Attacked

Julie was her usual effervescent self, giggling at something her friend Hanna texted as she opened her laptop.  She pulled up Face Book ready to catch up with all the news of the day.  Her face morphed from its customary smile to a look that resembled the pain she felt.  As she stared at the screen she felt as if she had been punched everywhere at once.  She could not believe what she was seeing.  One after another the messages were filled with epithets, vile suggestions, and charges that she was a whore, pure filth, worse than a dog, and on and on.  She was warned not to show her face in school the next day if she knew what was good for her.

The devastation eclipsed her heart and her soul.  Her depression was such that she could not eat or sleep or even pray.  She would not come down to dinner, she skipped youth group at church and skipped school the next day.  Julie felt totally alone lost, who could she go to?  The things on Face Book that were now coming on her E-mail were even worse than at first.  Boys started to write her describing unspeakable things they would do to her because she “wanted it.”

She finally dragged herself down Friday night after her father threatened to break down her door if she didn’t open it and join the family.  The sorrow and brokenness she felt was evident in her dull, tangled copper hair, her pasty complexion, lowered eyes, and down turned mouth.  She sat at the table, a broken child.  She would not look at anyone and they had to put the food on her plate.  Mom had made her favorite, spaghetti.  She did try to sip some water.  She desperately needed the water, her lips were chapped and cracked.

Julie just sat there, her heart and spirit breaking.  How could she tell anyone such horrid things?  Now she was getting phone calls that told her she was a waste and the world would be a better place without her.  Why didn’t she just die.  Messages came across her computer; DIE, JULIE DIE!

“Julie, honey, won’t you try to eat just a little?  You must be so hungry.”  Mom coaxed.

Julie’s downcast head barely nodded and she picked up her fork and tried to take a small amount of the pasta.  She choked and gagged.  Mom jumped up.

She started to sob at the table, Chris, her older brother, left unnoticed, and went up to her room.  He opened her computer and as he read what she had been subjected to, his anger exploded.

“Dad!  Dad!  Come up here, quick!”  Chris called, fury in his voice

As her dad read the messages on Face Book and then on her email, then they listed to the voice mail on her phone and the text messages everything became clear.

They called the police and their pastor. They would go to the school the next day.
Pastor looked everything over and sat down in a corner of the living room with the broken girl.
“Is this why you skipped Youth Group Wednesday night, Julie?” he asked gently
“Uh-huh.” She sobbed.
“Julie, do you know that you are none of the things that those children wrote?
“I-I guess,” a dejected and dispirited  Julie hiccupped “Some of them must be true, so many people said them.”
“Julie, look at me,” Pastor said. He waited until he held her gaze. “You are none of those things. Satan has targeted you to hurt you. Are you going to let him win?”
At that her head snapped up.  Julie was not one to turn down a challenge, or to accept defeat when it was thrown in her face.  That indomitable spirit was still inside her and it reared up.   “This is from Satan?” she asked incredulously.
“You are the very opposite of those words. I do believe that this is a demonic attack; you have been on fire for God and it has been catching. I think Satan was very anxious to quench that fire in your soul.” Pastor responded.
“Do I have to go back to that school? After what they wrote?”    She dreaded the thought of seeing those kids again.  If they would  write such awful things what would they do to her face.  Fear swirled in her belly.
“You know, God talked about that. In Proverbs He called such people fools. In Romans 12: 19-21 it says not to take revenge but to do kindness to them. You will heap burning coals on their heads and they will be convicted. They will be made the fools and you will store up crowns in heaven. You let your heavenly Father take care of these kids, Julie. You are blameless. You can return to school when you are comfortable and hold your head high.”
Pastor continued.
“Would you like to do something right now that will help you heal from this attack?”
Julie nodded enthusiastically. The sooner she could begin to put this behind her the better. She was taken aback at his next words.
“Let’s pray for them.”
“Pastor, you want me to pray for the people who said these horrible things?”
“What did Jesus do after they had beaten Him and nailed Him to the cross?”
“He asked His Father to forgive them.” Julie said quietly.
“So He set the example for us, don’t you think?” Pastor asked?
They bowed their heads and began to pray. Julie started praying and those prayers were led by the Holy Spirit. When they had finished Julie’s heart was lighter, the joy she had had was sneaking back.
“Mom, can I have some of that ginger ale you mentioned?” Julie asked. “Come to think of it, I am starved, can I have some spaghetti?”
It was a couple of weeks before Julie returned to school, but she returned with a stronger conviction of her faith and maintained her joyful effervescent demeanor. She had given a horrible situation to God and He had healed her.

Her parents finished the police reports and contacted Face Book.   The next day they were down at the school and had a meeting with the principal, Assistant Principal, and Guidance Counselor.  Students were pulled out of class, and the steady hand of justice prevailed.

Julie did see a psychologist with regard to her experience, but she found her greatest help was with God.

