Saturday, October 29, 2011

Woman forgives her brother's murderer


This story told to me by Jim Baier of St. Columban Church in Birmingham, Mi.

A few years ago, a woman stood up in the pews at St. Columban Church during the public prayer time.  She told this story (as recalled by Jim and then, in this blog, by me).

She said that her brother, a gay man, was shot and killed by somebody who was later apprehended, found guilty and sentenced to jail.  For three years, she felt stressfully angry at the murderer for taking away her brother; for taking anybody's life.   The anger consumed her. She thought about it every day, and it became an obsession that started to run down her life.

Then she decided to consider the Christ-inspired practice of forgiveness. After some work, she was able to visit the murderer in jail, face him, and forgive him.
She said that it was an act that freed her from the anger that had become chains for her, and that had started to take away the living from her life.  Subsequently, she found that her spirits lightened and she was able to feel happiness again, and was able to enjoy a much more normal life.
But the positive effect of her act of forgiveness did not stop there.  Jim was speaking about it years later in a Men's Fellowship meeting as an inspiration to him to be more convinced to forgive. He said that all of us finds ourselves, and he too finds himself in situations where he is angry at somebody, and very justifiably so, given the nature of the offense.  But by remembering the woman's story, he can see more clearly that anger can, if we hold on to it, become like a part time job that consumes energy and time, and reduces our ability to tend to other things in life.  He said that her example made it easier to forgive as well.

Now Jim has passed it on to us.

Why this poor, hungry man never considered stealing

It was about 1999.  I was taking a walk along Woodward, a large boulevard near my house. Also near Woodward is a motel that offers cheap monthly rates, and this is a place where people with no homes can stay.

An older black man with a shabby coat but dignified air was walking in the same direction as me, so we got to talking, and we found we were both going across Woodward to the McDonald's there.  After about 10 minutes of socializing, I discovered that he lived with his family temporarily in the motel, and was barely making it from week to week while trying to find a job.  He never did ask me for anything.  But he spoke of God. (He didn't know I was a Christian, but nonetheless spoke very comfortably and without embarassment; proudly even, as if he belonged to a royal family despite his current living situation.) 
Not the real man. I didn't have a camera with me.
But he looked like this, content and sure.

He said that some of his acquaintances at the motel use the approach of trying to scam people out of money, and some even steal to feed their families.  But he said that's not an option for him, because he didn't want to do anything to damage his relationship with his Lord. And he was not surprised that the Lord made things just barely work out week after week.

I was impressed.  I decided to help him continue working things out in this way for perhaps another week, and gave him some money.  He had given me something in return.  He gave me a memorable example of how strong faith can help you turn aside temptations to do immoral things for short term gain.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How does Jesus Talk to Us?

One friend of mine shared this story of how he believes Jesus communicated forgiveness to him... quite artistic!  

I won't share my friend's name, because he shared this in private.  
One day, when he was a young man, Carl (not his real name) had engaged in an activity which he knew would separate him from God.  We won't go into that.  Doesn't really matter.  Only that he felt very very ashamed and disappointed in himself. 

He went someplace to be alone, and began praying to the Lord for forgiveness.  After about 10 minutes of heartfelt prayer, he had a mental image, very clear, of a single drop of blood falling gently through the clouds and hitting Carl on the forehead.  The instant the blood hit him, he felt completely forgiven.  He said it was dramatic.  He felt clean all over.

Carl is a Catholic.  So out of curiousity I asked him whether he had ever felt the same feeling after Confession to a priest.  He said no, he had never felt that same feeling; he felt like it was a rote exercise.

By contrast, I've never had a blood drop image happen to me, but I have had a dramatically personal feeling of forgiveness after Confession.  I wonder why the difference.  My speculation is that it's not the circumstance.  It's the strong feeling inside us to admit our wrong to our Lord that brings the feeling of being forgiven.
...or...  greater than that....
that brings a real forgiveness communicated to us from Jesus to our hearts, so that we begin to believe.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

He would rather be scammed than let a man go hungry

Pedro Gutierrez and a group of men were talking this morning in Men's Fellowship at church about how comfortable we felt letting ourselves be used as an instrument of God's work.  Pedro told how he had a young adult come up to his car in a rough neighborhood of Detroit and ask for enough money to buy a dinner for the evening.  He was willing to give, and did.  He said that he's fully aware that it might have been a scam, but if he's at all unsure, he'd rather be scammed than let a truly poor person go hungry.
What makes a practicing Christian different?  This story is one more example.  He's willing to undergo some uncertainty or trouble in the name of loving a neighbor.

Monday, October 10, 2011

What God's voice sounds like (reported experience #5)

This story from Chris, who I know from church. 

I was working as Religious Education director for Shrine Parish which is literally six houses down the block from where I live.  Not a long walk and one that I took often.  This time, it was fall and I was, as usual, too busy with working full time, four little children and multiple ministries I was involved with.  This walk, I had my two year old toddler Elena, in tow.  I remember her darling little pink coat and bonnet and little white high top shoes.  Remember those? I was in a huge hurry but my toddler was not.  She was busy with the important things in life; looking at the brilliantly painted leaves along our path, stopping to have a little conversation with the ants industriously bustling somewhere, that sort of thing.  I remember becoming increasingly impatient with her meanderings and trying to hurry her along.  I was filled with anxiety.  as I was grabbing her little arm to get her to move faster, I heard a distinct CHRIS! loudly in my mind.  I was startled and literally stopped in my tracks.  I said out loud WHAT!?  Then a gentle nudge and the distinct words, "My daughter, life is not in the destinations, it is in the journey."  I was holding my breath as I looked around, not sure what to expect next.  At that moment, a deep sense of peace engulfed me and my perception shifted to my darling little girl and the awesome world she was seeing through her eyes.  Although my daughter is twenty-nine years old, I still revisit that moment to refocus when I am feeling stressed. Thank you God!

My commentary: Is God Real?  I take this as more evidence.

To read more stories like this, click the link for the label "Sound of God's Voice" below this posting or in the right-hand column.  You'll see all stories with that theme.