The Persistence of Memory

One of Salvador Dali’s most famous paintings is titled, The Persistence of Memory.” It was completed in August 1931 when Dali was 27; and at the time he was “penniless and outcast from the community which had inspired much of his art.” He and his wife, Gala, “settled in a small fishing settlement, Port Lligat, buying a single-room fishing shack,” and it was there that he painted “The Persistence of Memory.” (Quote source here.) Here’s a brief background on the painting:

“The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali, Museum of Modern Art, New York City

However we interpret this small 9 ½ X 13 inch (24.1 x 33cm) work, its influence on the wider art world cannot be in doubt.

First shown in Paris at Galerie Pierre Colle in 1931, the painting was also exhibited at the first Surrealist exhibition in the United States, at the Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut, in 1931, then, in 1934, by Julien Levy in New York.

Dalí and his wife Gala accompanied the painting over to New York in 1934, travelling third class with the financial assistance of Pablo Picasso.

By this point Dalí had been formally expelled from the Surrealists, partly due to his political opinions, but also thanks to his enthusiasm for American popular culture, something… his fellow European Surrealists disdained.

The irony remains that, in coming to America with his most famous painting, Dalí became the moment’s most famous artist…. “The image of the famous soft watches had been widely diffused–and caricatured–to the point where it had acquired a cult status by the time it was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York [in 1934].” (Quote source, Robert Radford, lecturer, writer and exhibition curator who taught Art History for many years at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton.)

An anonymous donor passed “The Persistence of Memory” on to MoMA [in 1934], where it remains to this day. “It was there that Dalí gave a lecture in which he reportedly said that the public could rest content with their difficulty in understanding the work, since the artist himself did not know what it meant either.” (Quote source: Robert Radford.)

Though, of course, one meaning is plain: the painting’s success meant that Dalí’s stardom was assured, and the painting’s place, as the acme of Surrealism, was, unlike the painting’s time pieces, equally concrete. (Quote source here.)

For all of the analysis taking place over the years regarding Dali’s most famous painting, I find it amusing that the artist, himself, admitted that he did not know what it meant. Yet, the persistence of memory in our own lives can and does have both negative and positive effects on our lives.

In an article published in 2011 titled, Do We Remember Bad Times Better Than Good?” by Colleen Cancio, contributor on HowStuffWorks.com, she writes:

Ask people where they were when the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001, and it’s a good bet that they’ll remember without hesitating. They may even recall specific details about the day, such as exactly what they were doing just before they saw the news reports of the terror attacks. This remarkable ability to conjure up even the smallest details surrounding a tragic or traumatic event is directly related to the intensity of the event itself. In other words, the more emotionally disturbing the experience is to us, the more likely we are to commit it to memory [source: Science Daily]. This is because memory and emotion are inextricably linked in the human brain.

But while people seem to easily remember tragic events and the seemingly insignificant details associated with them, many would be hard-pressed to recall the minutia of their happy times. For example, mothers often have trouble summoning the specifics of their children’s birth, but are amazingly accurate in recounting the duration and intensity of the labor process. It begs the question, “Do we remember the bad times better than the good?”….

In modern society, very bad memories can be psychologically debilitating. For example, war veterans sometimes experience flashbacks of being in combat zones when they return to civilian life, which can be extremely distressing.

“Strong memories often have an emotional impact that can be more pervasive, even causing physical symptoms, especially when it comes to traumatic events,” explains Tanya Clausen, clinical social worker in Washington, D.C. “Unfortunately, some people re-experience the memories of traumatizing events for years after the fact. It’s common to experience a biological response when these memories play out, including heart palpitations and shortness of breath.”

The good news is that people can also benefit from reliving positive experiences, such as remembering the overall sense of well-being that comes from being deeply happy. This is because good memories can cause the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure [source: Lang]. Clausen suggests that happy memories can also positively affect our mental health and can be used therapeutically to reduce the symptoms associated with bad memories….

Some people seem to have an uncanny ability to downplay negative experiences in their lives and magnify the positive ones. We all have that friend who, when life offers lemons, manages to make lemonade. Are these individuals also remembering the good times more than the bad? If so, is this skill a matter of mind over memory? Or is it that some people are hard-wired with a more pessimistic perspective? According to Clausen, the ability to minimize the negative impact of memories takes a learned and conscious effort. (Quote source here.)

In an article published in 2016 titled, Why Are Bad Memories Good? Here’s How You Can Get Something Positive Out of Painful Recollections,” by Marissa Higgins, a writer based in Washington, DC, she writes:

Let’s be real: I know no one likes to dwell on the bad, painful parts of our lives. But can bad memories actually be good? Generally speaking, the hard parts are the aspects of our lives we try to bury deep and “move on” from; however, a lot of research shows that there’s much to be gained from digging deep and understanding our bad memories. Here’s how you can get something positive about some of your more painful recollections, according to science.

Basically, our brains (and bodies) process information in a way that hinges on our survival: if we have a negative experience, or an experience that, for example, brings us a great amount of fear, our body begins to teach itself to be wary of the same event happening again. While this is useful if you’re, say, hunting in the wilderness and need to be super in-tune with nature, “Hunger Games”style, it is not so useful if a memory you’re repressing is preventing you from experiencing an otherwise enjoyable part of your everyday life.

But still—if you could just get rid of the bad memory, you would, right? That is, of course, way easier said than done. While it may feel easier to just repress hard things or try to push them out of our minds, reflecting back on, processing, and learning from bad memories is how we develop and grow as people.

