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Posts Tagged ‘help’

Beauty-and-the-Beast1

Beauty and the Beast has been my personal favorite Disney story for many years now.  If you know my husband, it’s easy to see why I identify.  Kidding! Ok, maybe just a little truth there.

The truth is, about 20 years ago, we both started out as beasts.  It was nothing but the Lord who has made us more like the Beauty and less Beastly to one another over the course of time and trials.

A lot of reviews have already been written about this long-awaited real-life remake.  Rather than do that, I just want to focus on one particular aspect that many might miss if they are not paying attention.

Belle is trying to reason through how the living objects in the castle must feel about their sentence of not being human again.  She says something to the effect of, “I can see why he (the beast) deserved this, but you – you did nothing wrong.”

It is at that point that Mrs. Potts pipes up like only a talking tea kettle can do and, from my perspective, speaks the most important line of the entire movie.  She quickly responds without even a second to bask in the expected hesitation, groveling, or self-victimization and says, “You’re right deary, we did nothing…” (when the beast was but a boy grieving over the loss of his mother and became the victim of an abusive, self-absorbed father.)

There is so much to learn from the attitude that Mrs. Potts’ character displays in that one single exchange.  Here’s what we can take from it and perhaps teach our children:

Firstly, no matter what your circumstance or how desperately unfortunate it is, you must never think of yourself as a victim.  A victim mentality will always hurt you.  Personal responsibility and owning up to our own failures in all circumstances is the key to being a person of character.

Next, if it is clear that someone else has been dealt a very difficult hand, we must consider their stressors over their responsibilities and act appropriately towards them.

For ourselves, we overlook the reasons we have to claim a victim status and rise up responsibly.  For others, we look for those same reasons and empathize when they act irresponsibly.  We do not compare circumstances, ever.  We do not compare reactions, grief, or evaluate and/or determine how any other person should be dealing with their own circumstance from an emotional standpoint.  The most important thing to do is serve them.  That’s what Mrs. Potts does.  That’s what her child does.  And, while they do not always agree with or even obey the beast in his unkind and ridiculous demands, they always seek to serve and help him in ways that are beneficial to him.

Finally, Mrs. Potts’s profound statement teaches us the often neglected truth that what we do not do is just as damaging as what we do wrong.  She says, “We did nothing…” (when this little boy’s whole world fell apart.)

That was an admission of guilt – a taking part in the making of a self-centered, unkind, now cursed, beast.  What we do not do for those who we know are suffering and being abused right before our eyes is what will convict and condemn us right alongside them if and when they become beasts in their own right.

Again, this idea does not erase personal responsibility for the beasts of the world.  Each man is wholly responsible for his own actions, always.  What this perspective does is it helps us to understand and own our personal responsibility toward those in need – namely children within our sphere of influence – before they morph into individuals who kill, steal, and destroy just like their teachers.

In other words, we do not get to dislike and avoid people we do not prefer and then turn around and blame them because they are bitter about it.  Our job is to see only our own faults and look past the faults of others in as much as we possibly can and love and serve them despite those faults.

What a great perspective to have.

– Own responsibility no matter how difficult your circumstances.

– Empathize, don’t criticize when others fail.

– Recognize that doing nothing is just as damaging as doing wrong to others.

That’s as true as it can be.

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help

Moses’ father in-law had come to visit him in the wilderness.  He didn’t just come to drop off the wife and kids and go back home.  Much fruit came from Jethro’s presence in Moses’ camp.

Firstly, Jethro asked Moses how he was.  This may seem trite, but to a leader who is ever placed in the position of asking others how they fare, being asked of his welfare was likely refreshing and encouraging.

Secondly, Jethro listened to Moses.  Here is another seemingly small detail that may mean more to this man than meets the eye.  When you are a listener of all, sometimes listening is the last thing anyone thinks to do for you.

Thirdly, Jethro rejoices and praises God with Moses for what he has done.  It is always helpful to receive encouragement in the good things God has done through you.  Far too little encouragement is found among God’s people for the ways in which he uses each of us individually.

