Thursday, December 20, 2012

Encouraging Words When Disaster Strikes

One never knows when disaster will strike. The day dawns with a rosy sky. What can this beautiful dawn mean?  What portent awaits us? Will this merely be a sunrise beyond compare? Or will we be facing another storm in our life?

In the sailor's vernacular, it is said, "Red sky at night; sailor's delight. Red sky at morning; sailor take warning."  After viewing hundreds of these gorgeous pre-dawn elegant skies, I can tell you that I never know.  For me, as I stand out on my deck, it is like awaiting a rainbow, which can mean the end of a terrible storm or its beginning.  Life, with its many triumphs and disasters cannot be predicted.  We await whatever comes, and we are usually unprepared.  Or are we?

I have found that if I am prepared in the good times...if my heart and soul and mind are prepared, in an attitude of prayer, then when disaster strikes, I am able to turn to the One who will carry me through.  It may sound simplistic.  It may sound even ridiculous, but that is how I prepare.  I pray.  No, not necessarily on my knees, for these old knees no longer hold me nor allow me to stand once I get down.  But, as God has commanded in His Bible, my heart remains, in between my sinful self and my devotion to Him, ready for His will.  I always hope, and I pray, that His will contains mercy and deliverance from that awful day of disaster.

In 1999, I wrote a poem, which later God sent music to me, titled, "The Eye of the Storm."  Since then, I have faced so many storms in my life, so many disasters.  Yet, here I am.

As a family, we have faced, near death, and life; cancer scares, semi-coma, the death of precious pets, and the loss of friends. We have been abandoned by family and friends and church. We have suffered loss that we thought we could never endure. We have even had precious friends murdered. How can that be? How can that be endured? And yet we have seen those who were closest to tragedy triumph with love and forgiveness. We have even learned to forgive, when forgiveness seemed impossible.

We have not done these things of our own power.  Never.  You will not hear me say that I have done anything by my own power.  Even the greatest love of my life, my husband, Louie, and my dearest treasures, my daughters, Jenny and Helen, are gifts of God.  Their love and devotion are God's most precious gifts.

So, right now, I can only promise that before the day of disaster strikes, begin a relationship, daily, hourly, minute by minute with the God who will carry you through.  Prayer is not a formal declaration. It need not begin with Thee or Thou.  It can begin in any way.  I began as a child, something like this:

"You know, God, this is a beautiful day.  Thank you.  It makes my heart smile, and that makes my face smile."

There are so many ways to begin. You may have already begun. It may have begun with a complaint, for which you feel guilty. Don't.  If you are talking to God, you are acknowledging Him. But don't miss out on the sweet times, those moments of great love, those times when the sunrise is so beautiful you feel like singing. Take a moment to look around you and just say "Thank you."  

In fact, I give you this challenge, as we approach Christmas and the New Year. Once a day, perhaps whenever you think of it, thank God. Just thank Him, and smile when you do it. I promise it will change your life. Then, when the day of disaster strikes, you will feel Him carry you through. I promise.

With love,
Jaye Lewis 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Encouraging Words on Veterans Day

 Real Hero by Jaye Lewis

            I only noticed him out of the corner of my eye.  I knew he was a Marine from the cut of his uniform, with its tightly pressed military creases.  Then I heard him, speaking low, with a kind of hiss.  He was not speaking to me.  He was speaking to my sergeant, who was the Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) in charge of the Military Information Booth at San Francisco International Airport.  I served with her there as a U.S Navy WAVE during the Vietnam War.
            I heard his tortured attempt to speak.  "Hep nee, peesss!" I understood him, “Help me, please!”  He struggled with every word.  I was grabbing my purse to take a much needed break, but I was caught by his struggle to make himself understood.  I could hear the irritation in the sergeant's voice as she demanded that he "speak up!"
            I paused as he began again, "I-nee-to-change-ny-tickek!"
            I understood every painful word he said.  He needed to change his ticket.  What was wrong with my NCO?
            "I CAN'T understand you!" she said, irritated.  "Speak up!"
            How rude! I thought, as I turned to put down my purse.  I then looked at him, as he again struggled to be understood.  No wonder he struggled.  Before me stood a tall, strong Marine officer, perfect in his pristine uniform, missing half his jaw!  My God, I thought!  What is she thinking?!
            "Excuse me, Sir.  I can help you," I said.  Without thinking, I shoved my sergeant aside and maneuvered my way in front of her.  I could see the man's teeth through the wire that held his face together.  I was of little importance, just a lowly seaman apprentice.  However, I knew what this man needed -- someone who cared enough to listen.  I studied his eyes.  I saw the pain, and I felt his humiliation.  Soul to soul, I knew what to do.  I smiled a big, welcoming smile.
            "Yes, Sir!  How can I help you?"
            Slowly and painfully the words, tortured and slurred, escaped from his wired mouth.  I listened with all my heart, and I watched his eyes.  I prayed to God to help me understand him.  And I did!  More than I can express.  I gave him the directions he needed, and his eyes smiled his thanks.  When he walked away I called a friend at one of the airlines who adopted him immediately, by personally attending to his needs.
            I thanked God for this opportunity to help a real hero; however, I also knew I was in trouble.  As I looked at my sergeant, I felt anger rise in me -- at her rudeness and total lack of sensitivity.  She studied me for a moment, her eyes narrowing.
"I could put you on report,"  she said, showing no emotion.
"…and, I could put YOU on report for insubordination to an officer," I retorted, my eyes spitting fire.  I hurled the stack of  blank “report sheets” towards her.  "Be my guest!" I said, as I grabbed my purse.  "I'll be on break." And I left.
            I went on to supper, because I knew it would be a long night.  I was troubled, now that my "dander" was down, at the thought of going before a “Captain's Mast”, or hearing, to explain my insubordination to an NCO.  I was certain it would be very unpleasant. 
As I neared the United Airlines counter, I saw him again.  His luggage was being checked, and his back was towards me.  Then, as though someone had told him where I was, he turned, and he looked at me.  Our eyes met for an eternity.  Then I smiled.
            This soldier and hero, in the United States Marine Corps, pulled himself up to his full height, and with all the military perfection in his being, he gave me a sharp, military salute.  I was thrilled!  WAVES did not salute indoors, especially when we were not wearing our cover or hat, but I pulled myself to attention and returned that salute.
            Moving on to the cafeteria, I walked a little taller, and I felt a little older.  In one small encounter I had grown from a twenty-one year old girl into a twenty-one year old woman.  And, truth be told, I felt more like a lady than I ever had before in my whole life!  I felt... just a little bit... like a hero.

