Father, forgive them…even the bullies

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

I have spent a number of weeks both at home and in my “day job,” trying to teach compassion and kindness. Encouraging children to not point out differences as if they are an abomination. But learning to love and accept the differences we all have.

Many times I have failed. Thinking the bigger bully. The one with the loudest voice wins. At times I have been deeply discouraged. Feeling as if my effort to teach kindness and love is falling on deaf ears.

I have not been immune to bullies myself. Yes even adults are bullied. Even kindness warriors are treated unkindly. And in our home we have experienced what happens when a friendship goes sour, and a young girl becomes a target.

So despite the hatred, we seek to infuse our world with kindness. A love for all. To demonstrate and model these in the hopes that it will create a more kind, and less cruel world.

Love and kindness are both the way of Jesus.

But, so is prayer for those who are anything but kind.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27

But Jesus took the call to prayer even further. He didn’t just pray for those who were outcasts, or deemed unacceptable by society; he lived among them. And he was criticized and questioned each time he stood up or dwelled among the least of these.

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law saw him eating with the sinners, they asked the disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.” Mark 2:15-17

And it is what we should do. Call the sinners. Spend time healing the sick. Many times we focus on the victims, as we should. But what if we did something different…and prayed for that bully? Or the person we don’t like? The person who is mean and rude to us day after day?

Jesus was clear when he called us to minister to the “least of these” in Matthew 25:40. He was clear that we are to feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Welcome the stranger. Stand up for the oppressed. Visit the prisoner. Love the unloveable.

Even the most unloveable bully.

This kind of love may make you an outcast. It may scare some folks who don’t embrace different. Praying for the bully is radically different. But we are called to be all these things. Because we are called to be like Jesus, and call the sinners.

So, next time you find yourself lamenting about the harsh words of another person. The actions of a bully. Or the cruel and hateful world. Speak the following in prayer instead:

Lord, I pray that you give them a new heart and put a new spirit in them. Lord remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

Remember to pray for the least of these. Encourage the least of these. Build up that bully. Sit amongst those who are not like you. Who may make you cringe, or hurt you. Because you may be the only one who is praying for them. The only one who is praying for their heart to be changed.

And because it’s what Jesus would have done: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” 

 

When loving others makes you “Crazy”

Ever been called crazy? Reckless? Dangerous? Ever wondered why others don’t fight the way you do? Think the way you do? Feel the same anger at the same injustices you do? Even look at the “others” with the same love you do? Ever had something really important you know had to be said, only to feel no one was listening?

I have. Many times. And many more times, I have found myself asking God: Why?

But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 1 Corinthian 2:14

Twice last week I heard this verse. Once in my quiet time with God, when I had asked him why He kept insisting I keep pursuing even though it was oh-so-hard, and again in a preaching class.

Yep. I must seem pretty crazy.

Or am I?

I spent a good amount of my weekend pondering why we so desperately long for love, yet are so unable to give it, express it, and show it, and knew then…His message is not all that outrageous. It just takes a lot of work. Work that is necessary. May cost something. May get us called a few names, and let’s be honest-work that some of us think not everyone deserves.

And, yes. Work that has deemed me crazy. Because it is what hurt the most, but it was also my greatest source of light. The only thing that kept me from moving out of a darkness that cast a shadow over a good part of a year.

Believe it or not. Love is in fact what often motivates us.

Francis Chan says this about love in his book, Crazy Love:

“When you are truly in love, you go to great lengths to be with the one you love. You’ll drive hours to be together, even if it’s only for a short while. You don’t mind staying up late to talk. Walking in the rain is romantic, not annoying. You’ll willingly spend a small fortune on the one you are crazy about. When you are apart from each other; it’s painful, even miserable. He or she is all you think about; you jump at any chance to be together.”

What if we had this kind of love for God? For others? What if we were so crazy in love with our Lord we kept Jesus’ greatest commandments?

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally as important” ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39

So, how do we love like crazy? Love Him. Love others. Recklessly and outrageously pursue love for those that are not like us, even if it costs us something.

First, we love God.

What does it mean to “love God?” It does mean to follow His commandments, to live life a certain way. To be of a certain noble character. But, it’s also more than that.

I have two signs in my kitchen. They are on my wall as soon as you come in our house. The kitchen door is on the side of our house, but for those who come by frequently, they know you come in through this door…because someone is ALWAYS in the kitchen. Anyway…the first sign reads: “GOD BLESS THIS HOME.”