After this time of encouragement and becoming reacquainted, Moses goes back to business as usual.  Jethro watches in curious concern as he sees Moses’ daily schedule.  He says this:

” When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?”… Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.” Exodus 18:14, 17-18

Jethro sees how Moses is conducting himself and he asks a question.  “Why do you sit alone?”  He makes an observation.  “What you are doing is not good.”

How faithful are the words of one who loves us when they say plainly what needs to be said; what no one else wants to say.  More faithful still is our willingness to hear and listen to those words of concern and love.

Jethro isn’t just there to criticize as some may think at first glance.  Moses did not take Jethro’s forthrightness and plain words of truth as harmful criticism because he knew Jethro loved him.  Moses trusted Jethro.  How much good advice do men forfeit out of mere fear, insecurity, and mistrust of the faithful friends who share it!  We must never mistake genuine concern for negative criticism lest we end up sitting alone and doing that which is not good.  Such is the lot of many leaders of old.  Paranoia has a prominent place of position among those who clutch to keep control with both hands.

No.  Jethro’s intent was never to offer his opinion in order to discourage or criticize.  Jethro had advice!  Good, wise, helpful advice for this man whom he loved, respected, and rejoiced over!  Jethro loved Moses so much that he was adamantly unwilling to turn a blind eye to things he knew would eventually destroy Moses – things that would lead to burn out, wearying of well-doing, and bury him in burden-bearing.

Jethro actually says, “Obey my voice…” Obey my voice?!  Wasn’t Moses supposed to be obeying God’s voice?  Moses, if he had been insecure, mistrusting, or prideful of the counsel of this man, may have been inclined to malign Jethro and tell him he was called to obey God alone.  But, could it be possible that God really does use men to instruct men—even when and if those men are not as gifted in the prophetic as those to whom they offer counsel?  Could it be possible that he uses more practical men to counsel his prophets and vice versa?  Yes and amen!!!  

Jethro’s advice was thus:

 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” ~Exodus 18:21-23

Hey, Moses.  Son, what you are doing is not good.  You cannot do it alone.  You need help.  Ask men to help you.

If Moses had been prideful, insecure, or less in tune with God, he would have turned on Jethro in a nanosecond upon hearing these words.  These are not, after all, easy words to hear when you’re the authority in all the land; when you are the God-ordained, called, confirmed and chosen leader who comes complete with past prophetic power plays as proof.  Can’t you just hear his thoughts?

And just who is Jethro anyway?  Some shepherd from nowhereland?  Who cares what he says anyway, right?  I’m the prophet.  He’s some worker ant with a pretty daughter.  He probably doesn’t even know God.  What does he even know?

No.  Moses does not think evil of the man who loves him when he is told the truth as many of us may tend to do in our fleshly weaknesses.  Instead, Moses listens.  Moses proves his humility by having the wisdom to listen to one who is bold enough to say hard words in efforts to help.

Jethro not only gives advice on what to do, but how to do it.  What kind of men is Moses to choose to help?  His buddies?  No.  Here, he is given criteria from a very practical man, again, ultimately for his own benefit.

The men he chooses must fear God.  These men cannot fear men.  They must be confident, courageous, and certainly not cowardly.  They are going to have to judge and confront many situations and disputes.  They cannot be cowards who duck and run at the first sign of trouble.

The men he chooses must be trustworthy.  Trust is not something a man magically gains simply by being amicable, educated, or even profoundly gifted.  Trust is something that must be proven, time and again, over a considerable period of time.

The men he chooses must hate a bribe.  These men must absolutely abhor partiality, favoritism, and pats on their own back.  These kind of men cannot be bought by accolades or personal advancement of any kind.  If they can be, they will be and the entire justice system will be completely compromised.

Matthew Henry describes them this way, “It was requisite that they should be men of the very best character.  For judgement and resolution – able men, men of good sense, that understood business, and bold men, that would not be daunted by frowns of clamors.  Clear heads and stout hearts make good judges.

