A Rose We Will Never Forget: Remembering the Life of Rose Ann Pierce

As I was preparing my talk for Grandma Rose’s funeral, the memories flooded my soul and the words kept coming and coming.  By the time I was done, I had a talk that was going to be way too long for anyone to listen in one sitting.  I also learned that I was going to be limited to 7 minutes to talk.  This obviously was a problem.

I struggled with only saying a portion of what I had written because it felt like I was not presenting the whole work.  I finally decided to compromise.  I would keep my talk short and only say a very small portion of what I had written.  So that I could still get the whole work out there, I decided to publish the whole of what I had written in this email.

I do apologize for the length, but it is here for you in case you wanted to read it.

Here is what I was going to say, in its entirety:

 

If anyone else had asked me to get up here and speak at Grandma Rose’s funeral, I would have politely said that I did not think that I would be able to do that because with the emotions that are sure to come, it would be too hard for me to get through something like this.  Grandma, however was adamant that I speak at her funeral service and I didn’t want the last thing she asked me to do to be something to say “no” to so here we are.  I will do my best to be the voice for all the family and for everyone she knew and loved on this solemn occasion.  There are so many memories that I will not be able to speak of and certainly all of you have your own memories with Rose that I do not even know about.  Hopefully, we can all share those later as we remember this amazing woman.  I will do my very best to have the focus to get through this since I know that is what she wanted.

I want to start by giving a special thanks, on behalf of the family, to some very special people.  Pastor Beth, thank you so much for all the support and encouragement you have provided to Rose and Jill, especially in her last months.  Grandma loved you more than you may ever know.  Kim, Suzy, Jackie, Jesse, and Sandi, the nurses and caretakers who took care of Rose in her last months.  You eased her pain and more importantly, your kindness and friendship to her made her last months on earth as good as they possibly could have been.  You all are truly a blessing to your profession and those you care for.  I want to give a special thanks to Joyce King for making your wonderful soup and sandwiches and bringing them for us so we did not have to worry about cooking.  Grandma could not eat very many things towards the end, but she always loved eating your soup.  I did too!  I want to give a big thanks to all the friends and family who came to visit Rose, talk to her on the phone, or send a card or letter to her.  It really meant the world to her.

I want to give a special thanks to my mom, Jill, who went way above and beyond to help her mother and be there for everything.  Literally, your life became taking care of Rose.  All the Dr. visits, all the bandage changes, all the treatments.  Using all of your strength to life her from place to place.  You went months without sleeping in your own bed.  In the last few weeks, you would get up at 4 am to give Rose her treatments.  The only reason Rose was able to spend her last days at home, on the farm, was because of you.  It is truly a beautiful thing to see a child taking care of their parent when that parent needs them the most.  It is a clear picture of the circle of life and of God’s love pouring through.  Make no mistake, you were Rose’s angel.

Grandma Rose lived a beautiful life.  She had a wonderful marriage and three daughters that she loved with her whole heart.  She would tell me later that even though she loved having her girls, she did wish that she would have had a son somewhere along the way.  Careful what you wish for right?  My parents divorced when I was very young and mom was trying to balance her life of being a single mom and trying to do her career as a hair deathstylist.  It was a lot for such a young mother.  Grandma would tell of the time when our lives really connected.  Mom had her hair salon on the porch of grandma’s house.  Mom would try to have me out in the shop and watch me while she was working.  One day, I must have been acting up and proved too much for my mom to handle in the moment.  Grandma would later say, “I heard the door open and then slam and here was this little boy, sitting on the floor crying.  It was then that I knew it was time for me to step in.”  Neither of us knew it at that time, but in that very moment Rose had finally got the son, me, she had always wanted, and I was blessed to have gained another parent.

I might have been more than grandma bargained for as she set about teaching me discipline and how to behave.  We were both hard-headed and stubborn and to say that we butted heads on several occasions would be a giant understatement.  She had to be very tough on me to break through to me and make me realize that I needed to act in a more obedient manner. I had a lot of energy and she knew that the best way to deal with that was to put me to work and we had the perfect setting in the farm that we lived on.  Through those next two decades, grandma helped mom raise me to be a person that was kind, caring, somewhat of a gentleman, and a person who was willing to work hard and be coachable.  I do not want to paint a picture that I was only raised by mom and grandma.  My dad, John, stepmother Sandy, Grandpa Bob Marsau and Grandma Joan, also were very influential in raising me when I was with them.  Their influence has meant the world to me.  The reality is, that at that point in my life, I spent the majority of my time with my mom and I was a lot for one person to handle.  Grandma Rose stepped in and gave my mom the help she needed.  In fact, I can safely say, that in those years, I spent more time and had more influence from Grandma Rose than anyone else.

