Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Time for Forethought

Hello friends,

Forethought: careful planning, prudence, carefulness, farsightedness, wisdom, caution. These are words that I wonder if we understand. Forethought is a word that seems archaic to modern language, and, sadly, I think that its meaning is no longer understood, much less practiced.

In other words, I'm getting those forwards that insult just about everyone -- each candidate that is running for U.S. office, the Jews, Catholics, Evangelicals, believers in general, etc. You probably get them, too. I don't know why the month of December and the end of the year brings out the worst of humanity, as well as the good; and I certainly don't know why anyone thinks I even read these things or want them.

It reminds me of a time, when I lived across the street from a young woman, who happened to belong to an extremely conservative Christian faith. Since I stupidly confided that I had once been divorced, and that I was now happily married to the love of my life, she immediately gave me her unnecessary opinion:

"You know you are an adulteress, don't you?" Wow! That made my hair stand on end, and I was insulted. However, I was kind, stating that I had never cheated on anyone. So, you might say we agreed to an unspoken truce.

Fast forward about 2 and 1/2 years. One day, she showed up at my house, wearing a red, satin, "lady of the night" dress. "Jaye," she began, "I'm leaving my husband and children (four of them), and I'm so happy, I just had to tell you. I knew you'd understand."

What in the world was she thinking? "You thought I'd understand? What part did you think I'd understand?" The red, cocktail dress? Leaving your husband? Or abandoning your children?

"But, Jaye, you're divorced. You should understand."

"Look," I said, "First of all, I'm not divorced. I'm married. Secondly, I never abandoned my children. Thirdly, I left my ex-husband, because he was abusive. Again, I never abandoned my children!"

So, I wondered if I had a sign on my forehead that said:

First, please call me names. Then confess your sins. It boggles the mind.

So, now, we have the internet, and we have "Forwards." And many of us have given ourselves permission to send any insulting thing we can think up or copy, to someone we barely know. This is a mystery to me. Because, you see, if I chance to read one of these forwards, I'm never going to send it on. And if it is insulting to any group, who never did anything to me (or even if they did) personally, I'm going to think less of the sender, not the object of ridicule.

So, I think that we have come to a time, where we must learn the meaning of "forethought," and it is not too late to practice it. Do I really want to send an insulting email? Do I hate all these persons or groups, that I have never met, so much, that I would send a hurtful forward to you? I hope I have more forethought than that. And if I am a believer, I should love God so much, that I also love others who were also made in His image and likeness.

Lord, may I cast away, in this season of Your Grace, all the human prejudices in my heart, knowing that I not only hurt the one for whom it is intended, but I also hurt You. As Francis of Assisi said, in his beautiful prayer for peace:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
when there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand,
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying [to ourselves] that we are born to eternal life.

Francis of Assisi

My friends, I probably fail at this every day. I certainly do in my heart, often. Perhaps if I can live each line at a time, one day, I will be a more loving person, and I will understand and practice, forethought.

Father in Heaven, grant me the Grace to bless You, as I bless others. Make me a more loving daughter, not only to my family and friends, but also to strangers, especially those who are different than I. May I breathe Your love in every breath that I take, and please forgive me when I fail.

With love,

Jaye Lewis

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Time for Kindness

Hello friends,

This has been a difficult week for me, and, gee, it's only Wednesday. However, I have also had a great blessing. Here are some personal things that I would like to share:

I have a heart problem. It began when I was about twenty-six years old, and by the time I was twenty-nine, it became serious. I also have an insurance company. My husband spent twenty years in the military earning the right to have our health looked after. Well, our insurance company has a heart problem, a spiritual heart problem, so they have been ignoring my doctor's advice, and they have been trying to force me onto a less expensive drug, which is largely ineffective. Well, if it doesn't work, what does a 62 year old woman with a heart problem do? Well, I think they haven't thought that far, just as many people with a spiritual heart problem do. They don't think that far.

My blessing is that there is a new drug...one that has made a difference in one night. So, my heart problem is now pretty much under control. It is scary to depend upon medication, and to be denied what you need. So, here I am, very blessed with a good doctor. A kind doctor. One who has great humility. One who cares. My heart problem is being taken care of.

This has gotten me thinking, just what kind of a heart do I have? Do I have a heart problem? One that God would be ashamed of? Am I wise, in my own eyes? Am I kind? Do I need a change of heart? Whenever I have a crisis in my health, after the whining, I try to look at what God is saying to me. I try to look at it from His point of view. I often don't know what God is saying to me. So, I wonder, beyond physical health, does God think there is something wrong with my heart? So, I have begun to search my soul, and I am asking God what I need to understand when I fear for my life.

"What do you want me to understand, Lord?"
"How do you want me to change?"
"In what way do you want me to grow?"

"Well, Jaye, how about showing more kindness?"
"How about complaining less, and being thankful more?"

This is what I have thought about all day. Perhaps we live in a time where kindness has become obsolete. The Bible says, that in the last days (our time), men (meaning the human race) "shall be lovers of their own selves...proud...unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers...despisers of those that are good...lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." 2 Timothy 3:1-7

I think this scripture could be depressing, but somehow it makes me feel better, because I know that God sees just how weary our world has become. In a way, 2 Timothy states the obvious; but it was written nearly 2,000 years ago. God knows. He knows our pain. He knows our anxieties. He knows our problems. And He cares. He is kind. Oh, we can deny Him, but we can't make Him go away; nor would I want to. Oh, if I could only express the joy I feel, when I can almost hear His heart beat. In the darkness of my room, as I lay upon my bed, His light is so evident. Night time is the perfect time for me to have a heart to heart talk with my Lord.