Finally, Jethro concludes with the reason this must happen and a promise of sorts.  His reason: “So it will be easier for you.”  The promise: “If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” 

If you do this, the fruit will be your ability to continue and peace among the people.  Inferred from that statement is, if you do not do this, you will not be able to continue and there will be division among the people.

Practical men who love prophetic men often advise them from a place of wisdom.  Prophetic men who love practical men often advise them from a place of wisdom.  Let us not despise the counsel of another based on either paranoia or a pit of hell presupposition that arrogantly assumes their gifting is inferior to our own.

Kyrie Eleison

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jehovah

God’s people had been blessed over and over and over again.  It seemed that the more they were given, the more they cried, quarreled, and complained. These are all the tell-tale signs of being spoiled, rotten children.

Daddy gives and forgives; they cry and complain.  The pattern was very clear.  Wah! Wah! Wah! We want more!  We want different!  We want it now and if you don’t give us what we want right now we will scream, Daddy!  We don’t even remember the good you do!  We forget!  Give us more or we will say bad things about you, Daddy!  Waaaaaahh!  You hate us!

No, kids.  I think it might be you who hates me.  Because you love yourself so much, you have no room for me.  Everything I try to do to prove my love for you just leads to more unbelief, complaining, and rejection.  I have never rejected you.  You have rejected me.

So, you want to cry and complain?  You want to quarrel?  I’ll give you something to cry about.  I’ll give you someone your own size to quarrel with.

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. ~Exodus 17:8

The Amalekites were descendants of Esau.  Esau – the one whom God hated.  Esau – the one who valued temporary comfort over his very own future.  Esau – the rejected one; the hot-tempered antagonist; the one who thought more about a mere bowl of soup than the extravagant blessing of his very own father.  What a fool!

The Amalekites were the descendants of an utter fool.  They were the children of selfishness, impulsiveness, and impatience.  This is who God sends to quarrel with his quarrelsome, spoiled rotten children.  God, through this battle with the rejected ones, teaches his children how to trust him.

Well played, God, well played.

Moses sends Joshua out to choose an army and fight.  Moses, Aaron (his brother), and Hur (his brother-in-law), go up to the top of the hill overlooking the battle.  Moses holds up his wonder-working staff to signify God’s presence and encourage the soldiers.  Joshua is called to fight and Moses is called to pray.  Both are called to minister, help, rescue, defend, and deliver God’s people.  Simply recognizing differences in personality and calling go a long way in the fight against favoritism, superiority, and inferiority structures among God’s people.

These guys only have one problem.  It isn’t that they have an enemy.  It is that their leader is tired.  Moses’ arms are heavy.  He’s been holding the staff up all day.  Every time Moses gets tired, the staff drops and the enemy begins to win the battle.  When the staff is lifted, God’s people win.

“The strongest arm will fail with being long extended; it is God only whose hand is stretched out still.  We do not find that Joshua’s hands were heavy in fighting, but Moses’s hands were heavy in praying.  The more spiritual any service is the more apt we are to fail and flag in it.  Praying work, if done with due intenseness of mind and vigor of affection, will be found hard work, and though the spirit be willing, the flesh will be weak.  ~Matthew Henry

God doesn’t leave Moses in this weary state of trying and failing; working and wearying.  Instead, God uses Moses’ brothers to hold up his very arms; to give him rest on a rock.

But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. ~Exodus 17:12-13

God held Moses up for the benefit of his people.  God loves his children no matter how bad their behavior becomes.  He often uses the sin and selfishness of those who are not his own in order to discipline and instruct his children on what it really means to trust him.  God doesn’t allow his children to be spoiled, rotten brats.  Sometimes he sends brats who are even more spoiled and even more rotten to confront them; to show them; to draw them back to their desperate need for him.

When there is quarreling and complaining among God’s people, we ought not be surprised when God sends outsiders to come in and quarrel with us.  Though we may, in our flesh, grow weary in well-doing, if we are seeking to serve God and encourage our brothers and sisters, God will send ample support.  He will give us rest.