The second is below the first and reads: “FAMILY IS THE HEART OF THE HOME.”

God first. Family second. Everything else after.

It’s why my kids know “quiet time,” may extend past the scheduled 30 minutes, because Mommy is talking to God.

It’s why when the youngest asks “Are you always going to be on your computer working this school year at night?” during a breakfast conversation, that you realize you need to shift priorities.

God first. Family second. Everything else after.

Loving God means He is the center of my life. My ability to make decisions is no longer based on what I want. And, to some that is crazy talk.

When questions like, “Are you sure you can handle that?” are met with, “No, but God knows I can.” People look at you funny. Because, the worldly expectation is that you are bound by your strength and abilities, not the power of Him in you.

When you make a career move because it is wise, and healthy, and the response is, “Are you sure you want to make that move, with them?” And you respond with, “I don’t have a choice, God decided for me.” People don’t know what to say. Because the worldly expectation is that decisions are based on pros and cons lists, not answered prayers.

When you are asked over and over again how you can allow people to spit hateful and abusive words at you over and over, and continue to smile and forgive, and you respond with, “Because God asked me to,” you get labeled the crazy one. Because who loves like that?

People who love God. Parents who want their kids to love God. God-loving people who want others to know just how much God is crazy in love with them.

Because, when we love God, we also reject this idea that we need to fit in and be accepted by the world. We measure our worth by His standards, by how He sees us, even if today we are broken. Even if today we make a huge mistake. Even if today our hair is a mess, or our dress is wrinkled.

We know in the words of an 11 year old girl that I am slowly finding may be wiser than me in all her sassy ways: Who cares, because Jesus sure does not! He says to come as you are!

When we begin to love God, we also begin to love all the messy parts of ourselves. Because we know. We believe He is crazy in love with us.

And, when He is crazy in love with us, He gives us this love to share. His second greatest commandment. To love your neighbor as yourself. One that can often be the hardest.

Why? Because it means we have to love those who hurt us. Those with whom we tend to disagree. And, yes…those we don’t like. We have to love the messy.

I learned this truth myself in a moment of self-righteousness over the summer. Yes, I have these moments. Until someone reminds me…usually my kids-as was this case, that I need to practice what I preach.

During a talk with them about their constant fighting, I shared something with them I had only mentioned in passing. It was the story of a Post-it note I had stuck in my Bible, and the particular prayer, I prayed each morning and night over that Post-it.

I think we are all familiar with 1 Corinthians 13, the “infamous” Love Chapter. And, I say infamous, because it is often read at many a wedding…it was read at both of mine. That is right…even at my first one. Which is why over the years, I have read over, and pondered the true meaning of this passage, and wondered if we truly understand what is being asked of us in terms of “love.”

I explained to Hayley and Hunter that I had read or seen somewhere that we can measure our ability to truly understand Paul’s description of “love,” and whether we are displaying it by reading the chapter and inserting our own names. So, I read it, and inserted theirs.

Hunter/Hayley is patient and kind. Hunter/Hayley is not rude, does not demand his or her own way, and is not irritable.

“Have you been these things to each other lately? To me?”

Then I shared with them the reason that Post-it was in my Bible. I had been transparent with my daughter about my struggles over my year of hurt, only because it was apparent many afternoons when I arrived home, that I was not in a good place. I value honesty and transparency, and not only do I value them where I work, I do at home, and in all areas of my life. She knew that “love” had not always been welcomed in every place God had me assigned.

So, I explained why I had the sticky notes on my office door. That it was part of a self-esteem assignment. I explained that they were all supposed to be gone. All spread to different parts of the school to spread random “feel good” messages. How one was still stuck to the door when I returned. One that said, “Always be Kind.” I told them I didn’t think it was left by chance. I told them how I rolled my eyes at God that day, but took the note down anyway, and placed it right there in my Bible, where Paul had defined love. Each morning and night, I inserted that individual’s name, the one written on that Post-it. Prayed that God would show what love was supposed to look like. That this person would know how much God loved them. And, I wanted my kids to know that, too.

That He loved them even if they messed up. And, even if in that particular moment they didn’t like each other very much.

And, then it came. That moment of truth. When my own need to insert my own name in that Love Chapter was revealed.

