Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Touching the Hand of God....

For my job, I have had the privilege of going to several nursing homes in my new territory and offering hand massages as a group activity for residents.  My purpose in hosting these activities is to get to know the facility, the nursing staff, the residents and to create awareness of our company's products and services for Hospice.  And, while many people cringe at the word 'hospice" because it causes one to think of death, it is more than that.  Hospice was created to help the individual and their families to help manage painful symptoms, help to regulate necessary medicines, allow the person and their family to get used to the idea that they may be in the last six months of their life and so on.  Hospice also offers support for the resident and their family.  Plus, if hospice is done properly, it can provide a new way to look at the transition from this life to the next.

As I have gotten to know some of these amazing people, I have found that there are hundreds and thousands of life stories that need to be told.  What has been amazing is that each opportunity that I have had the privilege of holding onto one of these "seasoned" person's hands, I have marveled at what those hands have done for 60-70-80 or 90, cleaning, farming, bookkeeping, hard working mechanics, taking care of children, chopping vegetables or wood, and hobbies galore!

So, while massaging their hands with fragrant (or unscented) lotion, we talk about their lives:  Flight surgeons, factory workers, farmers, moms/dads, brothers/sisters, years developing a business, and years raising children to teach them about life on a daily basis and the like.  I ask them questions about what they have done, how many kids they had (or have) and what their family life was like, etc.  In some ways, I wish I could record what they tell me so that we can have the family members hear what they are sharing with me as they tell their stories.

In any case, I am finding that it is quite an honor and a privilege to be part of this season of life for these residents.  And as you can imagine, some of them are quite alert and only needing a little bit of help here and there while others are totally dependent on the staff and/or their family when they visit.  As I spend a few precious moments rubbing and massaging their hands, and offering them a little relaxation,
I notice some of the hands are frail, small and fragile.  Other hands are rough, large and/or strong.  It is mind boggling to think about all that those hands have done over a lifetime.  And, there are moments when I feel that it is as if I have been touching the Hands of God.  What an awesome privilege!!!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Withholding forgiveness...

Have you ever thought of what it means to withhold something?  It means to hold back or restrain from, or to not grant something to another person.

Here are a few examples:
As a parent, you may have come across a time or situation that to grant your child's request may put them in danger.  Or, perhaps to grant the wish, you take the chance of your son or daughter not learning a very important lesson.

Second, consider a work-related example.  An employee of yours requests time off when they have not accrued enough time to take a 2 week vacation yet.  Do you grant their request or deny it?  What are the circumstances surrounding the request?  Will it affect your business in a negative way?  Can you spare the "help" at this time?  Is it for a family emergency or for a vacation that was planned long before they took the job at your business?  Regardless, there are many factors that may have to enter into the decision to grant the request or not to grant it.

Now let's consider relationships.  Someone you love.  Someone who means a lot to you.  A dear friend, a spouse, a sister/brother, or a significant "other" that has been in your life for quite some time.  You have a disagreement, an argument, or a rift of some sort.  Heated words are exchanged or painful accusations are brought up.  Unwanted reactions happen all too quickly and you part ways in haste or in anger.  What happens next?  Who said what to whom?  Who should apologize - you or the other person???  How do you resolve the conflict?

Some people would say the person who offended the other person should apologize first.  Well, who decides who is offended most?  Can each party let the anger dissipate and come to the table to discuss the disagreement after the dust has settled?  Well, it depends.  Many factors can cause disagreements and many factors can cause a relationship end or to be altered.  Sometimes the outcome is positive and other times it is not.  It may depend on the maturity of the persons involved or the length of the relationship.  It may depend on the severity of the offense.

Let's add one more piece to the puzzle.  Forgiveness.  When does someone offer forgiveness or withhold it?

Can you let the sun go down on your anger or do you try to resolve the issue before it goes beyond the point of no return?  Can you offer to take the high road and offer forgiveness first?  Or, does your pride get in the way and you stop short because you have been hurt too much.  Forgiveness is an important factor in all relationships.  And, it takes a willingness to offer and/or receive forgiveness.  Especially when the hurt run deep!

Now, let me ask you this:  Have you ever withheld forgiveness to someone because you were hurt or angry?  Was the situation so dire that you just could not bring yourself to let something go or could not or would not accept another person's apology?  It is a hefty question.  And, what if the person who offended you or said those horrible words to you, reacted negatively, or behaved badly wrote you a note of apology or called to say they were sorry?  Could you speak to them again?  Would you consider bridging the gap?

The Scriptures say that if you have an offense with anyone, go and resolve that issue before coming to the communion table.
Matthew 5:23 says:  "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother (sister/friend/husband/wife) has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."

First, GO and be reconciled.  Yes, that mean YOU!  Take the first step.  Offer to resolve the conflict.  Say you are sorry.  Give them a chance to say they are sorry as well.  Let them know that you want to resolve the issue and find some common ground - even if you have to agree to disagree.  Even if you choose to not restore the relationship, mend the fence.  Do not let the sun go down on your anger.  Don't let pride get the best of you and hold onto a grudge for days, weeks or even years.  It truly only hurts you, not necessarily the other person.

Pray about it.  Choose to forgive.  Then, allow the process of the offense being forgiven to begin.
Let the other person know you forgive them!  Don't withhold it.  Don't torture them for months by not talking to them.  Let them know you have asked God for forgiveness for your part in the disagreement and you choose to forgive them and forgive yourself as well.  Forgiving someone and NOT letting them know is just as bad as not forgiving them and holding a grudge.  It simply is not what the Lord wants us to do.

Think about it from the standpoint of why Christ offered His life for us.  He came to save us from all the things we have done wrong.  Not just some things, not part, not most, but all.  Forgiveness is the pinnacle of Christianity.  He came to forgive us, to save us, to redeem us.  He asks us to do the same.  That is why He came to earth.  Why He was crucified.  Why He was buried.  Why He is resurrected and sits at the right hand of the Father!!!  Forgiveness.  Offered once and for all for every one of us.

Christ never withholds forgiveness if we ask Him to forgive us.  Never.  He doesn't wait 5 minutes or 5 months to let us know we are forgiven either.  His forgiveness is instant!  Complete! Assured. If we ask.
I John 1:9 says:  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Tenth Avenue North  has a song called "Losing."  Here is the bridge where one of the best messages of forgiveness is explained:

"Why do we think that hate's gonna change their heart
We're up in arms over wars that don't need to be fought
Pride won't let us lay weapons on the ground
We build our bridges up just to burn them down
We think pain's owed apologies and that it'll stop
Truth be told it doesn't matter if they're sorry or not
Freedom comes when we surrender to the sound
of Mercy and Your Grace, Father, send your angels down."

A friend of mine once told me that forgiveness is something for each of us to give whether or not the person that it is offered to accepts it.  Sometimes it is very difficult to offer forgiveness.  But, go ahead.  Go the extra mile and offer forgiveness first.  Don't withhold it.  Don't wait to let the person know you want forgive them either.  Choose to surrender your right to be right.  Choose to forgive.  It goes a long, long way to healing your own soul.