#*&!

I don’t cuss much. My kids have never heard me use foul language, and at work everyone associates me as being the guy who doesn’t swear. Now, that wasn’t always the case. There was a time my mouth was extremely foul and immature. Yet even today I am not pure of tongue. In my heart and mind I cuss quite often – and yes even the “F-word”

  • My team is getting ready to kick a game winning chip shot field goal, but it sails wide right…..F#*&!
  • I go to the store, get everything for the cookout – except I forgot the steaks…..F#*&!
  • Hammer, hammer, hammer (hits thumb)…..F#*&!
  • In a rush to get somewhere. Get stuck in traffic……F#*&!
Again, the word may not leave my lips, but my heart is yelling it loud.
Right now, as I type this, I want to yell F#*&!. I received word last night that a buddy of mine from church, just a couple years younger than me is down to hours before entering the Kingdom. Mike had a liver transplant 3 years go due to cancer. A husband, and father to two young kids, Mike was launched into a battle with cancer. Just a few months prior, I had lost a kidney to cancer. Mine turned out to be a non-event. Except for a slower metabolism and more sensitive to the cold, I never had any physical side effects.
As Super Hero Russell once said regarding a challenge in his personal life, he was now a member of a club he didn’t ask to be part of. When you become part of a club or group you typically seek membership. For Mike and I we were now part of the “Young Husbands/Dads With Cancer” club – and we sure as hell didn’t ask to be part of this group.
I was recently watching a Ken Burns documentary on cancer. There was a woman who was interviewed that survived breast cancer in the 90s. She said “Once you have cancer you’re never the same.” She is 100% correct. Even if it turns out to be a mere speed bump in your life, cancer is an uninvited guest to the banquet of your life and you are forever impacted. I recognized this within weeks after my surgery. I knew I would either embrace the fact that my life was forever changed, or try and put up a front that I was unaffected by the event and come off as a tough guy. I embraced the change and have had no problems announcing it to others. Although I would add that it is shocking how many people don’t really care that physically I am fine, but internally I am still searching in the dark.
Mike meanwhile had a fight on his hands. He would come to church with a mask over his mouth. Updates would appear on Facebook that he was doing great, then a few days later he was having a bad day. It was during this time that I contacted Mike. Since we were “club members” I thought it would be fitting for he and I to get to know one another.
Over the next couple years Mike and I would often contact each other, but we never became good friends. At best I was a buddy. But because I too had dealt with cancer, there was an underlying bond that he and I had.
2015 was not a good year for Mike. I guess it wasn’t a great year for me either. But his health was consistently down. In the fall he had a tragic event at home, when his right femur essentially burst in half. It ended up being a compound facture that had Mike in the hospital for several weeks. While he was there I would walk down to visit him during my lunch break once a week. Hospitals don’t bother me. My pastor says I have “nonanxious presence” an extension of incarnational ministry. Incarnational ministry is where you (in the body, thus incarnation) bring the love of Christ to people. Nonanxious because I don’t get nervous around those who are hurting. Per my last posting, I guess I get that from my mom. I basically am unaware of the world around me when spending time with people who are hurting.
Mike’s pain was more than just physical. It was existential. He hurt. His whole being was hurt. In our culture of competition and measuring up to everyone else, men aren’t allowed to hurt. But Mike was hurting.
Since his release to go home in December, I would text him every week to see how he was doing. Occasionally I would add a text of “I am proud of you.” I did that very thing this week. And each week I would ask “You care if I swing by for a quick visit this week.” But each week he found himself not doing well and not up for visitors. Always apologizing.
Yesterday my wife texted me to say that on Facebook she saw where he had taken a sudden and fast turn for the worse. This was news to me! I had just received a text from him on Monday! I verified it. Mike was rushed to the hospital Wednesday because of jaundice. He was turning yellow because his liver was failing. At the hospital he went from merely checking on his liver to a furious fight to simply stay alive. Last night one of our pastor’s sent out a note to say that Mike was being moved to a nearby hospice house. In the pastor’s words “The Lord had a banquet ready for Mike to attend” (paraphrase)
So this morning I went to visit him. The pastor and Mike’s two kids were in a small waiting area. I sat with them for about 30 minutes, that is when Mike’s wife came out and sat with us. She said he was resting but I could go in. I know today is going to be a very, very draining day for him. I anticipate others will come by throughout the day. I wanted to make sure it was OK for me to have my own personal time instead of waiting to go in with a group. His wife encouraged me to go
When I sat down I waited to yell F#*&!. Mike was weak and indeed the banquet is being prepared. He opened his eyes and for 20 minutes or so I had Mike to myself. Occasionally the nurse would interrupt us but otherwise it was he and I. Two members of the same club. I held his hand. I left the other for Christ to hold.
I didn’t succumb to the desire to crack jokes and try to alleviate the angst in the room. I wanted him to say what was on his mind. Making jokes is more about the other person trying to avoid the hurt. I didn’t want to avoid it. “Bring it Mike. Tell me how this is BS. Tell me what is on your mind”
He was excited and yet scared. Me, I was sad. Then after the last nurse interruption, in a very clear voice (his voice is very weak from the last 48 hours), he turned to me and with the most sincere eyes said “I wish we could’ve become better friends. Why did it take cancer to bring us together?” I nodded and said “Well, I guess we will just have to continue this friendship another day.” I went on to say that his fight has not been in vain. Men in our church have been touched and inspired by his battle. He is a man worth admiring.
He said he was bothered he would not be able to attend his kids soccer games. In a twist that I had never given thought, I recalled that after his death Jesus didn’t merely raise from the dead, but he was in attendance with people. I thought of Jesus on the beach sharing the meal of fish just after his resurrection (Luke 24). In that quick moment I didn’t see a straight-faced Jesus boring everyone with theological talks – I saw a Jesus on the beach, a fire made from some driftwood, sharing a meal – and laughing.
To avoid clichéd statements like “Oh you will look down from heaven….” I shot straight and told Mike that he would be present for all those games, for graduation and for all that is good. I wasn’t sure on all the details and wasn’t about to give a pie-in-the-sky promise – but because of the resurrection he too would see all that is good.
Not wanting to overstay my welcome, I pulled the words out of my chest I didn’t want to say “Mike, I am going to head out of here.” He cried, and I fought it back. I looked at him one last time and said “Mike, you enjoy the feast the Lord has prepared for you. But do me one favor – leave some food for me.” I stood up and he said “I will, I promise” And with that I left the room
F#*&!
I stopped by the waiting area again and said my goodbyes to his wife and kids. I will probably see them again in a couple days.
That could’ve easily been me. My cancer was contained, Mike’s wasn’t. That is the difference. I suspect in the next few days Mike will be ushered into the Kingdom. His questions will be answered, his pain removed. I will still be here dealing with questions and new pains.
As for Jesus, all I could think about this morning was a line from Tom T. Hall’s “God Came Through Bellville, GA” – All Power To Him and Praise His Holy Name.
Tom T Hall “God Came Through Bellville, GA”

