One thing that has always bothered me is the Christian who doesn't fully grasp or understand God's grace. This would be the Christian who is unwilling to see beyond a person's past....
It would be someone who defines a person by the things that he has done rather than through the eyes of grace.
I am one who understands anger at sin. Everyday when I read the news, I can't help but become angry at all of the vicious crimes. But even more than anger, I often find myself simply saddened by it all. Sad for the victims, and, this may make some people angry ..but even sad for some of the people who committed the crimes.
There is a quote that I love from a Disney movie.. Lilo and Stich to be exact. This is the quote.
"Ohana. Ohana means family and family means that no one gets left behind. Or forgotten.
First of all, I wonder how many crimes could be prevented if we embraced others as our family. If we took the time to nurture and love. If we took the time to guide others toward goodness and along the right path, imagine how the population in the jails would dwindle and the numbers in the news would fade. Maybe I'm old fashioned in the belief that God's love redeems us..even the vilest of people.
I hate statements that define people by the things that they have done...even when the statements are true. Statements like, "He's a drug head. He's a loser." I hate whispers about what the neighbors did or what they said. I hate speech that defines a person by the actions of the past.
To me, those kind of statments are a slap in the face to grace. God says that we are made new. We are new creatures in Christ and if we embraced everyone with that faith, and if we embraced and cared for people like family, then we would see them more as God sees them..through eyes of hope and
through the eyes of grace.
What is one of the most vicious crimes in the world? To me, it is murder. Murder is hard for us to forgive, but somehow, even God's grace is large enough to cover murder. I think that if someone in my family was murdered, I would have a hard time finding the grace to forgive, but Even as Jesus died on the Cross, He forgave the very people that murdered Him.
When I was in middle school I had a best friend. (I"m not going to name any names to protect the people involved) I loved her and I still love her. She moved away, but sometimes I remember the amazing and the fun times we had as children. Laughing, singing, staying up all night talking... I miss her.
I remember going to her home several times. She had two brothers. Her oldest brother was shy and quiet. He was interesting to be around. I never really took the chance to get to know him, but I remember that he was pleasant to be around. There was something sad about going to the house though. I never really remember feeling much love there. No cookies baking in the oven. No sounds of laughter ( other than me and my friend goofing off) ... Come to think of it, I rarely remember any interaction at all between the boys and me and my friend and her parents. They were there in body, perhaps, but that's all. They simply were never around. I think I remember tension. Lots of tension in the home.
Fast forward twenty years. I heard the oldest brother of my childhood friend is in jail for murder. I was heartbroken for her and for her family. I was heartbroken for the family of the person who was killed. I was heartbroken for every single person involved..that was touched by this... and this may shock some people, but I was heartbroken for him, as well. I still saw him as that kid..awkward, cute, shy..just a boy needing his parent's affection and yet they never seemed to be around.
I got in my prettty little head that I want to tell him about grace. I want to tell him about how God is faithful and just to forgive him,even for something as big as murder. I want to tell him that I love him, not with a impure sort of love, but with the love that says..You are my family. I want him to see the person he killed in Heaven someday. Because in Heaven, there is only love and only grace. There is forgiveness and family.
Some people right now are shouting for justice. I guess I don't blame them. But even Jesus said, "let mercy triumph over justice."
I believe that if we took time to be merciful, instead of calling for blood, then we would become as Christ himself. Full of the most immense love and understanding..full of mercy.
I look to my own past. I cry when I think of the person that I was. What if grace didn't exist? Then I would be nothing more than the sum of every evil thing I've ever done. Nothing could wash it clean.
But I remember the day that I truly, truly grasped the concept of grace.
I went into a bathroom and cried my eyes out because I could see hope. I recognized it as something beautiful. Something real, and something miraculous.
Without grace, I am nothing more than the sum of the things that I've done. But through grace, I am a new creature. Through grace, through the eyes of God, I am worth something and I am part of family.
The other day I read a verse that says that if we live our lives with integrity, then we will never fall away. I believe that. I now live fully commited to honesty and integrity because I see its beauty. I've learned that if you stay committed to living and doing right, then there is no need to lie. Lies are not worth the soul.
Today, I was reading Come Away My Beloved by Francis J. Roberts and this is what I read..
I guess in some ways, it applies to what I wrote.. The following excerpt is from a chapter called Remove the Rocks.
"My people, I have called you repentance and confession and forgiveness and cleaning, but you have listened to My words as though they were slight rustlings in the tree tops- as though they were of little consequence and could be brushed aside at will. Behold, I say unto you: you cannot resist My Spirit without suffering pain; and you cannot turn a deaf ear to My words without falling thereafter into the snare of the enemy.
You have not cried unto Me with all of your hearts, but you have complained that I have not heard your prayers. Lo, is it not written: "The Lord is the rewarder of those that DILIGENTLY seek Him"? And again: "Then you shall find Me, when you seek Me with ALL of your heart."
Look no more to My hand to supply freely your needs when you have not humbled your hearts and cleansed your hands and come to Me with the sacrifice which I have required - even a broken and a contrite heart. You need not listen for Me to speak to you when your ears are heavy from listening to evil reports.