If I can be totally blunt, I was out of control when she took charge of me and she helped transform me into the person I am today.  I can also say, that she saved my life by bringing me back to a path that would allow me to succeed in life.  She also steered me towards have a real relationship with God.  To say “thanks” really would not give what she did much justice.  Words don’t really accurately reflect the feelings I have for this woman and what she did for me.  The love we had for each other grew stronger and stronger with each passing year.  I think that we helped each other to heal and grow and we did it together.  I have so many memories with grandma and I surely can’t express them all here, but I do want to highlight some of the ones I hold nearest to my heart.

Life on the farm was a totally amazing place for a little boy to grow up.  There was so much to see and do.  Grandma put me right to work.  There was always chores that needed to be done.  We had to feed and take care of the animals.  There was always something that needed painting.  We had to shovel snow in the winter and mow the grass in the warmer months.

Grandma always had a huge garden and it was my job to help her with that.  We had to prepare the soil, then plant all the seeds.  Once the plants came up there was a lot of weeding to do and mulch to put out around the plants.  Then we had to harvest the crops and then prepare the food.  Canning was a big part of what we did and that was always a big project we did every year.  Grandma was a master at canning and she taught me everything she knew.  I learned so much about how to make things grow and flourish from Rose.

Rose knew that I needed something to be responsible for so they made the decision to get some bottle calves.  It was my job to make sure they got fed every morning and every night.  We would mix the milk formula and then put that in bottles and then it was time to feed the calves.  I loved doing that so much!  The calves really liked it too!  My love of animals came early in life and a lot of that credit goes to Grandma.

When I was about 6 years old, mom and grandma decided that it was time for me to start with horses.  Grandma found a pony (I named her Brenda) and bought it for me.  She purposely did not buy a saddle for her.  Rose told me that I needed to learn how to ride without a saddle first so I could learn balance and how to ride with my legs.  She would help me get on Brenda and then she would lead me around the pen until I learned how to stay on.  From then on I was on my own.  We went through many ponies and later horses at the farm and grandma was there to help me the best she could all along the way.  I would have never been able to accomplish what I did without her help and encouragement.  Interestingly, there a day came when grandma told me that she had taught me everything she could about horses and so it was time to move on in my training with the help of other, more experienced trainers.  I loved the fact that she would be humble enough to recognize that and allow me to move on so I could get better than where she could take me on her own.  That was one of many things that made Grandma Rose so special.

Even though I did not get my first horse until I was 6, horse were always a part of my life growing up on the farm.  My aunt Jayne is a big horse person and she had her horses around on the farm when I was really young.  She would grab me up and we would ride her horses together.  I just loved being up so high.  It was a whole new world up there and I was hooked.  I remember Monte and Omar Man.  Grandma had helped Jayne, just like she would later help me.

Grandma was the co-chair for the horse and pony club in Black Hawk County for longer than I was alive.  Even before I was old enough to ride myself, I was helping her with her duties.  About a month before the county 4-H fair, we had the task of preparing the trophies for the horse show.  Grandma had hundreds of old trophies that we kept in the corn crib.  We would go through those old trophies and take the old ones apart.  We would use the good pieces to assemble new trophies and then everything got cleaned and shined up.  Once the trophies were ready, we were off to the fair.  Grandma and Don Frost headed up everything for the show and all the trophies would be out on a table in the middle of the arena.  Naturally, I was able to tag along with grandma so I got to sit out at that table.  My job was to help with handing out the ribbons and trophies to all the contestants that placed.  I just loved that job so much!  It made me feel so important.  After the day was over, we would all go over to the Steamboat restaurant nearby and have supper.  Back then, we didn’t get to go out to eat very often (people did not go out to eat as often as they do today) so it was such a treat.

We were also very involved with the Black Hawk Creek Saddle Club shows.  We would load up the big red trailer with as many horses and ponies as it would hold.  Then we were off to the show.  It was Grandma Rose and a bunch of little kids who loved horses and riding that showed up.  In later years, I was able to drive the trailer myself.  We spent so many hours over there showing and spending time with those we loved.  Rose was there to help me every step of the way.  She helped instill an inner confidence in myself that if I worked hard, I could do anything I set my mind to.