Beauty

There is a lot of buzz this week over the court case involving Erin Andrews and the hidden cameras in her hotel room a few years ago. Erin is a sideline reporter for various sports networks. A few years ago while covering college games in Columbus and Nashville a guy (with insider information to where her room was) planted hidden cameras in the peephole of her door and captured naked videos of her.

Erin is by all accounts a good looking woman. Tall, blonde and knows football….the perfect trifecta!

The events were being discussed here at work and someone mentioned how she is one of the “hottest” women he can think of. This (in typical guy fashion) developed into a “who is the most beautiful woman you can think of”.

Who hasn’t had one of these kinds of conversations? My favorite one of these types of talks happened about 4 years ago at an event at church. An older widow was leading an event for area homeless. I was up there with my daughter helping out when somehow we got on the subject of best looking Hollywood men. She is in her 60s, so we discussed men from 20+ years ago. I mentioned Paul Newman, then Marlon Brando – of course all got thumbs up.

But then I mentioned Robert Redford, and she made a one-liner I will never forget. She said “Oh my….Robert Redford can eat crackers in my bed any night!”

Nothing can top that one!

Back to my original topic. I wasn’t in the conversation the guys were having but I was in earshot. Maybe it is because my heart is in communion with Lord’s, but I didn’t go straight to physical beauty – I went for biblical beauty. Now, the bible doesn’t for a moment deny outward beauty. The bible quickly points out flowing hair, tanned skin, curves – God knows that physical beauty can’t be denied. But it doesn’t stop there. In fact biblically speaking physical beauty is only a speed bump, a mere pull off on the side of life’s highway

It is inward beauty (male and female) that Scripture repeatedly says is worthy of praise. Let’s face it, some people are just genetically gifted and are thus – beautiful! But for most of us, we are at best average. Nothing great, nothing abnormal.

