But Christ

ENDURANCE

A forgotten art

A misplaced treasure

A buried emotion

A tiny cup measure

 

GRATITUDE

An ignored virtue

An impossible mission

An eclectic rarity

An unseeable vision

 

FORGIVENESS

The work of a fool

The choice of the weak

The chance for the reprobate

The unclimbable peak

 

LOVE

Code word for lust

Flits and flails

Degraded to hotel bedrooms

And thrown away veils

 

BUT CHRIST

Enduring the cross

Teaches gratitude to the Lord

Forgives all our sin

Redeeming love and we are adored

 

 

Jamaican Grace

Do you write with music on?  I MUST.  It’s the way I operate, get in my character’s head, and keep my voice, tone, and mood.

So I started thinking – what about the other way around?  What if I listened to a song first, and it dictated what I wrote?

I asked readers, on my author page (if you haven’t joined my Facebook author page now, you should, because I post there far more frequently about my books and writing, and it’s lots of fun, I hope!), to post a link to a song they love or find interesting, and I would write a flash piece on the spot after only listening to it once!  😀

The second winner was Laura Pol with MercyMe’s “Grace Got You”!

The following short fiction piece was written in 15 minutes on the spot while listening to this specific song!  😀

I highly recommend you listen to it while reading my piece below, which is a gift to Laura that I hope she enjoys!  🙂

If YOU like flash fiction, and think you can write an emotionally moving piece in under 1000 words and want to win ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, my contest is still open!

 

JAMAICAN GRACE

 

Solomon “Jamaica” Barnes sat under the cement bridge, bopping his head to the hidden tune that only he could hear from the pounding of vehicles over his head.  The rhythm reverberated all the way down to his fingers, which tapped against his side happily.  He closed his eyes, his grin splitting his chapped lips.  Popping another peanut into his mouth, he dropped a handful at his feet.

Down on the cement, a tiny New York city squirrel wrapped itself around his ankles, scrambling for the peanuts.

“Dis be d’life, eh, Crunkle?” he murmured, reaching two fingers down to gently stroke the furry back of the small animal.

Crunkle’s rapid crunching was his only reply.

“Ho, Jamaica,” a voice muttered from behind him.

The dark-skinned man lazily turned his head to welcome a grungy, gray-bearded hobo pushing a loaded shopping cart around the far corner of the bridge.  “Jimmy!  Mon, how you be?” Jamaica waved his hands, the squirrel skittering away at lightning speed. “You comin’ to hang?”

The man shook his scruffy head, his eyes on the ground, sandaled feet scuffling forward slowly. “I’s be tryin’ to get to Central Park b’fore dark.”

“Sure, but I could use d’company.  Any time, mon.” Jamaica squinted at his friend, watching the man roll by him.

“I know, Jamaica.  I know. But I hate sittin’ on cement these days.  My war-torn backside ain’t what it used to be.” The old man’s coat had bird dung and dirt encrusted on the hem.

Jamaica watched him carefully. “You and d’war, Jimmy.  When ya gonna let dat go, mon?”

“When I be dead,” came the murmur as the shopping cart creaked around the opposite corner of the bridge, and the sound of cars covered anything else Jimmy might have added.  The echo of the word “dead” reverberated around the hollow underside of the bridge.

Jamaica frowned, but only for a second.  “Crunkle?”

The squirrel reappeared, a tiny little nose twitching above the black canvas bag behind Jamaica.

“Come ‘ere, ya lil’ beggar.”

The squirrel ignored him, sniffing the bag for more hidden food.

Jamaica scratched a spot on his foot that shouldn’t itch.  Pulling up his pant leg, he checked over the prosthetic.  “Jimmy and d’war… that mon wasn’t da only one who saw bloodshed.”

Crunkle made an angry squirrel noise, halfway between a chitter and a tiny cough.

“I’s be all outta peanuts, beggar.” He picked at his holey pant leg. “If we want somethin’ more dan dat, we’s a hafta go to Letitia’s, an’ I canna afford dat wit my pride.”

The squirrel gave him the nastiest stare a rodent was capable of giving.