Christmas was always a very special time, especially when I was a little boy.  We didn’t have a lot of money so Grandma Rose would help me to make Christmas gifts for everyone each year.  I can remember wreaths, hand-drawn pictures of horses, and one year a bunch of wooden blocks that we cut up, sanded and painted in the barn.  I can remember a couple of years that we made candles by pouring hot wax into molds and then painting the outside of the candles after they cooled.  One year we even made window decorations by putting little crystals into the molds and heating them in the oven.  Even though these gifts were nothing fancy, they might have been the most special Christmas gifts I have ever given because they were homemade and came from the heart.  Grandma had a way of making very simple things seem special.  We would make Christmas cookies together and I especially remember several years that we did little chocolates.  We would use different colored chocolates and then paint them into a mold.  Getting the Christmas tree was a very special event as well.  Rose would dress me up in my snowmobile suit (when I was very young) and we would take the sled down into the grove on the back of the farm.  Down there we had a bunch of smaller pine trees planted.  We would pick out the perfect tree and then we would cut it down with the saw and tie it to the sled.  We would then haul the tree to the house and bring it inside and decorate the tree.  That was so awesome!

We had a pond down at the “other place” and grandma would often take me down there in the summer.  We would swim and I would play with my toys in the sand.  We had a small john boat that we would take out on the pond.  It was one where we had to paddle by hand.  I remember one time when mom, grandma and I were out on the boat and I thought it would be funny to rock the boat and make us tip over.  Into the pond we all went.  Unfortunately, grandma lost her glasses in the process and they ended up at the bottom of the lake somewhere, lost forever.  That didn’t go over so well.  Sometimes grandma would lay out in the yard at the house to get some sun.  One time, while she was laying out, she fell asleep.  I decided to get a bucket and fill it with ice cold water.  I came running up and dumped the water on grandma while she slept.  That one didn’t go over very well either.

When I was in my early teens Cara Oltmann got killed in a car accident.  I knew Cara from riding horses together.  She was 19 at the time of her death and I was several years younger than her.  I had a secret crush on her, but more profoundly, she was my hero.  I looked up to her in every way possible.  When she died, it was so overwhelming to me.  She was the first person, who I was really close to that died and I was not coping very well.  Grandma help me through it by helping me to process my feelings.  I am forever grateful for that.

I can remember always watching Highway to Heaven with Grandma on Wednesday nights.  I can also remember us watching Monday Night Football every Monday night, during the NFL season.  Grandma would make steaks and baked potatoes for the games.  She would make this homemade gravy from the pan drippings and I would put it all over my steak and potatoes.  It tasted so good and grandma always made plenty so I could grow up big and strong.  She was such a great cook!

I decided, while in Jr. High, that I wanted to become a good basketball player.  Grandma helped me clear out an area in the barn where we set up a basketball hoop and she told me that I needed to get busy and work on my game to get better.  That is exactly what I did.  I would shoot baskets for hours and hours each day.  This habit lasted all through my time at Hudson.  I would start to get a little resistance from those around me about all the time I was spending shooting baskets.  Rose always defended me and told them to leave me alone because I was trying to make myself better.  I ended up making myself into a pretty decent basketball player in the process.  My sophomore year, we ended up winning a state title in basketball.  Grandma came to all the games and would always wear the same blue shoes to each of the games.  That team was very superstitious and Rose’s shoes became part of the ritual.  She even wore them to all the games at state, down in Des Moines, and it worked.  We won!  It wouldn’t surprise me if those shoes are still somewhere in her house.  She kept everything.

While in college, my best friend and cousin, Matt Lichty, got killed in a car accident.  I took this very hard.  He was the closest thing to a brother that I had ever known and I honestly did not know how to do life without him.  Again, Rose helped me through the grieving process.  Death is never easy to deal with, but grandma had a special way of putting things into perspective so that I could get some handle on the tragedy.  Another one that I’m not sure how well I would have handled without her.

Rose was a person who always liked sports.  She had a really good understanding of basketball and baseball, but did not know a lot about football.  When football became my love, she learned the game so that we could relate through that love of mine.  She would go to all my high school games.  When I went to Iowa State, she was very involved with my recruitment process.  She went to all the home games at Ames and during my Jr. and Sr. seasons, mom and grandma went to every single game home and away.  Not many grandmas can say they have seen a football game in each of the Big 12 schools.  Grandma was special like that.  She learned the game very well and we would often talk about the different aspects of football.