© Jaye Lewis, 2001

Friday, November 02, 2012

Encouraging Words When All Else Fails by Jaye Lewis

Hurricane Sandy.  There it was, bearing down on us from the Atlantic, like some mythical dragon beast.  Surely it would swallow us up, and we would be consumed!  What could we do?  Prepare, they said.  Get supplies.  Water.  Non-perishable food -- they always show jars of peanut butter and white bread, and the inevitable box of crackers, as though you will somehow have enough to sustain you with that pittance.  What are they thinking?  Does that make them sleep better?  It was laughable and tragic, especially now, since even the most prepared provisions have floated out to sea.

So, what should we do, especially if we live near the coast?  Well, living near the coast requires preparation of a different kind.  It requires making friends with someone far from the coast.  If nothing else start a bank account far from the coast, and put regular deposits in it.  Be faithful in this.  Your life, and the lives of those you love could depend on it. Believe the weather reports.  Go far inland.  Flee farther than the storm front.  This storm covered a third of our country.  Even parts of Ohio had blizzards.  Lake Michigan had huge waves.  West Virginia had huge blizzards.  I believe people just didn't believe.  So, in the future, you'd better believe.

You know how on T.V., you always hear crime or storm victims say, "I never thought it could happen to me?"  Well, I am one of those people who believe, if it's going to happen, it's probably going to happen to me.  I'm a fatalist.  So, what do I depend on?  If it's going to happen, then why not give up?  Why not just stand on the beach and let the waves overtake me?  What do I do when all else fails?

I depend on God.  That's it.  It's as simple as that.  I pray.  I talk to God as I am talking to you.  I tell Him of my fears.  I tell Him of my sorrows.  I ask Him to protect me.  I ask Him to keep me safe, and if I am to die, I ask that He take care of those whom I love.  I ask Him to come for me, and to carry me home in His arms.  Then, because I am human; because I cannot help myself; because I know He never tires of me, I tell Him again.

Lord, I'm afraid.  Since we are on the cold side of the storm, in the mountains, I know we are going to get lots of snow.  You know that big tree that I love so much, Lord?  The one that I love to take pictures of?  Well, Lord, I'm afraid it's going to fall on us.  One good, stiff wind and it's going to fall on the house.  If it falls on the house, there goes the deck, and the roof, and the fireplace, and that whole end of the living room.  We could all be hurt, Lord.  We could die.  I'm not ready to die, Lord.  Lord, I'm afraid. Lord, I'm afraid. Lord, I'm afraid.  Help me, Lord.  Help me to be unafraid.  Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.

I went on Facebook, and I asked my friends to pray for me, those who were in safe areas. They were already praying and sending messages.  Social media can be a good and positive thing.  Prayer works.  God is there.  He always has been.  He has never needed television. He has never needed email.  He has never needed social media.  He is THE social media.  I think all these things are great and helpful.  I depend on my friends.  I talk to them nearly every day.  I keep in touch with them, all over the world.  They are the friends of my heart.  We are connected through our love for one another.  That is a blessing.  But, when all else fails, I depend on Him.

For us in southwestern Virginia, the snowstorm was slight.  It began to melt very quickly.  The tree did not fall.  The wind was reasonable.  My fear, although noticeable, was manageable.  God did not fail me.  I'm sure I failed Him, but He did not fail me.  He is my hiding place.  He is my port in the storm.  He is the glue that holds me together, and He is my everything when all else fails.

I hope that as you read this, no matter your situation in life, that you will consider that nations and governments will fail you.  Family and friends will fail you.  You will even fail yourself.  But God will always be there to catch you when you fall.  He is the Father who stands in the deep end of the pool, and when you jump, He is waiting with outstretched arms to catch you and keep you safe, no matter what happens in the end.  I hope you will turn to Him in your fear and in your failings, and I hope you will believe in Him, the way He believes in You.

Father in heaven, there is much suffering now, throughout the northeastern United States, especially New Jersey and New York.  But each person who reads this has suffering in his or her life.  There is illness and loss of every kind.  I ask you now, Lord, to touch their lives in an intimate way, so that they may know you as I do, and they may know that they are not alone.  I pray, Lord, that they may turn to You when all else fails.  In Your Holy Name.  Amen.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

An Encouraging Word for Hospice Volunteers by Jaye Lewis - Introducing a Guest Blog

Hello friends,

This is the first time that I have ever shared a guest blog, but this is special, and it is written by a very special friend of mine, Jo Ann Smotrys.  The message is best said in her own words:

As a Hospice Volunteer, I'm told my Nursing Home patient is not responsive to stimulation. She doesn't respond to anyone. She doesn't speak. She doesn't show emotion. When I visited, even though it was July, I 'played' a tape of Christmas Carols... something we all can relate to...something we're all familiar with. She has dementia. She has forgotten so much. She has forgotten how to live. I hold her hands. I look into her eyes. I talk to her as the music plays. I watch as I see a smile upon her face. I listen as she tries to speak. I hug her. I remind her she is a 'child of God'. I remind her of the gift He is to each of us. As we listen to songs that speak of His birth, I remind her that He died for us. He hung upon the Cross at Calvary for our sins.

I glance around to see her friend has tears streaming down his face. Why? "She hasn't smiled or spoken for so long...I can't remember", he says. He's been there every day for 8 years to watch over her. He has been there but everyone has told him she doesn't respond. So he just sits with her. He does what he can, but frankly, he doesn't know what to do. He too is lost. He has watched her plight as she diminished in health over the years, but he never let her down in his faithfulness to her. He was always a loving presence for her. Now, once again, he has just seen 'a spark' in his sweet lady. He too smiles.

Most every time I visited after that I'd find him...There in her room, talking to her, as he held her hand and he never left without telling her "I love you" and hugging her. There wasn't much response...but there was 'that little bit' and he reached out for it on every visit. One day, as he was about to leave he reached behind her to hug me. He then said "I love you" to her, as he has so many times before. She doesn't respond. He walks past her to leave, his back to her, and says "She knows I love her, don't you gal?". There! A sudden, loud 'Yes' is in the air. She spoke. He moved on. He couldn't stop. He couldn't compose himself. She'd confirmed what we all knew by then. She heard. She loved. She was trying so hard to express herself.

Did I make a difference? Yes...But only because I was trained to believe that hearing is the last sense to leave us. I leaned heavily on that belief and her friend learned from me. No one had ever told him what to do, how he could communicate with her, that she might hear him though she didn't respond, so he had given up. But he never gave up on loving her. He never gave up on coming to check on her.
Now she responds. It's a smile...a word here and there...a little move of her fingers against his as he hold her hands. But it's all communication. She had it all along. Is it because no one was listening to her? Because no one was talking to her? I suppose. But that's all changed.

