If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time

Sometimes I find myself wishing, “If I could just turn back the hands of time.”

I think all of us at one time or another wish we could go back and “fix” something, or be able to recapture a “missed opportunity.” Of course, if we could it no doubt would have had an effect on our future which might have sent us off in a different direction from where we are at at this point in time. That could be good or bad, depending on how you feel about where you are at right now.

Three years ago on August 13th I flew from Florida to Houston to interview for the job that has now left me unemployed for two years and four months. I accepted that job with great excitement and never felt as much in the center of God’s will for my life as I did at the moment I was offered that position. The division I worked in at the university where I was employed for over four years in Florida had been dismantled in January 2008, and I found myself professionally adrift though not unemployed as they placed me in another area at the university. But I knew when that happened that it was time for me to move on, and I spotted the ad for the director position in Houston in May 2008. When I was offered the job in August 2008, I couldn’t have been more excited about any job I’ve accepted in the past twenty years.

I drove to Houston with all of my worldly goods following in a truck and landed there on September 25, 2008, less than two weeks after Hurricane Ike has wrecked havoc on the city. There were still power outages all across Houston, but the apartment complex where I would be living as well as the place where I began working on September 29th had power.

I have a rather outgoing personality and that mixed with my excitement at being in a very creative environment and a new job in a new city and state for me overshadowed the fact that my new supervisor appeared to be less than happy that I had arrived. And by the end of my first week there, I definitely felt I had stepped into the middle of something that didn’t feel right at all. However, I remained optimistic for several weeks, in fact, through November, hoping that my work ethic as well as my love for working with the students and my ability to catch on to new environments and systems would warm the apparent ice in his veins.

It didn’t.

At least I hung in there for almost seven months after he had ignored me for the better part of the last month I was there before he fired me. To this day I don’t understand all that happened, nor did I ever understand why my supervisor never wanted me there in the first place. Unfortunately, I was suddenly left unemployed in a new city and a new state where I had not even had any time to develop any kind of network. The lease on my apartment was for one year so I still had five months left on it, and I was hoping to find another job before that five months was up.  Two years and four months later I’m still looking.

I lost most of my possessions—all of my furniture, over 600 books, and a lot of other possessions–when I left Houston at the end of my apartment lease as I couldn’t afford to move them back to Florida, where a friend had offered her spare bedroom to me. I left Houston on September 25, 2009, exactly one year to the day from when I had arrived in 2008. I stayed in my friend’s home for three months until I found a cute little furnished seasonal rental in December 2009 to rent while I continued my job search. I remember when I rented the seasonal rental I told the manager that I would only be staying a short time until I found a job and moved on. We both laugh now as I’ve been living in this “seasonal” rental for a year and nine months with still no job in sight.

So, if I could turn back the hands of time, especially in light of the situation I walked into at my new job in Houston and how it has left me unemployed for over two years and four months, would I not have accepted the job in the first place?

The vote is still out on that one…

Because I am a Christian, I believe with every fabric of my being that God is sovereign in everything that happens in this universe, in our world, and in our various circumstances. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter. He’s ultimately in control. Volumes have been written on the Sovereignty of God and if you want to find out more, just Google that topic.  Here’s a link to a definition to get you started.

Dictionary.com defines sovereign as “(noun) a person who has sovereign power or authority; (adjective) having supreme rank, power, or authority; supreme; preeminent; indisputable; greatest in degree; utmost or extreme; being above all others in character, importance, excellence, etc.” If you are familiar with the Bible, you will recognize those attributes as describing God.

The Bible makes it clear who’s in charge:  Psalm 103:19 states: “The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” Psalm 115:3 states: “But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases;” and Psalm 135:5-6 states: “For I know that the LORD is great, and our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places.”

A classic example in the Bible of the sovereignty of God in the life of one of His followers can be found in the Book of Job. It is a humbling book to read, and I’ve always said that if you really want to know just how big God is and how small we are, read Job Chapters 38-41 which is God’s response to Job and Job’s answer (Chapter 42) where part of his response is “Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (verse 6). However, God did not leave Job there in dust and ashes. Chapter 42 goes on to explain that after Job had endured his excruciating circumstances and came to understand who God really is by grasping God’s greatness, majesty, sovereignty, and independence, that God restored to Job twice as much as he had before the devastating circumstances started at the beginning of the Book of Job (and Job had great wealth and possessions and a very large family at the beginning of his turmoil in the Book of Job when he lost everything but his wife in a rapid series of horrible events).