But inner beauty isn’t given. It is developed through choices of the will. Things like patience, sacrifice, honor, longsuffering, compassion, esteem and encouragement are cultivated by choice. But it is these things that Scripture always points to as beautiful and worthy for our pursuit.

So while my teammates ogled over this blonde and that singer, I got to thinking “Who in my life has exemplified TRUE beauty.”

Answer: my mom.

However, it was in a way that Jean Vanier (Catholic Philanthropist and creator of L’Arche – 142 communities worldwide focused on loving and giving dignity to the mentally disabled) discusses beauty

My mom began working with the mentally handicapped fall of 1980. This was at the edge of a time when the mentally handicapped were often institutionalized. Words like “retarded” or “looney bin” were tossed around with common language. She was employed at a school that specialized with the mentally handicapped. This was not simple learning disabilities. These were kids with great pain in their lives. These were the people Jesus talks about in the Beatitudes. These were the poor and meek.

The pain was real that my mom experienced as well. She has been to more funerals for students than many of us have been to total. There have been times that I reflected on the challenges she and the rest of the staff had – and when I occasionally feel sorry for myself and complain how hard my week has been (which usually means the internet wasn’t working correctly) I feel quickly humbled. I don’t know what a tough week is.

The children my mom worked with were those that society feels sorry for. “Poor pitiful thing”. Not my mom. She gave them dignity! We all know what dignity is like. Like Jesus my mom would touch those who society didn’t want to touch. The Gospels are filled with Jesus’ being intimately personal. Jesus touched, Jesus wept, Jesus ate, Jesus taught, Jesus was in the boat, Jesus forgave, Jesus with children, Jesus healed. Jesus didn’t love from a distance. He was in the midst of the individual. He was at the well, he was at the pool of Bethsaida, he was in the home, he was in the synagogue. Born in a dirty manger, and lived his life getting dirty with broken people.

That was my mom. She got down and dirty with people. Feeding, helping use the restroom, cleaning breathing tubes, cleaning vomit, cleaning tears, wiping up spills, fixing hair, telling them “It’s OK. Don’t worry about it.” My mom, like Jesus, saw these students and sacred and beautiful. She saw through the exterior into the heart of each student. That is what biblical beauty does. The eyes of the beholder don’t stop at skin, eyes, hair – but penetrate into the heart and soul and sees that all people have beauty in them. That the true person is on the inside.

In the mid-80s my mom became a nanny for two girls with cerebral palsy. The girls were sisters and 10 years apart in age. It is one thing to love the mentally handicap in a school. After all, you are protected from society by the walls of the school building. But that wasn’t the case with these two girls. My mom would take these ladies to restaurants, to the park, shopping, friends’ houses, festivals, concerts – there were no limits.

Snow, 100 degree weather, rain, wind – didn’t matter. She got those girls out for decades.

Many summer days while school was out, I would join my mom. I recall back then, as a teenager, admiring her utmost love and affection to these girls. It was a love that ANY child would long for, and these weren’t even her girls!

The greatest challenge for our society when it came to these two ladies was dining. Because of CP, eating was a challenge. The mechanics from using utensils, drinking through a straw, and swallowing were each a hurdle for them. Of course there was a mess! And I would see grown adults (the powerful of our society) at nearby tables, struggle, struggle to feel safe. The roles were reversed: the weak were actually the strong, and the supposed strong were all of a sudden shown to be weak.

Regardless of the world around them, my mom would joyfully tend to the girls and then take care of herself last. Fast food or a nice restaurant – the routine was the same. And all the while, my mom gave them the attention that says “I love you”. Only the beautiful can leave your presence and make you feel loved or important.

Jean Vanier says that to love someone requires you to understand them. This seems obvious, but have you ever stopped to think about it? How many of us understand the world of the mentally/physically disabled? My mom does. She understands their fears and angst. She knows what makes them feel strong, and what makes them feel….well…..different.

What may have been so beautiful about my mom was her ability to receive love from the handicapped. As a culture we are more apt to humor them, or laugh at their acts of silliness (which can actually be nothing more than a cry for acceptance), pat them on the head and so on. Because we see ourselves as those having power, it can be difficult to receive this love. The love of the mentally disabled is a pure love. It is not structured on performance or conditions. It is raw and honest, and this can make the strong of this world uncomfortable – after all much of the world is built on a fat lie, a façade. I would see these girls reach up and yearn for a hug from my mom and she would authentically receive it. That is beauty! Such love is hard to look at given the kind of silly, artificial love we see on TV or in print.