One night I sit in a chair beside her bed and told her how fortunate she was to have someone to come visit her each day, reminding her of how much he loved her! How much I loved her! How very much God loved her! I knew in my heart she understood me. I cried as I talked. I let my emotions go. She squeezed my hand, as I saw tears roll from her eyes. She did hear. She remembered love and compassion, though she may have forgotten all else over the years.

The circumstances are different...but that's the way God is toward us. We forget Him. We put Him aside for worldly things. And though we think He isn't hearing us, when we call out to Him, He is there. He is our Guide and our Protector. He constantly shows us Love and Compassion, but we have to open our hearts to hear Him and feel His warmth. Only then can we truly share Him with others...
like this woman who may have needed to be reminded that God was still with her.
I stayed with her the night she died. Her face glowed with "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding", as she took her last breath. Philippians 4 describes it best.

Copyright@2003 Jo Ann Smotrys_Hospice Volunteer

Thank you, Jo Ann for this lovely true story.  May we all remember that we are not forgotten, especially in our last moments.  And may each of us have someone as loving as you to guide us in our final hours.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Encouraging Words for Victims of Abuse "I'm Somebody!" by Jaye Lewis

“I’m Somebody!!”  By Jaye Lewis

He was quick tempered, and often petulant; but there was something about Tommy that touched my heart.  I found myself drawn to him.  He had the sharpest sense of humor, I’d ever seen, in a child that age.  He was eight years old.  For once, Jenny, my eight year old, was doing well in school, in spite of her arthritis and the days that she missed.  She was cheerful and outgoing, especially where Tommy was concerned.

“This is my friend, Tommy,” she said, as she pulled him toward me for the introduction.  He kind of kicked an imaginary clod of dirt, and his eyes would not meet mine.

“Well, well, Tommy, “ I smiled.  “That big old clod of dirt you just kicked, sure is attracting your attention.  Isn’t it?” I teased.  Suddenly, his dark eyes met mine, twinkling, and he kicked the floor again.  “Take that, you old clod!”  He cried, as he kicked the floor a third time, his face breaking into an irresistible grin.

I kicked the floor, and cried, “Yeah!  You old clod!!”  Tommy and Jenny cracked up, just as the teacher walked up to introduce herself.  She smiled at Jenny, and then gave Tommy a cold look.

“No nonsense today, young man!”  She scolded.  Tommy’s face fell, and his shoulders drooped, as he walked away.  Placing his hands in his pockets, he turned and met my eyes.  I’ll never forget that look.  It was a look of total hopelessness.

Miss Drummond thanked me, warmly, when I offered to become “room mother” to her class, and I became very involved with the second graders’ welfare.  I baked, taught crafts, went on every field trip, and I became attached to Tommy.

If ever there was a prophesy of failure, it was Tommy.  He was a marked child, from the day he took his first step into pre-school.  He was in second grade, for goodness sake!  How can your life be marked for failure, in second grade?!  I just didn’t understand.  I found him bright, and mischievous, but he completely won my heart over when I saw the pattern of failure written into his life.

I remembered, painfully, what it felt like to be nine years old, and to have my father turn on me one day, and scream in my face.

“You will NEVER amount to anything!”  He cried, his face twisting, as if in pain.  I could feel shock waves of ice-water streaking through my veins! 

Again he shouted, “You are NOTHING but a failure!!!  YOU ARE NOTHING!!”

I believed my father, and I never let him down.  I failed at many things, and he was always there to reinforce my “nothingness.”  I saw this pattern in Tommy’s life, and I swore I would do everything in my power to make certain, that my early life would not happen to him.

I championed him.  I helped him with his lessons every day.  I laughed and dreamed with him.

“Oh, I’ll be nothing.”  He said.  “My Dad’s nothing.  My Granddad’s nothing.  I’ll be nothing, too.  I’d like to keep that in the family,” he joked. 

I laughed, but I didn’t think it was funny.  I was certain it was real.

The first field trip that I chaperoned, was very illuminating.  Before we left the school, and once, on the bus, Tommy was warned by Miss Drummond.  “No pranks, now, Tommy.  The first time that you step out of line, the field trip will be over, for YOU!”  She threatened, as she poked her finger at him.

I heard Tommy mumble, “Well there goes my trip to the planetarium!  I’m doomed.”

“No, Tommy, you’re NOT doomed.  You’ll see the planetarium!  I’ll be right there with you!” I whispered.  He turned away, and stared at the fields racing by.

It was a long trip, and when we stopped for lunch, Tommy received his third warning, as he stepped off the bus.

I tried to lighten the mood, by saying, “That’s O.K., Ms. Drummond, I’ll stay with Tommy.”  I laughed, and Tommy looked away stone faced.  He ate in silence, sitting next to one of the other boys, in the second grade. 

I watched my golden haired Jenny, and was gratified to see her with her friends, laughing and talking, and able to move around without much pain.  It was charming.  Miss Drummond would watch Jenny and smile, and you could tell that she loved her.  She was the best teacher that Jenny had ever had, and a good woman, but she just didn’t see what she was doing to Tommy.

Then I saw it.  I was right across the table.  The boy next to Tommy, wiped ketchup on Tommy’s brand new shirt.  Something like lightening flashed in Tommy’s eyes, as he shoved the boy off the bench, and onto the grass.

“TOMMY!”  cried Miss Drummond.  “I WARNED YOU, YOUNG MAN!  You are BANNED from the planetarium!  You will wait IN THE LOBBY, until everyone ELSE goes through!”  A secret smile, slipped across the perpetrator’s face.

“Wait.  WAIT!”  I cried.  “It wasn’t Tommy’s fault.  This other boy wiped ketchup on his shirt!  Tommy shouldn’t be punished!  This other boy is at fault!  Tommy needs to see the planetarium!”  I wailed, feeling like a helpless child.  Another smile passed over the perpetrator’s face.

Miss Drummond declared, a hard look coming into her eyes, “NO!  Tommy knows better.  There will be no fighting!  He MUST learn!”  I felt just awful.  What could I do? 

As we loaded onto the bus, and began our journey again, I sought Miss Drummond out.  I begged.  I cajoled.  I pleaded.  I bargained.  Please.  Please!  PLEASE!!  Any kind of punishment but failure.  I was after anything else.  But nothing worked.  Her mind was made up.  She explained how Tommy’s bad record went back to pre-school!  He was a bad seed.  He’d never do anything.  Or be anything.  My blood ran cold, remembering my own fate.  I prayed, like I’d never prayed before, not even when Jenny had been at her sickest.