As Dr. John MacArthur writes in his Introduction to the Book of Job, MacArthur Study Bible, NKJV, p. 693: “This book (Job) begins with a scene in heaven that explains everything to the reader (1:6-2:10). Job was suffering because God was contesting with Satan.  Job never knew that, nor did any of his friends, so they all struggled to explain suffering from the perspective of their ignorance, until finally Job rested in nothing but faith in God’s goodness and the hope of His redemption. That God vindicated his trust is the culminating message of the book (of Job). When there are no rational or even theological explanations for disaster and pain, trust God.”

So, as we can see from this example in Job’s life, we cannot know all that might be involved “behind the scenes” when very bad circumstances come our way. It is far better to leave it in God’s hands for He is the only one who knows everything about our situations and circumstances. We need to, by faith, rest in His goodness and trust totally in the only One who loves us more than anyone else on this planet.

So, even though I am weary beyond words wondering when this trial of mine will end, I would rather trust in the sovereignty of God whom I love and serve than to be able to “turn back the hands of time” and stop the situation from happening in the first place. Only God can see all sides of any situation we find ourselves in. As I’ve reviewed the struggle of Job, I have found great hope for my continuing saga of unemployment. And I’m placing my hope totally in God.

Here’s one of my favorite songs of yesteryear by Tyrone Davis (1970). It has absolutely no relationship to my comments about Job or the Sovereignty of God, but I found it on YouTube and it is what originally inspired me to write this blog post.  So, enjoy!!!

Photo credit here

A Very Good Ending To A Very Bad Week

A quick disclaimer: If you haven’t read my previous post, “From Ripped-Off to Renewal,” you need to read it to understand the background to this post, so click on the link above and read it and then come back.

As you know, this past week has just been a disaster dealing with a walk-in clinic who left me hanging when their prescription cured one thing but gave me another infection that required another prescription that they refused to give me by citing “company policy” as the reason (the policy didn’t allow them to dispense the very drug I needed to cure that infection).

By yesterday afternoon when I wrote my previous post I had totally had it with trying to get any help from that particular clinic and their organization (their clinics are nationwide) after shelling out $100 for their services which only created another problem (another infection) that they refused to treat. I was absolutely appalled at their total lack of concern about a very legitimate patient complaint. I even shot off an email to a high ranking person at their headquarters earlier in the week and never got a response.  Zero, zip, zilch, nada…

As I left off at the end of my previous post, I was headed off to “renew my mind” (Romans 12:2) by spending time with the Lord and seeking His help with all of this. Well, I must say that I spent a lot of the time beseeching Him to help me find resolution to this unfortunate dilemma (e.g. the infection I got from the prescription medication I took from the walk-in clinic was now in its eleventh day and I was feeling very miserable). All it would take is a prescription for two pills to end the infection, and yet the walk-in clinic would do absolutely nothing but give me excuses.

As I woke up this morning, I was prepared to run off to the the Health Department as they have a walk-in clinic on Friday afternoons for three hours to see people in financial situations like mine. I had already been to four other clinics this week seeking a solution but I didn’t meet the criteria for services at the clinics who help people with no or very low income, and it would cost me a lot of money to go to another regular walk-in clinic just to have someone see me to make sure I had the infection before they could give me a prescription for the two pills I needed. I was weary beyond belief and did not want to blow another $100 for something that should have been “fixed” at the first walk-in clinic that started this whole mess.

At one of the clinics I visited for low or no income people, I couldn’t be seen as I had too much money in my checking account to qualify for their services even though I had no income. However, the woman who ran this clinic was very nice and sympathetic to what had happened to me at the walk-in clinic and gave me the name of a OB/GYN doctor who might be able to see me on a sliding scale. She also gave me the names of a couple of other clinics that work with older and/or low/no income people. I checked out the other clinics first as I was afraid the OB/GYN doctor would be out of my price range. However, by this morning the thought of going to the Health Department was depressing so I decided to give the OB/GYN doctor’s office a call. They were willing to work with me on a sliding scale and were going to get back with me about the cost, but after I hung up I decided to go to their office because, quite frankly, I was desperate to get the prescription I needed for the infection I had because I was physically miserable from it.