Rose developed a very close relationship with my college football coach, Dan McCarney.  She would go down and visit him from time to time and she would schedule meetings with him in his office and they would talk football.  There were several occasions that she did this and I did not even know she was on campus.  She wanted to make sure that I was being treated right and that I was given every opportunity to succeed in my career there.  Not many grandmas would do that, but she did.  Another reason she was so special.  The very last long road trip that grandma ever took was a few years ago.  Grandma, my wife Stephanie, and I drove down to Denton, TX.  We went down there to see Coach Mac and see one of their games.  Grandma loved Coach so much that whenever she saw him or would talk about him, tears would come to her eyes.  It was a very special trip indeed and I felt blessed to be with her on that trip.

I can remember in 2009, when ISU beat Nebraska 9-7 in Lincoln.  It was an unbelievable upset for Iowa State.  It was especially meaningful if you had been there to experience some of the humiliating defeats that we had endured at the hands of the Huskers during my playing days.  I understood better than anyone what that win meant, but so did grandma, because she was there too.  She had experienced my pain in those years because of our connection and our love for each other.  I was watching that game at my home in Ames and grandma was watching the game at her house in Waterloo.  As soon as the game was over and we won, grandma was the first person I called.  I simply said, “Can you believe that?” and she said, “No, they finally did it.”  After that we stayed on the phone and cried together for the next couple of minutes with no words spoken.  No words had to be spoken because we both knew what each other was thinking.  We were so close like that.

Grandma was there for me as I went through the darkest time of my life, when I went through my divorce.  She too knew the pain of having your spouse be unfaithful to you and telling you that they did not want to be with you.  It really is a devastating thing to go through.  I can’t tell you how many talks we had while I was going through this process.  There were days that I simply did not think I would get through the day and I would talk to Rose and she would give me the strength I needed to get through the day.  Thank you for that grandma, I could not have gotten through that without you.

Grandma would pray for me every day and that gave me comfort.  She would always gently point me towards God and encourage me to have a relationship Him.  There were so many years that I did not listen very well, but finally, after reaching my low point, I did finally decide to step over the faith line on Christmas Eve of 2008!  That decision is the single greatest decision I have ever made in my life.  My grandma’s influence factored greatly to that decision.  Thanks for not giving up on me grandma!

 

As I was preparing for this, I was trying to come up with a verse/verses, from the Bible that would best represent Rose.  Not only the person she was, but the way she lived her life.  I came up with this:

 

Galatians 6:7-10 (NIV)

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

 

This is Iowa and we know farming.  In the spring when a farmer plants a field of corn, they are supremely confident that it is indeed corn that will grow in that field.  It would be absurd for us to think that if we planted corn, soybean plants would grow up in that field in place of the corn that was planted.  It does not happen.  It’s the law of nature that we can expect to harvest what it is that we plant.  It’s also true in other areas too, especially when it comes to our lives.

In this passage, Paul is speaking to this very thing when he talks about reaping what we sow.

If you sow bad things you will harvest bad things.

If you sow good things you will harvest good things.

Every action we take in life has results.  Each day we are alive we are sowing.  Our words and actions will affect those around us and has an even bigger effect on our own souls.  The question becomes what are you sowing?  If you are a person who gossips about your friends, you will likely lose those friends.  If you are sowing things to please your own desires, if your heart is filled solely with the things of this world only, you’ll harvest a crop of sorrow and evil.  If on the other hand, you sow things that please God, if your heart is filled with things that are more heavenly in nature, you’ll harvest joy and everlasting life in the process.

Rose spent her life sowing in a way that put the needs of others ahead of her own desires.  She tried to help those around her who needed her help.  She put her focus on things more heavenly than worldly in nature.  And that is why today, she is finally reaping the harvest of her whole lifetime of sowing.  Her crop has been harvested.  Each one of us here today is her crop.  She invested her love, caring, and time into each and every one of us is some way or another.  I don’t think any of us can say that our life was not affected, at least a little, by Rose’s influence.

I am not going to try to paint a picture that Rose was perfect and only did good things.  She wasn’t.  No one is perfect and every one of us falls short.  She is the one who taught me to swear.  But I can safely say, that the good things that she did for others was tremendous.

