Tag Archive | grace

Shoot the Messenger

Image courtesy of seaskylab / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of seaskylab / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve seen this situation many times. Someone gets upset about something in ministry and instead of going to the source they start talking about it with others.

I understand this too well. See, I’m human too. Sometimes it’s easier to complain than to actually approach a leader and ask questions or express my views.

I’ve been on the leadership side and let me give you an image. Being a leader is putting a large target on your back and silently begging people to shoot at you.

Those shots hurt. Even with the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit, they hurt. See most people don’t take issue with a decision, they attack the person making the decision.

Whether I’ve been in leadership or not, I have pledged to defend and protect my leaders.

That doesn’t mean I’m ignorant of their failings or humanness. It doesn’t mean I mutely accept every decision made or never voice my opinion. I do, with respect. And sometimes I don’t get my way and I back down knowing that God knows better than me and our leaders are held to a higher level  of accountability. They need our prayer, not our criticism.

It means that I will try to encourage others to take the high road. To not, however innocently, post veiled attacks on Facebook, or in a group. To go to the source and if that doesn’t work, do the Matthew 18 thing and take a friend or another person who is impartial to verify and hear out the disagreement.

Strange how people rarely gossip about the good things others do, isn’t it?

Anyway, time and again I have tried this method of redirection and even trying to suggest more positive re-framing that people could consider instead of jumping to suspicious conclusions or motives.

It doesn’t matter. The messenger gets attacked and called ignorant and people take the comments as personal slander even though they were never named or even thought of in comments written or spoken.

It’s sad that we can’t cut each other grace, speak the truth in love to the person we have an issue with and move on. I guess that’s the reason so many pages of Scripture are dedicated to the “one-anothers” so we are reminded this is not an us against them kind of issue, but it is about us growing as a body of believers to become more and more the bride (the church) that Christ is coming to wed.

I love the local church. I have spent years pouring myself out in service to her as paid and unpaid staff. To be honest though, sometimes, because of these “friendly fire” situations, I wish I could just walk away. The only thing that keeps me is that not everyone is like that. There are those who do take the high road and walk with integrity and regardless of how they feel, avoid the petty backbiting and gossip. Some of them have defended me against others who have slandered me behind my back and they suffered for that as well.

Jesus also suffered in a similar way (and far worse) by those who proclaimed to love God.

Sorry to use this as venue to whine. I want the Bride of Christ to shimmer and shine. I want her lace to be pure and clean. It’s just that those kinds of negative behaviors don’t show a good witness within the church or without. So maybe we can all try harder with God’s help and a lot of prayer for our leaders.

And I’ll once again pull out the arrows and slap on a band-aid of forgiveness and try again, even when it hurts. Because Jesus is worth it and so are His people and the mission He has called us to.

Advertisements

Sandwich with a Side of Romance (Book Review)

sandwichI picked up Krista Phillip’s book, Sandwich with a Side of Romance free on Kindle and was so glad to stumble across such a witty and talented author.

Twenty year old Maddie Buckner has had a hard life but she’s starting over in a new town, Sandwich, in hopes of qualifying for custody of her eleven year old brother, Kyle, who is in foster care.

Nothing seems to go Maddie’s way, and it’s all the fault of the devastatingly handsome restauranteur, Reuben’s fault. It all started with him falling asleep while she was cutting his hair and things spiral down from there while the romance and temptation heats up. Throw in a jealous fiancee and you have the makings of drama and misadventure.

Maddie though has a new relationship with Jesus and doesn’t need a man in her life, much less anyone else. God seems bent on shower her just how much she does need the love and grace that others offer, along with their physical help in meeting her needs. Moving to Sandwich not only provides her with a job and an opportunity to start over, but new friends and a chance for the family she never had.

I don’t want to give any spoilers away but there were moments in this story that had me grinning and giggling and others that had me in tears at the heartache Maddie endured and felt she deserved. She learns a valuable lesson that God wipes away our sins and that we desperately do need the grace and love of other people in our lives because no one can make it on their own.

I loved the complexity of these characters and the humor as well. Krista has a unique voice in her writing and one I found to be engaging and hard to set aside. I look forward to reading more from her.  Kudos to Abingdon Press for putting a normal shaped woman on their cover, not some impossibly shaped size zero.

