Tag Archives: forgiveness

What’s In a Name?

A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble. ~Charles Spurgeon

It’s been nearly thirty years, but the memory is vivid.

I sat at the round Formica kitchen table. Pap on my left, Matt across from me. The tv attached to the wall was silent while we ate lunch.

“Why do they call you Abe?” I asked. “Your name is Howard. How do you get Abe out of that?”

Matt’s grandfather peered at me through large brown glasses. Wisps of white hair floated above a mostly bare scalp. He set down his sandwich and frowned.

“Because I have a big nose.”

I laughed.

I hate that I laughed.

It was obvious I had hurt his feelings.

Never in a million years would I have hurt that precious man of God. He was kindness and love wrapped up in gentle quietness.

He was an old man, but my laughter brought back the pain of a child.

Names define us.

Americans spend months choosing just the right name for our children. Some cultures don’t name the child for weeks or months after it is born. The child must deserve the name it is given.

My own name means “Harvester of the Moon.” My Chinese friend chose to call me “Autumn Song.” My father called me “Heifer Foot.”

Which one would you choose?

Do you wear the name tag “Loser?” What about “Rejected,” “Unacceptable,” “Disgusting?”

Do childhood nicknames stab your heart?

Do overheard whispers ring in your ears? Fat. Lazy. Stupid. Worthless.

Do you introduce yourself but think, What a liar.

What if you instead heard “Loved,” “Forgiven,” “Longed For,” “Special,” “Beautiful.” These are the names God the Father has given you.

Will you come running when he calls your name?

The nations shall see your righteousness,
    and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
    that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
    and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
    and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
    and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
    and your land shall be married. Isaiah 62:2-4 ESV

Don’t Go to the Ant

antIt is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about? ~ Henry David Thoreau

A line of black ants marched across the sun room floor, crawled into the dog dish, took some minuscule morsel, and marched back out the door. I can’t imagine what they were finding since the dog licks the bowl until it shines, but there they were, circling the dog dish like a pack of hungry wolves who’d found an emaciated doe.

I went on a march myself – straight to the pantry for the Lysol cleaner. I grabbed some paper towels and headed back to annihilate my enemy.

I spritzed the trail of ants, the bowl, the door, whatever looked like it might attract an ant. Then I wiped up the floor, turning the white paper towel a terrible shade of gray. I really need to work on my house keeping skills.

I walked back into the kitchen to throw away the dead ants when I noticed one crawling off the towel and onto my thumb. I sprayed the ant right there on my thumb. “Die!” I chortled with an evil laugh.

The ant, however, did not die. It bit me and refused to let go. Pain raced down my thumb into my hand. I ran for the kitchen sink and turned the cold water on full force. I thrust my thumb under the running water and waited for the coolness to take away the sting. It didn’t.

I have some sin in my life like that ant. My biggest sins are probably not yours, but sin is sin, so don’t get hung up on that. The issue is that I think I have killed the sin ant, that I am on my way to the garbage can to dump all that sin and be free and clean, when, WHAM, the sin wakes up and bites . . . hard.

The sun room remained ant-free for a couple of days, but then one afternoon I walked in, and yep, ants. Sometimes the weather makes them more active, sometimes it’s the season. Just like my sins become more active under stress or in bad-habit circumstances and situations. Then again, sometimes there is no reason for their presence other than the fact that my life is a dog dish. I’m never sure when the sin ants will start marching across to find and bite me.

What I do know is that living water does take away the sting of the sin ants. Jesus is my cleanser, spritzing away the trail that is left behind. Somehow the paper towel he uses doesn’t turn gray, but gets whiter with each swipe across my life.

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:16-17 ESV

Grace’s Party

fenceA privacy fence separated the backyard neighbor’s house from ours, but a hole had been pushed through so that the seven children, two of mine and five of the back neighbor’s, could slip back and forth to play together. On this particular day, Jonathan stood looking through the fence into the merriment at the neighbor’s house. He was grounded from visiting for some disobedience I have long forgotten thirteen years later.

I watched from the kitchen window as the neighbors prepared for a birthday party that I had not known was happening. The little children came to the fence and invited Jonathan to come to the party, but he knew he wasn’t allowed. He didn’t even try asking me for permission. He knew he had to suffer the consequences of his poor choices.

Matt came in and watched from the window with me.

“What’s going on?”

“Jonathan is grounded, but the Millers are having a birthday party. I wouldn’t have made the punishment so long if I had known they were going to have a party. But he hasn’t even come to ask me if he can go.”

“Why not let him go?” Matt asked.

“Because then he will think that he can get away with anything,” I stammered.

“I don’t think so,” my wise husband answered. “He has suffered the punishment without complaint. Perhaps now he should learn about grace.”

I called my little guy in and talked to him about what he had done and why he was being punished. Then I asked him if he would like to go to the party. He nodded but didn’t dare to hope.

“All of us make mistakes, and God punishes us. But then when we have learned our lesson, he gives us grace. That means he forgives us and sends us his blessings. I think it is time you experience some grace. You can go to the party.”

I seriously doubt that Jonathan remembers that day, the punishment or the party, but I certainly remember it. It was the day that grace took on a new meaning. I know I have made mistakes and don’t deserve to go to the party. I stand on the wrong side of the fence and dream about what could have been. But I also know that God is watching from the kitchen window ready to offer a gracious blessing: forgiveness.

Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:16-17 NIV

Damage Done

I opened the bedroom window and crawled back under the covers. The sun was shining brightly on the green and yellow birch leaves of an autumn morning. Propping myself up a bit I stared out the window, whispering to God my daily concerns. I noticed the tree give a shiver and a few leaves fall off the branches. I didn’t notice a breeze waft through the window, so I was surprised by the action.

Turning my attention to the Bible in my lap, I began reading the morning’s scripture. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed more leaves drift from a shivering branch. How odd, I thought, it’s like a Peanuts cartoon, leaves falling without reason. Every few minutes a branch or two would tremble and off would fall a few more leaves. But there seemed to be no air movement to cause it.

Staring intently at the tree, I now noticed a small sparrow flit from one branch to another. As she repositioned her perch, a few more leaves slowly fluttered to the ground. This continued for a brief time, and then she flew off to the holly tree across the road.

The leaves would have fallen off the birch in a week or so. It wasn’t as if the bird had done anything horrible, but I wondered about the “fall-out”. Did the bird have any idea of the damage she had done? Did she know that she had hastened the tree’s seasonal death? Did she know the results of her behavior? 073

Snuggling down under my comforter, I whispered to God some more; apologies for havoc unintentionally wreaked on the world I live in. Often I live my days concerned about myself, never noticing the leaves that I have shaken from my friends’ trees. If I have caused you to tremble and lose a bit of your self as I flew off to the holly, I am truly sorry.

Good nature and good sense must ever join; To err is human, to forgive, divine. – Alexander Pope