Sunday, May 26, 2013

Eternal Love

I recently had the incredible opportunity to visit the island of Maui on vacation with my five sisters. To say it was beautiful, exciting and fun would be an understatement. I'm ok with flying and a little timid when it comes to trying new things, especially things that have any element of risk or potential bodily harm, chuckle, but on this trip, it seemed like to swim with sea turtles or splash around under a waterfall was just the island way. My sister Cathy told me when we flew in the view of the island would be like seeing heaven. Well, it was clouded over and heaven was obscured, and it was raining, which we were told never happens (more like misting-there was water in the air but not drops). But later in the day, the rain treated us to this view of a rainbow over the terrace of our resort. We actually saw at least three rainbows that day and many more as the trip unfolded.

I could not help thinking, amidst the beauty and grace of nature that was displayed in so many forms over the course of the week, that my sister was right. We only have small glimpses in this world of what heaven may be like, but the more the world is viewed from the perspective of its creation by a loving and benevolent heavenly Father, the more grace-filled and lovely it is. His face seems imprinted on everything we touch. He gives a sin sick world His promises daily, His bow in the sky, His approving and consistent sun, the seasons, the bounty of growth and new life, new opportunity and new experiences every day. There are perhaps times when we understand it more, and I felt so often on this trip that simply to joy in everything I saw was heaven's kiss.

It is all too easy to see only black clouds and rain drops in life. But if we would only look up, there is a bow of colorful promise for us courtesy of the King of Heaven.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Face of Forgiveness

I've done some house cleaning and redecorating to my blog. I feel it is important for me to keep writing, so I want to stay current. The new blog picture is a photograph of a collage covered by a stained glass template-I'm experimenting with new art techniques. Well, the techniques aren't new, but the way they are combined is. It is entitled "The Lady with the Perfume Bottle". It is inspired by the Bible story found in all four gospels, about a woman who comes to Jesus and pours a very expensive bottle of perfume over His head, after which she wipes his feet clean with her hair and tears. I've had the privilege this past week of meeting some very special ladies. I am facilitating a group of family members of spouses/children/parents who have struggled with addiction. It isn't the first 12 step group I've been in charge of...there was another group years ago, female inmates, with a host of issues and relational problems.

One of those inmates came to mind to me today as I have been praying and thinking about how to impart some wisdom and courage to those ladies I share with currently. Her nickname was Jazz. Jazz was a really pretty, petite Hispanic young woman. She had huge brown eyes and full lips accentuated with a very nasty scar. There was something about Jazz that made her unforgettable. She had a tender vulnerability but also a core of steel,enough to cause her to insist that a guard who easily outweighed her by 100 pounds and towered a head and a half over her, bring her to group after the call had been given and she missed it. I will never forget the sight of her coming into the room when we were all assembled. It just wasn't done. After a few times in group, I found out that she was pregnant by her much older drug dealer boyfriend, who had Jazz do his dirty work and then basically serve the time he never would. She was an addict by choice. But the price tag of someone else's cruelty was the loss of her baby. The weight of such harsh consequences bore down on her tiny body and fragile soul.

The women I am journeying with now have deep scars from similar cruelty. Their consequences are a jail sentence of the mind and emotions, undeserved and borne in a daily struggle to maintain sanity and balance. For some the prison sentence has been years, carried out since childhood. I saw what prison did to a person like Jazz. It was frustrating beyond belief to go in for an hour, try to impart words of life that might make a difference, and have to go, knowing there was nothing else I could do. I heard in the sermon this morning that even when forgiveness is given, consequences remain-and those consequences for people caught up in situations not necessarily of their making, can be devastating.

What is the answer to this? The woman who came to Jesus came with everything she had left-no one knows how she afforded the perfume, only that according to the men in the room, she was an "immoral" woman. No name given, only a description. And she was out of options and answers. Sheer desperation must have driven her to an act that might have merited stoning. She touched a rabbi. Jesus' response to her was to rebuke the hard-hearted men who would have had her driven out, and offer her forgiveness from the only person who could really give it, because He could take her consequences on a cross of wood for all time. It is the only forgiveness that wipes all consequences clean, a love great enough to free us from any prison.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Well, it has been a long time since I have posted and a lot of proverbial water over the bridge. It is my hope to post weekly from here to eternity, or as best I can manage that. I suppose a spiritual awakening of sorts finally happened for me...I decided I simply had to get back to church, and so did the research (opened the phone book, scanned whatever looked good and said, ok, here). Sort of. I did open the yellow pages and found the name Gideon Gaitano, a pastor I was familiar with. Last I knew the church he pastored, New Life Community Church, was in Dallas, PA, but I was willing to make the travel. I did the online thing to get directions, and found out they purchased a Catholic Church building, St. Casimirs, about 10 minutes up the road from me. I went, it was great, I'm back. I'm also back at Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12 step program. I am facilitating a step group for family members affected by substance abuse, ala Al-Anon, but Christ centered. I can tell it is going to be an amazing journey and my posts from here on out will often be directed to that audience, or at least what I am gracious God is to provide the support we need when we need and least deserve it.