FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Grace for Squirrels

Yes, the squirrels, again.  We are still at war.  Or at least we were until this afternoon.  Here’s what happened.

During travels to the beach last week we stopped for a waterfront picnic and a little shopping in one of the small communities between our home and the beach.  I found something called a “Soda Bottle Birdfeeder” and had to have it.  Really.  I couldn’t wait to return home to “install” it – especially since it required me to drink a soda before I could use the bottle.  (A soda is a very rare treat for me these days.)

Anyway, I guzzled a Sprite thinking the green bottle would be ideal.  After washing and drying the bottle, I inserted the hanger, filled the bottle with birdseed, attached the spigot-like piece that would permit small birds to perch and feed and promptly suspended the feeder from an iron hook that hung over a branch of a tree in my backyard. The birds seemed to immediately find the new feeder and began devouring the seed. Joy – for me and the birds.

I marveled at the birds and new feeder for a day before noticing that it appeared to be hanging somewhat lopsided. A closer inspection revealed the handiwork of a squirrel. Unable to cling to the iron hook and unable to reach the “spigot,” a squirrel had apparently hung upside down from a nearby branch and chewed a hole into my “soda bottle feeder. Just a few more nibbles would have caused it to tumble to the ground had I not noticed in time! I bought the feeder because I knew the squirrels would not be able to reach the “spigot” and would not be able to grasp the hook; it never occurred to me that they would figure out how to chew holes into the bottle.

To say that I was livid would be an understatement! The squirrels had already overtaken the other feeders that I have in my back and side yards; “Surely,” I thought, “they will let the birds enjoy this one.” Even as I was inspecting their handiwork, they were munching away at the seed in my other feeders. So, I took the feeders down! Every one of them! Then I sat on my back porch and watched for hours how they (and, sadly, the birds) came to the branches and the posts in search of seed to find none. “Let ‘em starve,” I told my mom.

I wish that I could have captured the ruckus. It seems that every bird and every squirrel in the town descended upon my backyard. They screeched, grunted, cawed and made sounds imaginable and unimaginable. They flew away or scrambled through the trees only to return again and again to the sites where the feeders had stood or hung. I felt badly for the birds, but those squirrels! THOSE SQUIRRELS!!!! I just want to enjoy the birds. I don’t want greedy little squirrels eating up all of my seed – MY SEED!

And that is when the Holy Spirit spoke so clearly to me. “Have you no grace? Yes, even for the squirrels?” I thought, “Seriously?” And His Spirit said, “Yes. Seriously.”

Now let me go ahead and tell you that it wasn’t really about the squirrels but about me and my propensities for showing (or not) grace to others.

Max Lucado describes grace as “God’s best idea. His decision to ravage a people by love, to rescue passionately, and to restore justly.” He says that nothing rivals it and that “when grace happens, generosity happens – unsquashable, eye-popping bigheartedness.”

If you’ve followed my blog for any time, you’ve probably read about my love for giving gifts. But if I am honest, I choose to whom I give. In that instance with the squirrel, it was clear that the same applies to grace. I choose to whom I extend grace. And I immediately wondered, “What if God chose to whom He extended grace? Would he extend it to me?”

 

Ephesians is clear that our behavior as Christians is to be permeated by kindness, characterized by compassion and evidenced by consideration of others. We grieve (1 Corinthians 12:26) and rejoice with others. We forgive (Ephesians 4:32). We love (John 13:34-35). We extend grace just as we have received grace (1 Peter 4:10).

So, I fed the squirrels.

Squirrel Feeder

 


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Crocodile Tears

When you’ve been in the “business” of education for as long as I have, you see (and dry) a few crocodile tears. Students, young and old, as well as adults, staff and parents, are apt to shed a few tears. While some are legitimate (true heartbreak or true regret over a poor decision), many are about as real as the Louis Vuitton handbags you can buy on Canal Street in New York’s Chinatown. Sorry.

For a period, I served as a mediator for special education disputes. I was called to facilitate the mediation process when parents and school systems found themselves at odds over services and supports for children identified under the federal law, IDEA. Mediation training prepared me for crocodile tears and lots of other drama and, possibly, physical altercations. During training I thought that this couldn’t possibly be real, but surprisingly, during my three years as a mediator, I saw it all.

Even today I have vivid images of the mother who set up a tri-fold display of photos of her daughter right in the middle of the table around which we, opposing sides and the mediator, were gathered. When I turned the photos face down (as we were taught to do in mediation training – no trying to muddy the waters with emotions, just stick to the facts), the mom immediately began to “cry.” I moved the process along, as I had been trained, without acknowledging her “tears.” So, she “cried” louder. I continued the process and pushed a box of Kleenex in her direction. (Prepared mediators always traveled with a box of Kleenex. THAT lesson was part of the training.) She added physical elements to her “crying,” groaning and body jerks. I continued the process. She laid her head on the table and pounded her fist while still “crying” and now gasping for air. I asked, “Do we need to take a break?”

Mom immediately sat up and turned her mascara-smeared face directly toward me and said, “No! You are a cold —– who obviously does not care about my beautiful daughter!” And in that very instance the “crying” stopped. She added, “Nothing works with you!”

Yep, crocodile tears!

As Christians, we cry our fair share of crocodile tears, too. We always have. The book of Judges bears testimony of such. Its chapters and verses reveal patterns of rebellion, punishment, repentance and deliverance – a cycle of apostasy. Indeed, the Old Testament relays several incidences when the children of Israel “cried” to the Lord (Judges 6:7, 3:9, 4:3; Jeremiah 9:1-3; Exodus 14:10, 3:7). Sometimes they, like the mom during mediation, “groaned” (Exodus 2:23). But as we read account after account of the people crying and groaning to the Lord and their liberation from enemies and deliverance from persecution, we must wonder about the sincerity of those “cries” and true remorse for their sin.

While we are wondering about the children of Israel, we might wonder about ourselves, too – our crying out for deliverance only to return ourselves to sinful situations, sinful thinking and sinful acts. Do we beg, plead, cry out to God offering “deals” and promises to “never do this again,” to “stop seeing this person” or “give up this bad habit” to be delivered and only return later to the place (pattern, habit, thinking, behavior) where we were before? How genuine is our grief and, even more importantly, our repentance? True repentance involves a change of heart and a change in purpose and, subsequently, a change in behavior.

As you wonder, are you truly repentant or just shedding crocodile tears?

 

Biblical Repentance:  https://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A330/what-is-biblical-repentance