It’s important, too, to draw a clear line between reflecting back on painful memories in an attempt to process and learn from them, and experiencing reoccurring memories which negatively impact your life….

At this point the Higgins states five ways of working through a bad memory which are available at this link. I will mentioned three of the five ways below:

(1) You Gain Understanding: Sometimes our bad memories stem from places that we don’t fully understand. Either we don’t entirely remember what happened, or we understand the logistics, but not the why behind it. Having unanswered questions, or have information that feels unsatisfactory, can feel incredibly frustrating, especially when something negatively impacted your life or the life of someone you care about. When bad memories take control over our minds and hearts, it can make you feel helpless and vulnerable. That’s why it’s important to get to the root of your hard memories and therein, the root of the issue. Sometimes, though it can be really tough, the only way out is through.

(2) You Learn Some Important Lessons: That’s right: Confronting hard memories may help you learn some pretty important life lessons. I know it sounds cliche, but we’re all basically shaped by our past experiences, including the negative ones. Whether your bad memories are rooted in decisions you actively made, or things that happened to you over which you may not have had much control, it’s important to work through them and process them fully. This allows you to have a distance from the situation and learn from it; either in terms of how you’ll handle a situation differently in the future, or by seeing the strength you have through surviving a traumatic event you were a victim of. No matter the scenario, there is always room to recognize growth anlearn from an experience.

(3) You Can Confront People From Your Past: Sometimes we come to the realization that we simply can’t make sense of our bad memories on our own—that there’s some missing information we simply aren’t privy to—and in order to feel a piece of mind, we reach out to others. Now, it’s important to remember that just because you want to talk about something doesn’t mean other people are ready (or will ever be ready) to, so there’s a point in which you need to work on finding closure in any way you can, even if it isn’t the ideal circumstance. However, if you can get in touch with someone and they’re OK talking to you about what’s been on your mind, it can be really beneficial to hear someone else’s perspective and their version of what happened. This may reinforce what you thought and help you feel valid in your feelings, or may lighten the burden of what you perceived was on your shoulders.

So, there you have it! Working through bad or traumatic memories isn’t going to be easy, but overall, it’s definitely going to be worth it. We all only have one life, and it’s important to understand what goes in our lives as fully and richly as possible, so we can better understand ourselves and our decisions, hopefully leading us to more health and happiness in the long-run. (Quote source here.)

In a devotion published in 2017 titled, Overcoming Bad Memories,” posted by Glenda Rhodeman, she writes:

“Do not…ponder the things of the past.”Isaiah 43:18 NAS

To overcome bad memories you must: (1) Reframe them. Looking back, Joseph said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20 NAS). (2) Reject them. The next time a bad memory resurfaces, refuse to entertain it. “Do not…ponder the things of the past.” (3) Refocus your thoughts. “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13 NKJV). You say, “I can’t help remembering.” If you can recall your troubles, you can recall your blessings. The most effective way to overcome bad memories–is to replace them with good ones! And here’s some good news: Every promise God gives you contains the power to fulfill it. So meditate on these words and personalize them: “Fear not…do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth” (Isaiah 54:4 NAS).

“The former things shall not be remembered or come into mind… be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create” (Isaiah 65:17-18 AMP). Notice the word “create.” God can create beauty out of ashes and order out of chaos–but it doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll do a lot of growing and forgiving along the way.  In some cases you’ll forgive others; in other cases you’ll forgive yourself. You say, “But all those promises are from the Old Testament!” Yes, but the Bible says, “He carries out and fulfills all of [His] promises, no matter how many… there are” (2 Corinthians 1:20 TLB). So bring your bad memories to God and let Him heal them.

This message taken from: Daily Devotional–The Word For You Today (Quote source here.)

All of us have some bad memories caused by ourselves or by others or a combination of the two as in the case of divorce, but it is what we do with the bad memories that is most important. As the devotion above states at the end–“Bring your bad memories to God and let Him heal them.” After all, God stated in Isaiah 43:18-19: Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness . . .

And streams . . .

In the wasteland . . . .

YouTube Video: “All Things New” by Hillsong Worship:

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Backstage: God Behind the Scenes

In the world of theater, there is a front-stage where the performance takes place and the audience sees and experiences what is going on, and there is a backstage that is hidden from the audience. Merriam-Webster defines backstage as follows:

1of, relating to, or occurring in the area behind the stage and especially in the dressing rooms

2of or relating to the private lives of theater people; (adverb) in private, secretly

3of or relating to the inner working or operation (as of an organization) (Quote source here.)

This hidden world known as the backstage actually goes on in our everyday lives, too, and not just in a theater production. In a devotional book titled, Experience the Power of God’s Names (2017), by Dr. Tony Evans, pastor, speaker, author, widely syndicated radio and television broadcaster, and founder of “The Urban Alternative,” he states the following on page 85:

When you attend a concert or a theater production, you don’t usually get to see what’s going on behind the scenes. You don’t see the backstage crew or all the rehearsals leading up to the show or the countless hours of preparation that have gone into the event.

It’s kind of like that with God’s work in our lives. We tend to live in the moment, noticing only what’s currently happening, failing to notice God working behind the scenes. We miss all the effort and planning He’s put in, and we are unable to see Him intervening and redirecting on our behalf. Because of this, we lack understanding of all that God has rescued us from and the countless ways He has redeemed us. Still, He continues to work wonders in our lives.