Jamaica laughed loudly, his guffaws rumbling around him, adding a chorus to the car thumps above his head. “If squirrels coulda give d’evil eye, you’da killed me dere.”  He leaned back against the cement, pulling the bag forward to use as a makeshift pillow.  Folding his arms above his head, the little squirrel clambered onto his chest. He sighed, staring at a spot of graffiti on the bridge ceiling above him. “Wonder how dose dumb kids got up dat high to paint up dere,” he mumbled.

The squirrel stretched out a leg, all taut and tight, and then relaxed and went limp, tucking its head into its tail, its body a neat little circle.

“It’s gonna be Thanksgivin’ soon.” Jamaica frowned.  The grafitti read “Girls.” He put a hand over his eyes to block it out. “Wonder if my lil’ girl, Letitia, woulda be stark shocked t’see me show up for Thanksgivin’.” He tucked his chin to peek at the sleeping squirrel. “Think she’d be too ‘shamed to see us, huh, Crunkle?  Think she’d forgive her old dad now dat I be clean?”

A pipe from a motorcycle above popped, and Jamaica jumped. “It’s a hard world for us vets.”  Heroin had been an easy out.  He could block out the memories.  All that blood.  Men doing things he had never imagined, let alone wanted to experience.  All those faces, gone and dead.  And then he had come back home, missing a leg, his wife and strangers to him and his pain.

He had come to America at the tender age of ten, and becoming a US citizen was the highly of his life.  When World War II broke out, he had been excited to do his duty to this great country.  But no had prepared him for what life was like coming home.

Marge had wanted nothing to do with him when he wasn’t the man she had married any more, and he couldn’t stand the judgment on his oldest daughter Lucy’s face when she had chosen to turn her back on him and take her mama’s side.  That last day he had seen her, his vision blurred from his last fix, she had linked her arm through her mother’s, standing on the edge of the bed of the moving truck.  Her face was as steel as granite, even at the tender age of fourteen.

But little Letitia had turned around.  When Marge took her hand to lead her to the car, his second ten-year-old daughter had given him one last hopeful glance, those eyes open and still trusting.  There was love still in her heart, he had been sure of it.

It had been a decade and a half since then, and supposedly Letitia was married and back in New York, a brand newlywed. Her husband was a newspaper man or something like that. The last time Jamaica had visited his elderly father at the nursing home, before the nurses had shooed him out, their noses pinched, their hands shaking with anxiety, he had seen the letter from her.  After all these years.  Letitia had written to him, hoping her grandfather would pass her words on.  She wanted to reconnect.  She wanted to know her dad, to give him a chance.  She wrote about Jesus.

He had carried the wrinkled letter in the bottom of his bag for a while now – her address written clearly on the outside of it.  But he hadn’t need to – the address was seared into his memory.

Sure he had been clean for a year now, but time had passed him by.  He had no money and ability to do anything but beg.  Shelters were for those harder up than him.  Old Jamaica Barnes – he could tough it out, adopt baby squirrels, turn highway noises into songs in his mind, and keep up his cheer.

Until he thought about his baby girl reaching out.  Dangnabbit, she was brave.

He pulled out the envelope for the thousandth time and stared at it.

“I’ll go,” he said, and suddenly he knew that’s what he had always and ever wanted.

Thanksgiving was coming.

Do you have a FACE?

When it’s 2 AM and your brain is shot because you were up to 4 AM last night transferring files onto your new laptop, and you’re still busy doing it tonight and you’re sooooo done…

You get weird thoughts.

There was a line in a George MacDonald book I was reading called “The Fisherman’s Lady” that is sitting deep inside of me and making me think.
In it, the character of the blind bagpiper is this really quirky old man. He’s been blind his whole life. He adores his family but hates his enemies. He’s a stubborn, stubborn, passionate man with a few obvious strengths and a few glaring faults. Someone with the last name of Campbell killed his great grandmother, dooming that generation of his family members to a hard life. Even though that doesn’t affect his own personal life, he’s sworn to DESPISE anyone from the Campbell family – going so far as to wish them dead. Like it runs deep.

At one point, someone tries to challenge him biblically on his hatred and lack of forgiveness – this didn’t even happen in his generation! The guy is a really decent grandfather, good citizen, and Christian man, yet he can’t forgive this enemy of his ancestor. It’s like he needs something to passionately hate. His pride is a scourge on his heart.