God longs to be our Jevohah-nissi, “The Lord is my banner.” His very presence is our strength and he wants us to look to Him and trust in Him alone.  He is our warrior who fights for us.  He is our intercessor who prays for us.  No matter how poor and petty our behavior becomes, it never defines us in Our Father’s eyes.  Our identity is found in our citizenship within his family.  He is faithful to send discipline when we are bratty and rest when we are weary.  He is our Jehovah-nissi.  He fights for us and his very presence is our banner, our sword, our wonder-working staff, and our very strength.

“Let ages come to know that God fights for his people and he that touches them touches the apple of his eye.” Matthew Henry

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police

“Others first.”

“Listen, don’t talk.”

“Did you obey?”

“Don’t hit!”

These are my very famous one-liners.  Officer Mom always gets the last word when it comes to conflict between four sisters. I feel like I say these things so repeatedly that maybe they do not mean what I think they mean.

Funny, I wanted to be a police officer at one point. God said, “No.”  Could this be him fulfilling the desires of my heart?  Maybe he is just showing me why it wasn’t what I really wanted!

When the children were young, I always tried to keep it simple.  Now that three of my four are getting a little older, I find that my one-liner toddler tips are still my go-to’s.

I don’t mean to insult my kids’ intelligence.  The truth is that conflict has nothing to do with intelligence.  It has to do with the heart.  And the heart, my friends, is a hard nut to crack.  Not complicating interpersonal conflict within our family often means that we must deal with the heart in very direct ways much more often than we must deal with the details of how those hearts got there.  My goal is always to convey a clear, concise message that gets to the very heart of whatever sibling issue we are facing.  Therefore, these short responses to conflict are meant to make my daughters think about their own heart and help them understand where the root problem really is.

When one won’t share and the other is indignant, “Others first” addresses both hearts.  When one talks over another, interrupts, or disregards what the other is saying in order to share what seems far more important to them, “Listen, don’t talk” is a good place to start to check motives.  When there are excuses flying like 747’s through my living room, “Did you obey?” answers them all.  When emotions are high and smooth sounding justification is brewing on all sides, “Don’t hit” is the best I can do to keep the peace.

Interestingly, it usually is not the one who is most “wrong” in the conflict who gets punished.  It is the one who resorts to unchecked selfishness, uncontrolled rage, or unrepentant attitudes that gets the most severe discipline. It becomes less about what happened and more about what is happening…because what is happening tells me a lot about what happened. 

There are reasons I choose to correct my children in this way.  Everyone knows that facts are important any time there is conflict.  The question is not, “Are the facts important?” rather, “Which facts are most important?”  When I allow myself to get drawn into all the, “She did this” and “She did that’s” I get lost somewhere in the loop and we all lose.  No matter which role I end up choosing – be it judge, jury, executioner, or all three – I have found that, in the day to day conflicts, none get to the heart like concise, heart-checking correction.  Keeping correction simple moves the mountains Officer Mom cannot move by force, fear-mongering, or even consequence-facing.

These mountains have names.  We have Mt. Envy, Mt. Me-First, Mt. Mad, Mt. Lazy, Mt. Self-Righteous, Mt. Careless, and Mt. Clueless, just to name a few.  Each one erupts at its leisure, and sometimes, several at once!  I find that addressing where the lava is spewing from is best accomplished with concise, direct correction.  When it is my mountain, it is best accomplished with concise, direct confession.

This is how Officer Mom avoids taking sides.  It is how Officer Mom avoids spending the entire day listening to the play by play including everything from My Little Pony’s poor pet grooming epidsode to Barbie’s bad beach day.  Usually, my one-liners get us back where we need to be without needing the bound to breed more boo-boos backstory.

Unfortunately, there are times when we do have to deal with that backstory.  Those are what I call big bads.  If we are dealing with a big bad, we cannot use the day to day wake-up shots.  Every detail and dirty diaper is something with which Officer Mom must deal.  Everything becomes evidence in the desperate case against our very not-nice villan – sin.  Big bads require big backstory.  Fortunately, we only have those things come up very scarcely, and often it it because Officer Mom has dropped the ball on discipline for several days in a row, but it is tremendously important to recognize a big bad as being just that – big.