God formed each of us for a purpose, and the best way to live out that purpose is to take refuge in His presence. He promises that none who take refuge in Him will be lost, and He will always redeem us day after day despite our lack of awareness and acknowledgment. He is Jehovah Goelekh, the Lord our Redeemer, our ever-present help in times of trouble. In His redeeming strength, He works daily wonders in our lives and hearts. (Quote source: “Experience the Power of God’s Names,” page 85.)

In a devotion published in Our Daily Bread titled, Behind the Scenes,” by David C. McCasland, author at Our Daily Bread from 1995-2018, he writes:

While learning to use a new computer, I was troubled by a faint clicking sound that indicated it was working even though nothing was happening on the screen. The manufacturer’s representative on the help hotline said, “No problem. The computer is probably running an application you can’t see and is working in the background.”

As I thought about the phrase “working in the background,” I began to realize how visually oriented I am in my relationship with God. If I can’t see something, I assume it’s not happening. But that’s not the way God operates.

I see a striking example of God’s “behind the scenes” work in the conversion of Saul. While Christians were suffering under his ruthless persecution (Acts 8:1-3), God was preparing to transform him into a dynamic representative of Christ (9:15).

Is there a situation in your life today where you cannot see God working? It may be that your circumstances are resisting every attempt at change. Perhaps someone you love is obstinately refusing to respond to God. Even though it may appear that nothing is happening, God is at work—behind the scenes, in the background, accomplishing His purpose.

In the drama of life, God is the director behind the scenes. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, God’s Unseen But Unstoppable Work on Our Behalf,” by Ray Noah, Lead Pastor, Portland Christian Center, and Founder/CEO of Petros Network, he writes:

You may not see what God is up to, but he is up to good. He is fulfilling his purposes for his own glory, and he is working out the details of your life for your good. Don’t let circumstances tell you otherwise. You may be tempted to flee in fear and God’s enemies may be fighting mad—at you. But at the same time, God will be repurposing even the most unlikely sources, the Rahabs in your world, as instruments of faith.

Going Deep//Focus: Joshua 2:7-11

So the king’s men went looking for the spies along the road leading to the shallow crossings of the Jordan River. And as soon as the king’s men had left, the gate of Jericho was shut. Before the spies went to sleep that night, Rahab went up on the roof to talk with them. “I know the Lord has given you this land,” she told them. “We are all afraid of you. Everyone in the land is living in terror. For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed. No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things. For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below.

God is always at work, even when we cannot see it. God is always fulfilling his glorious purposes, which includes perfecting everything that concerns you and me.

The Lord will perfect that which concerns me. (Psalm 138:8)

At times, God is working in visible, dramatic, undeniable ways. We will see an example of that very thing a few chapters later when the walls of the city of Jericho miraculously fall. Those kinds of stories are strategically placed throughout scripture to build our confidence in God. But between those faith stories, which are long stretches of times, God’s work is not so visible. He is not inactive, mind you; his work is just invisible. You see, most of the time God is behind the scenes, working in unseen ways, as is the case here in Joshua 2. The Israelite spies that Joshua sent out to size up Jericho have made their way into the city, but word has gotten out and now the authorities are looking for them. Their lives are at risk. They don’t see that God is at work—yet. For all they know, they’re toast!

Then Rehab rescues the day. Yes, Rahab—an idol worshiping, street walking, “lady of the night.” At great risk to her own life, and that of her family, she hides the spies and tricks the authorities, making it possible for the two deep cover Israelites to make it out alive. What the two spies didn’t know at the time was that God was working on their behalf by working on a prostitute, whom he would use in such a significant act of faith that her bravery would land her in God’s Great Hall of Faith. (Hebrews 11:30-31)

As she spoke with the spies, this lady of questionable character was laying down some unquestionable theology: the work of God on Israel’s behalf was striking fear in the hearts of Israel’s enemies. The mighty acts of deliverance forty years prior in Egypt and over the decades of Israel’s wandering out in the desert had been sending shock waves into the unseen realm, and the principalities and powers that opposed God, and everything of God, were quaking in their boots. God had been at work all along on Israel’s behalf, and they didn’t even know it.

What is interesting here is how the different actors respond. The enemies of God are fighting mad. The men of God are fleeing in fear. The woman of the night is responding in faith. And over it all, God is at work, fulfilling his purposes and perfecting everything that concerns his people—redeeming a prostitute, rescuing the spies, and redirecting the bounty hunters.

That is true for you too. You may not see what God is up to, but he is up to good. He is fulfilling his purposes for his own glory, and he is working out the details of your life for your good. Don’t let circumstances tell you otherwise. You may be tempted to flee in fear and God’s enemies may be fighting mad—at you. But at the same time, God will be repurposing even the most unlikely sources, the Rahabs in your world, as instruments of faith.

What you see isn’t all that is going on. Never forget that. And learn to trust God’s unseen but unstoppable work on your behalf.

Going Deeper With God: You may be facing forces today that are out to cause you harm. Take courage: God is also aligning a Rahab or two to work on your behalf. Take a moment to thank God for the good he is bringing about, even if you don’t see it yet. (Quote source here.)

As the story of Rahab shows us, we can never really know what God is doing and who He is using “behind the scenes” in our own lives and circumstances until God’s timing is right and He decides to brings them out into the open.