Those who are strong feel a need to prove it. There is a hidden need to validate myself in front of others which naturally leads to oppressing others (Vanier). The handicap can’t do that. The only weapon they have is their heart. THEY ARE THE OPPRESSED! Yet they joyfully give their heart, but the world struggles to receive it. My mom didn’t.

One of the girls went to the Lord a few years ago. My mom continues to work with the other every week. This has been an ongoing relationship of love for three decades.

The bible says that God looks upon the heart – this is the center of our personality. My mom, spent her whole life reaching into the hearts of the mentally disabled and giving them joy and dignity. Good luck finding someone more beautiful

Refusing To Join The Party

 

I recently read a book that I couldn’t put down. We have all been there. For whatever reason a book lands in our hands, we begin reading, and simply can’t part from it. The book was loaned to me by Roger, it was Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son. Henri was inspired to write about it after being transformed by Rembrandt’s painting of the same title. The story of the Prodigal Son is taken from the 15th chapter of Luke’s gospel. He is the only gospel writer to document this profound story. The 15th story is a string of 3 parables, all similar in nature (something being lost, then found) and each increasing in value. The first being the lost sheep, then the lost coin, then the Prodigal (lost) son. Regardless of whether or not you are a believer, chances are good you know the overview of the story.

Younger son goes to his father and says I want my inheritance now (in short, “I wish you were dead”). The father goes ahead and gives it to him. The younger son leaves home and for years lives lavishly until he is completely broken: spiritually, physically, socially and financially. After some mental jockeying he decides to swallow his pride and return home. He is immediately greeted by a joy-filled father who immediately calls for the son to shed his rags and put on clothes worthy of a prince and for everyone (this was wealthy family) to prepare for a huge celebration that night. Sometime that evening the elder son returns from a day of work and sees all the commotion. He inquires of one of the servants as to what is going on. He is told that his younger brother has returned home and the father is throwing a huge party. Everyone is happy…..except the elder son. The father after a period of time sees that someone is missing from the party – his oldest boy – and he goes outside to find him. When he does find him he invites the eldest son into the celebration, but his son refuses. Instead he basically unloads on his dad:

“But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’” Luke 15:28-30

I have heard plenty of sermons and teachings on this story, but for some reason Nouwen’s close examination of the elder son was convicting.

“This son of your…” the elder son was so heated, so angry that he wouldn’t reference the younger son as his brother. He didn’t see him worthy of a title. This level of disgust didn’t happen that evening, it was something stewing for years. But what is maybe hidden, is the level of disgust he has been harboring against his dad for years. “Yet you never gave me even a young goat….” The elder son has been quietly keeping score against the father as well as his brother. In his mind dad was guilty of playing favorites.

What do we know about the elder brother? Well, he was in many ways a classic first child. Overachiever, loyal to the family, sensitive to image, walks the straight and narrow, disciplined and so on. Life was all about tasks and being dutiful. But, his response to the father seems to indicate his loyalty and obedience was actually a burden. A burden he didn’t want or like. I would guess that deep down the elder son was jealous of the youngest. Maybe he wishes he had the courage to leave home and sew his wild oats. What was it like to eat, drink and be merry? He would never know because his obedient to obedience.

Was it possible that the elder son was just as lost, even though he had stayed home? The younger son’s “lostness” is obvious. He lived lavishly and literally was lost! But the elder son kept his lostness internal but was equally distant from the father. How many hours had he spent in the fields allowing his inner-lawyer to tell him how innocent he was? How the father was probably missing his younger brother more than he wanted to be around him? How many hours did his spend in pity-filled jealousy of his younger brother? Not hoping he was safe and would return home someday – but that he was missing out on all the sensual fun.

Nouwen states “The more we analyze a problem (chew on it), the more reason we find to complain.” I say “AMEN!” to that.

The elder son had to be a miserable person to live with. He hated his brother, filled with resentment towards his father. The lostness of the elder son was deeply rooted in his soul. And the heart cannot contain both joy and resentment. Resentment will always win out. That is why the Lord says to settle a dispute with your brother before attempting to worship, and to avoid going to bed angry. Resentment is a powerful, powerful force.

