Category: Forgiveness


shamrock-wallpaper-for-pc_1152x864_7735331“The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.   Every summer, as another chapter comes to a close on a school year, I can often look back at a particular moment, when something happens that tugs at my heart.  It’s a moment when I think to myself “Yeah…that’s why I’m glad to be a teacher.” Most of the time, it’s something a child has said or a picture that they have drawn for me. The previous year, that moment came on graduation day, and it involved five students. For graduation, students were allowed to dress up for the special occasion. The little girls came into the classroom looking like little princesses in their fancy dresses with little bows and ribbons adorning their hair. Some of the boys came in looking very handsome and suave, wearing a suit and tie, and others wore a very stylish shirt and nice pants. They were all so excited that their parents would be coming to see them sing and receive their certificates that afternoon; all, that is, except one little girl and four little boys. They came wearing their same old school uniforms. I called their parents during a break to remind them about the program, but the numbers were either disconnected, not in service or unanswered.

After the ceremony was finished, several parents wanted a picture of their child with the teacher, so I spent a few minutes posing for photos. After several minutes, one of the five came up and very excitedly said “My turn!” and stood next to me and put his arm around me. When no one responded or lifted their camera up, he said “Come on! Someone take a picture!” Gently, I had to tell him that they were only taking pictures of their own children. It broke my heart to see the disappointed look on his face. He said “My parents didn’t come.” and went back to sit down and wait with the other four children. After everyone had left, and it was just the remaining five kids and myself, we went back to the classroom and I did my best to celebrate the kids and take a group picture of them holding their certificates. We ate cookies, I let them pick out  whatever sticker they wanted, and then it was time to go. They seemed content as they left, and I was so grateful to have the opportunity to be there for them, but I knew that none of it could take the place of having their mom and dad there.

Every year, there are those one or two students in class that are very shy and keep to themselves. They sometimes come in with their clothes unwashed, or their hair uncombed. Their parents don’t come to the special events when invited. For whatever reason, their parents don’t seem to take or have the time to nurture them and show them how special they are. These kids are usually very quiet, and try not to attract attention to themselves.  They are, unfortunately, either ignored or picked on by the other kids.  It is these very children that keep me going as a teacher.  I could relate to these children on so many levels.  I was in sixth grade when I was singled out, made fun of and bullied in class by several students.   I was very shy, and every time someone called my name, I would blush a bright red color.  I also was a straight A student, so that was another strike against me.  No matter what I did or how I tried to fit in, I was teased mercilessly.  There were some difficult situations going on at home, so I never mentioned anything to my parents.  I continued to do my school work and even allowed some students to copy off me, so that they would maybe like me.  Of course, it didn’t work, and on the last day of school, a group of girls decided they wanted to beat me up after school.    I tried to ignore their taunting, but in the last half hour of the day, I broke out in tears.  The girls then felt bad and apologized.   I was very relieved and grateful the next year, when I was placed with a whole different mix of kids and made good friendships that year.  It brought a lot of healing.

In today’s culture, there is a criteria  set that people must meet in order to be considered valuable and successful.  People are judged on what they do, how they look, and how they handle themselves in social settings.  Women are judged on their appearance and what they wear.  More and more, there is a lot of emphasis on performance and competitiveness.  There is a time and a place for a healthy dose of these things in certain events; however, never ever should performance be a tool to measure a person’s worth and value.  Unfortunately, it is very rampant in our society.   Our educational system is set up in a way in which national tests determine which of our students are the best and brightest.  Those that don’t score well risk being labeled as low performers or “not as good” as their peers.  With tests now being given in Early Childhood Education, the competition and labeling is beginning before children even have a chance to develop their thinking skills.  In this data driven environment we now live in, they are burdened with working harder and studying more instead of exploring and discovering the world about them through play.  People are challenged to do as much as possible in a small amount of time.   Faster is considered better, which leads to more careless mistakes, less creativity, and lower quality overall.  There is a standard that is set by the world and those that don’t fit in or conform to that standard, are cast away or ostracized by society.  If one cannot produce something the world considers important and necessary, they are considered useless and throw-aways.   Pregnant women who discover that their unborn baby has a defect are strongly encouraged, if not down-right pressured to end the pregnancy.  Our senior citizens, whose health and strength begin to fail or slow down, are sometimes placed and abandoned in nursing homes.   It doesn’t matter that they have a wealth of wisdom, history or insight to share, they are left and forgotten.  It becomes a type of “survival of the fittest”.  The strong set the standard and the weak get left behind.  It would seem hopeless to live in a world so harsh and cold, but thankfully, we don’t.  There is a God of love, mercy and grace who sets the ultimate standard.  His standard is the only one that matters.