Well, when I arrived at their office the staff of several women were just wonderful to me. I explained my situation and what I had been through this whole week starting on Monday trying to get the walk-in clinic to treat the infection that I had gotten from their prescription and that they had refused. They were very sympathetic to my plight, and to make a long story short, the woman OB/GYN doctor said she would see me and I would only be charged $20 for the visit plus any associated lab fees. After going through a week from hell trying to get the original walk-in clinic who created the problem to help me, I almost cried when this doctor was so willing to help me for such a low cost. It turned out that she had a most delightful sense of humor and was aware of the first clinic I went to and not surprised at how I had been treated by them. She checked to make sure I had the infection (I did) and after having a wonderful conversation with her, she gave me the prescription I needed and made sure I had four refills in case I needed them. I wanted to hug her!!! I ended up only having to pay $35 ($20 for the visit plus two lab fees), and the prescription was only $10. I let her and her staff know how very much I appreciated their kindness to me, and I was dancing on a cloud when I left their office.

So, I’m now on the mend from the second infection and will never darken the door of that first walk-in clinic ever again. Kindness goes a very long way and this doctor and her staff were incredibly kind and gracious to me. They resolved my problem at an incredibly low cost compared to what I would have had to pay anywhere else, even at the Health Department (upwards of $65 for the visit plus any associated lab fees). God had smiled on me big time by sending me to their office. And I pray that God blesses them greatly for their kindness.

So, a horrible, frustrating, miserable (from the infection) week has ended on the very best note possible. I received the kindness and the prescription I was in desperate need of from a very caring doctor and her very caring staff and at a cost so low I could hardly believe it. And not only did I get the prescription I needed but she gave me four refills just in case I needed more. We need a lot more people like them in this world.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).  This doctor and her staff were my “good and perfect gift” from God for this week. And what a marvelous gift they were to me.

Photo credit here

From Ripped-Off to Renewal

What a week I’ve had. I got ripped-off by a health care clinic that claims to have “revolutionary” health care delivery but didn’t deliver and totally excused it off by stating “company policy” combined with horrible customer service. Did I mention it cost me $100 to find out how much they didn’t care? Unfortunately, many of us find out just how much we’ve been ripped off only after the money has been exchanged and the service fell flat. And it seems that nobody accepts any of the responsibility anymore. They just take our money and move on.

My halo, which I have never worn well, definitely slipped this past week. Hope and mercy pretty much got flushed down the toilet and was replaced by a lot of anger not to mention physically feeling like crap since the prescription I got to cure one thing gave me another infection that the clinic refused to treat stating “company policy.” And that second infection is now full blown. Now I’ll have to spend more money to go to another clinic to cure the infection I got from the prescription I received from the first clinic (you know, the one that claims no responsibility).

To say this has had a detrimental effect on my morning devotional time would be an understatement. I am so battle weary already from being unemployed for two years and four months with no medical insurance and no income of any kind now. And now this incredibly unfortunate incident with the health care clinic just added insult to injury, not to mention giving them $100 for a service that created more problems for me that they refused to address. I wish I had never darkened their door. But who knew???

Needless to say when I got their initial response that it wasn’t their problem (because of “company policy”) after I had spent $100 in their clinic, I gave them a piece of my mind (which I usually don’t do but my frustration level was extremely high) and when someone finally responded using an “unknown” (unlisted) phone number on my caller ID I got a heartless robot disguised as a human being spouting “company policy” and pretty much saying, “Tough luck, Cookie” (I was sure she was reading from a script and I knew my concern didn’t matter to her). And I did something I rarely ever do. I ended the conversation in the middle of her spouting “company policy” for the Nth time by stating that this conversation was over and I hung up.

Now, mind you, when I was still working I worked in student services in higher education at various colleges and universities for twenty years and on more occasions then I care to think about I had to deal with angry and hostile students, far more angry and hostile than I was to this particular health care clinic. I learned a long time ago to let those students vent their anger and I listened to what they had to say. I did not spout “company policy” or act like a mindless, uncaring robot. I listened carefully to find out exactly what was wrong and how I could help them. I never made them feel like they didn’t matter and I always did whatever was possible to remedy the situation for the student.