Parents:  This is a fictional story.  Usually things do not turn out this well, this quickly.  All too many precious young people have been driven to suicide because of the vicious words and actions of their peers or others.  Monitor your child’s cell phone and computer.  You will not be popular for doing it but it is for their own safety in more ways than one.    Protect your child, your teenager.  Remember, Privacy is a teen’s enemy.

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Shaadi’s Change

It was a glorious morning  and Shaadi was on her knees offering the Salaat.

“Allah is Greatest.  Praise my Lord the Great.   Praise my Lord the Most High.  I bear witness that there is no God other than God.  Praise be to God who has never begotten a son, nor does He have a partner in His kingship, nor does He need an ally out of weakness Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.”

Her prayer finished, she rose to her feet, walked to the window, and pondered the heaviness in her heart.  Morning Salaat should bring joy to her heart but instead she felt a heaviness and anything but a joyous spirit.  She turned and pulled a Bible out of her nightstand and opened to a favorite part: Psalm 16

“Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;  apart from you I have no good thing…”

“Shaadi!”  Her ten year old sister, Nayyer burst in.

“Nayyer!  “Haven’t I asked you not to burst into my room like that?” scolded Shaadi.

“You’re reading it again, aren’t you!  Read some to me!”  Nayyer begged.

Shaadi closed the bedroom door quickly.  “I will if you promise to keep it a secret.  Papa must never know!

Nayyer nodded her promise.  The idea of a forbidden book was too exciting for words.

“This is my favorite part, it makes my heart soar, Shaadi told her sister; her voice barely above a whisper and finished reading Psalm 16.  When she finished her eyes were shining with joy, the heaviness she had felt after her Salaat was long forgotten.

“Nayyer, you see why I love these words……..” Shaadi’s eyes grew wide with shock and not a little fear when she saw her father standing in the doorway.

In a soft voice that hid the fury raging inside him he commanded.  “Shaadi, give me that book of lies.”  His hand was held out and his eyes were steel.  A sob caught in Shaadi’s throat as she walked toward her father with downcast eyes and placed her greatest treasure in her father’s hand.

“Nayyer, you will leave this room.  Shaadi, you will remain.  I suggest you offer prayers of confession to Allah and hope you can be forgiven for this sin.”

The door shut and Shaadi heard the lock turn.  She was locked in her room!  A prisoner in her own home!  She did pray, as her father suggested, but not to his god, Allah.  She prayed to the God of the Bible.   She prayed for mercy, safety, rescue.

“Why would He listen to me?” she thought.  “I am not even a Christian and a female at that.”  She had forgotten one of the biggest lessons her friend, Moriah had taught her.  Jesus loved her just as much, as anyone else, she would be a bridesmaid to Jesus once she came to a saving knowledge of and belief in Him.

Sometime later her door opened.  Her mother and father were both standing there.  Her mother’s eyes were downcast. Tear tracks streaked her face. She carried a tray of water, dates, grapes, bread and cheese and carefully placed the food on Shaadi’s desk.  Her father, Farookh, addressed her formally.

Shaadi Yasmin Tavannah, you have sinned against Allah and your family.  After much prayer and conference with Imam Yosef it has been determined that you will marry.  Your sin has been forgiven as we believe you have been left to your own devices for too long.  With a husband to care for, you will not have time to be curious about forbidden things.  Your husband has been chosen for you and you will be introduced to him tonight.  You will be wed in two weeks.  Your future husband’s name is Sargon Zamani.    After your wedding it is Sargon’s wish the two of you return to Iran.   You will lack for nothing as he is most successful.  You will live like a princess and should consider yourself very fortunate; Allah has looked upon you with great mercy.”

Shaadi’s mother took a step toward her, arms outstretched but Farookh stopped her.  She ran from the room sobbing.

Farookh continued  “My child, I love you; but your actions cannot be overlooked.  I do this to save you.”

Shaadi fell to her knees, eyes on the ground tears splashing all about.   Farookh closed her door softly.  His heart was heavy but he had done all he could to protect Shaadi.  He walked into his den and in curiosity, he picked up the Bible and turned to the Psalm she had been reading.  He felt his heart soar in his chest.  He turned to the New Testament and began to read the Gospel of Matthew.  He marveled at what he read and his heart told him the words were true.  On the inside of the cover there was a name and phone number.  He dialed the number.  “Hello, Pastor Flynn?  I am Shaadi’s father and I have some questions for you about what is in this Bible.  I found Shaadi reading it earlier today….Yes, yes.  About 9:30 would be excellent.  I will see you then.  …..   okay, yes.  Thank you, Pastor.  Good Bye.”