Many people say that they do not know what their purpose in life is. If we look to the books of Matthew and Mark, it is spelled out very clearly what it is that we should be doing in our lives each day.  Jesus spells this out when He was asked what the greatest commandment was and also when Jesus gave His Great Commission.

 

Mark 12:28-31 (NIV)

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

 

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Breaking it down, we have three jobs:

Love God

                Love People

                Make Disciples

In my opinion, Rose did pretty well in all three of these areas.  She had a strong love for God.  She would read her Bible and she prayed.  Boy did she pray.  She prayed for me every day of my life.  She gave me this little prayer card so that I would know that she was praying for me.  I know that some of you have these as well from her.  I carry this little card with me whenever I travel so it has literally gone all over the country with me.  There is power in prayer and Rose understood that.  If Rose knew you, she prayed for you at some time or another.

Rose knew that one of the best ways that we can love God is to love the people around us.  Grandma really excelled in loving those around her.  I use the word love because she did love.  She loved each and every person here.  Please understand that you were all her friends, but deeper than that, she considered all of you family.  We are all family because we are all of God’s children and we should treat each other as family.  Grandma got that.  I think if we thought about everyone as family, we might all go out of our way to be a little nicer to each other.

Grandma also went about the work of making disciples.  If you did not know God, she was going to tell you about Him.  If you knew about God, but didn’t have a close relationship with Him, she was going to be working on you.  Many of us do not do a very good job of telling others about God because we are afraid and unsure about sharing with others.  Rose never was.  She was never going to be quiet about God and that was just the way it was.  I think that a few of us would be well served to take on that same mentality.

Sometimes God sends people into our lives to help teach us how we should be or what we should do.  I think that Rose was a great example, to everyone that knew her, of how we should handle loving God, loving people, and making disciples in our own lives.  She poured her love and life into each one of us here today and while she is no longer with us here on earth, what she passed on to us is.  We are the ones who now carry on her legacy and we have the responsibility to carry on the work she started in us.  We need to be reading our Bibles.  We need to be praying for others.  We need to be loving and investing time with our circle of friends.  We need to serve those who need our help.  We need to not be afraid to tell others about God and what He has done in our lives.  We need to live our lives in a way that makes others want to know the same God that we do.

Everyone is saying how we need change in our country.  I agree completely.  But the change doesn’t start in Washington.  The change starts inside each of us.  Let’s be the change.  Rose showed us through how she lived her life how we can do better.  Don’t let what she started end here.  Let’s make the change in all of our little circles.

The rose is one of the most beautiful flowers.  It takes center stage in a garden.  Imagine Rose’s life as a single rose in a meadow.  Beautiful while it was there, but now it is gone.  Now picture that meadow filled with hundreds of roses and how much more beautiful that is.  We are those roses.  We can make what Rose started and make it so much better.

 

What I am going to miss the most is our talks.  Grandma was the great counselor.  She always took the time to talk to you.  She cared about you and your life and it showed.  She made you feel like the most important person in the world whenever you were talking to her.  Whenever I would come home to Waterloo, I always spent time with her at her table talking.  As I would drive all over the Midwest for work, I would call her and we would talk.  We talked about life.  We talked about what was happening in my life and she would tell me about hers.  I kept up on what was happening in many of your lives through her.

She was never afraid to tell you exactly what she thought.  She never sugar-coated anything and I really appreciated that.  That is such a rare thing in our society today.  So many people just tell you what you want to hear.  They do not care enough to tell you what you need to hear.  If I was being an ass, she would tell me.  I didn’t always follow her advice, but I did always carefully consider it.  All of my major life decisions up to this point in my life have gone through Rose.  It will be hard, moving forward making decisions without having her to run my thoughts through.

A few of the most important things that she told me over and over were:

Always wake up and ask yourself what you can do for your wife.  Treat her right and don’t take her for granted.  Always be a gentleman and open the door for a lady (she was the one who taught me to do that).  Make your kids behave.  Be firm, but also be loving.  You are their parent, not their friend.  Always take the time to care about those around you.  Don’t forget to love, it is the most important thing you will ever do.

Rose’s single greatest passion was her farm.  It was a gift from her parents and she wanted to make sure that the farm will be taken care of after she is gone.  Don’t worry grandma, we got this one.  We will keep this farm in the family, I promise you that.