What is unfortunate about resentment, is that if you point out I am resentful towards someone, I will probably get resentful at you, and get more resentful at them! It is the perfect snare.  No tree in this world has a root system like resentment. And we seem to make sure that the trees of resentment are constantly watered and fed.

Healing must come from the outside. And healing begins with a broken but honest view of self. It is a painful move that begins by going into the heart and saying “There it is. This is why you are so sad.” No excuse finding, no blaming, just living up to the fact your heart is in need of healing.

Amazingly the father doesn’t meet the elder son’s words with scorn. He doesn’t slap him, he doesn’t say “Oh shut up and get inside.” The father probably hurts for his boy. He understands and sympathizes with his pain. What good would shaming do? What good would forcing him to suck it up and “act like a man” do? All he says is:

  “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

 The father has no favorites. Understanding the sensitivity of the moment he doesn’t try to build a defense on how great a dad he is. All he wants is for the son to join the party – but the elder son refuses.

The Prodigal Son is a great story, until you realize that you’ve spent much of your life as the Elder Son. I am in a process of learning just how sensitive the human heart is. It is frighteningly fragile. It retains hurts, wounds, negativity, loss, defeat, failure with such precision. And we try so hard to make other think we are OK. The elder son did this through disciple and loyalty. Externals. But internally he was a broken boy. The world doesn’t make it safe to say “I am hurt, will you love me still?”

We don’t know what happens with the rest of the story. Does the elder son go in? Do the brothers heal their relationship? Does the younger son leave again to pursue the world of pleasure? The bible doesn’t say.

Rembrandt shows the elder son joining the party. But he stands in fierce judgment. He is on the right hand side with a  clear separation from the father and younger son. Straight and erect, just like his life. Rembrandt also adds a stick in his hand. Probably representing someone with discipline and punishment in their mind.

What is also striking is how Rembrandt showed their age. As the elder son, he was probably not much more than maybe 10 years older than the younger. If that much. But Rembrandt shows the elder show much older. Could it be that a sour, resent filled heart can age you more than hard living and decadence? A hard life on the inside is more stress to a person than a hard life on the outside?

I suppose I have spent a lot of my life as the Elder Son. Though I am an only child. Harboring anger, and jealousy. It weighs on you, and I guess indirectly it ends up weighing on others. When I begin to talk about how someone else has it better, or how I have been slighted, when everyone is seen as a competitor, or how I was a victim, lamenting about the past, or how great I am yet I am not noticed – all I am doing is being the Elder Son. Low self-esteem is not a virtue

Maybe someday I will be like the Father. A person who understands that relationships are messy. That as I make myself available to the world that I am going to get hurt (often by those closest to me). Like the father I hope to be loving, forgiving, able to celebrate, patient, longsuffering, humble and welcoming.

We have a choice to listen to the father (God) and come to the party or stay resentful like the Elder Son

FG

It is Super Bowl week. And I live in the market of one of the two teams. Unfortunately though I am not excited. Not one bit. If anything I am rooting for Peyton Manning to go out a champion. He has been a great ambassador for the game, and for him to win his last game (Super Bowl 50 no less) and to announce retirement in the post-game interviews would be great.

Football fans know that “FG” stands for field goal. Those pesky 3 point attempts that essentially say “We are not good enough to score a touchdown, so we will settle for 3 points instead.” I have often made the comment that field goals lose games.

But for this blog “FG” represents forgiveness and grace. Two items that are not the lessor of two options (like a field goal) but something even greater than a touchdown. As for me, I am horrible at both. In fact, I am miserably horrible at both. If the New Testament is right (and of course it is) that forgiveness and grace are signs of Christian maturity, then I am a mere embryo, I am not even out of the womb yet. This June will mark my 15th year of being a servant of Christ. I have a lot of head knowledge, I have served on the board of a Christian ministry, I faithfully served Christ in many capacities, I have lead small groups, I have lead children’s Sunday school, I have lead mission trips, I have read the bible front to back several times, I have debated and won, I have knocked on doors, I have fed the poor, I have tithed, I have brought my children up in the ways of Christ, I have read COUNTLESS books, I have lead people to the Lord, I have a solid prayer life, I live (by all accounts) a solid moral life, I am known by my co-workers as a follower of Christ……but I fail at forgiveness and grace.