Shaadi rose and moved to her window praying: “Almighty God, Allah.  I do not wish to sin or give offense, but in my heart and in my mind I am confused.  There can be but one Almighty God.  Allah, you say you love me, your daughter, but say in the next heartbeat I have not the value of a man.  God the Father, You say you love me and sent Your Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross so that I might spend eternity in heaven.  My heart breaks, I am to be wed to a man I do not know and taken to a country I fear.  What am I to believe?  Give me peace.  Please, show me the way.”  She crumpled to the floor in a flood of tears and eventually fell asleep in that very spot.

Later in the day her cell phone rang.  It was her friend Moriah from the Christian church around the corner.  They had met in school and Shaadi had challenged Moriah’s faith.  Moriah had a gift of sharing God’s Word and had, over time, brought Shaadi to an understanding of the Bible.  Moriah’s pastor had also talked with Shaadi and showed her the truths of Christ’s true identify from her own Q’ran.  Shaadi had devoured the message of the Bible with a hungry heart.  She had kept her move prized possession, her Bible, hidden away for almost six months before her father discovered her reading it.

“Shaadi!  You missed the party!  We thought you were coming, what happened?”

“Moriah!  My life is done, it is over!  My father found me reading my Bible to Nayyer and took it from me!  I have been locked in my room and am to wed a man I have never met a week from Saturday and leave this country for Iran!  I shall surely die!”

“Oh no, Shaadi!  What can I do, how can I help?”

“There is nothing to be done, my friend.  I am confined to my room.  I meet my future husband to be this very night.  I will spend my life in a Berkah with my heart belonging to your Jesus!  My life if over!”  Shaadi broke down, sobbing again.

That night, wearing plain clothes with all but her eyes covered by her niqab veil, Shaadi met her future husband.  Her father loosed her niqab to allow Sargon a view of her face.

“Farookh, you have a very beautiful daughter and I believe she will be a fine wife.” Sargon address Shaadi’s father but ignored her.  She was left to replace her niqab and go to the kitchen.  Sargon was a very conservative Muslim and followed the stricter interpretations of the Q’ran.  Her role at dinner was simple, serve, do not speak, return to the kitchen.  When she served, she stole glances at this man who was to be her husband and had to admit, he was very handsome, but as she listened to his conversation she learned how conservative he was and she knew her life with him would be anything but free and she would be little more than a slave.

He did not acknowledge her for the rest of the meal.  Once dinner was ended and she was able to return to the solitude of her room she took off the extra clothes that had been required as well as the niqab.  She again prayed, but this time her confusion was gone.  “Lord Jesus, I am a sinner and do not deserve your love or forgiveness.  I know I can do no good thing but through you.  I humbly ask if you will forgive my sins, cover them with the blood you shed on the cross.  I ask you to come into my heart and soul and be my savior.  If it is Your will I am wed to this man, Sargon, and live as his wife in Iran, I will follow Your Will.  I beg you to save me from this fated, if you are willing.  I wish to live openly loving You and worshiping you.  Please save me.”

Once her prayer was done she looked up, sensing a presence.  There, once again, her father stood.  This time there were tears in his eyes.  “My child.  May Allah forgive me, but I cannot allow you to be in such misery.  What is it that would draw you away from Allah?  Without fear of punishment, please tell me.”

Shaadi pulled out her Q’ran and turned to the passages Moriah’s pastor had shown her.  Haltingly, in a whisper, she read them with her father and they talked.  She shared the truths she had learned and the way the praises in the Bible made her heart sing with a joy she had never known praying to Allah.  The doorbell rang and Farookh got up quickly.

“Thank you, Shaadi, for sharing with me.  You have given me much to ponder. I must go.  ”  Farookh told his daughter.  He kissed her on the forehead.  “Sleep well, my beautiful Shaadi.  Have no fear of tomorrow.”

His words comforted her and she fell asleep before he had even finished closing the door.

In the morning, as the sun burst through her window she got up and automatically began to offer the Salaat and caught herself.  She dropped to her knees and gave praise to her new God, Jesus Christ.  Just as she was finishing up, Farookh knocked on her door.  “Shaadi, will you please come downstairs with me?”

Speechless, Shaadi followed her father down to the living room not knowing what to expect.  To her utter shock, there sat Moriah’s pastor.  He looked tired and drawn but happy.

“Shaadi, this man, Pastor Flynn, has been discussing and debating with your mother and I throughout the night.  He has talked to us through the Quran.  I became angry several times and threatened…..well, I was wrong.  I hoped you would join your mother and I in praying a new prayer, one to Jesus who our own Quran shows is divine.”

Speechless, Shaadi sank into a chair and then onto her knees.  Pastor Flynn prayed the sinner’s prayer while Shaadi and her parents repeated his words.  A small voice seemed to echo the words of the prayer and when they had finished, Nayyer, crept out.  In a voice barely audible she said, “I have been going to that church on Wednesday and listening in Awana.  I asked Jesus into my heart when you prayed Papa.  Can I be a Christian too?”