There is always a “bigger story” going on behind the scenes in our lives. In the story of Rahab, it doesn’t end with her hiding of those two spies, and the destruction of Jericho that only she and her family survived. She ended up marrying one of those two spies, Salmon, and she gave birth to Boaz, who is found in the story of the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament, and Rahab shows up again in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:5.

In a list of 30 Life Principles found in Dr. Charles Stanley’sLife’s Principles Bible,” Life Principle #14 is “God acts on the behalf of those who wait for him.” And waiting is a part of God’s working behind the scenes of our lives. Dr. Stanley states the following regarding Life Principle #14:

In this hurry-up world, waiting for anything can cause us to lose our temper and our good sense—more frequently than we care to admit! No one enjoys waiting in line. We don’t like waiting at stoplights. We don’t like waiting for dinner. We don’t even like waiting for good things, like for fish to bite. We want what we want right now.

Yet the Word of God insists that we learn some of life’s greatest lessons while we wait. Waiting rooms can be hard classrooms, but God promises vast rewards to those who wait for Him. God plans to use the long pauses in our lives for our blessing . . . if we let Him.

Why does God so often ask us to wait? Let’s consider five major rewards of waiting.

1. We discover God’s will.

“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him” (Lam. 3:25). God does not allow delays in giving us the desire of our heart to lead us along. Rather, we know that even as we wait, He is working all things together for our good and His glory (Rom. 8:28). Yet, as we eagerly anticipate His provision, we must keep our eyes on Him—listening for His voice and direction. In that way, we learn to do His will and our relationship with Him grows deeper.

2. We receive supernatural energy and strength.

God invites us to claim His promise in Isaiah 40:29–31: “He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

Just as God deepens our relationship with Him through times of waiting, He also increases our energy, faith, endurance, and strength. We grow in the likeness of Christ and all of His attributes—including in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22, 23). Surely, waiting on Him is never wasted time!

3. We win battles.

“Wait for the Lord, and He will save you” (Prov. 20:22). How wonderful to see the Lord rescue us and bless us with His favor. When we do things our way, in our own hurried time, we end up defeated. But when we wait on God and obey His commands, He ensures our victory and keeps us from foolish and precipitous acts.

4. We see the fulfillment of our faith.

“Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame” (Is. 49:23). In the end, we’ll never feel embarrassed for waiting on God; it’s always the smart thing to do. Although others may encourage us to forge ahead instead of waiting on the Lord, we must remember that He is the only One who can truly help us and that He will never let us down. And when we trust Him and obey, surely we will see the fulfillment of every hope we’ve entrusted to Him.

5. We see God working on our behalf.

Isaiah spoke of the God “who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him” (Is. 64:4). What a wonderful promise! While we actively wait, He actively works. Think of this: every single day, we have the greatest Mediator working on our behalf. Even when things seem to go wrong, He is making sure that everything works according to His purpose.

Although waiting can be one of the more difficult things in the Christian life, it is not wasted time. God gives us instructions through periods of actively waiting. He may change our circumstances while we wait. He keeps us in step with Himself and prepares us for His answers. He uses the time to sift our motives and strengthen our faith. And when we choose to wait, God rewards us with blessings both large and unexpected.

Think of waiting on God as something like planting a garden. You put a seed under the soil and water it. And then you wait.

And wait.

And wait.

After the sun and rain nourish the earth, the seeds begin to grow; and one day, finally, you begin to see evidence of what you’ve planted. Now, suppose you had grown impatient and dug up your seeds because nothing seemed to be happening? You would have ruined your garden.

Remember, some fruit takes a long time to mature—and the One who wants to bring it forth in our lives knows exactly how long we need to wait. Therefore, trust Him and be patient, because He is producing the most wonderful and precious fruit that you could ever hope for or imagine. (Quote source: Adapted from The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible ©2009, at this link.)

I’ll end this post with the words from a short article titled, God is at Work,” by Kevin B. Bullard, author and one-half of the duo behind Marriage Works! Inc, (his wife, Cetelia, is the other half).

Esther is a book of the Bible that never mentions God’s name. But, don’t think believe for a minute that he was uninvolved.  He was hard at work behind the scenes.

By the time the book ends, we’re left with a trail of twists & turns, deceptions, betrayals, surprises, hesitations, and ultimately, God’s will being done.

Talking about God may be off-limits in your house, making him seem uninvolved. Or perhaps your spouse is cool to the idea of you attending or giving offerings to “that church.” Maybe you’ve been praying to God for your spouse’s decision to follow Christ, yet it appears that all the forces of darkness are making life tougher because of your request. Maybe you’ve been crying out to God, and it seems like he’s far away from you and your marriage.

There’s hope in Jesus’s words,My Father is always working, and so am I.”

Take courage. God is at work. (Quote source here.)

So, if you’re still waiting and wondering, don’t give up . . . ever (as in Luke 18:1as behind the scenes . . .

God is still working . . .

Making the impossible . . .

Possible . . . .

YouTube Video: “The God of the Impossible” by Lincoln Brewster:

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Bold Love

Back in 1997 when I was still living and working in Miami, Florida, I bought a book titled, Bold Love,” by Dr. Dan B. Allender and Dr. Tremper Longman III. Dr. Allender is a prominent Christian therapist, author, professor, and speaker focusing on sexual abuse and trauma recovery, as well as marriage and family, and Christian Sabbath; and he is also one of the founders and former President of The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology (quote source here). Dr. Longman is an Old Testament scholar, theologian, professor and author of several books, including 2009 ECPA Christian Book Award winner Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (quote source here).

