Posted in Family, forgiveness, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, wisdom

Scars

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. Philippians 3:13

Gnarled trees stood twisted and broken along the road.  Judy and I had to make a trip to Florida to participate in my Aunt’s funeral.  She was my Daddy’s baby sister and the last of that generation.  It was a long trip but worth the journey.  I saw it as a way to honor my father while also honoring my aunt.  Like every person her life had its ups and downs and bumps and bruises.  And  like every person, there were a few scars left along the road.

It was while traveling West in Florida that I began seeing the gnarled trees.  Mile after mile of trees that were either broken in two, forever bent over or simply lifeless, like dead men standing. I knew the area had been brushed by a recent storm or two but this damage was caused by something far worse—and not so recently.  Suddenly it occurred to me.  I had seen this before about two years ago.  It was the result of a storm, a terrible storm called Michael.

If you remember in 2018 a compact yet incredibly powerful storm came ashore at Mexico Beach, a small down on the Florida panhandle.  It was so devastating that it literally destroyed that small town and the path of the storm with its destruction moved well inland.  That is where we saw the scars.  When we were here a couple of months after the storm and miles and miles inland there was debris piled everywhere along the highway.  What wasn’t broken off or blown over looked like it had been given a perm—twisted and turned.  That was two years ago. 

The scars of that harsh and horrible day remain today and will remain for many years to come.  Only time is going to slow erase the damage as trees re-grow and underbrush hides what has fallen.  It looked devastating two years ago when I saw it and today, somehow, it looked even more so.  Sometimes the scars are almost as bad as the wounds.  Sometimes the memories are worse than what caused the pain.

Many of us have caused scars and most of us bear them.  Some are still healing while others, like the gnarled trees, will remain.  We are left to wonder what to do…how to heal.  The answer I believe lies with creator God.  It is He who can give us the strength to forgive and it is He who can lead us down the path to healing.  Like a good recipe, it will include a measure of grace, a measure of mercy, and a measure of choice.  Forgiveness is really never about the one who caused the scar rather it is about the one who was hurt. When we forgive we truly begin to heal.

Forgiveness also involves forgetting…but not the kind you are thinking.  This forgetting simply means that we choose to not allow the past to control our present.  We choose to let go, so we can be set free.  When we determine that the past won’t reach into our present…we find a freedom.  While the scar will remain, slowly but surely the pain eases and we are evently left whole.

This, of course, is a faith path.  We have to believe that God can and will heal us.  We have to believe that God can forgive us if we were the one who caused the scar.  We have to believe either way that His grace is sufficient and do you know what?  It is.  The scars I saw today along the highway spoke of a devastating storm but it also spoke of hope.  You see, at the base of the gnarled trees stood dozens and dozens of new growth trees.  One day, someday in the future, they will rise to overcome the past with its scars.  That is our hope.

As I stood before that group of people today and spoke of mistakes and regrets. I also spoke of forgiveness and grace which was and is a game changer.  No matter how difficult your past and no matter how uncertain your future, His grace will see you through.  I hope you will keep trusting Him day by day.  I hope you will look up for hope, look around to see that you aren’t by yourself and look down, yes down, but only to see the new life surrounding you.  Hey, you can trust Him, you can rest in Him because no matter how hard the wind blows or how long it howls…He’s got this. 

Posted in life, Scripture

War of 1812

“Dear friends, don’t overlook this one fact: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” (2 Peter 3:8)

Warning. Thought provoking story ahead. It was the strangest library you could imagine.  A friend told me about a cemetery that had some very old graves. Now I know you are wondering, “What does a cemetery have to do with a library?”  And the answer is volumes and volumes.  First, lest you think me strange, I love history and especially American and local history.  Second, I love stories. This particular cemetery had some of both.

So over the river and through the woods Judy and I went till we came to Lavender Cemetery Lane.  A quick right off of Highway 34 and about half a mile down the lane and there it was—Lavender Cemetery.  There were two sections.  The first section was much older than the second but both were filled with stories.  And, like I said, I love stories.

First was my friend’s grandfather.  I had already learned that he was quite the character.  He actually ran with the infamous Charlie Berger gang.  He did some time in the big house and died when he was only 48—though not from a bank heist or anything like that. I was fascinated.  Then we started looking around and it was amazing.  We found the grave of a veteran from the War of 1812.  Can you believe that?  Then we found families who had lost not one, not two but three children.  It was in the days before there were antibiotics.  Can you imagine how difficult that was?

There were many other veterans buried there.  There was a Vietnam veteran who had obtained the highest enlisted rank in the Air Force, Chief Master Sergeant and had earned a Bronze Star for Valor in the war.  Next to him was a veteran of the Korean War.  He had died aboard the USS Saris.  During a typhoon in Korean waters a naval mine broke loose and hit the ship and it sank in 20 minutes.  Four men died and one of them found his way back home to Lavender cemetery.  But wait, there is more.  World War II veterans were scattered throughout as well as World War I. There were even civil war veterans buried there.  Almost side by side, a young soldier from Mississippi was laid to rest by a soldier from the north.  On and on, old, barely readable stones told stories of valor and courage.

There were headstones with beautiful etchings of home places and poems about life and death.  Scratched into a large rock, one read, “My friends, here lies my body beneath the sod but my soul has gone home to God.”  In this obscure country cemetery I saw a headstone for two people I know.  The dates of the death yet to be filled in—their stories still being written. Many of the headstones have been worn smooth by time.  Like their headstones, so many of their stories have faded into obscurity. But each one…each one…wrote a story that touched people and perhaps changed lives.

Yesterday afternoon at about 5:30 pm I found myself face to face with my own mortality.  My time, your time is limited.  The story will come to an end one day for each of us.  The question is this, “What kind of story are we writing?”  What story will be told at the service given to remember us? What story will be told when we stand before our creator either as His child or one who said no?  What kind of story?

Well, the good news is, there is still time to write.  There is still time to make sure your story is a story worth celebrating.  Peter tells us in the Bible that a thousand years is like a day and a day is like a thousand years.  That is a big truth.  We get the first part easily but don’t miss the second. A day is like a thousand years. That seems to say that even if we are in the second half of our life, or later, there is time. If there’s more in the rearview mirror than the windshield, it’s not too late. God can take those limited days and make it like a thousand years—plenty of time to start writing a new story.  So why not start now.  Right now.

Forget the regrets.  Forget the unwise choices. Forgive the broken promises just like God forgave you.  It’s in the Book.  Learn from each one but then leave the past in the past.  Paul did…check out Philippians 4:13…forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to the future in Christ, I press on.  Good, good advice. I don’t know how this virus thing is going to finish playing out.  I know I am not afraid.  I know my Father is in control.  I know that the foreseeable future is going to be different. But I also know I want the story about  how I handled it all… to be that I trusted Him to handle it.  I want the story to say I trusted Him during the pandemic.  We can do that you know.  He’s trustworthy.  I can lay my head on my pillow tonight and rest in Him.  So, pleasant dreams. He’s got this.