In grandma’s last year on this earth, she got to know two very special people.  Charlie Rose, Matt and Deidre’s little girl (who was named after Rose) and my son Matthew.  I could see the life come back to Rose when she was around them.  The last time Matthew was around Rose, she said “Now that I know Matthew, I don’t want to go.”  I am very sad that Matthew is too young to remember Grandma Rose.  But in a way he will.  How I am as a father to him is a direct reflection of what she taught me so I know that Rose does live on in me.  I am glad that she did get to meet him though.

I will end with a story that I think sums up Rose and the person she was:

In December, we were having a first birthday party for Matthew at our home in Jewell, IA.  Grandma wasn’t in the greatest of conditions to go anywhere, but she insisted that she wanted to be there.  Cody was kind enough to drive her down and she was able to be a part of the special day.  At one point, she had Cody go to the car and get a little sac of toys she had brought along.  Obviously, it was a day for celebrating Matthew, but there were a couple of other young little boys at the party.  She had each of those boys pick out a toy to have out of her bag she had brought with her so they would not feel left out.  She wanted them to feel special too.  At the time I did not understand what in the world she was doing.  Who brings presents to a birthday party, but they are not for the person whose birthday it is?  I get it now.  That was Rose.

She was special and each of us will miss her greatly.  On a day like this, it is so easy to get caught up in the sadness of what we no longer have here on earth.  But I want to challenge you to put away those tears, for at least part of the time, and smile.  Smile because we were blessed enough to have such a special person in our lives.  Smile, because of who she was.  Smile because through her, we saw a side of the human existence that was good.

They say that when you look at a person’s gravestone, it is not the dates marking the beginning and ending of their life that is important.  It is the dash between them because that dash that represents their life.  In that dash is everything they did and said while on earth.  I can safely say that Rose had the widest and longest dash of anyone I have ever known.

Dortha, your little girl has finally come home to you.  Hold her in your arms and show her the love you always did.  Please give her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek from all of us and tell her that we miss her and that we are so thankful that we were part of her family.

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Choose to Forgive

forgiveness1

Genesis 50:19-21 (NIV)

19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

 

When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt looking for help in the midst of a devastating famine, he could have tossed them out of the country or even something worse.  They had once been so jealous of their father’s love for Joseph that they contemplated killing him before eventually selling him into slavery and into what they likely assumed would be a life of misery.

None of them could have known that Joseph would rise up to become the second-most powerful man in the country, behind only Pharaoh himself.  Imagine what it must have been like for Joseph to see his brothers come before him in obvious need.  Rather than exacting some sort of revenge, Joseph forgave his brothers for the terrible things they had done to him.

John Flavel, who was an English Presbyterian clergyman, puritan, and author, who lived in the 1600’s, said, “Sometimes God makes use of instruments for good to His people, who designed nothing but evil and mischief for them.  Thus Joseph’s brethren were instrumental to his advancement in that very thing in which they designed his ruin.”

When we’ve been wronged, it sometimes hurts profoundly.  We might be tempted to lash out in retaliation against the on who hurt us.  As difficult as it is, though, Christians are called to forgive.  Joseph’s story is a good illustration of forgiveness, and Jesus is the ultimate example.  Can you think of someone, or maybe even a few people, whom you should considering pardoning?  Taking that first step might be one of the hardest things we’ve ever done, but it’s an important step that demonstrates love and obedience to God.

Here are two important questions I want us to ponder today:

Why do you think God wants us to forgive those who have wronged us?

What keeps us from forgiving others?

When we can find it in our hearts to forgive someone, even though society might say we are crazy to do so, we are opening our souls up for a peace greater than we may have ever experienced before.  When we refuse to not forgive, the person we punish the most is ourselves.  Life is full of way too much stress for us to refuse an opportunity for internal peace.  Choose to forgive.  It can make all the difference in your life, and in the life of the person you forgive.

 

 

 

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Grace is So Much More Than Just a Word

grace1

Romans 5:1-2 (NIV)

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

 

Grace is so much more than just a simple mealtime prayer.  The word communicates the idea of blessing.  As children of God, we are the recipients of grace, which is poured out on us by our heavenly Father.  So how, exactly, do we experience this amazing benefit of his love?

God’s favor is seen in our salvation.  We see this the following verse from Ephesians:

Ephesians 2:8 (NIV)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

This blessing from God is undeserved and unearned.  There is nothing about us or our behavior that prompted God to save us.  He acted purely out of His goodness, sacrificing His precious Son Jesus Christ in our place.  In that way, we could be reconciled to the Father and adopted into His family.

