Have you ever been caught red-handed doing something terribly wrong, suddenly realizing the awful consequences that were about to happen as a result?
It's a terrifying, shocking head rush realization of how bad this is going to turn out followed with a heavy dose of shame and guilt.
As a young boy I got caught stealing a racy men's magazine – some kind of police gazette that had scantily clad women in it. This was way before Playboy but it was probably the porn of its time. I was horrified at the level of humiliation and punishment that lay ahead for me when my family and friends found out .I was a good kid. Heck- I was an altar boy! This wasn't like me at all which was going to make it that much worse.I had hidden the magazine in my jacket and as I was making my escape a gigantic hand grabbed me, spun me around and in a rough cigar breathed gravelly voice said “HEY YOU! What have you got there? YOU LITTLE THIEF! Let me see that! – That’s not for kids! And it's against the law to steal – you know that right?Terrified -- I stared up at this GIANT.What's your name kid? Where do you live?”Trembling, I whispered, “David sir. Close by sir.” Then I burst into tears.I'M SORRY! I'M SO SO SORRY!"Should I call your parents ? I SHOULD call your parents. I should let them know what their boys been up to. "I couldn't answer .I couldn't stop crying.He came down on one knee, his growly face at my eye level and he just looked at me for a couple seconds……"I'm not going to call them kid.”But I want you to remember this lesson, CRIME DOESN”T PAY ! ”I was still whimpering."Now go."I bolted for the door."And kid," I froze and turned around. There was a long pause.
"I forgive you. "
I blinked. My mouth dropped. A quick audible gasp as the words sank in.I wanted to run back and hug him,but I wasn't brave enough, instead I sobbed out loud and ran all the way home. I have no idea why he decided it was necessary that I knew I was forgiven. Maybe there was a time in his life when someone bestowed Amazing Grace on him and he was passing it forward. All I know is that I cannot, will not, ever forget his eyes when they transformed and the healing came…. " I forgive you."It was one of the best gifts of my childhood.
Forgiveness. The Story of Easter.Not only did Jesus come to offer us forgiveness, he took the punishment for everything, past, present and future.I never said “Thank You” to that store owner, but Jesus, I say "Thank You" to you. You are the greatest gift ever given.
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I want it back. That precious sense of childhood wonder about everything.
I was relaxing with my morning coffee, Pandora set to my “Amazing Grace” station, ,having a peaceful quiet time when my 3 yr.old granddaughter burst into the room.Jumping up onto the bed, melting me with her smile, she took my hand and said, “Poppy, I want you to feel my heart”Then she took my Bible, opened it to some color highlighted areas and asked, “Are these your feelings Poppy?”“Yes, I guess they are” I replied.Then she jumped off the bed, asked if she could clean my glasses—she LOVES to clean, and spent at least 10 minutes spraying cleaner on them and wiping it off, thrilled beyond belief at how well the game was going.
I spent the rest of the morning trying, TRYING, to become 3 years old again. Three, when there is boundless joy in the simplest of things.
“Yes Beverly, I want to feel your heart.”
In John 10:10 Jesus said.” I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly”. 3 yr.old Beverly seems to have discovered what that looks like. Since Jesus also said that we should become like little children to gain Heaven maybe we should spend more time surrendering some of the crazy things we chase after as adultsand instead strive for the purity and innocence of childhood.The privilege of just being here-- loved by our Creator.
Maybe He is simply saying, "Slow down, I want you to feel my heart”
Do you have a love story to share? Go to www.passionvoice.org, then to “A Thousand Shades of Grace”. God bless your day!
This photo is from the first time I saw my dad after 15 years of separation. It was taken by my aunt, in the middle of a cold February day in my grandmother's apartment back in 2007. It was also the last time I saw him alive.He did not look like I've remembered him. I've never seen such a strong man as a tall frail shadow version of himself. Yet, even with his illness, I could reach him, I could connect with him in my unpracticed Russian. By acknowledging his elaborate delusions and weaving them into our conversation I calmed him; and that helped relieve the burden of his losses. It was heart-wrenching and heartbreaking, and one of the very few moments in my life when I felt like I could make a difference in his.In the airport, right before we said goodbye, a passer by took our extended family photo. My aunts, cousin, grandmother and dad stood there solemn. I couldn't handle it, so I started making jokes. Just to be scolded by him just like it was back when I was a kid about to get in a lot of trouble, "Stop being goofy, you're not little anymore." And in that moment, a small glimpse of his fatherly authority sparkled like the tiny diamond stones of the rings he made for my mother when he could still work. I stopped the goofiness, but knew he was secretly proud of my efforts. That was one of the most memorable moments of my life.He has been gone for 7 years now. It was only recently with the help of my cousin, who sent me photos of the family plot, that I finally saw his resting place. The large grand granite headstone stood at the head of his grave. He looked young, healthy and serious. Forever serious.And that's when I vowed, once again, to make it back there to see and be with him for just a few seconds, before it all ends someday; to walk the streets he last walked, to touch the earth that he last touched- in my Russia, my motherland.
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This was my first high school reunion. It was only our 10th but I was still amazed at how much some people had changed.
There were some surprising beauties that had blossomed out of nowhere and star athletes that were "not so much" anymore.There was hilarious reminiscing and of course the heart stopping arrival of my high school sweetheart-- now married with children-- just like me.
We were all spending too much time trying to impress each other with our accomplishments and progress as mature adults when our old Principal appeared and sat us down because he had something important to share.
He sounded very somber-- like when he announced during school that President Kennedy had been assassinated. He definitely had our attention.