So here’s hoping my famous last words help you deal with whatever dirty diapers you have to change today.  Signing off as I get ready to make the donuts and patrol from my grocery-getting SUV.  Remember, others first.  Listen, don’t talk.  Did you obey?  Don’t hit!  May the Lord remind you that blessing is held for the peacemakers.  We, too are children – children of God, that is.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. ~Matthew 5:9

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strong

Upon leaving Egypt, God laid out very specific instructions about how to remember what he has just done for them.  God’s people were not just coming out of slavery, oppression, and harsh treatment at the hands of a false god named Pharaoh.  They were also being led into a very long and life-changing land of need and dependence on the true God named Jehovah-jireh; Yahweh; Adonai – “The Lord who provides.”  (First named such by Abraham at Mt. Moriah as he found provision to sacrifice in his son’s stead.)

God has already spoken specifically on how to remember the Passover with a meal.  Now he instructs his people on how to remember this Passover by consecrating their firstborn children and animals to Him.  They all must be set apart and redeemed.  Furthermore, in order to remember their great and mighty deliverance, they were instructed to avoid leaven on specific days and in specific ways.

Interestingly, the Lord calls them first, to remember (Exodus 13:30), second, to go (Exodus 13:4), and third, to keep the service of his present instruction when they get to the place where He is taking them (Exodus 13:5).  First, past.  Second, present.  Third, future.  Past. Present. Future.  The Lord is speaking to His people’s past, their present, and their future.

In between all of these instructions, God is emphasizing one particular idea.  Four separate times Moses is called to say this to the people:

For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt. ~Exodus 13:3,9,14,16

Matthew Henry quotes, “The more opposition is given to the accomplishment of God’s purposes, the more is his power magnified therein.  It is a strong hand that conquers hard hearts.” God wants his people to get this.  Children, I saved you.  I delivered you.  I saved your children.  I delivered your children.  Remember!  Remember!  Remember!  I AM strong! I AM strong!  I AM strong!  I AM strong!  Past – remember.  Present – go. Future – remember.  You are weak, but I am strong.  You can trust your God.

 Remember and do not forget!  We serve a God who saves!  We serve a God who delivers.  Remember, Christian brother.  Remember, Christian sister.  He is strong.  Remember.  Go.  Remember.

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account

Yesterday I embarked on a long overdue and largely avoided obligation.  Several months ago an auditor came to check every jot and tittle of our business’s bookkeeping records for a very specific time period.  This guy was as crazy about receipts as my husband is about engine components.  The devil is in the details, folks.  I have a name for our new disposition as small business owners.  It is called, “I worked painfully hard and tried my honest best to pay what I owed and still ended up with a big black eye, a checkbook desperately in the red, and debts I didn’t expect despite my best efforts.”

That is a taste you just can’t get out of your mouth easily, and, as the year draws to a close, I must somehow find a way to pick up the pieces of a big, broken mess that I was neither expecting nor intending to ever have to deal with.  Let me tell you why.

I am not an accountant.  For the record, I was great at math in school.  I took Algebra I, II, III, Statistics, Geometry, and Trigonometry.  I was in the honors math program from seventh through twelfth grade.   I made A’s, always.  My dad was an engineer so I got it honest.  Nevertheless, when a young friend needed help with her math the other day, I thought I was helping her.  I thought I knew the right answers to her questions.  But we ended up with half wrong.  Half.  The reason is not because I am bad at math.  The reason is because I did not know the formulas.  I did not know the rules by which she was confined to solve the problems.  I was using my own.  I looked them up on the internet and thought I had found what I needed.  The information I had was only partial.  There were nuances and details (there’s that devil again) that I did not know anything about.  Fifty percent is failing.  A checkbook in the red is failing.

So, after spending two hours I did not really have to spare in the first place with my friend’s homework, I failed her.  After spending countless hours I did not really have to spare in the first place on bookkeeping, I failed him.  There were laws and rules that I knew nothing about when I took on this “job” as a 22 year old dental hygienist 15 years ago.