Originally published in 1992, Bold Love,” is a book about genuine love, and what it means. A brief description of the book on Amazon.com states the following:

We’ve come to view love as being “nice,” yet the kind of love modeled by Jesus Christ has nothing to do with manners or unconditional acceptance. Rather, it is disruptive, courageous, and socially unacceptable.

In “Bold Love,” Dr. Dan Allender and Dr. Tremper Longman III draw out the aggressive, unrelenting, passionate power of genuine love. Far from helping you “get along” with others, “Bold Love” introduces the outlandish possibility of making a significant, life-changing impact on family, friends, coworkers–even your enemies.

Learn more about forgiveness, maturity, and seeing others through Jesus’ eyes. (Quote source here.)

In one review of the book on Amazon.com written and published on January 29, 2019, Hillary Farris, Ph.D. states the following:

It’s about time I reviewed this book; I’ve depended upon it ever since it was first published in 1992. I’m on my third or fourth copy because I’ve given away each in turn, over the years. I just recommended it again today. My problem in trying to review it is to single out why I keep buying it to re-read and how it could help you and people you know that you care about even though they have caused harm to you in the past. You may say – “Wait I’m not sure I still care about such people – I’ve shut them out of my life – it’s how I survive.” I would still offer this book to you to take up and read and ponder what it offers – especially if on occasion you must interact with those who have hurt you in the past. If you are already relying on your identity in Christ and the freedom you have found, then this book could empower you to seek that same reconciliation and restorative grace for others in your life who need it too. It may be that you are like me – I was to be a kind of New Testament “Abraham” for my family – stepping out in unfamiliar territory and pursuing them for Christ with God’s leading and the godly wisdom is this book. It happened – a miracle of bold love. (Quote source here.)

Back in 1997 when I purchased that book, I ended up giving it to a friend I had briefly gotten to know who took ill suddenly and found himself in the hospital. He was a young Hispanic guy in his early 30’s, and he was really scared as he was afraid he had AIDS. He struggled with his lifestyle and for the most part the church I met him at was not overly responsive to him due to that fact. I don’t remember all of the details now as it’s been almost 22 years ago, but when I went to visit him in the hospital, I discovered that hardly anyone had been there to visit him, and I was the only one from church congregation who came to see him at the time I was there.

I didn’t know him well enough to know if he liked to read, but I had purchased “Bold Love” recently and I really liked the book. I decided to give it to him as I thought it might help him get his mind off of his health situation if only for a little while, but I was distressed to find out that hardly anyone was visiting him once I got there. I ended up sitting with him for as long as I could before hospital staff needed to do something and I had to leave. We talked for a while and I ached for him in his intense loneliness (and he was very sick) and in his circumstances regarding his AIDS diagnosis.

I remember hearing someone make a comment about him at church who stated that it was his “lifestyle choice” that landed him in the hospital, and it was said rather coldly. Sometimes I am stunned by how unfeeling we can be to each other in church settings, and I felt that way when I heard this woman who said that about him. When I went back again to visit him, he had been released from hospital but because I wasn’t family they would not tell me where he ended up. I never did find out what happened to him.

I was haunted by the thought of where was the outpouring of genuine Christian love for this guy when he so desperately needed it? His view of the church at that point was very dim, and unfortunately, understandably so. It is a side to the church that I have never fully understood, but then the church is made up of all kinds of people from all walks of life. However, it is that very fact that should draw those like this young Hispanic guy into a fellowship of genuine love and acceptance especially at his very acute time of need. Instead, he was met with scorn. He struggled, but who took the time to understand? He might even have been dying at that time (I don’t know), and who cared?

I can’t help but believe that if Jesus was walking on this earth today, He would have been in that hospital room. If we as the church are Jesus’ representatives to the world today, why don’t we care more about others outside of our Christian circles? I realize that is a general statement as each individual is different in how they respond to various situations that come up in life, but where is our compassion? Where is our love? It’s not supposed to be hidden inside church walls. It’s meant to be expressed with the world-at-large, even a young Hispanic guy dying from AIDS in a hospital room.

Let’s take that closer to home–where is our compassion in our everyday world–what about the people we encounter shopping in Walmart or Aldi or even Goodwill? How about at McDonald’s or Burger King or Wendy’s? And how about every place we go? And where is our compassion when someone is trying to take our job away from us (that’s been a tough one for me personally)? And how do we handle the abuse by others who just don’t care (too often it comes from within the church but there is plenty of it in the world, too)?

I don’t say that to make anyone feel guilty or angry. We all tend to be way too judgmental about others we don’t know (and that goes beyond Christians, too, to the general population). Is a young guy dying of AIDS important to Jesus? Of course he is. So why do we look the other way or make statements about his lifestyle choice as being a reason to shun him when he is sick and dying? God have mercy on us for even thinking that is okay.

We need a whole lot more bold love in this world. Not “nice” love; not “getting along” love, not “fake” love. We need real love, bold love, and there’s not very much of it out there anymore. Nobody is perfect, but we should at least try more then we do.

Getting back to the book, “Bold Love,” I found a website with some notes on the book that shows in brief statements from pages in the book what it is about. Here are those notes taken from LeadWithYourLife.com. The page numbers from the paperback edition of the book are listed after each note:

Book Summary:

We’ve come to view love as being “nice,” yet the kind of love modeled by Jesus Christ has nothing to do with manners or unconditional acceptance. Rather, it is disruptive, courageous, and socially unacceptable.