Our class of 350 graduated during the early stages of the Vietnam war. But we were shocked when he announced that nine of our classmates had lost their lives in Vietnam. He started reading the list and recounting how each had died.
We sat there silenced by sadness and memories. Most of them I knew and remembered, some I didn't.He saved two for last.When he read their names we all knew why.
They were the geeks, the outcasts, and most of us were guilty at some point of poking fun at them--letting them know how uncool they were.
I remembered throwing my gum into the hair of one of them. It stuck and he couldn't get it out. It was on the bus, and I was trying to fit in with the rowdy bunch. I remember feeling awful watching him try unsuccessfully to get it out.
When the rowdies got off the bus I sat next to him. He was very pale with straight up white hair and always looked like he was blushing. He didn't know who threw the gum. I didn't confess. I tried to act normal and although he smiled and said “hi” I could see he just didn't trust that anyone would talk normally to him. Then he got off the bus, the gum still obvious in his hair. I felt sick that I did that to him.What a stupid way to try to be cool.
The other outcast was his best friend. He was the son of immigrants, with an unusual name we made fun of, a unique and unacceptable fashion style, and was crazy about science and mathematics.They were both great students and we ostracized them for caring about school so much.I never saw them at dances or parties. We pretty much kept them out of our world.
Then the principal told us the story of how they died. When he finished there wasn't a dry eye in the room. Tears of sorrow. Tears of shame.They died together as heroes.We would never think of them as geeks again.
While most of us dreaded being drafted those two enlisted in the Army together. They went through boot camp together and both trained to be helicopter pilots-- ending up as medi-vac pilots stationed together near heavy combat in Vietnam.
One day on separate missions to rescue wounded soldiers, one was sent into a brutal firefight and was forced down-- his copter shot to pieces. The other, whose mission was just completed, returned immediately to rescue him. He too was shot down. Both died when enemy forces overwhelmed them.
Both were awarded posthumous metals for outstanding bravery.
We couldn't have been more proud of them – or more ashamed of ourselves. I gulped down my guilt and tried not to sob out loud because that wouldn't be cool.
So what is it about having to be cool? Having to look right, fit in, be acceptable? Is it worth the pain we cause people who don't make the grade?
We learned that day how unimportant cool really is. We learned what it meant to be a real man – to be courageous, loyal, to fight for what you believe in. To be a hero.I am so sick of having to be cool.
I am in love with a God doesn't give a flip about what I look like, what I wear, or how much stuff I own. In fact, Jesus went out of his way to befriend the outcasts the less than, the uncool.Instead of Princes he hung out with lowly fisherman. Instead of the wealthy and powerful he chose the poor and humble. Instead of the self righteous he chose sinners.He never judged by appearances, he saw the heart instead.The only cool I ever want to be is to be more like Him.
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We were afraid to be alone - my mother, my sister, and I. My father had just passed away; dropped dead from a sudden massive heart attack at the age of 48. My mother was 44, my sister was 18, and I was 14. It happened at a nearby high school where my sister and my dad were taking an evening Parks & Rec fencing class once a week for fun. My dad had been athletic, energetic, health conscious, and fit. All regular check ups, diagnostic tests, and stress tests had come back clean not long ago, and yet, this had just happened. In a split second, our lives were irrevocably changed, and we were somehow thrown into a whirling storm of shock, disbelief, and grief that no one had known to plan for.
The first week after was chaos. The phone was ringing off the hook. There was call after call from the hospital, from doctors, from relatives, from friends, from neighbors, from former coworkers, from potential funeral homes, from florists, from the coroner's office, from the cemetery, from the gravestone carving place, from take out restaurants to feed all the visitors streaming in and out of our house, ... Our home was command central for what was like the opposite of a last-minute surprise wedding that had to be thrown together and pulled off in less than a week.
The second week after, it was silent. There was nothing else to do - no more plans to be made, no one else to call and notify, no one to else to console and restate "We don't really understand what happened. He seemed to be so healthy." The house was quiet, and we sat there in a trance, still disbelieving and not really knowing if we should break the silence, cry together, or just lie alone in our beds staring at the ceiling, wondering what the others were doing in other parts of the house. Even though it was just 1 person that had left our presence, the entire house seemed empty. The silence was deafening.
Then there was a tap at the door. It was my aunt. She just quietly came into our house and joined us in sitting around and doing nothing. We ate in a trance, slept whenever, and roamed aimlessly through the house. My aunt washed dishes, folded clothes, read magazines on the couch. When my aunt had to go, my uncle came over. After school hours, my cousins came over and did their homework at our place. And then my aunt came back, sometimes with a different aunt, sometimes with a different uncle, sometimes with my grandma. Slowly, we noticed that our extended family had somehow arranged their schedules and created shifts to make sure that the 3 of us, my mom, my sister and I, were never alone in our house over the next two weeks. Someone was always there when we fell asleep, and sometimes, a different someone was there when we woke up in the morning. Long before, we had already stopped thanking them for coming by to check in on us, because we had said it a million times already. It was ok; they already knew we were so so grateful to have their support and their presence. Their presence was worth 1000 times more than anything else they could have given to us.
Over the next few weeks, my sister and I started having to go back to school again, and my mom went back to work again. Somehow, a new normalcy emerged, and coming back to a sometimes-empty home became bearable again. 21 years later now, it is still painful to write about it. I will never never say that I am glad that it happened, but it did serve as an opportunity to observe that in times of darkness, love finds a way. Even now, I constantly dread with great fear when bad things happen. But I do know now that family will always be there, and I will be there for them.
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