Grace is also the sphere in which we live the Christian life.  At salvation, we were transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.  The Bible tells us this in Colossians:

Colossians 1:12-13 (NIV)

12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,

Here, we live in our new identity as God’s children and carry out His purpose, which is to glorify Him.  Both of these result in manifold blessings that God send our way on a daily basis.

The beauty of grace becomes especially clear when we consider who we once were, which is a people hostile to the Lord and alienated from Him.  We were spiritually dead, living according to our own selfish interests, which we see in the book of Ephesians.

Ephesians 2:1  (NIV)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,

But now, through a faith in Jesus as our Savior, God has justified us and given us new life.  He has declared that we have a right standing before Him.

Romans 8:1 (NIV)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

All of our sins were placed upon Jesus, and His righteousness has been credited to each of our own accounts permanently.

Today, let’s take a few moments to picture ourselves living in the favor of God.  Internalize this truth, and then give Him thanks.

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Compassion: A Little Goes a Long Way

compassion

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

 

It can be difficult to live up to Paul’s command found here in Ephesians 4:32.  The verse doesn’t come with an escape clause, even though most of us wish it did.  It says to be kind and compassionate and to forgive, but makes no mention of expecting others to return the favor.  We should forgive others as God has forgiven each of us.

Frederick Buechner once said, “Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin.  It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you, too.”

Growing up, we did not have a lot of money.  I also spent 9 years in college, so I have a good understanding of what it means to be poor and to just have enough money to get by.  On the other hand, I have run into so many people who have even less money than I did going through those years.  Despite being poor, there was always enough money for all my basic needs to be met.  God was very good to me and always gave me enough to fulfill my needs.  Unfortunately, this has not been the case for some of the people I have met, especially since 2009 when I really stepped over the faith line.  When I have been around these people, I have done what I can to help these people out.  I have tried my best to live out Paul’s command of being kind and compassionate to all those around me in need.

When I think about what it means to be compassionate, I think about them and the many others in similar situations.  Helping others is one of the most basic Christian tenets.  We, as believers, need to always be ready to give someone a hand, whether it is simply a pat on the back or something more substantial.  You’ll never know what it might mean to others.

As we think about the word compassion, I want us to ask ourselves two questions:

  1. What does the word compassion mean to you?
  2. Why is it important for Christians to show compassion for others?

Compassion can be expressed in so many ways.  The act of compassion can be the very simplest thing that requires no money and almost none of your time.  Everyone has their own way of showing compassion and how is not as important as doing it.

I think that, as Christians, it is especially important to show compassion to others.  We should feel this need because God showed us a level of compassion that we can’t come close to repaying.  Showing compassion is an extension that grows out of our intimate relationship and love for God.  We should show compassion out of thankfulness rather than out of obligation.

Lord, Your compassion for us is greater than we can fathom.  Help us to always be thankful for your grace and Your gift of salvation and to reflect Your compassion to those around us.

 

 

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Leaving a Lasting Legacy

lasting legacy

Psalm 78:5 (NIV)

He decreed statutes for Jacob
    and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,

 

As we read in Pslam 78:5, we see that parents are commanded to teach God’s law to their children.  One of the reasons for this is to build a legacy of following God.  We can’t hope for, dream about, or take casually the subject of legacy.  It requires people to be intentional and demonstrate to their family what character and faith are all about.

Someday we will be the center attraction at a church, chapel, or funeral home.  Our legacy-building days will be over, and our legacy will be carved in the hearts and minds of those that we leave behind.  Will our legacy be one of being disconnected and more concerned with career-building than family-building?  Or will it be an enduring, lasting legacy that points others to Christ?  We get to choose.  Even if your parents left an unhealthy legacy, you can break the cycle and build your own legacy that will speak positively to future generations.

Billy Graham once said, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”  When someone dies, they don’t talk about how much money they had or how many things they accumulated during their life.  Instead, the focus is on the type of person they were.

As parents, our desire should be to build an enduring legacy through our children.  Even if you are not a parent, we should desire to build an enduring legacy through the next generation.  This requires us to concentrate on the who, what, where, when, and why of legacy-building.  Are we using what God has given us to build His kingdom, or are we focused more on our own desires?  Do we reflect Christ in our homes, churches, workplaces, and communities?  Legacy-building should be each of our callings.  Our loved ones should see consistency in our character in all facets of our lives.  Our motivation should be to please God and equip those who follow us with an example of godly character and faith.