When Hayley looked at me and said: “So, if you pray for that one, do you pray for the other person involved? The one who hurt you? Do you insert that name, too?”

OUCH!

No. No, I hadn’t. I didn’t like them very much. I was glad God had delivered me from that. And, honestly. I was still hurting a little.

So, when Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, he isn’t talking about the people we like. He is talking about everyone. And later when he recounts the story of the Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), he also explains what a loving neighbor does. He shows mercy, or “compassion and forgiveness toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.”

See, showing mercy and praying over that sticky note was easy. Praying for those we are concerned for, for whom we care and love. That’s easy.

Loving those who hurt us. That stuff is hard. And it is downright crazy. But, that is the kind of love God calls us to.

And, that is where forgiveness comes in. Forgiveness is crazy love.

It looks kind of like this:

“But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21

Here is what we know about Joseph. He was loved by his father more than his brothers. He was even given a special gift-a beautiful robe from his father, and the ability to interpret dreams. Because of this his brothers grew jealous and resentful of this love. They sold him into slavery, where Joseph was wrongly accused of crimes against Potiphar’s wife, and remained in prison for several years under Pharoah’s watch. Now, he was eventually freed and became ruler of Egypt. But, he didn’t dwell on his past. He was made victorious, and when confronted with his brothers, he offered forgiveness, and promised to look after their children.

That’s some crazy love, right?

While she may not be the epitome of Christian decorum, I do love this statement from Beyonce:

“Love is an endless act of forgiveness. Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me. Forgiveness is the final act of love.”

Now, while I am called to pray for those who intended to harm me as Hayley reminded me, I am not so sure I could open my home to and promise to look after their children like Joseph. While, I have been called crazy in the name of love, I am not sure I could do that for some who have hurt me. Thankfully, forgiveness didn’t say I had to do that in order to love. I don’t have to set myself up to be harmed again. God provided me my way out of that. But, it does mean there may come a time, this person is the Jew on the side of the road, and I am the neighbor being asked to show mercy.

My call from God is to be the despised Samaritan, and to “go and do the same” as Jesus commanded in Luke 10:37. To do as I would want done to me. To reach out and help. Even if I feel like it is undeserved. Offering the love God so freely offered me.

A love that offered its final act of forgiveness. Its final act of love on a cross. For me. For you. Even for those who harmed us.

So, to recap…what is crazy love?

It’s loving God so much that we will go to great lengths to do what He asks even if it does not make sense. We want more than just a five minute devotional time with Him during the day. We want hours of quiet time with Him.

It is loving our neighbors so much that helping is not an obligation, not a nuisance, but an honor. We jump at the chance to feed the hungry, to help the needy, to lend a hand to the hurting.

It is loving without conditions. Forgiving others faults because your Savior forgave you. It’s allowing others to come to you each day as a new person, because “love keeps no record of wrongs.”

It’s crazy to some. It’s reckless to others. And it is always pursuing. Never giving up on its mission to go after the one. But, God’s love is worth it. It is always worth it. It is not something to keep to yourself. It is something to be shared.

So, go ahead. Be crazy. Crazy in Love with God. Crazy in Love with your neighbor. Offering forgiveness like crazy.

Because crazy love wins. It always wins.

Peace with everyone

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Do all that you can to live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

For years I have tried to determine the best way to read, reflect, and write what God has spoken to me as I sit with Him each day. There has been quite a learning curve along the way. Many a planner bought. Many a planner tossed. Until finally the system that works for me was born.

It involves reading a passage of Scripture, noting the particular verse that speaks to me, and writing down what He says to me.

I also then pencil in a verse of the day.

Sometimes I read the rest of the passage. Most days I don’t.

Until this particular day. Only because it had been the second time in two weeks I had been directed to this very one.

Live at peace with everyone.

Really, God…everyone?

When I picked this particular plan on peace. My hope was that God would reveal that “peace that surpasses all understanding” in some of the areas where I just didn’t have any. Where situations still remained a little chaotic, and there were still some weeds in my garden to tend to…some I wasn’t sure if they were even mine to “weed out.”

I wasn’t expecting this to be his first plea! I definitely wasn’t expecting it to show up again a few short weeks later.

So what does the rest of the passage say? How does God expect us to live in peace with everyone?

Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Romans 12:19-20, MSG

By doing. By loving. By buying my enemy lunch and a drink. Now, do I have to sit with them and eat? Not. Nothing says we have to be the best of friends. However, will there come a time this person needs to be shown compassion? Maybe. Who should they see? A bitter ole hag, still dragging around old baggage? Or a kind and loving Jesus?

Peace comes when we relinquish the need to harbor hate towards those who have plotted evil against us. When we can wish them well from “over there.” When we can move about our day, knowing that God will judge the integrity of those who lie and scheme. We don’t have to. It’s too much for us to bear.

We just have to do good. Even to those who hurt us. Even to those we don’t like.

Even to those who yes (human emotion, here)…we really do hope tumble for all the pain they have caused.

But, He will take care of that. We simply take care of doing good.

Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. Romans 12:21

Why I Am Struggling with That Bunny

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“So, tell me the one reason we celebrate Easter.” This is the question that I asked my class during the service at church on a recent Sunday morning. As the eager hands began to raise, I couldn’t help but wonder what answers were going to spill out of their mouths.

“To have Easter egg hunts!”

Try again….

“So we can eat lots of chocolate!”

Yes, but…

“The Easter Bunny comes!”

Oh, here we go…

I never told my kids about the Easter Bunny. As a pastor I struggle with how that whole idea plays into the true story of Easter. But, before you start to believe this post is all about passing judgement on how one chooses to celebrate Easter, let me be the first to recognize that-yes, I know we all have different views on this thing that hops around to drop chocolate in little baskets. And, we all want our kids to “just be kids….” However, personally…for me-I want mine to forget the whole bunny shebang!

The world taught my kids about the Easter Bunny.

The same world that tries so hard to take the focus off the real reason for celebrating Easter.

Christ.

That’s right. It ain’t about pretty dresses, and a bunny!

It’s about Christ.

Which is why this year, I am really struggling with that bunny. The one my kids expect to visit. To drop chocolate in their neatly placed baskets.

And, as I sit among the carefully selected items to add to an Easter basket that will still hopefully keep the focus on Christ…well, I am still struggling with that bunny.

See, the world has told our kids that as long as they are “good,” that this bunny will hop around in the wee hours of Easter morning and leave cute gifts, yummy treats, and cool toys in their baskets.

As long as they are “good.”

Yet, we have the cross. The cross that reminds us that even when we are not “good,” when we have been bad, when we have sinned…we are still forgiven.

And, when we think about the person of Jesus. The mockery. The beatings. His death. His innocence weighed against my sins. How does the world’s view of Easter even compare?

So, can you see why I may be struggling with this bunny?

“He isn’t here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” Matthew 28:6

I want my kids to be filled with that type of excitement. That type of anticipation. To be excited about the empty tomb. The promise of a risen Savior. Not by the promise of candy that awaits in a plastic egg. Not with the promises that if they are good, their baskets will be filled with goodies galore, but that even if they are not, that the empty tomb promises forgiveness, and a life filled with much more than a hollow chocolate bunny.

Don’t worry. I don’t plan on crushing my childrens’ Easter bunny dreams. Not this year anyway. Nor, am I making the case for you to do the same. (Again…different strokes, folks). But, we will focus on the reason for Easter. Not on egg hunts looking for chocolate. Or the new shoes to match our pretty new clothes.

But, on the bloodstained garments of an innocent man. One, who died so we could live.

We won’t focus on who got what in their basket, or on the Easter Bunny.

But, on the cross.

On Christ.

On a risen Savior.

The reason we have new life.

To the Mom Wondering Where She Went Wrong

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Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Dear Mom, I see you there. Weary. Worried. Wondering where you went wrong. I know you worry about judgment, condemnation, and the whispers that you must have done something wrong. There must be something you did for your child to turn out this way. It’s bad enough you define yourself as the mother of a deadbeat, a drug addict, a dealer, a thief, a murderer….but the world does, too.

And, I know you hang your head in shame. Wondering the same things the world does. Asking the same questions.

Where did I go wrong? What didn’t I do right? I was a bad mom. I wasn’t there enough. I worked too much. Drank too much. Thought about myself too much. Focused on the church too much. I neglected my son, my daughter. And, look where it got them.

How do I know this? Because I am the daughter of a mom who asks the same questions. The daughter of a mom who wonders how her son turned out so different than she expected. One who wonders where she went wrong.

