#CharlestonShooting: Should There Be Forgiveness?

    Saturday, June 20, 2015, 12:09 PM [General]

    Like many, I watched video of family members of the Charleston Nine (Emanuel AME Church members murdered in a mass shooting at the church this week) express forgiveness to the confessed shooter during a court hearing.

    It has been suggested it is too soon to forgive. What does that mean? Why does it matter?

    It is never too soon to affirm the intention to forgive. That's where forgiveness begins--with intent. From intent, we may move to the deep, emotional freedom that comes with true forgiveness. That true forgiveness frees us from the poison of an offender's words or actions. That's why Jesus taught his disciples to forgive. It all begins with intent.

    When I watched a sobbing woman lament the loss of a loved one in open court and heard her broken voice proclaim forgiveness, I knew I was watching a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

    This woman was not proclaiming damnation for the mass murder. No words were spoken about God's vengeance and hate, or Hell and suffering. This woman was following the example of her Lord, who spoke forgiveness while suffering a torturous death on a cross. This woman was speaking the words her loved ones, now worshiping with the Church Triumphant, would want her to speak. Through her tears, she was affirming the power of hate would not dominate or claim her goodness and take it away. She was affirming an eternal truth: the acts of the spirit are greater than the acts of the flesh.

    All of this matters because what is said now will determine how well the survivors heal, continue their lives, and honor the memory and legacy of those who are gone from our view.

    It all begins when forgiveness is spoken. Forgiveness does not minimize or rationalize away or excuse the horror and injustice of what was done. Forgiveness does not mean anyone should have warm, fuzzy feelings for the shooter.

    Forgiveness means the survivors have taken their power and decided to reclaim their true selves from the pain and injury of what was done. Forgiveness means they begin to cancel the power of hate. It all begins with intent. It is not something any of us naturally do. The power to forgive is a gift from God.

    (c) 2015 Deborah Evans

    From Paravanes: Meditations

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    The Church Gathered; But In Whose Name?

    Tuesday, June 2, 2015, 4:44 PM [General]

    In my Facebook feed, a news article about the closing of a large, nationally significant Catholic church building in a downtown central business district drew some noteworthy comments.
    One commenter lamented the "loss" of a beautiful building, stating members of "his church" relocated to suburban areas two decades ago. He went on to suggest Baptists or Lutherans --traditions of quite different origins and worship styles--would soon take over "his" old building.
    Another commenter wrote of the irony of the Archdiocesan Office shuttering the sanctuary, but leaving open the attached Senior Center which serves nearly 2,000 people per week, offering food assistance and a safe place to meet for socializing and fellowship. Was the Senior Center's work of placemaking and feeding the hungry more meaningful than the activities and rituals held on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings in the sanctuary?
    Jesus said "For where two or three come together--are present, assemble, or gather in my name--there I am with them." (Matthew 18:21).
    This is an powerful statement, and is proceeded by something many of us have found difficult to express or demonstrate in our experience of church worship and life: "Again, I tell you that if two of you on Earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven."(Matthew 18:20).
    Has this been your personal experience?
    In this passage, Jesus told his followers if two of them agreed about anything they asked for, the Father would do it. Why? He answers the "why?" in the next verse: because when two or three have gathered in his name--in his purpose, viewpoint, style, and method--he is there with them. There is, in that place, an unbroken fellowship and presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (living and abiding in the believers gathered).
    If this is true--and if Jesus says something, that "something" is always true--what has happened to the gatherings of the church? Why has the church experienced so much division, apostasy, and loss of direction?
    Many attending church stopped gathering "in his name." Some never gathered in his name, not ever.
    Some are gathered in the name of a preacher or a teacher. Some are gathered in the name of a denomination, a philosophy, or a tradition. Some are gathered in the name of political conservatism or political liberalism. Some are gathered in the name of prosperity or human riches. Some are gathered in the names of pipe organ music and architectural splendor.
    Some are gathered in the name of "fixing the world", or  "social justice", or "peace." Some are gathered in the name of finding a husband or wife, or obtaining a denominational scholarship or summer campership  for a child or grandchild. Some are gathered in the name of free child care for two hours on Sunday morning while Mom and Dad sneak away from church to enjoy a quiet breakfast at a nearby restaurant.
    Some are gathered in the name of social status or business and career connections. Many years ago,  I visited a local megachurch where the pastor warned (from the pulpit) those in attendance--members and visitors-- against using the church as a prospecting ground for selling Mary Kay Cosmetics and other "business opportunities." He said the situation had gotten out of hand and had to be publicly addressed.
    When the church--the called out body of believers in Jesus Christ--gathers, the building doesn't matter. If that body is together for Jesus' purposes, that body will have whatever they agree on if they ask for it.
    When you step into church next Sunday, ask yourself: why am I really here?
    What do I expect as a result of having been here? 
    How will I know my time here  has been well spent? 
    If I stopped coming here, how would my life change?
    What would I miss most if this church building closed?
    Ask yourself: am I really here "in his name?"
    (c)2015 Deborah Evans From Paravanes:Meditations
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    Non-Custodial Moms: What Happens on Mother's Day?