Lord help me to help this boy!  I had no power, except the power of faith and prayer.  I had no idea how to remedy this situation.

I volunteered to stay in the lobby of the planetarium.  Miss Drummond urged me to join the children, and she would stay with Tommy.  No.  No, I assured her.  I wanted to stay out with Tommy, and after all, the other children would have so many questions to answer.  I didn’t tell her, but I needed to stay with Tommy.

Tommy and I sat on a bench, in the lobby, for a long time, not speaking.  Then, he began to talk.

“I don’t remember, ever doing anything right, in my whole life, Miss Jaye.”  I put my arm around him, and I said, “I know how that feels.”

Tommy looked up at me with adoring eyes, no doubt reading some kind of treasured worth, in what he saw.  A new experience for me.

“Tommy, I was just like you, honey.  Just like you.  I never succeeded at anything.  But my life is different, now.”  I paused, looking into his eyes, with deep conviction.

“What changed, Miss Jaye?” he asked.

“Well, Tommy,” I began, “it’s pretty simple, really.”  He gave me a look that told me he was hanging onto every word.

“I couldn’t change anyone around me, Tommy.  Not my teachers.  Not my classmates.  Not my parents.  Not anyone else.  So, I changed me.”  Tommy’s eyes looked puzzled, and then, suddenly, it was like the dawn burst forth into a cloudy sky!  Tommy understood.  I’ve never seen such sudden awareness in the eyes of anyone so young.

We continued to talk, and I told Tommy all about that day, when I became nothing, and I told him what a lie it was.  I told him that I knew I was somebody, because a wonderful God says I am.  I told him that many adults operate from a position of fear, like nothing he had ever known.  I told him that this day would be the turning point in his life, because he was a wonderful, somebody with the power to change his own life.  Oh, I told Tommy a lot that day, perhaps more than I’ve told anyone, until now, and Tommy believed me.  Every word.

The next day, I went to the school counseling office, and I spoke to a wonderful man, the psychiatric social worker attached to the school.  No doubt this man was very underpaid, but he turned out to have a powerful influence for Tommy’s future.  Tommy was removed from Miss Drummond’s class and put into a “special education” class.  She gave me a knowing smile, and told me, she wasn’t surprised.  She knew that he just couldn’t last in a normal class.

I never told her what I had done.  I heard a few whispers, that Tommy was, remarkably, making “A's.”  That he was accepted into the gifted and talented program, and what was our educational system coming to!  I’d smile and say I hadn’t a clue.  I never saw Tommy again, except once.

I had my own problems.  By the time Jenny was in the middle of third grade, I had to flee with my children, from the man I was married to, into a women’s shelter.  By the time I was in a position to get Jenny’s transcripts from her first school, she was well established in her new school.

It was in the spring of 1981 that I walked into the halls of the old elementary school, on my way to the Principal’s office.  I was, now, a single mother, who had left everything I knew behind me, for the welfare of my children.  I was a bit scared of the future, yet knowing full well, that I would fight any dragon, to keep them safe.

Suddenly, I heard footsteps running behind me.  Before I could turn around, a pair of little arms encircled me, and I heard Tommy’s voice cry, “Miss Jaye!   Miss Jaye!!” 

I turned, and he threw himself into my arms.  He had grown so tall!  His eyes were shining, and he was laughing.  He once again met my eyes with the most adoring look!

“Miss Jaye!” he cried.  “You were right!  I can change myself!  And I did!  I’m happy, now, and I’m SOMEBODY!!”

Tears sprang to my eyes and fell upon Tommy’s brown hair.  I brushed them off, as I squatted down, to study his face.

“Yes, Tommy, you are SOMEBODY!  You have always been SOMEBODY!”  I hugged him to me, and my eyes locked with the man in the office behind him.  That same wonderful counselor, overqualified and underpaid, smiled at me, and gave me a “thumbs up!”

“Gotta go, Miss Jaye!  See you soon!”  Tommy gave me one last hug, and turned to go.  He stopped mid-stride, and he looked back at me.  “I love you, Miss Jaye!”  He cried. 

“I love you, too, Tommy!”  I choked, barely pushing the words past the lump in my throat.  Then he turned, and he ran out of my life.

As I walked out of the school, carrying Jenny’s records, I stepped into the Florida sunshine, with a smile.  I felt the words echo in my heart… I’m somebody!   I’M SOMEBODY!.   

© Jaye Lewis, 2003

This is a true story about a real little boy, whom I knew.  He was an abused child, as I was.  We survived.  I believe that you can too.  It doesn't matter if you are an adult who is still haunted, you can survive the memories.  You can be or become everything that those who abused you were not.  You can be kind.  You can love and be loved.  You be open, and you can be a hope for others.   My hope has been in the God who has shown grace and mercy to me.  I cannot and will not turn my back on Him.  I hope that you know Him, and if you do not, I hope you will seek Him, because if you do, you will find Him, if you seek Him with all of your heart.

This story, "I'm Somebody!" was originally published, in 2007, in the book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Celebrating People Who Make a Difference.  

Never think for a moment that I was the one who made the greatest difference in Tommy's life, for it was he who made a difference in mine.  God bless you Tommy, wherever you are.  I hope you are happy, and I hope that sometimes you remember those who have made a difference in your own life.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Saturday, April 07, 2012

The Bible, Jesus, and Me By Jaye Lewis

I grew up in the old Roman Catholic church, where services were called “The Mass,” and every word was written in a dead language, called Latin.  This was not your everyday Latin.  It was not classical.  It was Church Latin, so different in pronunciation from the language that Caesar spoke, that if Caesar were raised from the dead in 1958, he wouldn’t have understood a word.

I don’t remember a single word in the Mass ever being spoken in English, except for the reading of the Gospel from the New Testament, and, of course, the sonorous sermon.  Some of those sermons were so long, and so uninspiring, that they made me long to return to the readings in Latin.

I went to an Irish Catholic school in seventh and eighth grade.  It was an old parish, really old.  Most of the congregation was getting older by the second, and they died a lot.  Sister Rosa Anne was the principal.  She didn’t like me much, or if she did, she hid it well.  I had red-hair and a rosy complexion, which would glow like Rudolph’s nose when I was embarrassed, which was most of the time.

Sister volunteered the seventh and eight grade, approximately thirty-five of us boys and girls, to sing the Requiem Mass for the Dead.  For two years we sang Requiems approximately three times a week.  Our family moved around a lot, so I was always the new kid, but it was never so obvious as it was in this school. 