Laundromat Love (Short Story)

It felt like I’ve waited forever for a girl like her. I grabbed my extra large thermos of hot water and my packets of Swiss Miss. My laundry basket and ceramic mugs were already in the car. I headed out into the cold snowy morning, pausing to stretch and yawn. It had been a long night at the police department. Fridays usually were. I was exhausted, but I had made these plans before that extra shift and I wasn’t going to miss my chance now.

I sat at the Laundromat waiting, tapping my fingers. I couldn’t wait to hear her reaction. Would she know it was me? I had never pushed her. I’d known her for years through various serving opportunities at church. I watched jealously while she was with Andy. I knew what kind of guy he was and was surprised when she had dated him. When it was over, Andy had made snide comments to the guys and I knew she had not slept with him. She was the real deal.

“Hey, Nic!” I called to her. She walked in with a scowl on her face. Something was wrong.

“Hi, Brad.”

She gave me half a smile. Whoa. That was not the girl I usually spent my Saturday mornings with. At least it hadn’t been for a long time. “What’s the matter, Nicole?”

She grunted as she slammed her clothes in the washing machines and put in detergent and quarters.

“Did we get up on the wrong side of the bed?” I got no response but saw her swipe her eyes with her sweater sleeve.

She flopped into her chair across from me at our usual table. I slid over the full cup of hot chocolate, with the tiny marshmallows. It was her favorite.

“Thank you.” Her voice sounded flat.

I watched and waited as she looked at the chocolate. She closed her eyes and smiled as she inhaled the steam. She was beautiful. I was suddenly aware that in my haste I forgotten to shave. At least I had my hair cut for the occasion.

“I got flowers,” she sounded annoyed.

“Flowers?” I tried to act innocent.

“Yeah.”

“Well, if there’s a reason to be depressed I suppose flowers would top the list.” I rolled my eyes. She fought back a grin.

“I don’t know who they are from.” She sipped her chocolate. I started to relax but her eyes were still watery. “They are so extravagant they reminded me of God’s love and how far I’ve wandered from Him.”

I am grateful she can share that with me. I love how honest she is.

“Beauty, mystery and conviction.”

“Yeah, kinda.”

“Andy?” I sure hope she doesn’t think they are from him.

She shakes her head and her long ponytail waves back and forth. I love her gorgeous hair.

“He and Jennifer moved away. He’s in the past.”

There was no bitterness or longing in her voice. Good. She was telling the truth. “Wasn’t it about six months ago. . .”

“That he dumped me?  Yeah, thanks for the reminder.”

She gave me a small smile.

“What are friend’s for? He was all you talked about for awhile. You haven’t mentioned him in months.”

“Flowers that expensive would never have come from him.”

“So who? It obviously bothers you.” Me. Guess me.

She shrugs.

“I get the impression you don’t feel you are worth that kind of gift.”

She sighed. I suspected as much. As frustrated as I was that she can’t guess, my heart hurt for her that she couldn’t see she was worthy of my love.

She looked around as I watched and waited. I heard the swishing of laundry in the washing machines and clothing thunk around in the dryers. Not quite the most romantic environment but I would take what I could get.

Ding.

I got up to transfer my laundry from the washers to the driers. I could feel her watching me. Did she like what she saw? I shut the last door and plugged my quarters. I returned to my chair and stretched out my legs and crossed my arms. It was time I told her some things she needed to hear.

“You are worth those flowers, Nic.” She stared at me. Maybe I had sprouted horns? I leaned my head back and sighed. “Why can’t you accept,” I brought my head back up to look her in the eyes as I leaned forward, “that you are a beautiful and desirable woman?”

“Brad?”

She sounded surprised. Hadn’t I treated her like she was? “We knew each other before you dated Andy. He told me why he left you. I knew then you were a woman of godly character. You had mentioned one day that you came here so I decided I would too, so I could get to know you better.”

I reached across the table, peeled her hands off her mug and held them. They were small compared to mine.

“I’m not as godly as you think.” She focused on our hands, avoiding my eyes.

“Are any of us? Look, Nic. I know Andy hurt you. But you are worthy of more respect and love than he could ever give.”

Her mouth fell open as she looked at me with those luminescent grey eyes.

I shook my head. “Did you know that I have laundry facilities in my condo? And I often, like last night, work a double shift on Fridays?”

Her eyes grew wider and blinked rapidly. “But, really? Why?” she stuttered. It was adorable because she still didn’t get it. I waited.

“The flowers?” she whispered.

I squeezed her hands and nodded. “Today is the six-month anniversary of when I started to fall in love with you.”I smiled with all the love I had in me.