Farookh held his arms out to his second daughter and held her tight. “ It seems this family is about to make some changes!  Allah, oh, forgive, God is Good, He is so so Good and I praise Him for His gift to us.”

“Papa,” Shaadi said, “What about the wedding?  What about Sargon?  He will take this as a great insult.”

“I will deal with Sargon, my child.  It is nothing for you to be concerned with.  You will not be married to him, rest assured.”

Shaadi turned back to Pastor Flynn, “ May we please pray and thank our Lord Jesus Christ for He has answered my prayer in ways I never would have guessed.  He has not only given my my life but has returned my family to me!  He is truly the God of Truth!”

Memories of an Indefatigable Toddler

My darling baby boy

 

Blue eyes twinkled as he sat impatiently in his chair.  His body squirmed and wriggled in impatience to begin moving again.  Fruit Loops decorated the table along with small droplets of milk.  A smile filled his entire face as he watched his mother move about the kitchen.

“Outside!  Mamma Outside!”

“Would you like some bacon and eggs?  You didn’t eat the cereal?”

“Noooo!  Outside, Mamma!”

Mamma stood and shook her head at this most darling child.  Her little ball of energy and laughter stole her heart anew every day.  His belly laughs came from way deep inside and his cuddles, beyond description.   “Breakfast first, son, you know that!”

“Toaster Fruit!  Her little package of pure action decided.

“Well, it’s not the healthiest, but that is why you get vitamins.  Open up for the squirt!”

His face screwed up at the flavor and it made her laugh.   Okay, let me get you some clothes while the toaster pastry heats up then when you are done you can go outside.    He clapped and banged the table and she moved into the bedroom to grab a pair of short, a top, socks and shoes.  She had just finished working the graveyard shift at the local hospital.  It had been a quiet night, but she was ready to close her eyes.

“CRASH!”

“Owwwww!”  She ran back out to the kitchen to find him on the floor next to the toaster.

“You were supposed to be in your chair, why did you get up.  Oh my poor baby!  Where did it hit you?  Are you hurt?”  She saw a welt coming up on his forehead and grabbed a cloth and some ice to put on it.  “Oh, my poor darling; come sit with Mamma and we will make that bump go away.”  She blamed herself for what happened; she knew better.

She  settled into her rocker and held the compress to his pale forehead and rocked absently while she hummed tunelessly and stroked his soft brown hair.  This was the one time she could keep him quiet.  He loved the rocking motion and listening to her heart beat.  But at eight o’clock in the morning he could not sit for very long.  Soon he was wriggling again.  He slipped his little hand up to her face.

“Mamma?  I all better now.  Outside?”

“Oh, alright, but let’s get some clothes on you first.  Do you need to potty again?”

A firm shake of his head sent started them on the process of stripping off his bedclothes and getting the shorts and shirt into place.  He wiggled and wriggled so much it took twice as long.  Finally he was dressed and charged to the door.  She grabbed some drinks from the refrigerator and   followed him outside.  As he ran into the huge world known as “Backyard”, she settled into the chaise on the porch with some cold orange juice.

In a bit it would be “Inside” time, when it just got too hot and he would get a bath, more clean clothes and play pen time.   For now, she enjoyed the morning cool  and watched her little man toddle from one part of the yard to another.  Pretty soon he settled at his dirt pit where all his trucks and bulldozers were.  He would push them around  as long as his short attention span would allow.  Then he was off to find more action.

The soft breeze and morning coolness lulled Mamma to sleep.  She did not hear when he got up and ran across the yard.  He stopped just short of the porch and stared at something poking out from between the screen and the metal frame.  He reached for it tentatively and Mamma did not say anything so he became bolder.

Mamma awoke to her wonderful,  very mischievous son poking her.   “Mamma!   Look, I fix!”  There stood a very proud  toddler holding the spline that held the screens in the metal porch frames.  All screens of all the bottom frames lay on the ground as son proudly held the spline that had held them in place.

The fogginess of sleep cleared, and she realized her son had  truly found  mischief.  Her utter exhaustion and frustration with herself and her tireless toddler began to explode.  She jumped up looking with disbelief at the unscreened back porch.  She closed her eyes and hands opened and closed as she prayed for understanding and to calm the anger that boiled up in her.

She suddenly bent down and lifted him up into her arms and buried her head into his shoulder.
“Matthew, Matthew, Matthew!   God grant me the patience to be all that you need.  Yes, Mamma sees.  It is getting hot, inside time.  Let’s go have a nice bubble bath and get the dirt and sweat off you, then we can put your movie on.”

She ran the bubble bath and while he  played ,  she  dialed her husband and explained what happened.  They talked about the porch, her job, what was for dinner.  Her second call was to the hospital.  She let them know she would not be coming in that night or any night thereafter.    Once off the phone, she looked down at her precious son.  He was splashing tirelessly.   She pulled out a towel and lifted him from the tub, carried him into his room, and dropped him carefully onto the bed.  He loved this part.  She put her hands on either side of him and bounced him up and down.  That belly laugh she so loved rumbled from deep down in his tummy.  She so loved to watch him as his joyous embrace of life and living.  He was her pride and joy.