From the time we first arrived, I didn’t know what the heck we were doing.  It was a good six months before I understood that there were different bodies in those coffins.  I thought we were singing the same Mass, for the same person, again and again, week after week.  It seemed pretty strange to me, and I began to take a quick sniff each time we entered the church, because I was pretty sure that after all those months that poor man was about to start stinking.  I found out what was really going on when I finally asked the most important question, “Are they ever going to bury that man?!”

Sister Rosa seemed to find it necessary, for our own good, that we be decidedly uncomfortable. So, every day after recess, when we were the most sweaty and stinky, she would order us to kneel backwards in our desks.  These were the desks that were lined in rows, with seats that raised and lowered on hinges.  My desk would be the back of someone else’s seat, and my seat would be the front of someone else’s desk. 

Great care had to be taken so that I would not fold myself up in my own seat.  I was a regular klutz, and usually the center of much amusement on the part of my classmates, all under the disapproving eye of Sister Rosa.  I grew to dread those moments, as we recited the entire Rosary, while sweat dripped down my side, and I flipped my seat open and closed upon myself.

Another pastime right after the noon hour was the reading from “Holy Scripture.”  One never referred to it as the Bible.  Sister would choose one person to read from “Holy Scripture.”  Since half the class couldn’t make it through a fifteen minute reading in less than an hour and a half, I was usually elected.  I received frequent unwanted attention from class members for always being singled out.

The readings for the week before Easter were particularly long, so naturally I was chosen to get us through them in a brief amount of time.   The reading for Holy Thursday was entitled Christ’s Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem.  Oh boy, this would be easy.  I already knew the whole story, nearly by heart. 

So, I began reading with a solemn voice, and I did just fine until I came to the first catastrophic line.

“Go into the village…ye shall find an ASS….” 

WHAT?  Did I just read that word in Holy Scripture?  My face turned beet red, and the class began to titter.  We were a bunch of twelve year olds, for crying out loud.  And this was a Catholic school where one didn’t use those words.  Heck, kids in public schools didn’t use that word, not in class, in front of the teacher!

I managed to squeak through that line, glad to have it over with.  My face was beet red and hot, but I was giggle free.  I read on, without a pause, until I came to the next stumble.

“Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ASS, and a colt the foal of an ASS.” 

The class became engulfed in snickers.  My voice began to shake.  This was terrible language in Catholic school.  What were they thinking?!!  I tried valiantly to continue, my voice breaking as I came to the end of the line.

“the disciples went, and brought the ASS…” 

All of a sudden a laugh bubble broke in my chest.  My hesitation, brought a stiff rebuke from Sister Rosa, “Enough, now, continue!”  She made me repeat that scripture again and again, until I fell to the floor.
My shoulders began to shake, and my head bobbed, as I thought of that forbidden word.  In the 1950’s south, this was unforgivable, and at that moment it was hilariously funny. Sister finally said the one thing that must never be said to an embarrassed twelve year old.

“It’s not funny!  Don’t laugh!”

Well, it was all over.  I began to laugh so hard, I couldn’t stand up.  I laughed until I cried, and I may have wet my pants.  At that point Sister lost complete control of the class, and the class lost control of itself, including me.    At twelve years old, I almost had a heart attack! 

Sister finally left the room in a huff.  What was she thinking?  A room full of twelve year olds.  Had she forgotten what it was like to be innocent and twelve?  I’m certain that in the present society of twelve year olds, this incident would never take place.  I’m sure that the sophisticates of today would be able to repeat the “ass” word without a blink, but we were innocent then.  We’d heard a lot of dirty words, even then, but we would never have repeated them.  It was hilarious and unforgettable, and I never was able to read that passage without engulfing in laughter.

The result of this twelve year old encounter with the greatest book ever written, and the greatest life ever lived, was that it peaked my interest.  It was a time that Roman Catholicism was considered the “Mother Church,” and reading the Bible was discouraged, even forbidden.  That night I went home and I found the dusty tome hiding on a book-shelf.  I opened it up and I began to read, “In the beginning…”
It was certainly the beginning for me of a great love affair with the Word of God.  It’s amazing how God works these things.  He woke me out of a sound sleep, with uncontrolled laughter, and he brought me into a life of constant thirst for His Word.  Even now, I feel a tremble, wondering what new thing will I learn today from Him.  And, yes, sometimes God still makes me laugh with new expectation.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Encouraging Words at Easter by Jaye Lewis

Hello friends,

For many Christians, this is a holy time of the year, as we prepare for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  For my friends across the world, who are not Christians, this may seem like a strange time of the year.  Who celebrates the death of their God?  And what can Resurrection mean?

Well, my friends, we Christians believe that Jesus Christ died, so that the gates of heaven would be opened, and we might all, if we believe in Him, go to heaven for all eternity.  His death, however noble, was not the real miracle.  The real miracle, that Christians the world over have been willing to die for, is that once He was dead, Jesus Christ became alive again.  Only God has that power, and Jesus Christ is God, Son of the Father of us all.  This is what we believe, we Christians.  This is the ideal.

Now, does this belief make us better than anyone else on earth?  No.  We sin.  We are offensive, unrighteous in many ways, unloving, disrespectful of the faith of others, and I could go on and on.  We should be better, but we are sometimes worse.  The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is this, our faith.  Our faith in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.

We believe that each person must accept Jesus, in their hearts, and admit that no one can work their way to heaven.  I know.  That’s the human way.  Working for that paycheck.  But God is not an Employer.  He is in the Salvation business, and all he wants is our hearts, given freely and willingly.  That’s all.

There is not a magic formula.   All formulas were invented by men.  Jesus, I give you my heart.  I will not forget you.  Please remember me.  That’s all it takes.  It is like the thief on the Cross next to Jesus. 

“Jesus, remember me when you are come into your Kingdom.” Pled the repentant thief.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, I say to you, this day you will be with me in Paradise.”

It’s as simple as that.  Jesus forgive me!  Take me with you!  Don’t leave me!  I can’t make it without You!  Only You can save me!  I need You!  I am a sinner!  Without You, I am nothing!  No one on earth, not good works, not good speech, not good thoughts, nothing, no one can save me!  Even I cannot save myself!  Only You can!  I believe in You!!!

And Jesus said, to this sinner, Jaye Lewis, “Child, one day you will live with me in Paradise.”

Ever since that day, that I knew who my Savior is; ever since I opened my heart to Him, my life has never been the same.  And my love for Jesus has grown to consume my heart.  You might say that my love for Him, and His love for me has become a beautiful devouring fire!