Her words just don’t get through to him, and she finally approaches his grandson, the main character, Malcolm.
Malcolm has a thought that keeps sitting in my brain.

Okay, look at this picture of these babies. Just look at each one’s FACE. See the vulnerable, adorable HUMANITY in that face.

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Well, everyone started out a baby just like that. And everyone has a FACE. A face with humanity all over it.

Malcolm points this out and tells the woman,

“When I was a young laddie at the school, I once heard that a certain boy was mocking my grandfather. When I heard that I thought I could have just cut the heart out of him and sunk my teeth right into it. But when I finally found him and got a grip of him, and the rascal turned up a frightened dog-face to me, I just couldn’t drive my clenched fist into it. Mem, a face is an awful thing! There’s something looking out from inside that just prevents you from doing what you might otherwise like to it. But my grandfather’s never seen a face in his life.”

I wonder if that’s why people can be so vicious on FACEbook – because there really isn’t a FACE to be seen anywhere in the conversation. If that’s why the real wicked lurking in people’s hearts actually come out online. We don’t really see the eyes – the window to the soul – of the people we’re talking to before we cut their hearts out and sink our teeth into them.

And then there’s Charlottesville.

Seriously, I don’t even use the word “race.” There isn’t such a thing. There are different levels of melanin in the skin, and, to be honest, melanin doesn’t interest me a hoot. I don’t give a rat’s behind about melanin. Now we all have a FACE. And the face is always, always beautiful. The face says we are all human beings. ❤

Some people who have eyes that work are actually blind. Look into the FACE. And see people God created and loves. That’s all that matters to me!

Forgive, love, give, serve, and be the FACE of Christ to others!

 

You’re Invited to My Pity Party!

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You’re invited! Right here on social media – my special pity party.  All 637 of you on my friends list get to come!

I promise to be vague, I promise to provide lots of emoticons, and I promise to give you just a few details so that you can guess the individual that’s hurt me but I don’t say her name outright. Sounds like fun?  Bring your popcorn and gallons of ice cream because I’ll be crying my eyes out.  You’ll know because I’ll make it very obvious.  No leaving your office chair, and all sympathy welcome!  Warning: This post will have a lot of goofy meme examples.  😀

 

Ever been to one of these? Ever found yourself forced to attend one of them even though you never RSVPed?

I am very concerned about the amount of memes and passive aggressive pity posts I have seen on Facebook.

Things like this:

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I feel like these things make injured people feel like they are “being the bigger person” while not-so-subtly letting all their friends know they’ve been hurt.

But instead of being the bigger person, I feel like we are wounding the cause of Christ. When I see Christians post these things, I cannot help but think of one thing only: this is a person who has not forgiven.

We may say you are working on forgiveness, and it is true that we can be tempted to bring back up old (or recent) scars, fighting the temptation against bitterness, but there is no “working on forgiveness.” There is only “forgiving” and “bitter.”  Each and every day that you choose to not get angry about a person’s sin, not dwell on it in your own mind, and not bring it up to others, you have forgiven. Every time you indulge to gossip about that hurt, you choose, in that moment not to forgive.  There is no state of “I will be fully un-bitter and fully forgiving in a matter of months. Every day I might be getting better and get angry about it less.”  There is only, “Today I chose to forgive.  Yesterday I sinned against God and chose to stew about it and talk about it to others.”

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times…”

“…Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-22, 32-35

Every day that you publicly invite questions because of passive aggressive memes and statuses, hinting about how someone has hurt you, is a day you make your Father in heaven angry – the Father that forgave the sins you commit against Him day in and day out.

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Another thing to think about when we post our pity party invitations and proclaim our unforgiving hearts online (or even privately to listening ears) is that we have failed others too.  We have been that erring friend.  We have been that bully. We have been that loud mouth or insensitive jerk. All of us have been there.  And God has brought us through a period of cleansing out our messed up hearts. Some of us have had lots of relationships restored.

When we post our hurts on our pages to all our friends, when we mention “that friend” that did such and such, we give God NO room for reconciliation and restoration.