15 years is a long time to ignore important details.  15 years is a long time to just get by on basics.  How could I be so stupid?  Why did this not matter more to me?  Hindsight is always 20/20.  With my friend, I just needed her book in front of me.  With the business, I am pretty sure I need a lifelong tutor at this point and a book to boot.  No one ever showed me anything.  No one ever told me the rules.  But we all know that under the law, ignorance is no excuse.  My own ignorance has left me in a place where details feel a whole lot like devils.

The truth is, life is outrageously busy.  Priorities pile up like laundry in a family of seven.  Here’s one more thing you must make your #1 focus, Lori.  OK, Lord, then help me.  Because I already have 18 #1 priorities.  Maybe I am finally where the Lord wants me: recognizing my all consuming, desperate need for Him in all things.

Yesterday I sought to begin to reconcile the differences in my books.  The long and painfully dreaded process began with an updated program.  My Quickbooks software was dated 2002.  After an hour and a half on the phone with a man located in the Philippines, I had a brand new reason to do better this year.  I am still altogether awestruck by the fact that a man located on the other side of globe was remotely controlling my computer from his very own desk.  He told me it was midnight there.  I told him that anytime I am bookkeeping it feels a lot like midnight.

Anyway, I got off to a good start and then I realized that there were still entries from as far back as 2001 that needed deleted.  Every time I went to reconcile a new statement, I would have to scroll through all those old bits of nonsense. With the new program, I thought, this will be easy and only take a few minutes.  I will just delete the unreconciled entries and have one less weight on my shoulders.

Wrong.

I began OK but what I did accidentally proved, once again, disastrous.  I thought the computer was automatically moving down the row that needed deleted.  What it was actually doing was moving down by date – not only the unreconciled checks, but also the reconciled entries as well.  I ended up accidentally deleting about 20 cleared checks from 2001 – checks I have zero ability to produce a hard copy of or ever find anywhere ever again.

I have no idea how to retrieve them or even if I can.  Wonderful.  Even more collateral damage.  When I went to reconcile the next statement, there appeared a 27,000 dollar discrepancy.  Usually, it is about 27 cents.  I have no idea how to go back to that statement and fix it.  I ended up redoing the two hours of work I had just done and still haven’t fixed it in the least.

Now.  Are you feeling me?  When I say I sat and cried over these honest but disastrously failed attempts to keep track of all that is related to this business and it’s books, I am telling you despair is not nearly a descriptive enough word.  I am not an accountant.  This is hard.  I do not know the rules.  I do not know the program.  I do not know who can help me.  I do not know much at all.  But I cannot just quit.  I cannot give up because this is not a job.  It is a family business because of which my children eat.  I have to figure it out.  I have to find the right help.  I need instructed.  I need taught.  I need help and I must find a way to make time to master this business – be it bad debts or better reconciliation, I have to deal with every dot and detail until my books are nothing less than beautiful.  There are amends to be made and it will not be completed in the next few days I have off from home schooling as I had hoped.  This is a time consuming project that is going to take some real dedication.  But they will be made and I will see this project through to the very end.  Hard, hard lesson learned.

We are on the precipice of a brand new year.  Take it from one who is learning the hard way – reconcile your bad debts.  Make amends – even if they are many more than you had ever anticipated.  Pay attention to the details because, believe me, they matter tremendously.  Make every transaction a priority.  Never let old entries go undealt with.  Do not give up.  Don’t cry.  Call on the man who can remote access your heart and theirs and let him do the work for you. You will be asked to give an account.  You will, most definitely, need your book – the Bible.

Happy New Year.

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mercy

Consider a man with great religious knowledge.  Consider a man who is influential, intelligent, and intimidating.  Imagine he has twenty close friends exactly like him.  Now imagine that man coming to your house and threatening you and your three close friends.  Imagine him watching as his buddies kill your buddies and put them in prison…because he can and because he sincerely thinks he is doing the right thing.

Meet Saul of Tarsus, the Bible’s favorite miracle.

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him…Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” Acts 9:1-3, 8-9

When the Lord came to Saul, he went blind.  I think I know why.