We can catch a glimpse of the nature and character of God towards those the world deems unworthy and rejects through a story in the Old Testament.    One of my favorite stories in the Bible is when David sought out and showed kindness to  Mephibosheth.  Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, David’s best friend.  Even though Jonathan’s father, King Saul, grew jealous and sought to kill David, nothing could diminish the close bond that David and Jonathan shared .   David had been forced to be on the run, living in caves and hiding from Saul, but he and Jonathan’s friendship remained rock solid through it all.  When Jonathan died in battle against the Philistines, David grieved heavily for the loss of his dear friend.    Sometime later after David had become King, he asked “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness to for Jonathan’s sake?”  (2 Samuel 9:1).  Mephibosheth was brought in from where he lived and stood before David.  David spoke kindly to him and restored all the land that belonged to Saul.  Not only that, but he told him that he would always eat at his table, giving him high honor before everyone.  Now, Mephibosheth had grown up with two big strikes against him.  Mephibosheth lost his father, Jonathan, at the tender age of five.  The role of a father is so important, especially to a young son.  He had no father to turn to model what a true man is, no father from which to receive love, advice and guidance through life.   If that wasn’t hard enough, Mephibosheth was crippled in both feet.  His self abasement was clearly evident when he answered David with “What is your servant that you should notice a dead dog like me?”  It did not matter to David, he was the son of Jonathan and that superseded anything else.  It’s much like you and I, and every soul created by God, He loves us all and invites all of us to come to Him and receive our inheritance, our favor and our blessing from Him.  That invitation comes by believing in His Son, Jesus – His death on the cross and His resurrection.

The story of Mephibosheth resonates with the deep compassion of what God’s standard is.   His standard is that every human being is created in His image for a divine purpose.  He has a plan for each and every life that comes into existence.  He places gifts and talents along with different strengths and weaknesses in each and everyone of us.  He never looks at the outside appearance, but looks at the heart.   Nothing can separate the love of God from His children.  He promises that His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.  His heart reaches out to the lost, the hurting.  He cares for the widows, orphans and the alienated. He is closest to those who are broken hearted and crushed in Spirit.  When Jesus walked on this earth, His ministry was for those who were sick.  He healed the lame, the blind, the deaf, the mute.  He made lepers whole again.  He reached out to those that were socially unacceptable.  Wherever He went, those He touched were made whole and healed of all afflictions and infirmities.  He sees those that feel invisible, and He walks with them.

We need to value the lives of others and see them through God’s eyes.  We need to defend those who are weak, speak for those with no voice, and seek justice for those who have been wronged.   Jesus said  in Matthew 25:40 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”   Our prayer should be that God would gives us eyes to see the invisible, that we may reach out to them.  We as believers can overcome evil with good, and show kindness and compassion to others, no matter what the circumstances are, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  We have God dwelling on the inside of us, and God is love.

If you are one that feels invisible, know that the Creator of the universe sees you, and He cares about every concern you have.  Things may not make sense now, but a day is coming when they will.  If you haven’t invited Jesus into your heart or made peace with God, please pray this prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, I confess that I’m a sinner.  I repent of my sins and ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You sent Your Son, Jesus to die on the cross in my place to pay for my sins, and that He rose again from the dead.  I invite You, Jesus, into my heart and ask that You would wash me and cleanse me in Your blood.  I thank You for Your love and mercy.  I make You my Lord and Savior.  Amen.

