The Word of God

Carrying the Cross of Powerlessness

woman talking on smart phone sitting on park bench

We don’t often receive desperate pleas in our office for help except when it comes to frantic questions about the number of English or Spanish Bibles that someone quite nervously is wondering why they haven’t arrived and who might have stolen them and why they are not there as we promised, etc. However, all that changed last week. Have you ever heard the premise that God places us right where He wants us, at the right time, for the right reason? Well, if not, I intend to make a believer of you today.

It had been a good day with a mix of obvious blessings and typical discouraging occurrences that are part of one’s daily life. While I was not watching the clock, I knew it was getting close to that time for me to get into my car, drive home and maybe even drive a few golf balls down the fairway along the way. That is about the moment the call came which was to plunge me into the dusking hours, too late for working on my swing, too early to get some dinner but right on the money to learn something valuable.

“Do you have a few minutes, sir?”
“Sure. Go ahead. Let me pull your file.”
“Well, it’s not about that.”
“Well, then, what is it about?”
“They lied about me.”

Goodness. I don’t mean to be melodramatic here, but it was as if my heart stopped for a second, not out of fright or panic, but out of one of those moments where in a single nanosecond your whole body tenses a bit as if to compress the last twenty-five years of your life into a single moment to realize that you know exactly what someone is talking about. And then you listen. The scenario was all too familiar. In order to get what they wanted, someone lied to the boss and placed my caller into an unfavorably unflattering and even suspicious light. To make matters worse, as if that were possible at this point, the alleged perjurer was a relative of the CEO, and I mean, close relation and thus it was becoming complicated and emotionally draining for my unexpected visitor who felt as if she had no power to confront the culprit and thought that the only path open to her was to accept the bad light cast upon her, cooperate with whatever request was being made and then begin counting the days before she was to look for another job. She was, however, overwhelmingly tempted to take this matter into her own hands, defend herself to the boss, complain bitterly about the shameless behavior of that man, and wreak havoc on the other employees, half of which were egging her on while the remaining were begging her not to make trouble. She was caught in what many would have described as a no-win situation, but I immediately disagreed with that assessment.

For the next hour or so, we both arrived at some wonderful and effective alternatives to unjust things that happen to us every day. We may not be powerless after all. The following is our list.

Calm Down
The appearance of powerlessness almost always creates a ripe breeding ground for anger. We can’t do anything about a certain situation so we turn to the only things we have control over which are our emotions. Anger is a volatile and perhaps the most destructive of all the vices. Unbridled, it can destroy us.

Discover Your Own Real Motivations
Why do we want justice? Is it really revenge? Justice is a virtue; revenge is perversion of justice.

Consider the Source
Who lied about us? Who has besmirched our reputation? Whenever we hear praise or harsh criticism, we must first consider its source. What someone says about us is never more important than the one who said it.

Weigh Carefully the Consequences
This is where prudence rallies into our discussion. Will I bring more attention to myself and my own emotional spasm?

Remember Jesus waited three days after His brutal murder to set things straight. Waiting and watching are deep spiritual exercises that separate us from the beasts of this world. My Italian friends put it best when they say, “Let God handle the need for revenge. He is much better at it.”

The sun had long said goodbye when it was time for me to do the same to our sentimental and heart-hurt friend who by this time was hardly any of those things. It was, all in all, a very good afternoon and a worthy conclusion to a complicated yet fruitful week. I did none of what I had planned to do, never made it to any of my destinations, yet did everything I was supposed to do, and was exactly where I was supposed to be. A few days later, a simple card arrived to my office. I knew who sent it and I knew she was in a much better place on her journey. The message on it was so profound that I posted it on my refrigerator to see it often, and now I share it with you.

When you pray, God listens. When you listen, God talks. When you believe, God works.

I am reminded of the scripture in the book of Romans, Chapter 4, verses 20-25.

“Brothers and sisters: Abraham did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief; rather, he was empowered by faith and gave glory to God and was fully convinced that what God had promised he was also able to do. That is why it was credited to him as righteousness. But it was not for him alone that it was written that it was credited to him; it was also for us, to whom it will be credited, who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over for our transgressions and was raised for our justification.”

