Dealing With a Barbarian

I have someone in my life who just rubs me the wrong way. This person annoys me, provokes me easily, and angers me. My reasons are valid, but my reactions are not.

I’ve allowed them to have far too much control over my negative emotions. 

They are an annoyance to my joy, they cause me anxiety, and I find it hard to shake the aggravation that spills over into other compartments of my life.

They are a barbarian…

…at least I think that’s what Paul says.


I started a new Romans study, and Paul smacked me right in the face in the first chapter. The book of Romans has a way of doing that. I’ve experienced it before, and last night won’t be the last time, I’m sure, since I’m only one day into this study.

Paul kicks off chapter 1 introducing himself, and then in verse 5, he reminds us of our role in the opportunity of the Christian life:

“…we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of the faith for the sake of his name…”

Paul is talking about himself and about those with whom he served. But how can we learn from him? How can we frame our life with the reason for his words?

We, too, have received grace for a reason. Yep. We’ve already been offered salvation, and we’re sealed into His saving grace through accepting the free gift Jesus has offered. But the grace Paul is speaking of here is probably an additional gift…the gift of being able to share faith with others.

Keep reading and you see that the gift of grace is being able to be someone who “…brings about the obedience of the faith…” Part of our purpose is to do that, and the best way to do so is through our own example…through our own life and the way we live.

Keep reading through the first chapter and you get to verse 14. Paul tells us about his obligations in the faith:

“I am obligated both to Greeks and barbarians, both to the wise and the foolish.”


Fabulous. Paul was obligated to that. As a follower of Christ, am I obligated to the same? Paul knew his role and appointment was to go and spread the good news of the Gospel, especially to those who weren’t Jewish.

But the barbarians, too? Yep.

I couldn’t help but pause to think over how these two passages stood out to me. Perhaps a part of my own purpose is to be an example to others…to show them a kind of faith that brings obedience to God’s leading…perhaps even to the barbarian in my life.

just a thought.

 


 

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Finding Hope in Milestone Memories

A friend of mine recently crossed through a milestone moment—the anniversary of the death of her husband.

There’s no shirking the emotions that milestones like this bring about. Three years into her life change is nothing to gloss over, nothing to forget, nothing to celebrate…

…but there has been…

The lost days, the altered plans and the shattered dreams are beginning to yield to the blooming opportunities, new days and optimism she’s finding as she steps out of the losses and toward her new hopes. She’s grown, she’s gotten stronger, and she’s marking her milestone memories with plans for an unknown-yet-hope-filled future. That’s something to celebrate, even if the milestone moment and losses are not.

We all have these milestone moments. All of us. They are those days on the calendar or in our heart that cause us to withdraw and just think. They are our “would’a, should’a, could’a” moments that will always be a part of us.

But it’s what we do with them that counts toward our joy and our internal peace.

When we are walking through them knowing that the hard losses can still help us find our way to a future of something bigger…well, it’s then that our milestone moments are worked for good.

 


 

Finding Hope in the Grace of a Prison Visitation

I’ve written before about how someone I care deeply about is locked behind the walls and the concertina wire of prison. (You can read about that here)

While visiting with him this weekend, grace tapped on my shoulder.


At this facility, visitation (after the stringent security search, the full-body pat down, and the K-9 sniff test for the visitors, and the complete strip search for the inmate) means hugs and kisses upon arrival and departure, and it means cherishing the opportunity to sit in the presence of your loved ones (it’s worth every bit of inconvenience). There were aging parents visiting their sons, tired moms with toddlers visiting their children’s’ father, a teenaged boy laughing with his dad while playing a smack-down game of UNO, and a young momma who had brought her newborn to visit with his daddy.

The people in the room were here for different reasons. They were there to share a few hours with loved ones, trying to maintain relationships, trying to imagine the future together, or working out life’s inside-outside and outside-in differences.

Prison is hard.

It’s hard for the inmate, and it’s hard for the family of that inmate. You may have heard otherwise about prison, but, unless you have experienced it personally or lived the life that comes with loving someone on the inside, you have absolutely no idea…


Yesterday, in that prison visitation room, grace tapped on my shoulder.

As a woman was readying to leave the visitation room at the end of her visit, she approached my chair from behind and tapped me on the shoulder. She was with a man and two boys who appeared to be middle schoolers. Visitors are allowed to speak with other visitors; inmates are allowed to speak with other inmates. Visitors, however, are not supposed to speak with inmates, other than the one they are visiting, and inmates are not supposed to speak with visitors, other than those visiting them.

She tapped me on my shoulder and “whispered” loud enough for the others at my table to hear:

“He was my [doctor] for many years.
He helped me so much.
He changed my son’s life.
My son was plagued with ear infections
until we brought him there, and with all
he taught us and showed us, my son, who is now 11,
only ever had one ear infection after that.
He was such a good [doctor].”