I have listened to the cries of my mom as she shares how her heart bleeds each time she hears the comments about my brother. About her parenting. About her failings. And, yes…in some ways she did fail. And, you probably have, too. Guess what? So have I.

I have also sat in the visitation room with you as you play cards, share stories, and love on the son or daughter you want so desperately to be able to come home.

I watch you as you leave each time. As you give a gripping hug. As you wipe the tears from your eyes as you leave the one you love more than life itself.

And, I know when you go home you will earnestly pray that your son, or your daughter will reach for and receive the redemption and grace of Christ. Just as I do when I leave the visitation room one Saturday each month.

Just as I pray my brother will feel God reaching him in the confines of his jail cell.

That he will know how deeply he is loved by me, by his dad, by his mom. By God.

Unconditionally. Despite flaws. Despite his sins. Despite his past mistakes.

That he will know he can turn away from sin and live a life that is blameless before Him.

That the world will accept that this gift is given to him, just as it is given to us.

That it is given to your son. Your daughter.

Given to a deadbeat, an addict, a dealer, a murderer, a thief.

Given to an absent mother. An alcoholic mother. A selfish mother. The single mother. The young, unwed mother. The mothers, who despite what they have done, love their children, and cry at night wondering where they went wrong.

Given to all who have sinned. Including you. Including me.

So, Mom. This letter is for you. I see nothing to condemn in this visiting room. Only what can be used for His glory. Keep praying for that wayward daughter. That prodigal son. The one the world has given up on. The one you may have wanted to give up on yourself, because you just couldn’t handle the judgment of all those around you.

He is watching. She is watching. I am watching.

And, Mom. You did just fine.

Your son will be fine.

Your daughter will be fine.

Because grace is given to all. Whether behind the walls of our homes. Or the walls of a prison. To us all.

So dry your eyes. Hold your head high, and stand tall in the face of the world’s criticism remembering that the God that has saved you, will one day save them, too.

Sincerely,

A fellow daughter…and another mom who wonders where she may have gone wrong.

He Goes Before Me

For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” Hebrews 13:5

Remember that past I mentioned I had to face on my journey to become a licensed pastor in my district? That past the devil used for weeks to taunt me? Well, today was the actual day I had to travel to meet with our credentialing board to give my testimony. Even though I had come to terms with my past mistakes, given them to God, and embraced them as part of my journey, it was without surprise that I still spent most of the day at war with a devil who wanted me to believe that my history could never be a testimony of God’s grace.

He used one little annoyance after another in an attempt to convince me that I had made a mistake, that I wasn’t “called,” that I wasn’t worthy. First, I woke up to a cloudy day, soaked with rain. For those of you who know me, rain is not my favorite thing. It makes me want to find a deep dark cave to crawl into, or back in bed, at least. My meeting with the credentialing board was not scheduled until 8pm, which meant an hour and a half drive in the rainy, foggy night. I did drive in the rain and fog, only to find that I had driven to the wrong place. When I did get to the right place after several wrong turns, I sat waiting with a sinking feeling of dread that the pothole I hit while I got lost, would result in a flat tire as I went to make my way back home.

I knew that God had already come before me, yet, I could not keep the devil from crippling me with fear and doubt.

His taunting continued as I learned my transcript had not been received as I had previously thought, as I waited for over an hour to actually give my testimony, and as I clawed around in my purse for a pen to write these very words in this post (Thank God for that Notes app!)

The devil certainly did not want me to give my testimony. He wanted nothing more than for me to believe that God’s grace is not evident in my life. He didn’t want me to be able to write about how I may have defeated him today, any more than he wanted me to be able to tell a room of men and women how God had defeated Him in the past. He didn’t want me to feel like an overcomer. Instead, he wanted me to feel like a complete failure. Like I wasn’t good enough. Like I wasn’t worthy of God’s mercy, or to call myself “pastor.”

So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” Hebrews 13:6

And I knew God had gone before me. What could the devil do to harm me?

I sat in the waiting room, and as I opened Facebook, the following post from Joyce Meyer was waiting on the page just for me: Your history doesn’t have to be your destiny.

No, it is my testimony.

A testimony that shows the power of salvation. A testimony that shows the depth of His love. A testimony that proves I do not have to live with the doubts I allowed God to overcome. A testimony that shows how God can overcome our past sins and mistakes, make us new, cleanse us, and wash us with his grace.

A testimony that the devil was not going to convince me not to share.

