Grace and Mercy

I have noticed a distu022 (5)rbing trend among Christians lately, including some people whom I love and respect deeply. I have also noticed there are few others who seem troubled by it. Surely, I am not the only one….
Across the ocean and far from our shores, people are in fear of their lives. They are fleeing their homeland in terror, often with little more than the clothes on their backs. Everything they have ever known is going up in the smoke of war and tyranny. They seek refuge wherever they can find it.
The Syrian Refugees.
I generally go out of my way to avoid any mention of politics. But to me this is not just a political matter although politicians have lost no time in sharing their views loudly and self-righteously. There are politics involved, certainly and the government will have its hands full in dealing with the mess. That part is on them.
The matter I am struggling with is our unwillingness to share what we have with those that have nothing.
In Matthew 25, Jesus speaks of separating the sheep and goats in heaven. Of the sheep he says,

Caught!

I don’t remember ever reading qualifications. Take care of them when it is convenient. Help them when they agree with your religious and political views. Encourage them when their countrymen are harmless.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:35-36
I understand the fear of allowing the terrible things that are happening across the ocean to come to our safe, tidy little world. I know that there is a possibility that a terrorist could slip in among the huddled masses. I agree that opening our borders also opens us up to trouble that right now seems far away.
All that is scary and a very real possibility. I know what it is to be afraid.
But my God is stronger than my fear. Even if my faith wavers, underneath it all, I know that I can trust him to care for me and my family. He is higher, stronger, and infinitely more powerful than the terrorists that seek to destroy me. Do you think God can’t protect us, or that the government can do a better job of it?
Do you think Islamic extremists, terrorists, are stronger than God?
I don’t. I will put my trust and faith in God and do as he asks me to do. Even if I die, or my family killed, I will trust and do as he commands.
Can I do less when my King has given so much more?

I will believe.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
And the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
Though its waters roar and foam
And the mountains quake with their surging. Ps. 46:1-3

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Remembering Freedom, Conclusion

battle%20-of-monmouthSmoke seethed through the trees like a living thing, thick and choking, until people became nothing more than vague shadows. The heavy pounding of mortar shells punctuated the ragged roar of musket fire.  Shrill screams of men and horses sliced through it all.

Rivers of sweat carved runnels of mud through the caked dirt on Ichabod’s face. His shirt clung damply to his back. His aching feet felt every pebble under the thin soles of his boots, burst blisters burning like fire. The commander’s horse flicked his tail at a buzzing fly.

Colonel Hale observed the combat from his saddle. Somehow, Hale was able to see what was happening and occasionally gave Ichabod a command to beat out on his drum. Other drummers relayed the command through the lines.

A gust of wind shredded the curtain of smoke. Men in homespun lined the slopes of the ravine seeking cover behind trees and logs firing round after round into the British ranks. Many of the colonials no longer loaded their weapons, instead clutching shredded clothing, red stains spreading from beneath their fingers. Others lay still, broken and bloody. The redcoats fired back, but their dead and wounded already littered the ground.

As Ichabod watched, the big artillery lobbed mortars down into the already pockmarked road. A British officer tried to pull his mount away from the blast, but the pair went down. The horse screamed as its shattered legs twitched uselessly. The heartbreaking cry echoed through the woods until the officer raised himself up on one elbow and ended the beast’s pain with his pistol. Then he lay back and did not move again.

The breeze died once more and the smoke drew its veil across the ghastly scene. But the images were emblazoned forever on Ichabod’s memory.

Is it worth it? The question drifted through his mind. Is Freedom worth the price we paid in this bloody battle?

b9cd2605b8033340344e17e2b10afb60The thought of his mother weeping over the grave of his father and the memory of an innocent kiss beneath the apple blossoms answered him back.

Yes, Freedom is worth it all.

 

Remembering Freedom, Part 3

swat_refugees-2 campIchabod approached the camp just behind Lieutenant Clark. Row after row of white tents filled the trampled field. Cook fires were evenly spaced between the rows, each one circle by men clutching tin plates. The eyes of the men silently followed the ragged line of recruits as they passed through the tents.

The recruits stood out from the established troops like a fresh young colt beside an ancient plow horse. One man, whose tangled hair nearly hid his eyes, drew Ichabod’s gaze. But those eyes were hard and relentless in their study. The man’s face was heavily lined and a fresh scar drew a red line from brow to chin. As Ichabod watched, the man’s right eye closed in a wink. Ichabod flinched and hurried to catch up with the Lieutenant.

The new arrivals were dispersed to their new squads until only Ichabod was left. His toe nudged the sack of belongings at his feet. Maybe he would be sent home after all.

“What about me, sir?” Ichabod asked the man beside him. After coming so far, he was afraid there was no place for him. After walking through the solemn camp, a small doubt had crept in.