God is the same God over your friends’ lives and hearts as He is over yours. In only thirty short years of living, I have seen SO many relationships restored to me.  Relationships where I thought the other party would never forgive me – where I was an immature rebel.  And relationships where I thought the other person would never apologize, where they had offended me.  And yet, I’d say about 75% of them have ended with restoration and reconciliation – in the way Christians are supposed to behave with each other.  As they and I have prayed quietly for each other, seeking counsel only from one or two wise counselors (but keeping the whole situation under wraps) restoration and repentance has happened.  Then, when those friends are welcomed back into fellowship with you or you with them – sometimes it’s taken years, but I’ve always been so in awe of the Lord when He makes the impossible happen – you don’t have bitter memes that are clearly about them littering your wall.  You don’t have hundreds of people who have become little detectives in the meantime, totally figuring out which friend hurt you so they can take up offenses for you. They – or you – can humbly walk back into friendship and fellowship knowing that your reputations have been preserved safely. That all has been forgiven and ugliness has not been spread.

Meanwhile, the people who choose not to post but to daily forgive and zip their lips from speaking (and their fingers from typing) are known as gracious, kind, trustworthy individuals. People do not fear messing up around you, people do not walk on eggshells around you, and people do not keep secrets from you, knowing you’re not talking in back alleys about them.

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Do unto others as you would have them do to you.  If you were that friend who sinned and messed up a relationship, would you be thrilled knowing the other party was posting memes about how they were the bigger person and you weren’t worth a second chance?  Is this how God treats us?  No, like the father of the Prodigal Son, He restores us, choosing to forget all that was behind, and pressing forward in celebration of getting His son back.

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Obviously, there are wicked people who shouldn’t be welcomed back into your life and who have done unspeakable things, but that still doesn’t mean you are exempt from forgiving them.  As far as the east is from the west, so are our sins removed from God in forgiveness.  How can we refuse to stop talking about what others have done when we know they will never sin against us as much as we have sinned against God?

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25

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Let’s wait in quiet hope for our offenders to repent, only seeking godly counsel from one or two, telling people to pray instead for US that we would have pure and godly and forgiving hearts, giving 70X7 endless chances, not thinking ourselves “deserving” of anything from anyone, and not filled with pride that we would not fail in the ways we’ve been failed against.  There but for the grace of God go I.

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I Assume You Won’t Forgive Me

A friend recently posted a question on her Facebook wall:

ImageGenIf you could choose to have your thoughts blasted to everyone you know for one day, or choose to have their thoughts blasted to you, which would be worse?

As I thought about it, as much as I would NOT want to know everyone’s thoughts, I realized that I’d rather be blasted with everyone else’s than share my own.

The answer may surprise you.  I’m just not convinced ANYONE would forgive me if I thought something unkind.

On the whole, I have noticed this with Christians: they downright stink at forgiveness.

This is the major calling of the church: a definitive way we can show that we belong to Christ and are Christians. We are told by Jesus, “You are My disciples if you love one another.” John 13:35

And what does love look like according to the Bible?  “Keeping no record of wrongs.” 1 x-love-keeps-no-record-of-wrongsCorinthians 13:5

The disciples themselves appeared to have loathed forgiving as well.  “How many times do we have to do this?” they asked Jesus. He gave them a pretty high number in return, meaning, “Keep it up.  You’re called to never stop forgiving.”  (Matthew 18:22)

Why, then, does the church truly stink at this?  Why can I only think of two human beings in my entire life who have not struggled with forgiving completely? Why is it that almost everyone else in my life – everyone who calls himself or herself a Christian bring bitter complaints against other people to me often? I’m no fool.  I know they’re probably doing the same about me behind my back to others – or if they’re not, it’s only a matter of time.  Why are we Christians destroy relationships over and over again due to a lack of forgiveness?  There have definitely been people who refused to forgive me. It’s heart-wrenching.

Whebetter-not-a-bitter-personther it’s the line, “The church hurt me, so I walked away,” all the way down to, “I just can’t stand so-and-so in my Bible study because of something they said to me last year,” it’s never-ending.

Honestly, and this may be hard-hitting (You may not forgive me for this post!), if you find yourself frequently unable to forgive many people in your life, you should evaluate your own salvation.  This is a mark of a Christian BECAUSE the Christian knows what he or she has done to put Christ on the cross.