We have the victory in Jesus!  Be blessed, everyone!

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Have you ever read something over and over and suddenly something astonishingly new jumps out and grabs you?  I’ve had that experience recently and it’s one of the most amazing, mind-blowing facts about the love and goodness of Jesus that I’ve ever tried to wrap my mind around…and it all has to do with a pair of dirty feet and a well-known, infamous disciple named Judas. A couple of weeks ago, while I was on Spring Break, I was reading John chapter 13 where Jesus showed “the full extent of His love” to the disciples”.  Another translation says that “he loved them to the last”.  This was John’s account of the last supper, the Passover Meal, that Jesus would share with His disciples.  It would be His last moments of personal time before the crucifixion with the twelve men that had left everything to follow Him.  Knowing what He had to go through Himself, He knew that His disciples would be shaken, confused, and for a short time, the bottom of their world would fall from beneath their feet.  He knew that these very men, would also be the ones to build the foundation of the Church on Him, the chief cornerstone, with the help of the Holy Spirit who they would meet in a little over forty days. 

The way Jesus showed His love, and taught them one of the greatest lessons on serving and humility, was through washing His disciples’ feet.  Since people wore sandals on their feet, and they didn’t have the nicely paved  streets and sidewalks that we enjoy today, the dusty roads made their feet really dirty, grimy and, as I hear kids at school say, nasty.  The commentary in my Bible states that washing feet was a menial task, normally performed by a servant, upon arrival.  At this particular time, there was no servant and no one else had volunteered which is when Jesus took action.  We know that He did this as an example for us to humble ourselves and serve one another.  This is always an excellent lesson to keep in mind and apply to our lives, most assuredly. However, there was another lesson inside this lesson that jumped out  and amazed me even more and that is found in verse 11 where it says that Jesus knew who was going to betray Him, and that would be Judas Iscariot.

Wow! Imagine that!  Jesus, the Son of God, the King of Heaven and the Lord of lords, washed the feet of Judas Iscariot knowing already that he was going to betray Him in just a few hours.  Don’t know why I never caught that before, but that thought just floored me.  I mean persecution from an enemy who doesn’t know or understand you is one thing, but betrayal by a friend, someone you love and have included in your life, is a whole different ballgame.  He didn’t wash everyone else’s feet and say to Judas “Dude, I know what you’re up to! You don’t deserve this! Go wash your own feet!” He didn’t give him an attitude, treat him coldly or heap condemnation on him.  No, Jesus showed him the full extent of His love, just like on the cross, He showed the full extent of His love for us. He knew that Judas’ actions were necessary to carry out God’s plan and fulfill scripture. Judas’ betrayal could still not separate him from the love of God.

It’s so hard in today’s culture to grasp how awesome the love, grace and mercy of God really is.  He set the example for how to respond to differences and adversities that seem to bombard us more and more these days.  When the world says “Kick that person that offends you to the curb!”, “Don’t give that “so and so” another thought!” and to “put that person in their place!”, Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us  (Matthew 5:44): and to bless those who curse you (Luke 6:28).  If you try to give a gentle answer to turn away wrath, you get looked at very strangely by others.  Jesus purpose was never to try to reconcile us with the world, but to reconcile us with the Father.  God is love.  The message of the cross is the forgiveness and atonement for sin.  So why the added illustration of Jesus washing Judas Iscariot’s feet?  I believe it has a two-fold purpose.  It’s Jesus’ way of saying “I know it hurts to be betrayed and the pain is overwhelming, but I’ve been there and not only can you find it in yourself to forgive, but you can find it in you to serve and do good to those who betray you.” The second purpose I believe is for those who once were close to God, but fell away.  They believe, “I’ve done too much wrong in this life, I’ve disappointed Him so much, there’s no way He could ever accept me back”.  Jesus proves through the washing of Judas Iscariot’s feet, that His love and mercy are greater, than even the worst betrayal. Go to Him today, He’s waiting for you with loving arms wide open.

May you all have a blessed and peace-filled Resurrection Day!