“I have not forgotten you, Ichabod. I have something for you.” Lieutenant Clark ducked into a nearby tent. Almost immediately, he returned holding a drum. It showed signs of having been brightly painted at one time, but now the paint was scratched and peeling, the skin discolored. “Do you know what this is?”

“Yes, sir, it is a drum.”

“Do you know what it is used for.” The Lieutenant stared at Ichabod with unreadable eyes.

“To keep time, sir.”

“Yes, but in the army it becomes more. It is a tool for communication. With it, I can pass along orders and encouragement to men out of range of my voice.”

“Yes, sir.”

“My drummer has become incapacitated and I need someone to take his place. Are you willing to do so?”

“Yes, sir. But I do not know how to play.”

“Percy will show you.” Lieutenant Clark ducked into the tent once more. Ichabod followed him.

A boy, not much older than he, sat on the narrow cot with a crude crutch beside him. The boy’s right leg ended just below the knee.

“Percy, this is Ichabod, he will need you to show him the rhythms. Now I will leave you two boys to get started.” Lieutenant Clark left leaving stark silence behind him.

“Why are you here?” the boy, Percy, stared at Ichabod.th ichabod drummer

“To learn to play the drum, I guess.”

“No, I mean why are you here in camp instead of at home with your family?”

“I came to fight the British.” Ichabod paused, Percy’s expression seemed to require more. “The redcoats have killed my father and have taxed my family into poverty. We are little more than slaves on our own land working ourselves to death to make some foreign king rich.”

“What if you end up like me, or like your pa, will you feel the same?”

Ichabod looked at the other boy. Even though he was only a year or two older, his eyes seemed ancient and full of pain. Was freedom worth this?

“Yes, even if I die, if it makes life better for those I love, freedom is worth it.”

Encountering Jesus, In the Gospels

Encountering Jesus. It seems like a wonderful dream, a hope that will come true after we leave this mortal life and join him in heaven. I can’t help but wonder what it will be like to see him face to face. What will he say, what will he do? One way we can catch a glimpse of him is to read the gospels. The first four books of the new testament are full of stories about people encountering Jesus.

I love those stories. To me, each one is an outline of how Jesus responds to his people. As a writer, my imagination tries to fill in the blanks. What was happening in the people’s lives on the day they met Jesus? What did they think of him when they first looked into his eyes? People back then were no different that we are today, so we should be able to get a glimmer of what it was like.

Several years ago, I was going through a spiritual dry spell. My pastor told one of those stories and made it come to life for me. For months the story played over and over in my head until I finally wrote it down. Since then I have rewritten other stories trying to answer the question, ‘What will it be like to see him?’

The woman at the well cries in his lap, Jesus’ tears mingle with hers as he shares her pain.

The demon possessed man is restored to his right mind and Jesus tells him to stay and witness to the people of his city because the people there sent Jesus away.

Zacchaeus, the tax collector, is despised and scorned by his people, yet Jesus comes to his house for dinner and shows a better way.

Lepers are touched, the blind see, the lame walk and it goes on and on. We are like these people, hurting, despised, untouchable. Jesus drew them in, loved them and gave them hope. He does the same for us, if we seek his face.

Clinging tight to Jesus

This Sunday my pastor’s message was about what to do when the ‘stuff’ hits the fan. It basically boiled down to accepting that life happens and when we are struggling in our lives, when we are hurting and feeling like our world is crumbling around us, we need to cling that much tighter to Jesus.

We do not live in a perfect world. We are not perfect people. The people around us are not perfect either. You bring all those things together and guess what, it hurts.

It is OK to hurt.

It is Ok to be discouraged.

It is Ok to be angry.

But it is not Ok to stay there and use the pain as an excuse to pull away from life, other people and God. He knows that we hurt and is right there to carry us over the burning coals. He sends other people to comfort and encourage us. And he still has a job for us to do on this world we live on.

When I am in that place where depression is reaching out to drag me down to despair, when my task looms dark and heavy before me and my heart quails with the fear of failure, I seek the arms of my loving heavenly father. I bury my face in my pillow and ask why; Why is it happening? Why is it so hard? Why do I have to continue?

When the tears have cried themselves out, when my battered heart lies quietly throbbing in my chest, my Lord whispers;

My child, I love you. I am with you, through the good times and the bad. Trust in me. I will lead you through to the other side. I will never leave you or forsake you, You are mine and I love you.

Sometimes I have to go through hard things so that my heart is soft enough to hear his words. I most often go my own way and do my own thingdouble rainbow

rather than listen to his leading. It is only after my heart is broken, that I remember how to lean on him. I wish I could learn to do it daily, but so far I

have been a reluctant learner.

Good thing for me, my God will not leave me or forsake me and never, ever will He give up on me.

Father, forgive me for my hard and stubborn heart. I am sorry that I trust you so little. Teach me daily to lean on you. In this time of trouble, help me cling tight to you.