Birthday Memories (critiques encouraged)

It was my eleventh birthday so I got to pick what was for dinner. As always, I wanted roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, and birthday cake! Mom would make it so well, just the right amount of seasoning. The blood running out would say it was rare to medium rare … perfect. Mom’s mashed potatoes were what we would call ‘smashed’ potatoes today. They were just the best, a little lumpy so you knew they were real, with salt, pepper, milk, butter. She used a smasher, never a mixer. When you added the gravy she would make from the pan drippings it was sheer heaven. When everything was ready, Mom would ring the dinner bell and Fred, my brother, and I would come running.

To get to the dining room from the stairs, you would walk through the living room. In December there was a fire in the fireplace; our dog, Buttons, part boxer part everything else, would be curled up in front of it along with our cat Cindy. When Buttons would see us, her curled tail would thump, but the fire was too comfortable to get up.

Mom always outdid herself on birthday night. She used our best tablecloth, special cloth napkins, even flowers and candles adorned the table. Bowls and platters were placed just so with the various foods, the wonderful scents wafted through the house, Daddy sat in his chair, sharpening the carving knife waiting for everyone to arrive. Mitch Miller would be playing on the stereo.

I had the privilege of saying blessing and took that responsibility very seriously. I beamed when Daddy said; “Very good job, Kathleen.”

While Daddy carved the roast, Mom handed a shot glass filled with blood from the roast to Fred and I. It was a tradition that beef was roasted, some of the “juice” would be syphoned off for each of the children. It was thought the blood would help to grow strong bones. Both of us liked the flavor and were pleased to get it.

The meat was always, tender, juicy, and filled with flavor. Oh, so good. The juice from the meat would fill our mouths and run down our throats, It was like my mouth was in epicurean heaven. I would beg for seconds and thirds.

Once dinner was finished, I helped Mom clear the table and put the dishes in the sink to soak. While I scrapped the dishes, Mom put on a fresh pot of coffee and poured milk for me and Fred. Although I was not allowed to have coffee, I loved that rich scent. She pulled the magnificent cake out of the refrigerator. The white icing was spread so thick with all those wonderful swirls and tips. She got the Neapolitan ice cream out of the freezer and handed it and the scoop to me to bring to the table. She followed with dessert dishes, cups and saucers. I sat down and she went back to retrieve the cake. It took her a bit longer as she set up the birthday candles and lit them. Daddy lifted his camera to get the first picture of the birthday cake.

Everyone sang, I blew the candles trying to get every single one. I usually missed one which caused Fred to start teasing, so he helped. If Daddy missed the shot, we had to pose for another. Candles would be relit and we would blow them out together after the required pushing and shoving. Finally, I made the first slice and the obligatory wish.

There was something silver on the cake, it looked like a ballerina. “What’s this, Mom? It’s so tiny. Is it a new Monopoly piece?”

“No, it’s a reminder that this is a charm cake. Each one of you will find a charm in your slice and you will get a prize based on what charm you get.”

Mom cut and passed out cake with scoops of ice cream. She warned us to be careful; it would not do if we choked or bit the charm in half. As we masticated the cake, we got to better enjoy the flavor and texture of Mom’s baking expertise. Once discovered, charms were wiped off and identified. Always prepared to make a special time better, Mom had grab bag prizes. They were simple dime store items, but fun.

My parents had a way of making my birthdays special; I remember those birthday dinners, the love and family spirit.

Submission

We are an odd lot.  We hear God’s Word and respond to it saying we want to follow it; we ‘repent’ of our sins.  We may be in a small group of two or more, or we may be alone, on our knees but with that final “Amen” we close our Bible, our daily devotional, wipe our face, blow our nose, and continue on with life as if nothing had happened.  Sometimes we will remark to a friend, “I don’t know, Nancy, I pray and pray but I feel like they don’t get  any higher than the ceiling.”  Even if we try to figure out why, we don’t always recognize the reason or if we do, we dismiss is because it is something we do not want to face, give up, walk away from.  I battle with such sin all the time. If it is, and it always is, doing something our way rather than His way, we are out of His will and then we are in sin.  It is not intentional, at least until we recognize the behavior and refuse to change.

We often look at purging this behavior or thinking pattern as “giving it up” which implies a loss; we fail to recognize what we will gain in a closer walk with Jesus and allowing Him to bless us. .  When you “give up” something to draw closer to God, you are giving nothing up; you are making a choice, you are choosing God.

“13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those                         who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”

The Book of Acts states one should not present him/her members (body and all its parts)   as instruments for sin (unrighteousness).  That means we need to deal with the sin in our life first.  When we cast off the weight, the guilt,  the loss of communion with the Christ, the Son of God, the Maker of the Universe that came with that sinful act, He can and will bless us in so many wonderful ways.