Devouring Fire  By Jaye Lewis

He met me at the altar
On a sunny, winter's day.
My heart was cold;
His hands were warm.
It took my breath away.

His eyes were soft.
His face was sad.
A tear rolled down my cheek.
He knelt me down in front of Him.
I trembled.  I was weak.

"Do you love me?" Jesus asked.
"Oh!  Yes!  My Lord, I do!
I take You as my Sovereign Lord!
I choose to follow You!"

And from the moment, that I chose,
Jesus as my Lord;
A battle of the unseen host,
Began to strike His Word.

But in my heart a fire blazed,
And though it seemed, we'd part.
I heard His Voice, I saw His Face.
They were printed on my Heart.

So, don't give up!
He's there for you!
Just as He is for me!
He's waiting at the altar,
To truly set you free.

© Jaye Lewis, 1999

And so, my friends of many faiths, and those of none, this is what moves the hearts of Christians.  Jesus.  Only Him.  And I urge you ― now that you know it ― hold us to it when we stray from the compassion and love of Jesus.  We are like any other human being.  We want to love and be loved.  We believe that Jesus is the answer, but when we do not act like Him, when we do not show His face to you, in what we say and do, then hold us to it.  You tell us that we are not being like Christ.  Tell us that.  We need to hear it.  We need to be reminded, especially at this time of the year.

My fellow Christians, do not be judgmental of others who are not of our faith, who are doing the best they can to live a good life.  They may not have Christ in their lives, but maybe we should have more of Christ in our hearts, our lives, and our actions.  We get puffed up, as though we belong to a special club that says “Stay Out!”  Well, we’d better get over that right now.  Jesus did not come to rule the world.  He came to rule in our hearts.

I finish this with the words of Gandhi:  “If Christians lived the way Christ taught them to live, all of India would have come to the Cross.”  Which ones of us want to stand before Christ and say, “Well, Lord, I forgot that part about living like you.”  The greatest sermon we will ever preach is the power of Christ’s love in our lives.

Heavenly Father, I have said much today.  I ask You and my fellow Christians to forgive me if I have said too much or too little.  And I promise that I do not think I am wise, nor am I a prophet, nor a preacher, nor do I want to be.  I am a sinner, and I love you, Lord.  I love you with my whole heart.  Jesus, I will fail, this day, to be all that I want to be for You and for my fellow travelers on this planet, whether Christian or not.  I beg Your forgiveness, and theirs.  Thank You, Lord, for pursuing me, for finding me, and most of all for showing me that I have been found by You.

Dear friends, who have followed me for so long on this blog, and for those who are just stopping by, I love you.  Yes, I do.  Just knowing that there is someone out there, who needs to hear that today, helps me to bear the tribulations in my own life, with joy in my heart.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Encouraging Words for People Who Love Their Dogs by Jaye Lewis

Hello friends,

If you go to the bottom of this page, you will see a sweet poster that celebrates my Happy Dog, the dog of my life.  He is a very old dachshund.  Today I would like to share with you a story of how Happy Dog became, and so remains the dog of my life.  I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy telling it.

Just Hang On!  By Jaye Lewis

He dogs my every footstep.  With each step I take, he’s right there with me, guarding me and ready to die to defend me.  I have seen him take on the most aggressive vacuum cleaner salesmen.  God help the one who sticks his foot in the door without invitation, because my little powerhouse of faithfulness and aggression will give that foot a fight for it’s life, shoes, socks, and laces!

Make no mistake, a dachshund may be small, but they are quick, and relentless in an attack.  They aren’t called “badger dogs” without cause.  In their natural habitat, a dachshund has been known to track a badger - one of the fiercest animals known - hurrying down into it’s tunnel, and locking onto it’s snout, never letting go, not even in death.

When I leave the house without him, whether it’s just a walk around the yard or a day trip to the next town, Happy will keep watch at the top of the stairs.  With every sound, he will launch himself onto the back of the couch, to get a good look out of the window, to see if I’m almost home.  I can hear him announcing my arrival before I even get out of the car.

“She’s home!!” he cries.  “She’s home!  She’s home!   All is well!”  As I open the door, he immediately gives me a tongue lashing, yelping with joy!  I try to always have a “present” for him, and I delight at his enthusiasm, as he roots through the bag until he finds it.

Happy has a perfect bandit face, a black mask surrounded by  rich, golden tan.  His ice-cube nose is ever questing for a treat or just a warm place to cuddle.  He has shoe-button eyes that never miss an opportunity.  And when he locks those intelligent eyes onto mine, I lose all power to resist.

Happy, like all dachshunds, loves to tease and play.  Every clever thing he does is simple evidence that even a woman my age can be taught “new tricks.”  He brings me the ball.  I throw it.  He steals my slippers.  I chase him.  The worst thing you can do, in the face of improper behavior, is laugh!  I, joyfully, failed that test long ago.  I am Happy’s willing slave.  No matter how dark my mood, Happy can always make me laugh.

Happy doesn’t  know that there are not “badgers” lying in wait.  He’s always prepared, just in case, and I have learned much from this little dog.  I have learned that a faithful life is one of constant vigilance.  I have learned that some things are worth fighting for, and if necessary, dying for.  However, the greatest lesson that Happy has taught me, is to live my life in the moment, just as he does, ever joyful for each blessing, ever vigilant for those “badgers” that are certain to cross my path.  And when life takes a nasty turn, I have learned from Happy, to grab a hold and just hang on!

Many years later:  As you can see by my picture above, Happy Dog has grown older, but his heart is still the same.  At the time of this story, Happy Dog was majestic in his beauty a lot like this:

I do hope you enjoy this story of my Happy Dog.  Please click the "Like" button above and let this dachshund lover, especially the lover of a special dachshund, that you also see how special he is.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Encouraging Words for Those Who are Housebound Again by Jaye Lewis

Hello friends,

Well, I’m in the bed, again.  The sky is blue, and the air is balmy, especially for February here in the mountains of Virginia.  I would love to pull on my hikers, throw on a wind breaker, put a sweater and coat on my Happy Dog, and head outside.  A nice walk down the hill sounds like a dream to me.

I’m very blessed, however, because I know this is temporary.  I’m on medication that is helping me, and by the time the week is out, I should (I hope) be out of bed and slowly be on my way.

I think that I know why I’m “laid up,” as we say in the hills.  I have an inflammation in my right hip.  At least I hope it is only inflamed, kind of like an arthritis attack, because of a fall I had two months ago.  It seems like it was only the other day that I could fall, get up, and just keep on going, but that was twenty years ago.  I used to joke, “when I fall, I just bounce.”  Not any more.  When I fall, I leave a hole in the ground, and I’m still in the hole.