I think those days of “customer service” are dead. I am appalled at the lack of “customer service” that I find and a lot of times it starts by trying to get through the automated voice answering system “hell” to finally get to a real, live human being only to get an automated response that says, “All lines are currently busy. Please hang up and call back later.” It’s at that point I think we all tend to show sociopathic tendencies.

So, after my experience with the health care clinic this past week my halo is shattered at my feet and I think I’ll leave it there. I am enormously grateful that I serve a God who forgives my fractured, human side when the cruelty of this world gets to be too much and I return it with anger. I don’t like reaching that point and it just goes to show that Christians aren’t, nor will they ever be, even close to perfect until this life is over. Christianity is not about reaching perfection and pointing fingers at others. No, it’s about flawed human beings finding a Savior—the only Savior there is, Jesus Christ. Of course, society at large expects us to be perfect if we wear the name of Christ, and screams “hypocrite” at the slightest indication that we are, indeed, still very much human. But most of us never wanted that label of “perfect Christian” anyway. I have always said I am not your typical “church lady.” No, not by a long shot.

So, I think I’ll spend some time with my Savior to get my equilibrium back. It’s been a rough week after a rougher two years and four months of unemployment. I don’t know when this time of trial will eventually end and life will move on, but I know the One who holds it all in His hands. While our society presents many opportunities to get ripped off, I only know of one place to go to get renewed, and I’m headed there now.

I like what Romans 12:1-2 has to say in The Message Bible:  “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” And the New King James Version of verse 2 states:  “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).

I like knowing I have a shelter in the storm, and a place I can always go for renewal. I hope you take advantage of it, too…

Photo credit here

A Hope In Progress

We’ve all heard the expression, “A work in progress.” Well, my work in progress right now is “hope.” And, I must admit it is sometimes very hard work, too. But as another expression states, “Hope springs eternal”; therefore, hope is not transitory. I like that. It has an anchor, and for those of us who are Christian, that anchor is God through Jesus Christ. At the core of our hope is the cross.

Hope is one of the prevalent themes throughout the Bible. Numerous passages refer to it, and King David, even years before he was King, spoke of it often especially in the Psalms. In fact, during a time of distress in his life (of which he had many), he repeated the same statement three times in very short order (Psalm 42:5, 11, and 43:5):

“Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.”

Hope is the thing with wings that never gives up. Even in the midst of despair, hope shines through the darkness.

For the past several years at the beginning of each new year, I assigned a word to encompass what I hoped to learn during that year—an overarching theme for the year. In 2009 that word was “Joy” which was sorely tested as that was the year I lost my job in Houston and this long time of unemployment began. I discovered that joy was not tied into my circumstances, but in living relationship with Jesus Christ. “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Indeed, it was and is.

My theme for 2010 was “Love.” The ability to love was tested to the very core of my being. Learning to forgive people who had severely hurt me (from my former boss in Houston to others going back into my past) was paramount is finally reaching that place of understanding of what it truly means to love (I Cor. 13). Love cannot reside with anger, bitterness, and/or a lack of forgiveness. I had to melt down years of anger and hurt before the seeds of love could take root. I’m still not perfect at this by any means, but I’ve come a very long way in a very short time, and repentance was a key factor in letting go.

And now we come to “Hope,” my theme for 2011. The landscape of unemployment has not only been far reaching but also long lasting across America with hardly a glimmer of hope in sight for the millions of us who are unemployed. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov. 13:12a); however, Prov. 13:12b goes on to state, “but when the desire comes it is a tree of life.” Hope is closely tied to faith and faith is what has kept me going during this marathon race with endurance. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). If it was not for faith, I would have no hope, and my faith, as well as my hope, is anchored in the only One who can help–Jesus Christ.

I never expected to be unemployed for this long (two years and almost four months now), and I certainly didn’t expect to still be unemployed by the time my unemployment benefits ended almost three months ago, making me one of the millions of people in America who have already exhausted their unemployment benefits with still no employment opportunities in sight (a group known as the “99’ers”). While the days of waiting sometimes get long and frustrating it is hope that keeps me going. As King David said so long ago, “And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You” (Psalm 39:7).

For those of you who are a part of the same generation as me, and if you grew up in church in your younger years, you may remember a great song that was sung (and still needs to be sung in churches across America today) titled, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” That song was inspired by Lam. 3:22-26:

“Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions they fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul,
Therefore I hope in Him.’ 