The man I was visiting used to be a doctor. He’ll always be one, but he just doesn’t hold any licenses to practice anymore. The likelihood of him ever being able to practice again is very slim. It was his passion, and it was a part of his purpose for a long season of his life.

With the comments from this woman, his face grew white, and his entire mood changed. I saw regrets, sorrow, embarrassment and devastation in his eyes.

I took a deep breath, and so did he. I asked him if he remembered her. He was flustered and didn’t want to answer. He couldn’t remember her name, but he eventually did say that he did remember her.

I asked him if he was ok.
He said he was, but his demeanor didn’t affirm this.

“You know,” I said, “that was so kind of her to stop and say what she said. She could have just ignored us from across the room and never said a thing as she was leaving. She took a moment to come over to let you know how you have impacted her life. What a gracious thing for her to do.”

He nodded in agreement, as tears started to fill the corners of his eyes.

Grace. 

Unmerited favor;
Finding favor toward another;
Offering that which is often undeserved;
Love in action.

When I arrived home a few hours after my visit, the phone rang. The caller ID let me know that an inmate call was coming through the line.

He called to tell me he had just gotten back from church, and that instead of napping on his cot in the 90-degree, un-airconditioned cell block during the afternoon between our visit and church, he spent some time in prayer and reflection about this woman’s words to me following her tap on my shoulder.

He apologized to me, saying he “sucked thumb” and sulked for a while after we left, but he had come to the conclusion that he appreciated his former patient’s willingness to share the impact he had made in her life during his own past life and career. In his reflection time, he was able to remember the thousands of people he had helped over nearly 20 years of doctoring, and he was grateful for the people he had met along the way. He had decided that her words were going to serve as a positive reminder of his former season of life, rather than be a stinging reminder of what he didn’t have anymore.

And then he said it:
“She didn’t have to do that, but she did.
That was grace in action.”

Yes.
Yes, it was.
It was grace in action.
Grace brought on by a tap on the shoulder at a prison visitation.


 

 

Finding Hope in Expectant Hope

I have a friend who is fighting a tough battle with cancer, and today she has a new appointment with a new doctor in a new place for a new round of hope in her future.

I often don’t know what to say to someone else who is fighting a battle, but it’s just in my God-given nature (truly, not of my natural self) to pray that people never give up hope. So, I do.

Wondering hope leaves us wondering.
Expectant hope leaves us expecting.

There’s a huge difference between these kinds of hopes, and my prayer is that she can find even more expectant hope through her trial—more than she’s already had to muster up in all phases of this years-long journey.

“Expectant hope is powerful and never wasted.”

Those were some of the words I shared with her this morning as she reached out to her friends on social media before her appointment.


We’re all battling something. 

Maybe it’s cancer.
Maybe it’s abuse.
Maybe it’s racism.
Maybe it’s not being understood.
Maybe it’s legal trouble.
Maybe it’s prison.
Maybe it’s anger.
Maybe it’s pornography.
Maybe it’s bankruptcy.
Maybe it’s pride.
Maybe it’s worthiness.
Maybe it’s food.
Maybe it’s smoking.
Maybe it’s our boss.
Maybe it’s our wayward child.
Maybe it’s our church.
Maybe it’s shattered dreams.
Maybe it’s loneliness.
Maybe it’s fear.
Maybe it’s our past.
Maybe it’s self.

Wondering hope leaves us wondering.
Expectant hope leaves us expecting.

My encouragement to you today (and it’s a needed encouragement to my own self-talk, too), is to stop wondering and start expecting. Expectant hope is powerful and never wasted, especially when you stop hoping in the circumstance, and begin hoping in That which is greater than the circumstance.

 


 

Finding Hope in Hope

Welcome to June!

May was a magnificent month on so many levels. May brought sad endings, happy endings, fresh starts and new beginnings on my path throughout the month. Memories were made through milestone moments, love was shared and doors were opened.

May was also a tough month. Doors slammed closed on yet another round of hope, justice fell through a manipulative chasm, and loneliness ensued within a black hole of solitude.

June is here, and a new month is a new opportunity to mark a new round of optimism and hope… by choice, of course.

It is a choice.
It’s always a choice.

Within every given ending, start, beginning, milestone, anniversary, reminder, closed door, chasm
or black hole of circumstances, hope is a choice.

Do you hear that?
Hope… it’s a choice.

It’s a choice you have to make, and it’s a choice I have to make, too.

Don’t ever give up on it.
Don’t ever let the darkness overcome the light.
Don’t ever…

Choose hope.

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace
as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
~Romans 15:13 (NIV)


What is your hope for June?
What is the darkness needing to be overcome by the light?
I’d like to pray for you, and I’d certainly appreciate your prayers for me, too.