This is where I start to get excited and my serious language goes right out the window.  When we exchange our rebelliousness, our stubbornness for obedience to His will for us we receive a peace that truly surpasses all understanding.  We receive a joy that cannot be taken away by the most challenging of life events.

You see, God, Jesus, so loves you and me.  He wants to bless us, but we have to put ourselves in a position where we can receive that gift.  He never tires of blessing us, he never tires of forgiving us for with each baby step we take, He shows us yet another area where we need to submit to Him.

Submission.  Even as adults we bridle at the word.  Our jaws set, our backs become stiff, we are so like Frank Sinatra’s song; “My Way.”   Our desire to do it “our way” is what leads us to that discussion in the beginning of this article.  It is such a hard, hard thing to do.  Just watch your teenager or remember how they were.  It was a daily fight, was it not?  Yet we act that same exact way when Jesus shows us His will.

Do this with me.   Close your eyes and imagine you are lying in soft grass, the singing of the birds in the nearby trees and the gentle gurgling of the brook that runs with clean, cool water lull you to relax.  Your shoulders that were so tight start to loosen, your neck … oh that feels so good.   Now little by little the muscles in your lower back relax.  That pain you had been dealing with?  That’s the one, right …  there; it’s gone.  The scents of the flowers growing near by, the gentle bird calls, the babbling of the brook with an occasional splash as a rainbow trout leaps out of the water have so drawn you in that pain and discomfort you have come to accept as normal are gone!  Now your thighs relax, your knees (oh and how they have ached).  even the calves of your legs, your ankles, your toes.  You wiggle your toes in that soft grass, loving the feel of it against your bare feet.  Keeping your eyes closed you stretch out your arms and feel nature rejuvenate your spirit.  You never want to leave this heavenly place.

Something is nearby, not threatening, not dangerous, just there.  You slowly open your eyes and see the most beautiful blue sky you have ever seen;  you turn your head and there, there is a deer!  You lay quietly but she does not seem afraid.  The both of you are at peace and she moves closer, closer yet.  Her nose bumps your head and you feel a thrill as she languidly investigates your hair, your face, and then moves a few steps over to drink from that cool, clean water.  You lie there never ever wanting to leave.  This, this is your place beside still waters.  This is the peace you have always sought.  This is the gift of submission to Jesus.

What I described is my special place, I get to visit there so seldom because I am so busy doing things my way rather than God’s way.  Oh what fools we are!

Do you want that special place?  Determine to submit.  Make Psalm 19 your matra.  Memorize it, tape it to your refrigerator, your bathroom mirror, your door.  Pray it, drop to your knees and pray it, remember it.  Submission is not a bad thing, not when it comes to Jesus Christ.  Practice it, let Him bless you.

Not it is up to you …

1-2 Job, you challenged Almighty God;
    will you give up now, or will you answer?

A Lesson in Forgiveness

Katy Curry©

Those boys!  Her foot pressed ever harder on the accelerator while her brow furrowed in anger and frustration.  Tears ran down her cheeks while her mouth was set in a firm grimace.  How could they?  She had worked so hard to make everything perfect!  The leg of lamb, garlic smashed potatoes, asparagus garden salad would have been perfect.  They were her favorite dish; dessert was homemade lemon meringue pie; perfectly browned.    She set the table as beautifully as her mother had taught her and planned everything for a quick and easy clean-up so she could enjoy the day with her family.    It was to have been, should have been HER DAY!  Mother’s Day!

She stood on the brakes and pulled off the road as she realized her rage could make a bad situation worse.  “Get ahold of yourself, Kathy.” She scolded, and then allowed herself to collapse into the steering wheel in a cascade of tears.

She was furious, scared, angry, disappointed, horrified, and hurt and so much more all at once.  She did not know how to react first.  Her son, her youngest, got himself arrested Saturday night.  ARRESTED!  Thrown in jail on a marijuana charge!  His brother had come over to tell his parents.

She and Frank had been sitting in the living room, watching their favorite Saturday night show when their older son had burst in and sat down on the couch, clearly upset.

“Mom, Dad, I have to tell you something.”  JR started.

“What’s wrong, Bud?” Dad sat up straight in his recliner.  “What’s happened?”

“It’s Jackson.  Jack has a problem.    Well, more than a problem, um, he’s in trouble.”  J.R. managed to get out.

He had Mom’s full attention.  “What is the matter with Jackson?  Is he hurt?”

“No, Mom, he’s, he’s, Jackson was arrested and is in jail!   But if we go down we can bail him out, I called and checked.  We can make it all right.  He had a roach, oh sorry, marijuana…”

“I know what a ‘roach’ is, J.R.” Mom said tersely.  “I thought he was at work.”