Great is His faithfulness! Let us never forget His faithfulness in the midst of our trials, and may it encourage us when we are weary to the bone with waiting. Our hope rests in His faithfulness, and His mercies are new every morning.

May this song encourage you:

Photo credit here

Waiting in Midian

If you are familiar with the story of Moses, you’ll remember that he spent his first 40 years in Pharaoh’s household before he fled from Egypt after murdering an Egyptian. And, he spent his last 40 years leading the Israelites through the Wilderness to the Promised Land (also known as the Exodus). But, you might not be aware that when he fled Egypt he ended up in the land of Midian for 40 years where very little is recorded about his life. Compared to his first 40 years in Egypt and his last 40 years leading the Exodus, he spent those middle 40 years “waiting” for God to show up. And God did show up when Moses least expected it in a burning bush, and suddenly his waiting years were over.

Waiting on God is certainly not a new concept and many books have been written on the subject. Our society has become so high-tech and “instantaneous” that we get impatient if we have to wait in line for more than five minutes at the check-out counter or if our “fast food” takes a few minutes to receive at the local fast food restaurant.

I know in my own life waiting has never been an easy thing. And after two years and three months of “waiting” for a new job to show up (this is not a passive waiting as I am actively applying for jobs), I find myself saying, “Okay God, what’s the hold-up?” No, waiting is not something I do well. But after reading accounts like Moses and Joseph (see previous post), my time of “waiting” seems microscopic compared to theirs. You can probably relate to what I’m saying.

So, I’m waiting in Midian, so to speak, and hoping my wait doesn’t take 40 years. I received a comment from a dear friend mentioning that she felt such pain and hurt along with my own empty feelings from reading my blog posts. It made me realize that words on a blog don’t often totally express the whole picture, and I was grateful for her comment so that I can emphasize another side. And yes, there is another side.

Without a doubt these past three years, starting at the end of September 2008 when I moved to Houston, have been filled with pain and hurt as well as loneliness. And, this long time of unemployment has left me socially isolated as I don’t even have work colleagues to communicate with on a daily basis. Also, I’m single and I live alone which adds to the isolation. But throughout these past three years I have maintained, on a very regular basis, an upbeat attitude and enjoy getting out and talking with people wherever I find them. However, I think we do ourselves a disservice when we try to hide our pain behind a “positive mental attitude” which negates (even denies) looking at situations realistically when things go wrong as stated in my previous post, “A Matter of Clarity.” One doesn’t have to read very far into the Bible to note that it wasn’t “positive thinking” that got Moses or David or Joseph in the Old Testament or the Disciples or Paul in the New Testament through their many trials and ordeals. It was not denying the devastating circumstances they found themselves in through “positive thinking,” but a total reliance upon God through “positive living” in the midst of those circumstances and trials.

“Positive living” is a term I picked up from a book by Dr. Michael Youssef, “15 Secrets to a Wonderful Life: Mastering the Art of Positive Living” (FaithWords, 2008). In the Introduction titled “Positive Thinking or Positive Living?” Dr. Youssef states, “While reading and rereading 2 Corinthians, I grew convinced that there was a vast difference between “positive thinking” and “positive living.” I realized Paul did not practice ‘the power of positive thinking.’ He was a man who lived a positive life despite all the negative circumstances surrounding him, including opposition, setbacks, and suffering. I desperately wanted to learn Paul’s secrets of positive living.” Well, so did I! So I purchased the book and read it this summer. From his study of 2 Corinthians in chapters titled, “Giving and Receiving Forgiveness,” “Overcoming Timidity,” “Mastering the Art of Peacemaking,” “Sorrow: The Back Door to Happiness” “Being Appreciated,” “When Pride is Good,” just to name a few of the 15 chapters, he shares what he has learned from the writings and life of the apostle Paul. I highly recommend it and only wish I had read it three years ago.

I do want to express that many good things have come from these past three years of some of the most excruciatingly painful trials I have ever experienced. Starting with my painful job experience in Houston and through this long time of unemployment, I came to the bottom of myself and found Jesus there waiting for me. I got away from all the “positive thinking” stuff that has invaded many of our churches that simply does not work when the bottom truly falls out of our lives (can I get a witness?) and also hides the sin in our lives. I have been on a journey where I have learned more about life and living through God’s perspective (re: daily reading the Bible and praying and I can’t emphasize enough the importance of repentence), then I ever learned in all my previous years of being a Christian. However, this post is already too long to go into all the positive changes that have blossomed in my life through this desert experience. I’ll save it for later.