In Bold Love, Dr. Dan Allender and Dr. Tremper Longman III draw out the aggressive, unrelenting, passionate power of genuine love. Far from helping you “get along” with others, Bold Love introduces the outlandish possibility of making a significant, life-changing impact on family, friends, coworkers—even your enemies.

Book Notes:

God’s consuming preoccupation is to destroy evil through the power of sheer goodness made known through His perfectly righteous love. (11)

We are to be armed for battle with a higher purpose than present enjoyment, a determined confidence that God is good no matter what happens, and the passion of a love bold enough to take on the real enemy. (11)

We must discover God’s power to care about others when our heart is breaking; we must find God’s love to reach out to lost people even though our pain continues. We must learn to live well in a community of people who are sometimes wonderful, too often unspeakably evil, and usually somewhere in between. (12)

I do not believe forgiveness involves forgetting the past and ignoring the damage of past or present harm. (16)

Bold love is courageously setting aside our personal agenda to move humbly into the world of others with their well-being in view, willing to risk further pain in our souls, in order to be an aroma of life to some and an aroma of death to others. (19)

Love is not possible, at least for long, without the healing work of forgiveness. (28)

Forgiving love is the inconceivable, unexplainable pursuit of the offender by the offended for the sake of restored relationship with God, self, and others. (29)

I will not live with purpose and joy unless I love; I will not be able to love unless I forgive; and I will not forgive unless my hatred is continually melted by the searing truth and grace of the gospel. True biblical forgiveness is a glorious gift for both the offender and the offended. (30)

Love is unquestionably the highest calling a person can pursue. (30)

It is wonderfully simple and grand—all of life’s requirements summarized by the admonition to love God and your neighbor. (31)

Love is a sacrifice for the undeserving that opens the door to restoration of relationship with the Father, with others, and with ourselves. (32)

Love is the measure by which my life will be assessed. (32)

Most people presume the desire to love is a natural human sentiment, but love is actually the exception, the extraordinary, and the life-altering surprise. (34)

The essence of Christianity is God’s tenacious loyalty to redeem His people from the just penalty for sin. (37)

Given the reality of sin, love and forgiveness are inextricably bound together. (42)

The extent to which someone truly loves will be positively correlated to the degree the person is stunned and silenced by the wonder that his huge debt has been canceled. Perhaps another way to say it is that gratitude for forgiveness is the foundation for other-centered love. (43)

Self-protection is the self-centered commitment to act without courage, compassion, boldness, and tenderness for the sake of the other. (58)

It is not life’s or God’s seeming unfairness that is so difficult to bear (though it is painful), it is the unbearable fact that in light of the radical injustice, God calls us to love, to turn the cheek, to offer our coats, and to carry the burden of our abusers one more mile. (61)

If one brings to bear the reality of what our sin deserves—separation from life and love—Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross becomes the mystical intersection of two powerful, turbulent rivers—wrath and mercy. (81)

The premise of this chapter is that forgiveness becomes more necessary to the degree the damage of living in a fallen world is faced. (88)

The war against us is disguised behind the humdrum monotony and imperceptible abuses of daily living, so that a call to arms is ignored as silly adventuring or the paranoid delusions of negativism. (92)

In any case, destructive lust involves the heart of a thief whose passion is to be satisfied, not the heart of a lover whose desire is to give. (104)

But the Cross, like a brilliant conundrum, was, in fact, the height of glory. What appeared to be the death of God, the shaming of the prized only begotten Son of the Most High, and the dissolution of the Trinity was actually the most glorious interplay of justice and mercy, worked out in perfect harmony by all members of the Godhead. (121)

Our weapons are prayer, faith, and bold love. (130)

Faith, then, is an assertion of trust, even when our circumstances point in a direction that seems to call into question God’s goodness. (132)

If I do not anticipate the regularity and tragedy of sin, I unavoidably come to believe this world is my home. (140)

I am prepared for battle when my desire to love is simply stronger (even by a molecule) than my desire to snuff out the flame of mercy that God has graciously intruded into my heart. (156)

To forgive another means to cancel the debt of what is owed in order to provide a door of opportunity for repentance and restoration of the broken relationship. (160)

Biblical forgiveness is never unconditional and one-sided. It is not letting others go off scot-free, “forgiven,” and enabled to do harm again without any consequences. Instead, forgiveness is an invitation to reconciliation, not the blind, cheap granting of it. (162)

Forgiveness involves a heart that cancels the debt but does not lend new money until repentance occurs. (162)

The offender must repent if true intimacy and reconciliation are ever to take place. (163)

Hope for heaven (that is, for beauty restored) is deeply embedded in all human relationships. (171)

We cancel the debt in order to invite the offender to return from the pigpen and join us at the banquet table. (181)

Bold love is the tenacious, irrepressible energy to do good in order to surprise and conquer evil. (185)

The choice to pursue and embrace goodness toward others must be motivated by a passion to overcome evil and destroy it from its roots. (204)

In many cases, bold love will unnerve, offend, hurt, disturb, and compel the one who is loved to deal with the internal disease that is robbing him and others of joy. (208)

In essence—bold love is a unique blend of invitation and warning—a pull toward life and push away from death. (211)

The magnificence of bold love is that in its brokenness, surprise, and simplicity, it is a human gift that could come only from heaven. Bold love provokes disruption that leads to solace, repentance that leads to rest; but far more, it invites both giver and receiver to stare into the eyes of mystery, the wonder of the meaning of the Cross. (309) (Quote source here.)