And, as I walked into the room-a room filled with people who had gone through the same process, who wrestled with their own doubts, and fears, and who had all been forgiven for mistakes they themselves had made, I knew that God had once again come before me. It was finished. The decision had already been made. The battle had already been fought on my behalf, and He had already won.

He had once again gone before me, and I had nothing to fear.

We All Fall Short

“God can take what Satan meant for shame and use it for His glory.” Lysa TerKeurst

I blog a lot about my children here. Not only are they three of the most important people to me, but each of them has taught me many lessons on life, motherhood, love, and God. There comes a time in each of my children’s life when they will need to learn something from me, from my experiences.

Of course, they each have learned many things from me. They have learned to cook, to talk, to play games, to read the Bible, to put on socks, to (sometimes) pick up after themselves, and to occasionally attempt the mixing of milk and chocolate on their own. If I were to list all of the “great” things my children have learned from me, then I would say they have probably also learned that I am a mom who doesn’t make many mistakes. If I have taught them all I know, then Mommy knows everything, right?

For we all have sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standards. Romans 3:23

We want our children to think we know everything, but we also have to keep in mind their is also a list of “not-so-great” things our children can learn from us, too.

Like sin.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:8-9

If we want our children to learn from their bad choices, from their mistakes, from their failures-we must step out from behind our curtain of shame and confess our sins.

“Honey, do you want to know what happens when you are in college and get an “F?” Let me tell you about the time I failed a class. I had to retake it. I also had to repay for it-again!”

“Sweetie, I have been dishonest with money, too. I’ll also tell you about the consequences of the choices I made with money.”

“Dear, you are forgiven, because I have told a lie, too. But at some point, someone finds out about that lie and gets hurt. I know because my lies have hurt people.”

We all fall short. And we all feel so much shame for our shortcomings. But God can use these “not-so-great” things for good. To teach our children about grace. To teach them about forgiveness. To teach them that unfortunately Mommy doesn’t know everything.

But she does know what it is like to fail, to be dishonest, to lie, and hurt other people.

Because we all fall short.

Yet, God with undeserved kindness, declare that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. Romans 3:24

We Are All the Least of These

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Lynchburg, Virginia to spend a week immersing myself in a class I had to take as part of my Professional Counseling curriculum at Liberty University. For weeks, months even, I stressed about and dreaded the thought of spending the money to travel, and spending a week in a hotel room, days with strangers, and a week away from my family. I eventually sucked it up and kept telling myself: “It is just a week, just another graduation requirement. No big deal, right?

Wrong! What I once thought was simply a class requirement ended up being an often grueling, rather nerve-wracking, yet, life changing experience.

See, before I traveled to Lynchburg to embark on this phase of my college journey, I thought I was pretty tolerant and willing to show grace of others sins. I thought I had it all together, and that I was unbiased, empathetic, and well-versed at showing Biblical grace.

Wrong again! I was pretty tolerant. I was rather empathetic, and could usually place myself in other’s shoes, but it took facing my own demons of the past, and discovering why I built my own walls to quickly find out I had so much more to learn. So much further to go on this journey to grace.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people. Titus 2:11

When we give our lives to God, and begin to navigate our way through newfound salvation and newfound life in Christ, we often forget that we are still natural-born sinners. We often think: “I have been made new. I have turned from my evil ways, and I am free. Free to judge others sin. Free to criticize those who do wrong, and point the finger at those who do wrong. I have it all together now, right? Wrong!

Let’s be frank and honest, here. We are all sinners. We all have demons in our past. We all have struggles with our flesh, mind, and spirit. My sin is no less and no more than anyone else’s, and coming to terms with this, tearing down the walls that say “I am right, and you are wrong” is how we begin to walk the path towards showing the grace of God.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Luke 19:10

Jesus was the friend of sinners, come to die for the least of these, dying on a cross between two men sentenced for their crimes, and dying at the hands of a nation who believed they were right, and Jesus was wrong. Still, Jesus knew that each sin was no more and no less.

Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. Romans 3:24

That dreaded week away from home was not just another class I needed to take to graduate, but a challenge from God for me to become more tolerant, more forgiving, more patient, more empathetic, and more willing to show grace-to fellow followers of Christ, to those who don’t believe, and to the least of these; to point them all to healing power of Christ, and most importantly  to crossover the line and love like He did.