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Finding Real Satisfaction in God

God satisfaction

Psalm 73 (NIV)

Surely God is good to Israel,
    to those who are pure in heart.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
    I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

They have no struggles;
    their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from common human burdens;
    they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
    they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
    their evil imaginations have no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
    with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
    and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
    and drink up waters in abundance.
11 They say, “How would God know?
    Does the Most High know anything?”

12 This is what the wicked are like—
    always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
    and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
    and every morning brings new punishments.

15 If I had spoken out like that,
    I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
    it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
    then I understood their final destiny.

18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
    you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
    completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
    when you arise, Lord,
    you will despise them as fantasies.

21 When my heart was grieved
    and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
    I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

27 Those who are far from you will perish;
    you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
    I will tell of all your deeds.

 

In Psalm 73, the psalmist (Asaph) was feeling bitter.  He looked around him and saw bad guys getting ahead while he faithfully labored away in obscurity, barely eking out a living.  He lamented his situation by saying, “Did I purify my heart and wash my hands in innocence for nothing?  For I am afflicted all day long and punished every morning” (vv. 13-14).

Accepting your current lot in life doesn’t mean you necessarily like how everything has gone or that you shouldn’t try to change what needs changing.  It means you can’t let regret, fear or bitterness prevent you from making the best of the situation.  You’ll continue to trust God and worship Him, regardless of your circumstances.

Reinhold Niebuhr has a great quote regarding this very idea.  It is one of my favorite quotes of all-time.  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Life is primarily about what happens on the inside, not the outside.  Asaph needed a little perspective, and he got it when he entered God’s sanctuary for worship.  It was then that he understood that God judges the arrogant and godless.  And he could see that his labors were not in vain.  Joy returned and bitterness fled his heart.

God reminds us of this in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Asaph saw, perhaps for the first time in a while, that God is supremely valuable and satisfying.  What a remarkable transformation!  While things in this life don’t always seem fair, God will make everything right in the end.  Look to Him to find true and lasting satisfaction.

Are there any ways you have not accepted the way your life has unfolded?  If so, maybe it is time to step back and focus on the big picture.  Know that God will make all wrongs right in the end.  God is supremely just so know that these wrongs are just temporary and will seem like a distant memory once you reach the other side.

Lord, help us to accept with joy the good and perfect plan You have for our lives.  Forgive us when we grumble, and teach us to view life with an eternal perspective.  Above all, help us to love and worship You.

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Go Where I Send Thee

jonah

Jonah 1 (NIV)

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

 

The Lord’s commands are clear.  He tells believers when to act, where to go, and what to do.  Most of the time we can’t hear Him because we are not listening like we should be.  God does not scream at us.  He tells us softly and if we are not asking or listening to Him, we miss what He is saying all together.  Sometimes we are so busy doing what we want to do, that we don’t even realize that God might have something else in mind for us and our lives.

Not only does God give us clear directions, He also provides the means for following His directions.  The prophet Jonah was told to leave immediately for a certain city and cry out this warning: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4).  Instead, Jonah did something foolish (and altogether human).  He ran

Because Jonah was a prophet, we can assume that Jonah had studied the Scriptures and had a close and intimate relationship with God.  Even so, displeasure over his assignment clouded his judgement, and he became convinced he could flee the Lord’s presence.  Jonah was wrong.  God sent a great storm and isolated him for three days inside the belly of a great fish.  In other words, the Lord didn’t relent until the prophet agreed to comply with His wishes.

Jonah learned that running away from the Lord doesn’t release us from His commands.  Whether we refuse outright or quietly choose to pursue our own agenda, we simply can’t silence His call in our lives.  Our Father will neither forget a directive nor change his mind about it, and so the Holy Spirit continues prompting us until we do as God has instructed us to do.

People who run from God’s divine direction may attempt to silence the Spirit’s reminders by filling their lives with distractions.  They know what God wants from them, but are too proud, stubborn, or scared to comply.  What we must understand is that God will pursue us, stripping away diversions and crutches, to get our attention.  If we are wise believers, we will choose to obey Him promptly rather than waste time, talent, and energy by running.  Running only delays the inevitable.

God has a plan for us that is better than any plan we could ever hope to create for ourselves.  The sooner we embrace and follow that plan, the sooner we can enjoy it.

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