Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Who Would Throw the First Stone?

John 8:7 Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."

When I heard the tragic story of the young man and woman, accused of adultery in a Taliban controlled region of Afghanistan, and stoned to death for their crime by members of this terrorist group, the scripture quoted above came immediately to mind. Jesus is teaching to the crowds in the temple when the Pharisees, eager to trip him up on some aspect of the law, bring a woman, caught in the act of adultery, before him. The Jewish law in Jesus' day demanded the punishment of death by stoning for an adulterer just as today's Sharia law demands when followed to the strictest letter by fundamentalist groups like the Taliban. The act of adultery, moreover, was forbidden not by a random law; it was one of the Ten Commandments. Pharisees, who followed the law unwaveringly, confronted Jesus with God's own words given to Moses on Mt. Sinai generations ago.

Repeatedly in the New Testament, we read that Jesus spoke "with great authority". This, certainly, must have been one of those moments. The Pharisees were an elite and powerful group in the Jewish community, more accustomed to chastising others than being chastised. When Jesus addressed them concerning the state of their own sinfulness, I can envision their initial shock, their instantaneous denial and, then, slowly but surely, under the penetrating gaze of this rabbi, they, one by one, acknowledged within their hearts the ponderous weight of their own sinful natures. The taut grips on the terrified woman's arm loosen then fall away. Stones roll from open palms and clatter along the temple floor. One by one, beginning with the elders, the Pharisees retreat without protest, abandoning the woman that, just moments before, they were intent upon killing. She now stands alone, still frightened and trembling, before Jesus.

(John 8:10-11) Jesus . . . said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, sir." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again."

What a paradoxical moment it must have been for this woman! She was at once absolved of her alleged crime yet given the impossible command to never commit another sin. How, she must have wondered, if this is something even Pharisees could not accomplish, could she, a simple woman, avoid sin for the rest of her days? Little does she know that the very man who showed mercy toward her would be the one to die on a cross for her every sin, large and small, covering them with his innocent blood "shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Book of Common Prayer)

In Matthew 5:17, Jesus declares he has come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Following the letter of the law without the love of God first in our hearts prevents them from showing mercy and forgiveness to friend and foe alike as Jesus would have us do. If we love the Lord our God and our neighbors as ourselves, we fulfill God's hope for us. Do we do this faithfully? I dare say that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Yet, our precious Lord is there to comfort us, encourage us, and, most importantly, forgive us when we ask Him in true repentance and humility. He is our Savior, our friend, and only advocate with the Father.

For the unfortunate couple in Afghanistan, there was no advocate, no voice of mercy in the crowd of over 100 men who brutally stoned them. Death was inevitable. It always is when the law is all you know.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I Love Being a "Gammie"!

From the moment I laid eyes on my granddaughter, Virginia Rose, she stole my heart completely and will hold it forever. In just two days from now, she will have graced our lives for one whole month. How amazing it is, when I look at this photo taken not two hours after her birth, to see how quickly and dramatically a baby changes in four short weeks. The following are a series of photos that reflect her "growing up".

Not quite one week old and already into the pacifier.

Nine days old and already peeking over Daddy's shoulder.

At two weeks, I'm loving my bath!

And, I'm trying to smile!

Three weeks old; got milk?

Pretty in pink at almost one month!

What a miracle you are, Virginia Rose. This Gammie loves you up to the moon and back!

Monday, August 16, 2010


"What a coincidence!" We exclaim easily and readily when discovering that a co-worker was born in our hometown, or a neighbor shares the same birthday as ours, or a long-lost friend turns up at an event we are attending. Coincidences are, for the most part, fortunate occasions, ones that precipitate conversation, interaction, and leave us feeling we now know the other person involved in it better than ever before.

While we know that all our comings and goings are in the hands of our God, there are some coincidences that propel us toward a new and unexpected experience that will change our lives for the better. These, I like to call "God-incidences". I learned this phrase years ago from a wonderful church secretary at my previous home of worship and it struck me powerfully then and continues to do so. In fact, I now see all coincidences, large and small, as witness to His great love for us.

My latest "God-incidence" happened when I was praying for and communicating over Facebook with a good friend whose air-conditioning unit was on the blink and there wasn't money to fix it. When my friend and her husband successfully resuscitated the unit, she e-mailed me; my response was "Alleluia and Amen!" (You would respond this way, too, if you were living in "Hotlanta" where we haven't seen below 90 in weeks!). She posted back: "Did you know I always end my prayers with 'Amen. Alleluia'?" I was floored; no, I had no idea, but God certainly did, and this exchange has brought us even closer in our friendship.
Though this might seem like one of the small "God-incidences" that happen, it doesn't make it any less meaningful.

This does bring me, however, to want to share with you what I consider to be one of the largest "God-incidences" in my life: finding Danny. Yes, we "met" on E-Harmony, I having joined on a dare, and for him, as, what he imagined then, a last ditch effort, but we were, most definitely, brought together by God. This became more and more obvious to me as our relationship grew in love and as I watched other friends who tried E-Harmony becoming more and more frustrated with dead end "matches". As we learned later from each other, Danny and I did not take more than a passing interest in any of the other candidates and focused on each other almost immediately and within a very short window of opportunity. We had our first "live" date on October 18, 2003, and were married on April 2, 2005. Every day we have shared, whether rough or smooth, has been an infinite blessing to both of us. How else could I, living then in Norcross, meet a man living in Kennesaw unless God's intentions were in it?