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In Case Of Emergency

Christmas is coming and the geese aren’t the only ones getting fat. Even as Thanksgiving is still a few days away, my family and I have already begun exchanging food preparation ideas, old and new recipes, special prayers to invoke before we dive in, and of course, the names of those who are going to clean up everything once we have done our significant damage. To that end, I am always looking for books and materials at estate and garage sales, libraries and yes, even half-priced booksellers for older books that chronicle how exciting, fun and memorable these family days used to be and how they can be again if we set our minds to it. This year, I found a gem entitled, It’s a Wonderful Christmas: The Best of the Holidays 1940-1965,” which has provided so many neat concepts that I am sure it will provide suggestions for the next couple of years. But it also contained a remarkable surprise. On the back cover there was an envelope taped securely and clearly marked, “Open Only in Case of Emergency.” I don’t know about you but my curiosity was eating me alive and after I realized that I would never know the previous owner or the circumstances surrounding this strange note with cryptic instructions, I decided to declare the moment an emergency and opened the envelope. I thought there may be some money in there. No, but there was something much more valuable. Here is the text intact:

“I don’t know if you will have to open this next week, next year or even 20 years from now. I am not even sure if you will be the one who finally reads this. But if you are reading this, it means that something terrible or monumental has happened. I am thinking that it may be because someone you love very much has died, or something involving your health or the health of a loved one, or your work, career or some tragic disappointment or unforeseen catastrophe has occurred that has brought you to think if only for a minute that your life is somehow over. It may mean that I have died because it couldn’t have been you that went to Heaven since you’re reading this! (example of disarming humor. Hope it worked.)

Whatever the reason, I want you to remember a few things:

1. This too shall Pass. During the first 20 years of your life of which I was a primary witness, this proved to be true over and over again. I truly believe it will be again.

2. Whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. We both know what we’ve both have been through the worst years of your life. By now you should be so strong that you could bench press an F-350.

3. When much is given a man, much is expected. Expect great things from yourself, from those whom you have assembled around you, and most importantly from Jesus. He has never left you. Never will. Especially now.

4. If you’ve hit rock bottom, remember this: IT IS ROCK. It is solid, firm and you can and will rebuild part of your life or your entire life. You have done this before and you can do this again.

5. Even and especially if the news today is about a terminal illness, you still must recover from the impact, ask to be anointed and Prepare either for a different kind of life here or the much better one promised to you.

Okay, Son, that’s it. I have lifted you to Jesus ahead of time for this particular moment, so wherever I am today, my prayers are already here with you. This life has been an amazing journey and we have been richly blessed. I can’t wait to see you again.”

I was stunned. My thoughts mingled with my imagination to try to figure this out. Obviously, it was from a father to his son. But why did he not receive it? Why was this book discarded? Did the two have a fight? Did the son die before his father? After a couple of weeks it occurred to me that at least one of the reasons that this letter was in my hands was so that I could share it with you and attempt to fathom its meaning as it applies to our life.

I immediately prayed for both father and son wherever they would be today. Then I wrote a similar letter to the ones closest to me and placed them in Bibles with similar instructions and thanked God for having found this treasure. In one dictionary, the definition of an emergency was rendered as a sudden, urgent, usually unexpected occurrence or occasion requiring immediate action. Well, obviously it was an emergency and action was taken. I wonder how many emergencies we miss every day?

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The Legend of the Panda

Panda bear on bamboo

A Tibetan legend of the panda states that many, many years ago, when these bears lived in the Himalayas, they were completely white in color. They must have resembled polar bears more than any other creature at that time and they were very playful. They lived, as it were, in a type of wintery-Eden of seemingly pure innocence and peace. They were also friends with a certain shepherdess who would watch over the flocks and fields and seemed to be a type of protective yet, maternal figure for the cubs. And just like in the Garden of Eden, there was present in this snowy playground, mortal danger always lurking nearby.  It was the angry leopard, ravenous and envious of the sweet laughter and love of these child-like and guiltless souls. Late one afternoon, as the sun began to drop behind the majestic snow-capped mountains, the shepherdess began to herd all the bears home after a long day when she spotted a cub playing near the brush covering the base of the mountain. Suddenly, without warning, the leopard seized upon his wicked moment, leapt out in front of his young prey with only one deadly intention.  The shepherdess ran with all her might toward them both and threw herself in front of the cub and, after a mighty struggle, remained lifeless and silent upon the earth which stood hard as iron. She was simply no match for the vicious claws and fangs of the evil predator and its barbarous intentions and died protecting innocence upon the frozen ground. The horrific sounds of the battle mixed with the cries of the panda cub echoed throughout the valley and brought the remaining den of bears quickly to the scene. They arrived utterly stunned in disbelief at the sight of such carnage and butchery, the pristine snow-covered ground now drenched in layers of bright red casualty.

The next day they gathered for the funeral of the brave girl who risked everything to save one of their own. With broken hearts and tear-soaked faces they approached the place of burial where, as was their custom, they would gather and throw black ashes upon the neatly shrouded body as it was made ready for its final resting ground. But it was too much for them. One after the other, they could not contain their cries of pain and anguish. With ashes still in their paws, they wiped their eyes, held each other tightly, arm upon arm, and then held their ears shut so as to block the sounds of their grieving pain while they sat miserably in the remaining heaps of the dark, cold cinders. The once ivory-white fur of these pandas was now blackened like the night as their guardian and friend was laid to rest.

To this day, it is said, that those markings have remained to remind all of nature and all of humanity of that certain bravery and love until death, and to say, “Thank You.”

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