She tried to smile but began crying instead and I dried her tears and drew her into my arms where she fit perfectly. Maybe I would have that honor of doing that for a long time to come.

It Had To Be You (Book Review)

it had to be youI have loved the Wedding by Bella series written by Janice Thompson and It Had to Be You did not disappoint (except that it means the series has ended? Say it ain’t so, Janice!).

Bella is planning her own wedding to her hunky cowboy while at the same time planning a wedding between her aunt and uncle (unrelated to each other) who have loved each other for years but didn’t acknowledge it until the previous book.

Every wedding has it’s challenges and this one does as well with fights and a swing band that magically can help heal relationships and the most oddly humorous assortment of characters you will ever meet, including a mobster and a parrot that sings Amazing Grace among other things! I don’t even know if I could survive a week in that household given the emotional upheavals and drama.

Overall of that is love. Bella learns a huge lesson about grace and learning to depend on others when her body finally tells her to stop. I mean, literally, it stops her in her tracks. I love DJ and his faithful patience and adoration and listening to his bride-to-be. I really do hope they have the happily ever after they were planning on, because after all, it’s not the wedding that’s the most important, but the marriage, and I think Bella finally got that at the end.

Kudos to you Janice for another laugh-out-loud Texas sized romp with Italian sized heart. I enjoyed my trip to your imaginary world (but wish it were real because it would be fun to visit!)

Healing Grace (Book Review)

Lisa LIckelI’ve read and reviewed several books by my friend, author Lisa Lickel, so when she asked about a re-do of a previous book, I jumped at the chance. Once I started reading Healing Grace though I quickly realized that this book was different from the rest. It’s not a mystery. It’s not necessarily a romance. What it is, is spellbinding as it drew me in and I couldn’t be satisfied until I got to the last page (which means yes, I read it all in one day).

Grace Runyon has faced overwhelming losses and burdened with guilt over the last of them, the death of her husband to cancer, she runs away from her Tennessee town to a tiny place in Michigan. Grace has known from a young age that she had a spiritual gift of healing, but it had not saved her husband. While no one else blames her for his death, she cannot forgive herself and struggles with God, the giver of the gift, who had withheld it’s power.

Impulsively buying a little cottage home, she ends up neighbors to the Marshalls and faced again with the need to heal as Ted is suffering from an unnamed illness that is debilitating and will eventually kill. She falls in love with Ted through his son Eddy, a little boy who captures her heart but also stirs the grief of the little boy she had lost herself due to a car accident.

Healing-Grace200x300[1]Grace decides to re-enter the work world as a physician’s assistant and at times finds her gift of healing being exercised in secret at the clinic to help her patients. This comes at a cost however. Some healings cause her deep emotional and physical pain that mirrors her patient’s agony, although recovery is quick. Soon many in the town question whether she is a witch, although her gift has never brought harm. Coupled with her perceived failure in her past, self-doubts arise and Grace faces a crisis that tears apart her soul.

I don’t want to be a spoiler for the story. It is a worthy read and one I hope to read again. Lisa’s dives into a minefield of emotions as well as the theological minefield of spiritual gifts since some schools of thought believe certain gifts like healing are not for this age. I disagree. I was impressed by her balanced view of spiritual gifts. Gifts are from God. They are used for the church (body of believers) and they are not used at our will, but His.

Gifts sometimes come with a cost as we serve and pour ourselves out as an act of worship. Grace illustrates that powerfully.  The final scene of the book is riveting. You can disagree if you want about the dispensation of gifts but let’s be clear, nothing Lisa writes indicates a “psychic” or “satanic” power at work. Is it real? It’s fiction,  but I wouldn’t put it past God to work in the way she describes.  For this I applaud her because she masterfully illustrated biblical truths: like love requiring sacrifice and the challenge believers all have to set aside self and pride, and even the desire for the love and affirmation of others, in order to be used.

I’ve enjoyed all of Lisa Lickel’s novels that I have had the privilege to read. Healing Grace, however, is by far the best of them all.

Flowers from God (Flash Fiction Romance)

The flowers were lovely. But who sent them? And why?

I gazed at their beauty. It was December. Who could afford flowers like these at this time of year? Lilies in hot pink, yellow and orange. Red and pink roses? Certainly no one I could think of. And one white daisy. That flower always made me think of innocence. Purity. I looked heavenward. Okay, God. You have my attention. Thank you for the flowers. I shook my head as I placed the vase on the table. They reminded me of God’s expansive, beautiful, grace-love. A love I had been numb too since. . .  Why did something beautiful have to stir up yuck?