Take a moment today to think about the many blessings you have experienced over the years. Were the people you met, the places you traveled, the career you chose, the person you married coincidences or "God-incidences"? When Jesus is Lord of your life and your will is to do the will of God, there are miracles around every corner. Don't miss out on your next "God-incident"!

Friday, August 13, 2010

When My Computer Went Down . . .

Our light and temporary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. II Corinthians 4: 17-18

I simply could not believe my eyes. There it was, leering at me viciously as it had done less than a year ago: the computer virus that latches on and won't let go. My spyware, as all other programs, were rendered useless in a matter of moments. My devastation was monumental.

Danny and Giovanni, my computer-whiz of a step-son, leaped into action. The good news was that they managed to "kill" the virus; the bad news was that, in doing so, my Windows XP died with it and I would have to wait for the delivery of Windows 7 to our doorstep before I could once again use my computer
. In the meantime I knew that I could check my e-mail and Facebook by waiting my turn for a computer, but my freedom to work on my novel or my blog, as it takes a concentrated block of time, were out of the question. If that wasn't bad enough, I realized that my beloved game of solitaire would never be the same. I deplore the Windows 7 version with a passion.

During the first two days after the crash, I found myself gravitating toward my customary seat in front of my computer only to check myself with reminders that it was incapacitated. It was through these moments that I came to realize that, perhaps, I had become too dependent on this marvelous machine and too addicted to a game that only wasted my time. This was definitely a wake-up call.

It took five days for Windows 7 to arrive. During this time of waiting, I tended to more chores, spent more time in prayer, read three novels, and generally enjoyed daily activities with more presence and enthusiasm. This inconvenience was only a temporary trouble and had nothing to do with the essence of me. I reflected, too, over the blessings so many Americans share in having computers, internet access, and all the conveniences these provide. I realized that I had been taking mine for granted. Now, I find that I thank God daily for the privilege I have been given as, through it, I can spread His word and spread my writing wings as He bids me to do.

And, solitaire? Oh, I've tried to like the new version, but I simply can't warm to it at all. I thank the Lord for removing this temptation from me. It allows me to use the time He has given to me more wisely and with fresh perspective. In my "light and temporary troubles", He stepped in and opened my eyes to His eternal glory.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Times of Trouble

Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up. ~ Psalm 71:20

Troubles abound. Switch on the evening news, peruse a newspaper, or surf the seemingly unending internet news sites and you are sure to be flooded with the trials and tribulations of this world. If you are like me, you might say a prayer for the persons and places affected and leave their needs in God's capable hands; some tragedies are simply so overwhelming that you cannot internalize them lest you drown in a sea of despair.

But, how do you react when troubles are close at hand, when they strike a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, a family member? Do you mumble some meaningless words of empathy or sympathy and turn away? No, of course, you don't! You roll up your sleeves and plunge right in to offer help in any way they might need. In truth, when you do see the world's suffering, you are hoping that someone, indeed, many someones, are ministering to the afflicted in their own back yard, just as you would should the need arise.

Troubles can make or break a person's faith. Before the time of my "troubles, many and bitter", I blithely considered myself to be a committed Christian, solid in the faith. When my husband, John, endured a freak head injury and died some days later, the foundation I thought I had laid upon the rock crumbled in the shifting sands beneath me. Although I still believed in God, I could no longer envision Him as a loving one. He had taken away my love and the step-father that my children adored; I was angry with Him and made no bones about telling Him so. My joy for life was buried with my husband.

There were countless and caring individuals who reached out to me in my grief and suffering and who helped me begin the arduous climb out of the pit I was in. For them, and for their love, I will ever be grateful. Yet, out of the ashes, two people rose head and shoulders above the rest, going above and beyond anything and everything I could expect; they didn't stay in Jerusalem, but walked with me down the long and sorrowful Emmaus road. These two women are, today, two of the dearest friends I'll ever know in this world; they are the sisters I never had and I treasure their presence in my life. It was, largely, through the love and understanding these two gave me, that I began and continued the healing process and was, at long last, able to realize that God had never once abandoned me in my time of trouble; He was ever at my side.

Through the years, we have stayed in touch, sharing both joys and tragedies with an implicit knowledge that each would find the grace of understanding and comfort in the other. With busy lives, we don't always find time for that phone call we know we should make so, imagine my surprise in getting a phone call from each of these women this past weekend. Both of my friends are going through extremely trying circumstances and I was so grateful to the Lord that He gave me ears to hear, the words to say, and a heart of compassion. As I hadn't heard from one of these women in many months, I was reminded of how long after John's death I waited to truly call on God in prayer. And, when I did, He listened lovingly as if I hadn't been gone but a moment.

My troubles, many and bitter, broke my faith, but as Christ's love was shown endlessly through my two friends, my faith was not just restored, it was renewed with the fullness of joy. Are you hurting? Are your troubles many and bitter? Or, do you know of someone who needs to feel the love of God shining through you?
Can you say, to quote a Facebook friend, "When things are at their worst is when I thank Him most?" I'm not sure I've come that far yet, but I've certainly come a long way in my walk with Him. How about you?

Sing a New Song

  Danny and I in his new music studio Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. ~Psalm 96:1 A new song shall I sing unto...