We have a spiritual blindness to our own sin.  This blindness makes us think that the sins cat-sees-lion-mirrordone to us are somehow so much worse than the ones we did that nailed Christ to the cross.  We think we’re better and would never commit the atrocities that others do, not seeing our own base natures and that we are only where we’re at because of Christ.  We do not see it a PRIVILEGE to forgive, because, in doing so, we accomplish something that an unbeliever cannot fathom.  Forgiveness only happens in God’s grace. Without the Holy Spirit working in our hearts, we would never have the ability to show true grace and mercy.

Forgiveness does NOT mean allowing an evil person control of your life.  It does not mean choosing to ignore a crime and not reporting it to the police.  It does not mean not separating yourself from danger. It also does not mean fully trusting another human being. It may not even mean forgetting.

But it DOES mean, with fellow believers, loving and seeing them as pardoned from that sin, as guilty of it no more because of their standing with Christ, and that it’s something you don’t talk about or dwell on in your mind. It’s not something you share with others, or hold against that person. You make smart decisions to protect yourself and your family, and then you move on mentally and emotionally.  This kind of transformed attitude can only happen by God’s grace, but I think that many believers resist God’s grace in an attempt to arrogantly elevate themselves to a place of judge in others’ lives.

living-as-forgiven-people-posterframeBy refusing to keep up the process of forgiveness, even if you have to forgive over and over again each day, you make yourself just as guilty as your offender.  Choose daily to forgive.  When the thought comes up, give it over to Christ. Choose to never speak to others about it again (unless it’s a Biblical counselor or a spouse). Find things to do to bless that person, even if it’s just to pray for them. Confess your own sins to the Lord and others so that you humbly see yourself properly.

Let’s be an obvious difference in this world and heal our body-of-Christ relationships.  And let’s do it by starting with forgiveness.

World’s Worst Psychopath – With a Surprise Ending

ADULTS ONLY
(Warning: Graphic content as to a sexual, criminal nature)

 

 

 

 

Just read an entire article (I really don’t know why.  I followed a link from an email about pinpointing psychopaths…) about a serial killer, homosexual who raped, murdered, and dismembered his male victims, some times children.

Again, no idea why I was reading about this…

As I’m reading,  I’m getting more and more angry, more and more sickened, and then I get to the end where it says, “Before being killed by a fellow inmate, Jeffrey Dahmer became a born-again Christian.”

 

WHAT????

 

After extensively googling said conversion, it seems like all of the pastors around him, as well as his Christian family, believed it to be true.
I must tell you, my initial thoughts were not pretty.  I was appalled at how much angrier I got upon reading this.  As one person said, in an article attached to his salvation: “If Dahmer is in heaven, I don’t want to be there.”  My thoughts borderlined on this kind of judgmental and unchristlike thinking.

 

Yes, his sins were probably as vulgar as any human can get, but, without Christ, and with the devil given free-reign in our hearts, could any of us have gotten there?  What do you think?  Could everyone get to be as bad as a Hitler, Genghis Khan, or a Jeffrey Dahmer?

 

All I know is: We are ALL VILE sinners.  Everything we do is repugnant to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Everything we do deserves hell.  Each of our salvation stories were undeserved, blatant miracles.  Should we not see that the repentance of a homosexual, dismembering, murderous pedophile is an amazing act of a powerful, sovereign God?

 

How arrogant am I?

 

And how well do I see myself, if I want to refuse anyone a right to having their sins washed clean?

 

It was a bit tough to take – reading about those truly despicable things he’s done – and yet, do I truly see sin how Christ does?  No wonder Paul calls salvation a great mystery!  How can it change the heart of someone so perversely hardened?  How can it change my heart?

 

I don’t know, guys… I’m not writing this because I’ve completely gotten rid of my judgmental spirit.  I mean, it’s hard enough to say these things while sitting and reading about it.  But what if my little brother had been a victim?  What then?  I think I have a ways to go.  This evening has opened up quite a conversation between God and me.  I need to figure out the extent of my own pride tonight.
However, three things are clear: NO one deserves heaven.  NO ONE is righteous.  And absolutely NO ONE is past hope.

 

Let’s pray for our hearts to be as open as the Lord’s, and to never give up praying for our unsaved loved ones – or even unsaved criminals.

 

God can do anything.