    Saturday, May 9, 2015, 12:07 PM [General]

    National Association of Non Custodial Moms:

    Parental Alienation Awareness Organization:

    Have you heard of these groups? When you learn a woman does not have custody of her child, do you assume she is an addict of some type, or mentally ill, or  morally unfit to raise her child or children?

    If you make these assumptions, you are wrong.

    Many noncustodial moms lost a legal battle with a well funded or abusive ex husband or ex partner. Perhaps this mother trusted someone who promised to take care of her child during a crisis, but that someone was simply creating a pretext for taking custody of that child. Perhaps this mother fled an abusive situation (taking her children with her) and was unable to finance the legal battle to maintain custody.

    Yes, there are some women who are not ready or willing to raise their children. But, there are many who were not able to prevail in a court system that favors the well connected and well funded. Mother's Day is always a challenge for these women.

    Perhaps you have custody (full or part) of your child, but you have been a victim of parental alienation. I have written about parental alienation elsewhere on this blog: watch out for the unexpected alienator, how to reunite after parental alienationwhen to give up the legal battle in court . You have your child with you, or have access to them on a regular basis, but you are struggling with negative brainwashing that has been imposed on your child. You and your child once had a close, loving relationship. Now, that child disrespects you, doesn't appreciate you, destroys your property, and says they hate you or wish you were dead.

    There is no rational basis for your child's beliefs, but the beliefs are deeply held. Your child insists these are their own thoughts, that he or she was not programmed or brainwashed by anyone.

    What happens on Mother's Day when this is your story? What can you do when your children are not physically or emotionally with you?

    Some thoughts:

    Allow yourself to choose how you spend the day. Don't mask your grief by accepting dinner invitations or invitations from friends who insist you should not be alone. Perhaps you would prefer to spend the day alone looking at old photo albums, watching a movie you once happily shared with your children, or cooking a favorite meal all of you once enjoyed together. Allow yourself these pleasures if they make you happy. If you truly don't want to be alone, accept invitations from people who will enjoy your company and not judge you or try to preach to you.

    Celebrate your own mother if you had a good relationship with her. Let this day be a day you remember, recall, and celebrate your own mother or grandmother if you had a good relationship with her. This could involve anything from visiting church, strolling in the park, planting flowers, taking a drive to a special place, or sleeping late and giving yourself a mani-pedi. If your mother is still living and you can enjoy your time with her, plan a visit or phone call or Skpye connect time.

    Gather friends and recreate the meaning of the day. Give yourself permission to get together with friends and do something totally unconnected to the meaning of Mother's Day. It can be a challenge to go out and have fun on Mother's Day when you are surrounded by seemingly happy families of moms, dads, and kids. See what's going on in your local area--check newspapers or local event websites-- and find something that will affirm your goodness and bring joy and happiness to the surface of your life. If you have no one to share the day with, your local public library or a nearby museum is a place you can visit on your own and still be in the presence of others. Stroll the galleries or read a stack of magazines or a good book. Spend a few hours enjoying yourself.

    Because this is a blog about faith, I will add that if you have a faith tradition, see what it says to you on this day.

    If you are feeling beaten down by the judgments of others, remember no one has the right to judge unless they know all of the facts. There is One Who Does. Do not leave this day without connecting with God in a special way.