My blog posts up to this point tell just part of the story of what has happened to me over these past few years. I do think we need to take an honest look at ourselves and not deny the pain, hurt, or emptiness that invades all of our lives that the “positive thinking” approach doesn’t allow for and, in fact, tells us to deny. That is not to say we should stay in a funk and not move forward out of it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As I continue to “wait in Midian” for a future to unfold that I don’t know about yet, I don’t want you to think I’m bemoaning my plight or sitting all day with the shades drawn. Are you kidding me? Nothing could be further from the truth! I just need to remember that sometimes the best things or greatest time of usefulness in life come after a very long time of waiting. So if you’re currently experiencing a long time of waiting, remind yourself of that, too.

Photo credit here

Mercy Way

April 2011 was an interesting month for me. For starters, it included the second anniversary of when I lost my job in Houston (April 21st); but besides the significance of that event which still affects my life today, there were other things that happened. The most traumatic event occurred on April 22nd, when my stepmother suddenly died ten days after surgery and her death was totally unexpected. She and my dad had been married almost 32 years and she was as much a mother to me as my own mother who died 28 years ago. But there were other things that happened during that month and it was an odd month, to be sure.  It tested my relationships with people–some very new relationships and some relationships that have been a part of my life for a very long time.

Without going into details I can say that I reached a point by the end of April where I felt mostly alone. As if the preceding two years had not been difficult enough to navigate since losing my job in Houston, I was now faced with the fact that I had become inconsequential, a nonentity, a joke without a punch line. The hurt from that was crushing, and then came the totally unexpected death of my stepmother to add grief on top of it all, and I couldn’t fly back to Iowa for the funeral due to an ankle injury. By the end of that disastrous month, I just wanted to get rid of the few items I still owned, get in my car, and drive off into the horizon, not really caring where I ended up. Hey, I was (and still am) unemployed with no job prospects, so what did it matter?

I had spent the better part of 2010 working through the incredible anger I had at my former boss in Houston. Just when I had finally reached the point where I had forgiven him regarding what he had done to me, this other stuff happened in rapid succession in April. I didn’t know which emotion was stronger—devastating hurt or anger. Maybe both were in play. I remember going for a drive and listening to music (music always makes me feel better), and crying so hard I could hardly see out the windshield. I was angry, hurt, and felt totally alone as if there was no one I could really depend on in this life (not to mention I was also grieving over the death of my stepmother). As I was driving I came to a red light, and as I slowed my car to stop I noticed the street sign…

“Mercy Way”

And it hit me like a ton of bricks. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7). And I knew instantly what I had to do. While I didn’t view these people as enemies they certainly weren’t acting as friends nor did they particularly seem to care about my welfare.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about the need for those of us who follow Him to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, and do good to those who spitefully use you” (Matt. 5:38-48). In short, we are to extend love to those who have hurt us, even those who have tried to take unfair advantage of us. As “The Message” Bible states, “No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.” (Matt. 38-42 MSG). We are to let our enemies bring out the best in us, not the worst. In short, we are to grow up and not live small lives by holding on to grudges or hurts.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy…” If we call ourselves Christians then we can live no other way. There is no excuse big enough or hurt deep enough that we can’t extend mercy and forgiveness, even if the recipient couldn’t care less or doesn’t even know that we have forgiven them (as in the case of my former boss whom I never saw again after I was fired). In fact, even more so in that case, because if we don’t, bitterness can take root and end up destroying the rest of our own lives.

I wish I could say that in a flash I was able to extend mercy and forgiveness to those involved in the circumstances in April after I saw that street sign; but in fact, it took a couple of months to reach the other side. It wasn’t until I resurrected this blog in early July (after deleting it in April along with all of the previous blog posts) that I realized I had finally reached the other side. And I found that by finally being able to extend mercy, I also found mercy, and a genuine love for others that is not dependent on the way they treat me.

A quote on a sign I had posted on my office door at the job I lost in Houston stated, “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” While it didn’t appear to have any effect on my former boss (and yes, there are people like that in this world—probably more than I care to think about), it reminded me every day when I read it that this life is not just about us.

No, it’s not…

Photo taken by author (negative of the original photo)