Just as there can come no healing to the physical body until there be first a removal of the poison in the system: so there can come no blessing and revival and renewal to My Body, the Church, until there be a putting away of evil and a purging away of sins. Your eyes shall not look upon My face while they are still engaged in viewing the faults and imperfections in others; and when you look to Me in truth and sincerity and repentance, you shall indeed see Me and having seen Me, you shall look upon your brother with love and understanding and patience, knowing full well he needs in your own heart and life.
Behold, after the weeds are cleared; after the fallow ground is broken up; yes, after the rocks have been removed: Then I will send the showers, and then I will minister to your hearts in kindness and in blessing. For though My heart has been grieved, yet I love you: and though I have hid my face from you for a time, lo, in great tenderness would I gather you again unto Myself.
I will withhold My chastening rod when you turn unto Me in repentance. If you confess your sins and recognize your transgressions, I will be faithful to forgive you. I will cleanse and restore you. You will find peace. You will say the tears of godly sorrow have been sweet.
The heart that grieves over sin shall experience genuine comfort. There is not the like of it in any of the comforts of the world. If you bathe My feet in your tears, I shall clasp you to My bosom in love. I cannot describe to you My love. I can only give it to you. It is beyond the Cross. Go through. The Spirit alone cannot communicate what is on the other side. "
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
T'was Grace that taught...
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear...
the hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares...
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
and Grace will lead us home.
The Lord has promised good to me...
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be...
as long as life endures.
When we've been here ten thousand years...
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise...
then when we've first begun.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
Then Jesus told them this parable:
Lately, I have felt a deep desire to connect with a lot of people from my past. I've been thinking a lot about friends and family. I have certain memories of childhood..some of my favorites involved laughing with friends.
Lately I have desired to find people that I haven't seen in years and tell them how much I miss them. I want to tell them how much that laughter meant to me. I want to tell them that, even though we may or may not be blood related, I still consider them family.
Recently on facebook, I've found some friends from my very first job as a waitress. I remember there were times when I laughed so hard that my sides hurt. My face ached from smiling so much.
I have come to a place where I value friendship. I have needlessly wandered through some very lonely areas of life and friends are worth so much.
Last night I spent the better part of an hour reminiscing with a girl that I worked with as waitress. It was amazing how the memories came flooding back and with a few simple words, I felt as if I were transported back in time to an old familiar place..with familiar people..people that I will always consider family.
I've always cherished people that I work with. I hold a special place for them in my heart. To me, they are like family simply because of the many hours we spend together.
As we were talking, I remembered the welcoming feeling when my "regular" customers would come in and ask to sit in my section. I remember the way they noticed how I smiled. I remember the good, honest and rewarding seeing them leaving with full bellies and smiles on their faces. It was nice to have been a part of that.
The memories seem to be of simpler times.
I remember families that would come in and eat together. Children throwing food on the floor, tiny bits of mashed potatoes in carpets, but I never really minded..I knew in my heart, at eighteen, working my first job, that there was something special about laughing children and families that ate together...and talked and dined together..
Over the years, I noticed couples that would come in and not even speak to one another. As I grew into maturity, I've had "those" dinners. The silent, awkward..lonely dinner where you with someone but yet feel completely alone.
I appreciate the noise now. The talking and the laughter and the fun. I see it's value and it's worth.
I see how the simple things are the things worth embracing and holding onto for dear life.
I look back and I can see a huge canvas of people that I loved and still love. I see us as family and all of the laughter that we shared is something that can never be taken. It is forever engrained in memory and in it's own special place in time.
Friends and family. Friends are family. The other day I was reading a Bible verse. I felt as if I was supposed to read from Matthew. Immediately, I knew why. The very first verse and chapter is a listing of family names. A list of family lines.
I remember as a child, I would scribble in my notebooks. I would endlessly write the names of my friends with pride in my notebook. It was something that I cherished. I was proud to have such great friends. I couldn't help but think that God wrote the family line of Jesus in the book of Matthew because He loves His family so much.
He even tells us that there is a book with our names written down. Maybe when you love something, you simply write it down.
I guess I'm writing this because I think about Heaven a lot. I truly believe that there more than what we see. I believe in grace and I believe in family. I believe in sticking together. I love the parable of the lost sheep. There are 99 sheep in the pasture and even if one gets lost, everyone realizes that something is seriously wrong. The shepherd leaves the 99 because he sees the importance of the one. He doesn't leave him behind. He recognizes that family is important and he goes out and he rescues him.
Ohana. Ohana means family and family means sticking together..leaving no one behind. Forgetting no one.
A lot of people ask me if I'm still married. Many cringe when I tell that I still am. The truth is that through the whole thing..through all of the hurts, I have learned what grace looks like. I have learned to show it. I have seen days when I have pleaded for it and days when I have lacked it. But all in all, I can say that I know what it looks like now.
There have been days when I know that God would have loved me even if I had just abandoned ship. I really don't think He would have faulted me for it. But I think He wanted me to stay so that He could teach me something about family and about grace. Things aren't perfect, but despite all of the things we have faced, I can see grace. I can see how God can take something ugly and grace make it look different altogether. There is still a long way to go, but I have learned that if you are going to travel on long journeys, that you should never leave your family behind. Ohana.
God Bless you,
You are my family