Saul was a guy who saw everything.  This is a very detail-oriented guy.  Think boss, leader, foreman.  Paul saw everything everyone did and did not do.  All. The. Time. He knew everyone.  He thought he knew everything, and, truth be told, he did know a lot about that which he was talking.  He had credentials, experience, and position to prove it.  So, needless to say, people turned into cockroaches when the lights come on when Saul stomped into their town.  No one wanted to be the target he chose.  Saul was feared because he had a keen eye to see anything and everything everyone did, as he saw it, wrong.

Furthermore, he had friends – a group of people who did the same, encouraged, and approved of him doing so.  The Pharisees saw everything, knew everyone, and, in their extreme self-righteousness, felt genuinely justified in every critical assessment they made about others.  They made their own laws.  They obeyed their own laws.  You better obey their laws, too…or else.

Interestingly, God chose to make Saul blind when he saved him.  Such a man would have more trouble than most with blindness. When you see everything all your life and feel it is your responsibility to say exactly what you see, blindness is death.  Daily death, perhaps?

…Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing…

Saul saw nothing.  Oh, but in that nothing was something very important.  For the first time in Saul’s self-governed life, he saw himself.  When Saul could see nothing, he began to see everything.  When he could not see anyone else or their issues, his own issue became crystal clear to him.  A wise man once said we ought to pray that, “our sin becomes the only thing we see.”  When Saul saw the heavenly light, he went blind, but when Saul went blind, he saw the heavenly light.  The light of Christ showed him his sin and he had but one need: mercy.

Once upon a time, another light shone from heaven.

 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. ~Luke 2:8-11

In our first instance, God brought man’s sin to light.  In the second, God brought his unmitigated mercy to all men.  Thank God!

The Lord was extraordinarily merciful to Saul.  He changed him into, quite possibly, the most influential man in the Bible, save Jesus.  The means by which that happened was quite interesting, too.  He called upon a specific Christian named Ananias and told him to go to blind Saul and lay hands and pray over him.  Do you know what Ananias said?

No way, God.  Don’t you know who he is?? He is a monster.  He will kill me.  He even has the authority to kill me.  Really?

I chose him, Ananias.  Go.

Ananias went and prayed for Saul.  The Lord restored his sight.  Next, the disciples hung out with him.  He began to preach.  The Christians could not believe it and the Jews were confused.  The Jews sought to kill him and the Christians were terrified of him.  God knew it would take another miracle to change Saul’s bad reputation into Paul’s new identity in the eyes of everyone else.

The miracle God chose to use to accomplish Saul’s conversion was a heavenly light and an audible voice heard only by Saul.  The miracle God chose to establish Saul’s new identity and character was an earthly man’s (Ananias) laying on of hands and praying and another earthly man’s (Barnabas) friendship and reference.

To that end Paul spends the rest of his life in great effort and defense of the gospel.  No longer preoccupied with taking others to task, Paul had a new task: taking his own sin to task and sharing his own struggles as a springboard for the gospel message.  Saul’s shouting had turned into a song about his own sin and Christ’s great mercy toward him.  That song steered the rest of his life and God saved (and continues to save!) more men than stars in the sky though Paul’s salvation and subsequent suffering.

His song is my song, everyday forever. I heard it yesterday upon entering the Doctor’s office.  Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy.

Kyrie eleison – a short, repeated invocation used in many Christian litergies, especially at the beginning of the Eucharist or as a response in a litany.  Literally, “Lord, have mercy.” Let it not be Greek to me any longer. 

 Kyrie eleison
Kyrie eleison
Kyrie

The wind blows hard against this mountain side
Across the sea into my soul
It reaches into where I cannot hide
Setting my feet upon the road

My heart is old, it holds my memories
My body burns a gemlike flame
Somewhere between the soul and soft machine
Is where I find myself again

Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison, where I’m going, will you follow?
Kyrie eleison, on a highway in the light

When I was young I thought of growing old
Of what my life would mean to me
Would I have followed down my chosen road
Or only wished what I could be

Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison, where I’m going, will you follow?
Kyrie eleison, on a highway in the light

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