsewhere. The epilepsy had taken over. My shoulder’s slumped and my heart sunk. In a moment of vulnerability my words fell on the deaf ears of a man experiencing a mild seizure. As I sat there, stunned, waiting for my dad to come to, I felt God speak to my heart.  “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” My dad had left me but my Heavenly Father was right there.

A dear friend texted me today because she understands what it’s like to scan the card aisle in desperate search of a father’s day card that doesn’t cause too much pain to sign and deliver. She shared a beautiful scripture passage and left me with a great reminder. She reminded me of the amazing fathers that both our children have.

Oh the redemptive work of Jesus!

I have a choice to make. I can wallow in what I’ve lost or rejoice in what I gained on the day our first child was born. I choose to rejoice.

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Although I will likely struggle on days like today for like…always, I am thankful for the father’s love. I do not have many fond memories of my dad to look back on but I witness daily the richness and blessings of a daddy who loves his children oh so much. The Lord redeems my childhood in every hug, every smile and every word of affirmation my husband speaks over our children. It’s a beautiful thing.

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finished product

I can’t speak to your pain or joy….

But I will try anyway:

If you have a wonderful father, I rejoice with you. You are so blessed and I am very thankful you have this gift!

If your wonderful father is no longer living, may he live on in your laugh, in your smile, in your child’s determination or sense of humor.

If you have experienced the loss of a child or never had the opportunity to hear those sweet words: Happy Father’s Day from the lips of your child, may the God of all comfort give you peace.

If your relationship with your child is strained, may God restore it.

If your father is not, or was not, what you hoped he should be, may God redeem your story through the miraculous transformation of your father or through the provision of men in your life who honor you as a child worthy of love.

“See what amazing love the Father has given us! Because of it, we are called children of God. And that’s what we really are!” 1 John 3:1a