“Well, yeah, he was, he was delivering a pizza and lit one for the drive, but then he ran a red light and got pulled over,”   Frank explained.  “We just need to pay his bail, and he can get out.  His bond is six hundred dollars so we can bail him out for sixty dollars and get him home!”

She had sat there in disbelief.  Drugs.  Jail. Bond.

Mom reached out her hand as only she could.  “Give me the phone.”  She commanded.  She dialed the non-emergency number for the sheriff’s department and asked for the jail, gave the man her son’s name and asked if he was there.

“Yes ma’am, “responded a bored jailer.  “If you come down to the jail you can bail him out….”

She cut the jailer off, “Can you give him a message for me?  Can you tell him to enjoy his night and he can figure out how to get home because no one will come?  He buttered his bread, and now he can sleep in it.  It is his mess.”  Her voice was tight the fury barely under control.

“Yes Ma’am, I’ll be happy to give him the message!”

She thanked the jailer, got off the phone and pointed at J.R.  “Don’t you dare bail him out!  He can figure his way home, do you hear me?”

“Now, Babe, don’t you think that is a bit harsh?” Frank, Sr. suggested.  “After all, it’s not like he robbed a bank or killed someone.  J.R. and I can go down to the jail in the morning…..”

“I’m going to bed.” She said and walked out of the room, took her shower, her sleeping pill and climbed into bed in a fury of motion.  She had suspected both sons were smoking pot, and it angered and terrified her.  She said one simple prayer that in its own strange way would be answered the next day.  “God, get me through this!”

Mother’s Day dawned, she got up, went to church, left through the back door so no one would have the chance to talk to her, ask where Jackson was, wish her Happy Mother’s Day.  At home, she went through the motions of preparing the Mother’s Day meal, but her heart was no longer in it.  About noon, J.R. walked in and behind him was an exhausted and chastened Jackson with a bouquet of flowers.

“Now Mom, I didn’t bail him out, he was released on his own recognizance.  I just couldn’t leave him to out there; the jail is in the middle of nowhere.  Look, he has flowers for you; you know how you love flowers.”

Mom looked over at Jackson; ice and pain were in her eyes.  “I don’t want those.  I don’t care what you do with them. “

Jackson reacted as if his mom had struck him.  Never had he expected this type of response from his mother.  She was always the one who had fought for him in high school, always the one who spent the extra time to get him to do the homework he tried to hide from her; she had championed him from his earliest memories.   She had always seemed to understand.  Other kids had wanted a Mom like he had.  He got his answer quickly.

“How could you?  Everything I have done for you and you repay me with, with this?  Arrested?  Drugs?  You were brought up in the church!  You were taught right from wrong!  Now you do this?  Get out of my sight!”  Mom was sobbing.

Jackson tripped over a chair as he backed up, struck a second time by the physical blow of her words.  “Mom, I’m sorry,” was all he could say.

Almost hysterical, she grabbed her keys, stormed out of the house, jumped into the car, and taken off.  We join her as she drove maniacally into an undeveloped area where she knew she would not have to watch for people or dogs.

As she sat, sobbing into her steering wheel, beating it with her fist there was a knock on her window.  She looked up, and a sheriff’s deputy parked behind her, light’s flashing.  Oh great, they always show up when you don’t need them.  She wiped her face with her hands and lowered the window.  “Am I doing something wrong, Officer?” she asked.  She had pulled over in a deserted area, so she knew she was not disturbing anyone.

“No ma’am.”  He answered carefully.  “May I see your driver’s license and registration?”

“Oh sure, sure,” she answered; wishing she had not quit smoking as now would be a very good time for a cigarette.

He studied them for a moment and made some notes, then handed them back.  “We got a call from a very concerned family about you, ma’am.  I am glad I found you in one piece.  I need to call this in that you are okay.  Can your family come out and talk to you?  They are pretty upset.”

“THEY are upset?  THEY!”

“Your son told me about what he did.  You know, he isn’t the first kid to get into trouble.  As bad as you feel right now, I can guarantee you he is in worse shape.”

“Oh yeah, I bet.” She answered, bitterly.

“Jackson said you go to church, over at Freedom, right?  My wife and I just started going there.  Good Pastor.”

“Yes, I go to Freedom.  Not that it did my family any good.  What did I do wrong?  What didn’t I do right?”

“You were fine, I am sure.  Kids are kids, Kathy; may I call you Kathy?”

“Sure, that’s my name.” she answered with a ghost of a smile.

“I don’t want to preach, I’m a cop, not a preacher, but something that struck me was something that Jesus said.  He said in Matthew that we should forgive those who sin against us seventy times seven times.  I think that means every time.   What do you think, Kathy?  Did Jackson sin against God or you? “

“Well, both…..”

“You are right there, but his sin against God is between him, and God and his sin against the State of Florida is between him and the State of Florida, right?  So that leaves just him and you.”