I love you, Lord. Thank You for being with me, even when I have felt most alone. Thank You for holding my hand in the dark. Thank You, Lord, for rescuing me, and especially, thank you for being so kind. Help me, Lord, to be kind, like You.

God bless and keep you, my friends.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Time for Compassion

Hello friends,

As we approach the beginning of the second week before Christmas, I like to think about who needs help. In the past, our children have needed help, and God has sent earthly angels to minister to them. Helping is not just about money, or the holidays, or about toys, or about clothes. I think about those who may need a kind word, a smile, a hug, or just affirmation about their feelings.

I think about Psalms 4:4: In your anger do not sin; when you are on your bed; search your heart and be silent (Paraphrase mine).

Silence. That is a very difficult command to obey. If I have nothing else, I always have more words. Words can hurt. I know that intimately. I do not come from a family, where words were carefully weighed. Words were weapons, and not much else. The hardest thing for me, was that I actually thought of a response. It would have been the simplest thing to slaughter someone with a single sentence. I can't say that I wasn't tempted. I was. I also can't say, that I always held my peace. That would be a lie. But I can say that hurtful words were difficult for me to say, even in anger. When I saw the look of hurt in another's eyes, it would devastate me, and I would feel guilty for years. So, for my own peace of mind, for my physical and mental health, and for a more intimate walk with the Lord, I learned to hold my peace.

One day, long ago, I heard the voice of God, in my heart. He said to me: "Someone has to love. Someone has to forgive," and His loving pressure on my heart made me agree, "it might as well be me." That was the day that I began to surrender my will to His. That was the day that I began to understand just what compassion is. You see, I began to understand that compassion doesn't begin with a donation. Compassion begins with a changed heart, which translates into love.

Not everyone can go out and do. I can't, because my health is tenuous. I can't go to nursing homes, as I would like to do. I can't go to Africa and be a missionary. There are many things that I cannot do.

But I can say "thank you; you have blessed my life."
I can uplift.
And I can not hold a grudge.

There are those who are reading this, who suffer from depression, anxiety, loneliness, isolation, and many other afflictions, that can't readily be seen. I just want you to know, that the day you make it out of bed, and into the shower, is a triumphant day. The day you give your spouse a smile, instead of a sigh, is a day for celebration. You see, every journey begins with a single step.

When I was suffering from depression, I wrote to God, just as I am writing to you. Here is part of what I wrote:

"I walk through this day, because of You, Lord.
No personal power of my own gets me out of bed and onto my knees.

You are the One Who gives me the desire to look up,
To open my eyes,
To push myself up off of the floor.
By Your strength I walk.
By Your grace, I keep going.
When I stumble, You catch me in Your arms,
And when I fall, You carry me."

(Excerpt "Because of You" Copyright Jaye Lewis, 2002)

There is not a day that goes by, that I believe I can take a single step, without leaning on the One who is my strength. He is forever in my heart. His love is beyond any love I have ever had. I live each day, one day at a time. Depression, bi-polar, and mania run in my family. And no one can push my buttons quite like a relative can. So, I will leave them alone. I've done all the contacting I'm going to do. However, I can feel compassion. I can keep silent. I can let them live or die by their own sword, figuratively speaking. You see, nothing cuts like an unkind word. Nothing wounds quite like knowing someone's weakness, and then using that against them. And nothing destroys us, quite like our own words against others. Evil, you see, destroys itself.

Again, I know I'm blessed. I have a most wonderful husband. I know what it feels like to be cherished every day of my life. I have wonderful daughters. I know what it is to be honored by my children. I know their devotion. And I know their beauty, which shines through their eyes, from their remarkable souls.

I know what it is to have a relationship with Christ; to honor Our Father in heaven. I also know what it is like to try Him; to turn away; and I know what it is to repent, and to be forgiven. How can I not love a God like that? So, this Christmas season, I want to celebrate the Babe of Bethlehem. I want to celebrate His Divinity. I want to celebrate His humility as a Man, and His power, as God Himself. I also want to celebrate His Jewish roots. Remember, Jesus said, that He came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. So, this Christmas, I want to remember Israel, God's land, and God's people.

At the same time, I have many Muslim and Hindu friends. I have a deep respect for them, in all their diverse humanity. I have agnostic and atheist friends, and I do appreciate our mutual respect for one another.

So, here I am, a child of God, in submission to Christ, celebrating His birth, His sacrifice, and His love. But I must have compassion for those who suffer in this season. I must have compassion for the lost and hurting. I must have mercy for someone besides myself, and for those who are not easy to love. Some may be dangerous to be near, but that is okay. I can pray for them; and I can wish them no harm, even if they wish harm to me.

I belong to Jesus, and I cannot tell you what that means to me. Why did He remember me on the Cross? Why did He choose Me? Who am I that my Lord should even notice me? So, for His great love, and to honor Him, I can have compassion for others; and in my heart, because of Him, I can forgive.

Sweet Lord of my life. I am unworthy of You, but I will celebrate You every day of my life. And when I see my sin, I will repent, and ask for Your forgiveness, knowing that You will forgive, not because of what I am, but for Who You are.

With all my love,
Jaye Lewis

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