“Our weapons are prayer, faith, and bold love” (page 130). First Corinthians 13 opens with these three verses: If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

So let’s gain something . . .

Let’s gain . . .

Bold love . . . .

YouTube Video: “Others” by Israel Houghton:

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Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

Encountering Truth

I found a book the other day in the “book” area of a Dollar Tree store titled, Encountering Truth: Meeting God in Everyday Life (2015), by Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State. As I looked over the Table of Contents (8 pages long composed of 186 chaptershomilies–with each homily one to two pages long), it looked quite intriguing, and for the price of a dollar, I couldn’t resist buying it. As a note, I am not Catholic. I was raised in a nondenominational church that primarily hired Baptist ministers.

Encountering Truth is actually a collection of highlights from brief homilies given by Pope Francis at seven in the morning in the little Vatican chapel of Saint Martha “in front of an audience that is always different: gardeners, office workers, nuns and priests, as well as a growing group of journalists” (quote source: inside front cover of the hardback edition of the book). This particular set of homilies is taken from March 2013 through May 2014.

Homily #86 in the book was given on September 3, 2013, and is titled, “Jesus doesn’t need armies; his power is humility.” It states the following (Scripture notes for this homily are I Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11; Luke 4:31-37):

The Christian identity is “an identity of light, not of darkness.” Saint Paul addresses these words to the first disciples of Jesus: “Brothers, you are not in darkness, you are all sons of the light.” This light “was not welcomed by the world.” But Jesus came to save use from sin; “his light saves us from the darkness.” On the other hand, “one may think that it is possible” to have the light “with all sort of scientific things and things of humanity.”

“One may understand everything, have knowledge about everything and this light on things. But the light of Jesus is something else. It is not a light of ignorance, no! It is a light of wisdom and understanding, but it is something other than the light of the world. The light that the world offers us is an artificial light, which may be bright–that of Jesus is brighter–bright like fireworks, like a camera flash. But the light of Jesus is a meek light, it is a tranquil light, it is a light of peace, it is like the light of Christmas Eve: without conceit.”

It is a light that “offers itself and gives peace.” The light of Jesus “doesn’t put on a show; it is a light that comes into the heart.” Nonetheless, “it is true that the devil often comes disguised as an angel of light. He likes to imitate Jesus and makes himself look good; he speaks softly to us, as he spoke to Jesus after he fasted in the desert.” This is why we have to ask the Lord “for the wisdom of discernment in order to know when it is Jesus who is giving the light and when it is the devil, disguised as an angel of light.”

“How many believe they are living in the light and are in the darkness, but they don’t realize it. What is it like, the light that Jesus offers to us? We can know the light of Jesus, because it is a humble light. It is not a light that imposes itself; it is humble. It is a meek light, with the strength of meekness. It is a light that speaks to the heart, and it is also a light the offers you the Cross. If in our light on the inside we are meek, we hear the voice of Jesus in our hearts and look at the Cross without fear: that is the light of Jesus.”

But if, instead, a light comes that “makes you prideful,” a light that “leads you to look down your nose at others,” to despise others, “to arrogance, that is not the light of Jesus; it is the light of the devil, disguised as Jesus, as an angel of light.” And the way to distinguish the true light from the false is this: “Wherever Jesus is there is humility, meekness, love, and the Cross. We will never find a Jesus who is not humble, meek, without love, and without the Cross.” So we have to follow after him, “without fear,” follow his light because the light of Jesus “is beautiful and does so much good.” In today’s Gospel (Luke 4:31-37), Jesus drives out the devil, and the people are seized with fear at a word that can drive out the unclean spirits.

“Jesus doesn’t need an army to drive out demons, he doesn’t need arrogance, he doesn’t need power, pride. ‘What word can this be that commands the unclean spirits with authority and power and they go?’ This is a humble word, meek, with so much love; it is a word that accompanies us in the moments of the Cross. Let’s ask the Lord to give us today the grace of his light and to teach use to distinguish when the light is from him and when it is an artificial light, made by the enemy, to deceive us.” (Quote source, “Encountering Truth,” pp. 164-165).

In Homily #96 given on September 16, 2013, titled, “Love for the people and humility, necessary virtues for leaders,” the following is stated (Scripture notes for this homily are I Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 7:1-10):

The Gospel of the centurion who asks with humility and trust for the healing of his servant and the letter of Saint Paul to Timothy with the call to pray for rulers offer the occasion for a “reflection on how authorities provide service.” The one who governs “must love his people,” because “a governor who does not love cannot govern; at the most he can discipline, bring a bit of order, but not govern.” This reminds us of David, “how he loved his people,” so much that after the sin of conducting the census he tells the Lord to punish not the people but him. So “the two virtues of a governor” are love for the people and humility.

“One cannot govern without love for the people and without humility! And every man, every woman who must take possession of a government post, must ask himself these two questions: Do I love my people, to serve them better? Am I humble, and do I listen to all the others, the different opinions, to choose the best way? If he does not ask himself these questions, his government will not be good. The governor, man or woman, who loves his people is a humble man or woman.”