With one last glance at the splash of color that made it look like spring had exploded in my kitchen, I grabbed my laundry basket and headed out into the cold snow. It was still coming down. I would be shoveling later. Sigh. Work, chores and church.  My life.

“Hey, Nic!”

Brad was already settled in at our usual table at the Laundromat. We had been friends for awhile now and he was my one safe person to talk to. Other than Saturday mornings, we saw each other at church and that was about it. He worked second shift with the police department. Me, I worked an administrative job at the hospital.

I forced a smile. “Hi, Brad.”

His left eyebrow lifted. “Did we get up on the wrong side of the bed today?” His lopsided grin showed the dimple on his right cheek.

I grunted as I slammed my clothes into the washing machines, added detergent and plugged in the requisite quarters.

“What’s the matter, Nicole?”

I swiped my eyes with my sweater before I turned to sit down at the table across from him.  He placed a ceramic cup of hot chocolate in front of me. There were even tiny marshmallows. My fave.

“Thank you.”

He was watching me, but I pretended to be absorbed in the steamy chocolate. I closed my eyes and inhaled heaven. When I finally looked up across the table, I saw compassion in his dark bloodshot eyes. His face was unshaven. He still looked handsome though. I was suddenly jealous of his future wife.

“I got flowers.” I sounded whiny even to my own ears.

“Flowers?”

“Yeah.”

“Well if there’s a reason to be depressed I suppose flowers would top the list.” He rolled his eyes.

I fought back a grin, not willing to give up my funk quite yet. “I don’t know who they’re from.” I sipped the chocolate, savoring the comfort. I still felt a weight in my chest. “They reminded me of God’s love and how far I’ve wandered from Him.” Who else but Brad could I have shared this with? No one.

“Beauty, mystery and conviction.”

“Yeah, kinda.”

“Andy?”

I shook my head and felt my ponytail wave in response. “He and Jennifer moved away. He’s in the past.”

“Wasn’t it about a six-months ago. . .”

“That he dumped me? Yeah, thanks for the reminder.”

“What are friends for? He was all you talked about for awhile. You haven’t mentioned him in a long time.”

“Flowers like that would never have come from him.”

“So, who? It obviously bothers you.”

I shrugged.

“I get the impression you don’t feel you are worth that kind of gift.”

A sigh escaped my lips. He had me pegged. I sipped my chocolate and leaned back in my plastic chair and let the sounds of the whirring washing machines and the thunking items in the dryers distract me. I glanced around. White and grey. Blah. I looked outside through the steamy plate glass windows. More white and grey. Dirty. The world looked dirty. That’s the way I had been feeling deep inside since Andy’s betrayal and my subsequent anger at God. I didn’t like it. I just wanted to feel loved.

Ding.

Brad rose and went to take his clothes out of the washer, and transfer them to the dryers across the aisle. He looked good in his jeans and sweatshirt. The casual clothes didn’t hide his fit physique. His dark curly hair must have been cut recently. It looked nice. He returned, stretched his legs and folded his arms across his broad chest. His eyelids lowered as he looked at me.

“You are worth those flowers, Nic.” His voice had deepened.

I was speechless.

He leaned his head back and sighed. “Why can’t you accept,” his head came back up and his eyes searched mine as he leaned forward, “that you are a beautiful and desirable woman?”

I blinked. “Brad?” He’d never talked to me like that before.

“I had noticed you while you were dating Andy. I heard why he left you. I knew then you were a woman of godly character. You mentioned at church that you came here. I decided I would too. So I could get to know you better.” He reached across the table and took my hands in his.

“I’m not as godly as you think.” I focused on our joined hands. My insides tingled.

“Are any of us? Look, Nic. I know Andy hurt you. But you are worthy of more respect and love than he  could give.”

My mouth dropped open as my eyes met his.

He shook his head. “Did you know, I have laundry facilities in my condo? And I often, like last night, work a double shift on Fridays?”

My eyes got big. I blinked again. “But, really? Why?” I stuttered. He could not have been coming here to be with me. Could he? Calm down, Nic. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

“The flowers?” I whispered. His hands squeezed mine.

He nodded and smiled, flashing white teeth and two adorable dimples. “Today is the six month anniversary of when I started to fall in love with you.”

Beautiful, extravagant love, indeed.