It may seem as though I’m depressed, but I’m not.  This is one of those learning experiences.  Do I focus on what I don’t have?  Or do I recognize the blessings that I do have?  I’m not alone.  I have my family, who can’t do enough for me.  If I neglect myself, by not requesting help in my needs, whether my need is medicine, or my diabetes testing supplies, or food or drink or just an arm to hold me up so that I can go to the bathroom, someone is always near to help me.

It is a humbling experience, just experiencing how much they love me.  Their love for me is selfless, a precious gift, which reminds me just how much God also loves me.  They are God’s perfect gift, that is as obvious to me as one of the beautiful sunsets that I believe He provides to delight my soul.  You might say that my family is the delight of my soul.

I have the loveliest daughters, funny and wise, beautiful inside and out, unselfish, and the joy of my heart.  My husband is tender and kind.  His love for me is expressed in unusual ways.  He has taken a reader, which he had given me for my birthday, and he has expanded it so that I can do so much more, like downloading more e-books and reading the news, like the major news-hound I am.  It’s amazing to me.  He is so brilliant, but his heart is still humble and wise, as he does all these things that make life easier for me.

You see, I am slowly losing my sight.  As a result, I cannot read a regular book, and I LOVE to read!  I must have a light behind the letters, or I cannot see them very well.  So, he just redesigned the whole thing.  Now, I can go to Amazon or Barns & Noble and buy books that I love to read.  He is so wonderful.

I wonder.  If I were busy, busy, busy, would I notice just how blue the sky is through my window, as I write to you?  Would I take delight in the stars, in sunrises and sunsets? Would I see just how much my husband and daughters cherish me?  Would I take for granted every breath I take, or the steps that I am able to take just to get a glass of water for myself?  If I were able, would I take the time to consider the people who don’t have what God has given to me?  Would I understand your pain, as I think of you, my brothers and sisters, who may be struggling to see the blessings, within your own life?  Would I take a moment to pray for you, as I am now?  Would I be too busy to really see?  Or feel?  Or understand?  If I were a hurried, worried person, who believed that I gave every blessing to myself, would I appreciate every blessing that God has given to me?

So, I thank God, right now, for every breath, for every step, for laughter, in spite of my tribulations.  I thank Him for my medicines.  I thank Him for my diabetes, because I understand what you go through.  I thank God for my trigeminal neuralgia, and for the medications which erase my pain.  I thank God for the chemist who designed the drugs, and for the Pharmaceutical Companies who provide the drugs which give me a quality of life that I would not have without them.  For all the things and people that I used to take for granted, I thank God right now.  He is a good God.  He is a sweet God, a generous God, gentle, kind and merciful, and I praise Him right now.

And then, I thank God for the little things:  a warm bed, when it is cold; cool sheets when it is hot – all those little things that we forget, sometimes, that God provides for us, too.  I thank Him for my little dog, Happy Dog.  For the fourteen years that God has given me with you, dear Happy Dog, I thank Him for each day, and all the years that you have blessed my life.  What a joy you have been.  I love you Happy Dog.  I never dreamed that I could have a love like yours.

Dear Heavenly Father, I know that every heart beat is a gift from You.  I know that You are my provider, my friend, and my Savior.  I know that all the things that I should remember, and I have forgotten, are also Your gifts to me. And, Lord, for those who read this, I pray for all the grace they can hold, that they may know You.  And if they are busy, may they stop and know that those busy times are a gift from You, too. And, Lord, for those of us who are laid up, may we realize our blessings, and may we thank You for them too.   Thank You, Lord, and to You be the praise, the honor, and the glory, forever.

A brief update:  I was rushed to urgent care yesterday.  I met a very kind doctor.  Gosh they are young these days!  I discovered that I do have arthritis in my hips, particularly my right hip.  To give me freedom of movement, I have been given a prescription of lidocaine, which is a gel patch which does what your dentist does when he anesthetizes your mouth.  It will numb the pain while I increase gentle stretching exercises and give my glucosamine time to help build up the cartilage in my joints.  This requires a lot of me.  It’s not magic, but then is anything worth doing magic?  Or should it be? I will keep you all informed as to my progress.  God be with you!

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Encouraging Words for Teachers by Jaye Lewis


The Difference a Teacher Can Make  by Jaye Lewis
             Steve, a twelve year old boy, with barely, literate, alcoholic parents, was about to be lost, forever, by the U.S. education system.  Remarkably, he could read, yet, in spite of his reading skills, Steve was failing.  He had been failing since first grade, as he was passed on from grade to grade.  Big as he was, looking more like a teenager than a twelve year old, Steve went unnoticed...until Ms. White.

            Ms. White was a smiling, young, beautiful redhead, and Steve was in love!  For the first time in his young life, he couldn't take his eyes off his teacher; yet, still he failed.  He did no  homework, and he was always in trouble with Ms. White.  His heart would break, under her sharp words, and when he was punished for failing to turn in his homework, he felt just miserable!

            In the middle of the first semester of school, all the seventh grade was tested for reading and math.  Steve hurried through his tests, and continued to dream of other things, as the days wore on.  His heart was not in school, but in the woods, where he often escaped alone, trying to shut out the sights, sounds and smells of his alcoholic parents.  No one checked on him to see if he was safe.  No one knew he was gone, because no one was sober enough to care.  Oddly, Steve never missed a day of school. 

            One day, "Steve!"  Ms. White's impatient voice broke into his daydreams.  Startled, he turned to look at her.  "Pay attention!" So, Steve gazed at Ms. White, with adolescent adoration, as she began to go over the test results for the seventh grade.

            Ms. White pinned Steve to his seat with a sharp stare, then her eyes searched his face.  With a sigh, she said to the class, "You all did fair, except for one, and it breaks my heart to tell you this, but..." She hesitated.

            Ms. White, again, fixed her eyes on Steve. "...the smartest boy in the seventh grade is failing my class!"  She just stared at Steve, as the class looked around at him, and Steve dropped his eyes, and examined his hands.

            After that, it was war!!  Steve still never did his homework, but the punishments and the lectures, became more severe, and the pleadings took over.  "Just try it...ONE WEEK!  Give yourself a chance!  Don't give up on your life!  Steve!  Please!  I care about you!"

            Wow!  Steve's attention was immediately captured!  Someone cared about him?  Someone young and beautiful!  Someone, totally, unattainable, and perfect, CARED ABOUT HIM!!!

            Steve went home that night, taking one look around the slovenly hovel.  Both parents passed out, in various stages of undress, and the stench was overpowering!!  He, quickly gathered up his camping gear, a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, a bottle of water, and this time, his school books.  Then he headed for the woods.