Kathy had no words; she just stared at the deputy wondering at the wisdom he had shared.

“Now I don’t mean to overstep here, but my guess is you have had to say you were sorry a few times.  Now your son wants to tell you in the worst way how sorry he is.  Jesus said seventy times seven….  Looks to me like you have a pretty simple decision to make, whether or not to show him, Jesus.”

Kathy stared at the officer as the truth entered her heart.  It was true.  Jesus had already forgiven Jackson.  She knew she had to, not only because of Jesus teaching but because of her love of all of her family.  She needed to forgive all of them as badly as they; especially Jackson needed to hear her forgive him.

Kathy looked over at the Sheriff’s Deputy; “Deputy  … D’Angelo?  Are you a deputy sheriff or an angel here from God?  I want to thank you.  You helped me to realize something I needed to remember.  Thank  you, and God Bless you.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Deputy D’Angelo smiled.  “Now I really have to go, seems there’s a problem that needs handling.  You be safe now.”  He climbed into his patrol car, turned around, and well, where did he go?  Kathy shook her head, wondered if she had just had a conversation with an angel, there was no trace a police car had ever been there.

Kathy put her car in gear, turned around, and drove home.  She walked in the door and Frank Sr. and Jr. and Jackson looked up at her.

“Mom…” Jackson started.  That “Mom” hand stopped him.

“I need to say something to all of you.  I let this get out of perspective and punished all of you for Jackson’s mistake.  Dear, I should have let you finish what you were trying to tell me last night, but I was too angry.  J.R., you did the right thing by getting your brother when he was released this morning.  Jackson, thank you for bringing me flowers, it was very thoughtful.  I know you never meant to spoil Mother’s Day, I know you made a bad choice that you will have to deal with.   I am sorry I was so harsh to you, and I need to ask that you forgive me, that all of you forgive me for behaving so badly.”

Jackson was up and had his mother in a bear hug.  “I am so sorry Mom, so sorry, forgive you?  Please forgive me, I was so stupid….”

J.R. was there to giving his lop-sided grin.  “It’s okay Mom, no harm done.”

Frank Sr. sighed with relief.  “Jackson, where are those flowers you got for your mother, let’s get them in some water.  J.R.; let’s get the water on for the asparagus.  I don’t know about the rest of you but I am hungry!”

“Oh, one other thing, I was surprised the police were out looking for me, I didn’t think they did stuff like that.”  Mom commented.

The three men looked at each other confused.

“Babe, we never called the police, why would you think we did?” Frank asked.

“J.R., you know the deputies around here,” Mom said.  “Do you know of Deputy D’Angelo?”

“Uh, no, or he’s new, but there is no D’Angelo that I know of,” J.R. answered.  “Why?”

Mom smiled, she remembered that angry statement she had made as an excuse for her evening prayer.  “My prayer last night was answered in an unusual way.  Now let’s get this meal going so I can love on my family.  Where are Joe and Irene?  Jackson, will you say blessing today with a special thank you for blessings received?”

Jackson gave his huge smile and gave Mom another hug.

The doorbell rang, and Joe, Mom’s eldest son, and his wife, Irene were there.

“Come in!  You’re just in time for dinner!” Frank said as they came in.  “We have had quite a time here.”

“Talk later, food now!”  Jackson said.

Everyone sat down, Jackson prayed, and Mom watched her family and realized what a perfect day it was, because of God’s answer to prayer.

CLOSING THOUGHTS:

Part of this story is autobiographical.  Jackson (not his real name) continued to have problems with drugs and ‘graduated’ into cocaine.  I only wish I had had that angel when “Jackson” was arrested for possession of under 20 grams of pot and possession of paraphernalia.  The next ten years were to be the most challenging and frustrating Frank and I had ever faced as we struggled to get our son out of the drug scene. 

The following year, on Mother’s Day Eve, sheriff’s deputies showed up at the house to arrest Jackson on a violation of probation from that original drug charge.  I asked them if they knew what Sunday was.  They had forgotten and were somewhat sheepish as they confessed they had forgotten to get cards and flowers for their own moms and wives.  I asked if I guaranteed Jackson would be waiting for them Monday morning, would they let me have him for Mother’s Day.  They agreed.  Jackson was taken into custody that Monday morning.  He called me at work to tell me they were there.  I warned him to be cooperative; his voice shook with nerves and shame.  That will be another story.

 What I can tell you is this.  Love your children where they are.  Don’t sugar coat, don’t try to protect them from consequences of their actions, but don’t turn them out.  Tough love is not kicking them to the curb.  Tough love is loving them through earned consequences and being there to try to provide guidance, reassurance, and most importantly, unconditional love.  They need you, more than you know and more than they will admit.  It was love that brought Jackson back.  Love from God and from his family who never gave up on him. 

Verses referred to:

Matthew 18:21-23 (NIV)

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Hebrews 13:1-3 (NIV)

13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.