It wasn’t until the past few years that I realized just how impotent I was in these areas. I thought I had forgiven people for past hurts – in fact I was positive. But the older I got, and the more I realized the symptoms of an unforgiving heart, the more I realized just how unforgiving I was. I first recognized it in other people. I have never been a big fan of gossip – just a waste of time in my opinion. But I recognized this was a sign of someone unforgiving. Passive-aggressive behavior, browbeating, never letting an issue go, intentionally withholding good (or its twin sister, intentionally doing evil) were all signs I saw in other people of unforgiveness. It was like a neon sign across their forehead. But I was ignorant of my own guilt.

As for grace….oh my I have been horrifically bad. And no, I am not exaggerating, I have been flat out bad at this! I must admit a bit of frustration with God for not addressing this a decade ago. However, for all the good on my resume, I have been a man with little grace. I get an “F” in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). Grace is at the core of Christ’s redemptive message. Even the skeptic of Christ will admit the beauty and strangeness of grace. It is utterly nonhuman.

The beginning of becoming a person of grace is first recognizing your absolute need of it from God. That your relationship with God through Christ is rooted in grace alone, not merit. You never earn it – yet you never fumble it away. Grace isn’t acting like bad things don’t exist, and it certainly isn’t simply sweeping things under the rug. Grace is a constant desire to see a person become who Christ desires them to be. It is a humble reminder of how broken I am, and outpouring the same patience God gives me in my moments of weakness, and to in turn give that kind of love and patience back to others. It is all about putting other’s well-being ahead of my own. Other’s status, accomplishments, desires, time, and needs ahead of mine. It is all the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) into action….24 hours a day.

My life has been filled with score keeping. Especially in the areas of how people have wronged me. My ability to recall in great detail a moment of being let down by someone is frighteningly accurate and vivid. My “inner lawyer” (that voice in your head that is always telling you how you’re being mistreated, and to be careful, and remember how this person treated you that one day….) is phenomenal. My inner lawyer could’ve been on OJ’s defense team. He can argue my position and build a case in two minutes. Really he deserves a raise. Only problem is he hasn’t had an hour off in 35 years. My inability to be a man of grace and forgiveness has kept him working every day I am alive. He is constantly reminding me of my hurts. He is in short constantly reminding me that I haven’t forgiven.

Last month I began seeing a Christian counselor. Some on the outside may think it is for marriage, but in reality it is to work on me. One other sin I have been guilty of is the sin of self-sufficiency. I have always been self-sufficient. I have always felt in my heart, no matter the challenge – “I will beat this.” Well, the issues of forgiveness and grace are two areas I can’t beat. Try as I may, I only get worse and worse. I think my getting worse and worse is God’s grace towards me. He essentially has to let me fail miserably before a U-turn is made.

Later today is my third session with the counselor. Part of me is humiliated. My self-sufficiency says that “asking for help is a weakness”. But part of me is extremely proud, because it takes a lot of courage to go to counseling. I am also a very private person (nothing sinful here) and I know how folks love to gossip and make assumptions, so I am sure I am part of the occasional group discussion.

As the Christian message often is – there are a lot of paradoxes going on. While I am at my lowest (since cancer) I am at the same time experiencing Christ in a fresh new way. I haven’t been this “alive in Christ” in years. While on one hand I am exhausted, on the other I am full of energy. While part of me sees Satan working through people I would’ve never guessed, I also see Christ working through people I would’ve never guessed. While part of me wants to crawl in a hole, part of me wants to dance in the streets. While part of me is uncomfortable with the rest of 2016, part of me hasn’t been so excited to live life.

Because forgiveness and grace are heart issues, the road to victory is going to be long and full of peril. I am frustrated when a Christian message gives a one, two, three formula to dealing with heart issues. BS! And the opportunities to quit will be plenty. Quit and run back to what I am used too. Those things I am used too are what Jesus called idols.

I shudder at all the people I never forgave. Our world isn’t one to forgive, we simply move onto what appears to be something better. People are like socks (whether family, friends or lovers), if you don’t like it, get a new one. And trust me, the world is full of people that will encourage you to do what is easiest. Very, very few people (including Christians) will encourage you to take the long, hard road, which is primarily not looking at the person who has wronged you, but taking a strong look at yourself.

Last week I told my counselor that I was fearful of what Satan had up his sleeve. His comment “That’s nothing, you should also be fearful of what God has up his sleeve as well.”

Well said.