            Next day, he was at school, on time, and he waited for Ms. White to enter the classroom.  Here she came, all sparkle and smiles!  God!  She was BEAUTIFUL to the adolescent boy, as he yearned for her smile to turn on him.  It did not.

            Ms. White, immediately, gave a quiz on the homework of the night before.  Steve hurried through the test and was the first to hand in his paper.  With a look of surprise, Ms. White took his paper.  Then, obviously puzzled, she began to look over it.  Steve walked back to his desk, his heart pounding within his chest. As he sat down, he couldn't resist another look at the lovely woman.

            There, on Ms. White's face, was a look of total shock!  She glanced up at Steve, then down, then up.  Suddenly, her face broke into a radiant smile.   In his first seven years of school, Steve had just passed his first test!  And he had gotten every answer right!

            From that moment, life changed for Steve.  Life at home, never got better, but life still changed.  The change that took place was within Steve's heart, all because of ONE teacher, who cared.

© Jaye Lewis, January 26, 2001

 This is a true story.  I know it, because Steve is my husband, and I am the love of his life, as he is mine.  Steve is a wonderful husband and a loving father.  He has excelled in life, having three careers, and now embarking on a fourth.  There has been no seed money.  He came from nothing, and so did I.  Everything he has is because of the grace of a Merciful God.  Steve has worked hard, every day of his life, since Ms. White inspired and encouraged him.  I will always be grateful to her.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Encouraging Words for Those Who Feel Lost by Jaye Lewis

Hello friends,

On January 24, 1988, I was a resident in a psychiatric ward.  No, I was not a nurse or a nurse's aid.  I was a patient.  On January 10, 1988, I had a complete nervous breakdown.  You might say that I was at the bottom of my life, and you would be right.  But I was also at the beginning.  In that psychiatric ward I learned about a deeper part of myself, perhaps a better part of myself, which began to understand just how alike we are as human beings.

The hospital was in the midst of an experiment, and you might say that we were the lab rats.  In that hospital the young were mixed with the old.  The sad and anxious were mixed with the truly crazy, and the violent were included with the nonviolent.  What were they thinking?  It makes you wonder who were truly the crazy ones.  

I disclose this with gratitude, because I learned more in that six weeks, about love, sacrifice, understanding, and acceptance, than I had ever learned in my entire life.  I learned that in the eternal scheme of things, I am no better than anyone.  I’m no better than that sweet soul who had lost her mind long ago, who believed that she was inhabited by a well-known Country singer, whom she believed lived in her stomach.  She argued with him constantly, often shouting orders to “Get out!”

Yes, it was funny and alarming, but I made up my mind to get to know her, to find out what made her who she was.  In a strange sort of “we-come-from-different-worlds” friendship, we got to know one another as well as we could.  I learned that something terrible had happened to her when she was young, and she learned that I was safe, that I did not judge her, and that I would not betray her.

I was also no better than the young man who shouted and threatened, and chased people around the room, including my new, friend and me.  We heard his shout, and when we saw him racing at us.  We leaped up and ran, around and around the room, hoping he would not catch us.  When he finally was tackled and calmed down, we stopped running, and we just looked at one another.  Then I shouted that a violent man like he should be removed from our ward.  The nurse replied that he had never harmed a living soul.

“YET!”  My friend and I retorted together. 

We, suddenly, looked at each other, laughing hysterically, and for one brief moment, the scales of confusion fell from her eyes, and she knew me.  Then, her reason clouded over again, and we were strangers, but I’d seen her soul, and I knew that somewhere in the great hereafter, we would meet again.  Then, we will know one another.  We will remember, and we will be friends, and we will not be ashamed.

There is so much tragedy in this world.  I was one of the blessed ones.  I have a strong, loving family.  I had good medical care, a strong will, and a determination to get well.  In March, 1988, I left the hospital with a clean bill of health, and I never returned.  However, I will never forget the unusual, hurting people within.  I think of them all the time.  I tell their stories, as I am telling you, and I will miss them and wonder about them all the days of my life — those tragic, suffering souls, who will never know the impact they had on this single life, forever.

We are the same, all of us, no matter how we protest that we are not.  No matter the color of our skin, or our religion, or our lack of faith, or our political beliefs.  Our petty grievances and prejudices are like so much chaff, blown by the wind.  None of these things will matter, when we stand before God, judged for the works we have done on this earth, whether good or ill.

Jesus said that He will gather all of us together, and He will separate us, as a shepherd separates his sheep from his goats.  We will not escape His notice, anymore than our bigotry, our jealousy, our rage, or our evil intents and actions will remain hidden.  And yes, my friends, we are, each of us, guilty of these things.

The wife beater — you will no longer be able to hide.  The wife who betrays her husband — you will be found out.  The gossip, the liar, the proud, and those who do their evil works in secret, you will be made known.

Can anyone escape their shame?  Yes you can.  Yes I can.  I can repent.  Every day.  Every hour.  Every moment, if necessary, and I can live my life reaching for the compassion within me, looking for new ways to convey my respect and love for each individual I meet.  I will fail.  I will fail today.  But that is what repentance is all about.  Going back before the only perfect person who ever walked the earth.  Going to the Only, One, True God, asking His forgiveness.  Humbly, before Him, I can repeat my sins of the day, and cast them at His feet.

Oh, it may seem simplistic, but it is not.  It is simple.  It is the easiest thing in the world, and the safest place to be.  All I need to do is throw off the mantle of pride and self-righteousness, and know that I am forgiven by His grace.

These are the thoughts that are on my heart today.  Perhaps I am sick of the assault upon repentance that I see in my own American Presidential Primary.  Of course there is repentance, forgiveness, and redemption, even for Newt Gingrich.  And there is condemnation, even for the self-proclaimed, perfectly pure Mitt Romney.  But, you know, the self-righteous never see.  I have to admit that I have only this moment realized what irritates me about Romney.  It’s his pompous belief that he has never done anything wrong.

I do not say these things in defense of Newt Gingrich.  He has made it abundantly clear that he is perfectly capable of defending himself.  I do, however, say these things to defend the free grace that God gives to us, if we will only accept it and admit that we have sinned.  That grace, for which we are so undeserving, that we can receive freely, if only we ask, comes from the God of all grace, who deserves to hear us say, “Father, I have sinned.”

I hate when the grace of God is maligned, as though He has no power, as though His arm is too short to save.  If that were true then I would still be a lost soul, without hope.  But I am no longer lost, because God came to me, and He made me His own, not because He needed me, but because I needed Him.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

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