    Free yourself from the negative judgments of others and seek to live only under the judgment of God. Remember you are beloved of God not because of what you accomplish, but because you are a creation of God. You are a spiritual being who will live somewhere forever. Temporary judgments are not final rulings. Allow your challenge to become your triumph. You are never beyond the reach of God's love, and neither are your children. Be who you need to be in this time. Seek help and accept it when it is genuinely offered. Get enough rest. Find two or three things that bring joy to you and hold on to them. Finally, understand that others do what they do because of who they are. You can only change yourself. You cannot change others.

    Have a happy day. Know that your mothering was not in vain, nor could it have been in vain. Keep the eternal viewpoint. Live well and be blessed.

    From: Paravanes:Meditations

    (c) 2015 Deborah Evans

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    Eastertide: Broken Hearts are Healed and Find a New Purpose

    Friday, April 17, 2015, 1:55 PM [General]

    Scripture tells us very little about what happened with Jesus and his disciples between the time of the Resurrection and the Ascension. He appeared to them, and to many others, after his return from the dead. For the disciples, he breathed the power of the Holy Spirit onto them and into them. He gave them a life altering commission, or charge, and then returned to the heavenly realm. He was not absent, but he was out of  physical view.

    As Charles Wesley put it in his hymn, Rejoice the Lord is King: "When He had purged our stains, He took His seat above." This doesn't mean Jesus sat back and watched history unfold with caring or participating. This means he returned to the heavenly realm of honor he had before coming to Earth. Jesus always cares. If you invite him, he always participates.

    Based on the accomplishments of the disciples after the Ascension, we can imagine a few things that must have happened for Jesus' followers. We can learn from their experiences, and find new paths for ourselves after our hearts have been broken by life's events.

    The disciples had to rethink what was real and possible. No one, before or after, has ever returned from death to live on Earth. Jesus did. That first Holy Week had been a real roller coaster ride for them. After they saw Jesus was alive---physically, in his body---they had to accept many new possibilities for what life could mean. They were then ready to accept the Great Commission. They saw their leader was more than they had ever imagined or originally believed. When Jesus heals your broken heart, he will show you possibilities and a future beyond what you imagined in your past.

    The disciples had to accept new and different responsibilities. During his ministry on Earth, the disciples expected Jesus to remove Roman power, restore the Davidic kingdom, and bring prosperity. They also expected to help him carry out that mission. It didn't quite turn out that way. Jesus gave them a new purpose and direction. The disciples carried it out very effectively. But it wasn't what they'd originally planned. They were willing to change. Ironically, the change Christianity brought to the ancient world did eventually bring down the Roman Empire, but it happened one person at a time.
    Much of what God does is done one person at a time. He heals broken hearts one at a time.

    The disciples found a worthy purpose: to spread a message of personal salvation+freedom from sin (sin = whatever makes us less than what God created us to be), a message of goodness defined as holiness-happiness-purpose. They found a purpose worth living for and dying for.  If we have a purpose worth dying for, we must choose to live for that purpose. If we do not have a purpose worth dying for, it is time to find a new purpose. The difficulties the disciples faced were nothing compared to the eternal value of what they did. Tradition says most of them suffered a martyr's death. Have no doubt that where these disciples are now, they would not say God asked too much of them. They found a purpose to carry them past their pain. We can do that as well when we listen to God and follow him.

    (c) 2015  Deborah Evans

    From: Paravanes:Meditations

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    A Prayer for the Egyptian Coptic Church Martyrs

    Monday, February 23, 2015, 2:51 PM [General]

    Lord, the horrible deaths of the Egyptian Coptic martyrs trouble me. But this I believe: In a way unknown to those of us who are left behind, you comforted their minds, bodies, and spirits in those final moments. Your revealed presence wiped fear and terror from their hearts. As their spirits left their broken bodies, You joyfully and proudly welcomed them into your uninterruptible presence. They now live in comfort, joy, and praise. They have no regrets for their sacrifice. Their pains are eternally forgotten. Their testimony and witness will continue through endless ages, world without end. Your precious children are never forgotten or abandoned, never absent from your care, never beyond the reach of your power. Amen.
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