One the other hand, Saint Paul urges us to lift up prayers “for kings and for all in authority, so that we may lead a calm and tranquil life.” Politics cannot be ignored. “None of us can say: ‘But I don’t have anything to do with this, they’re in charge.’ No, no, I am responsible for their governance, and I must do the best I can so that they govern well, and I must do the best I can by participating in politics as I am able. Politics–as the social doctrine of the Church says–is one of the highest forms of charity, because it is serving the common good. I cannot wash my hands; we all have to give something!”

There is a habit of saying only bad things about politicians and chattering about “things that are not going well. And you listen to the television report and they hammer away, hammer away; you read the newspaper and they hammer away . . . Always the bad, always against! The governor may be a sinner, as David was, but I must collaborate by contributing my opinion, with my words, and even with my correction,” because all of us “must participate in the common good”! And if “many times we have heard ‘a good Catholic should not get mixed up in politics,’ this is not true, this is not a good path.”

“A good Catholic gets mixed up in politics, offering the best of himself, so that the governor can govern. But what is the best thing that we can offer to governors? Prayer! This is what Paul says: ‘Pray for all men and for the king and for all those who are in power.’ ‘But, Father, he’s a bad person, he should go to hell.’ ‘Pray for him, pray for her, that he may govern well, that he may love his people, that he may serve his people, that he may be humble!’ A Christian who does not pray for the leaders is not a good Christian! ‘But Father, how can I pray for this one? This guy’s no good.’ ‘Pray that he may convert!’ But pray. And it’s not me saying this, Saint Paul says it, the Word of God.”

So, “let’s give the best of ourselves–ideas, suggestions–the best, but above all the best is prayer. Let’s pray for our leaders, that they may govern us well, that they may lead our country, our nation forward and also the world, that there may be peace and the common good.” (Quote source, “Encountering Truth,” pp. 182-183).

I must admit after reading this second homily above that it is not very often that I remember to pray for those who  govern over us at all levels in our society, from the local police to the President of the United States. I have always personally hated to enter the arena of politics as it is so divisive especially during election years. In fact, when I do remember to pray for those who govern over us, most of the time all I know to pray is “Your will be done” as I get too frustrated trying to get specific beyond that phrase. It’s not that I think the opposing sides are necessarily bad people but rather that it just seems that both sides kick in their heals to thwart what the other side is trying to do. For example, I could barely watch on TV the Kavanaugh hearing (for Supreme Court Justice) this past September because of the blistering attacks that came from both sides. It rankled my nerves to watch and listen to the vitriol coming out of both sides, and this is often what our political elections have become, too.

However, that homily reminded me that I need to “get over it” and pray regardless of my personal feelings about politics. I’ve never been one to bury my head in the sand in tough situations except when it comes to politics. But it is my responsibility to pray for those who govern over us if I consider myself to be Christian.

The last homily that I’ll share from the book is shorter. It is Homily #3 which was given on March 27, 2013, and goes along with the second homily above when we have a tendency to bad mouth others. In fact, it is titled, “Those who bad-mouth others are like Judas.” How’s that for a convicting title? The Scripture notes for this homily are found in Isaiah 50-4-9a and Matthew 26:14-25:

The betrayal of Jesus is compared with gossip, with speaking ill of others. This is the reflection on the Gospel that presents the betrayal of Judas for thirty denarii. One of the Twelve, one of Jesus’ friends, one of those closest to him speaks with the leaders of the priests, negotiating the price of the betrayal. “Jesus is like a piece of merchandise: he is sold.”

“This happens so many times in the marketplace of history as well . . . in the marketplace of our lives when we choose the thirty denarii and leave Jesus aside, we look at the Lord we have sold. And sometimes with our brothers, with our friends, with each other, we do almost the same thing.”

This happens “when we gossip about each other.” This is selling, and “the person about whom we are gossiping is a piece of merchandise, he become merchandise. And how easy it is for us to do this! It is the same thing that Judas did. I don’t know why, but there is a dark enjoyment in gossiping.” Sometimes we begin with good comments, but then suddenly we come to gossip and begin to “bad-mouth the other.” But “every time we gossip, every time we ‘bad-mouth’ the other we are doing the same thing that Judas did.” This, then, is the invitation: “Never speak ill of other persons.” When he betrayed Jesus, Judas “had his heart closed, he had no understanding, no love, no friendship.” So when we gossip we too have no love, no friendship, everything become merchandise: “We sell our friends, our relatives.”

“Let’s ask for forgiveness because when we do this to a friend, we do it to Jesus, because Jesus is in this friend. And let’s ask for the grace not to ‘bad-mouth’ anyone, not to gossip about anyone.” 

And if we realize that someone has shortcomings, let’s not get justice with our tongues, but let’s pray to the Lord for him, saying “Lord, help him!” (Quote source, “Encountering Truth,” page 3).

We might add to that last prayer, “Lord, help us, too!” As I read those words above–“When he betrayed Jesus, Judas ‘had his heart closed, he had no understanding, no love, no friendship.’ So when we gossip we too have no love, no friendship, everything become merchandise: ‘We sell our friends, our relatives'”those words send a chill down my spine. 

It is said that conviction is good for the soul, but it is only good if we have ears to hear and do something about it instead of excusing it off. It is a prideful heart that doesn’t listen when encountering truth. And who among us wants to be like Judas (and we all are like him from time to time).

I’ll end this post with the words of Paul from Ephesians 4:31-32Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted . . .

Forgiving one another . . .

As God in Christ . . .

Has forgiven you . . . .

YouTube Video: “Forgiveness” by TobyMac ft. Lecrae:

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