On Fiction and Forgiveness

Been thinking a lot about this lately. Not really sure why, but it prompted me to resurrect this fictional story I wrote a few years ago. Thinking about how Jesus was able to forgive, even those who put him on a cross, moves my heart attitude to a really good, grateful  place. Maybe it will for you, too. Please keep in mind this is historical fiction, a mere creation from my mind based on true events. But. I believe it is possible that events similar to this one may have actually occurred…

The Roman Soldier’s Wife (March 31, 2015)

It was evening when my husband came through the door. His face was not contorted with vexation, as was his usual greeting, but set in a weary, bewildered expression. His tunic and leather lappets were spattered considerably with blood.

I knew as much to quickly hush the children and hustle them into the back room. I kissed them good night and told them to lie very still.

Hurriedly, I began to prepare a meal for my husband. Wearing only a loincloth, he was sitting with his head in his hands. My eye caught sight of bloody clothes on the floor as I brought the wine and food.

I stood beside him ready to serve. He drank the wine but did not eat. He grunted at me, and I poured more wine. He gulped it quickly and, again, motioned for more. Staggering a bit, he disappeared into the other room. I did not move until I heard him breathing loudly. Then I cleaned up his untouched meal and shuddered as I got to work on the bloody clothes.

As I scrubbed vigorously, blood ran from the wool tunic over my fingers and down into the pail of water. I was no stranger to what my husband did as a soldier and I knew very well of what he was capable at home. I thought about what I had heard earlier that day while I was out in the court washing clothes with the other women. The Jews wanted to kill a man who claimed he was the Son of God, but Pontius Pilate said he couldn’t find any fault in him.

My thoughts were interrupted as my husband called out. I jumped and my heart was momentarily gripped in fear. I dreaded going to him but I knew it was better than him looking for me. When I reached the room, he was asleep, drenched in sweat, his face twisted in anguish. I waited. He called out again. His words were unintelligible, but he seemed to be calling for help.

I returned to my work and my thoughts. Could this be the blood of the Jewish man who claimed to be the Son of God? Had my husband assisted in putting him to death? I listened to him call out in his sleep again and wondered what it was that tormented him. My friends, in the court, today had also said that Pontius Pilate offered Barabbas, a murderer, and the Jewish man, Jesus, to the mercy of the crowd; one would be released and the other crucified. The Jews had chosen Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified!

I was sitting on the floor by the window as I worked. The moon illuminated crimson stains on my husband’s leather lappets. Dipping a rag into the pail of water, I tried to wipe them clean. I had seen men hanging from crosses along the road and, always, I shielded my eyes. I felt a tug in my heart for this man, Jesus, who suffered the horrible fate of the cross and, it seemed to me, all very unfair. Tears ran down my face as I pondered it all.

I suddenly wished I had met this Jesus whose blood was, perhaps, on my fingers, now splashed on my tunic and still on my husband’s lappets. Not managing to get anything clean, I sat idle among the bloodstained clothes, crying softly, face turned toward the moonlight.

Lost in thought, I hadn’t noticed the figure looming over me. He took a step forward. Startled, I retreated into the corner and pulled my legs against my chest. I waited for the insults to come but there was only silence. I dared to look up. My husband’s eyes were wild, but not with rage and fury. He appeared like something I had never seen before. On his massive, muscular frame, that had struck fear in the heart of many, was the face of a helpless child.

Falling to his knees, my husband gently touched the bloody lappets that were lying abandoned on the floor. Then he looked into my eyes and spoke. He said that he had, indeed, participated in crucifying a man called Jesus. He spoke of the beating, scourging, mocking. His voice broke when he told of how they spat upon him. He said that through it all, Jesus never opened his mouth in defense or retribution.

His voice faltered again when he spoke of Jesus calling out to his Father, asking Him to forgive the very ones who had nailed him to a cross. Weighted by grief and laden with regret, my husband’s words seemed to pelt me like a rainstorm made of lead droplets.

My husband went on to say that all night he had dreamed of Jesus. He saw the blood, the nails, and the pain-filled, sad eyes of Jesus. He saw Jesus helpless and dying on the cross. But, still, in the dream, it was he who needed help and felt the need to call out for it repeatedly.

I listened in amazement. This hardened, cruel man, who, on more than one occasion, laughed as he recounted the torture of another at his own hands, was exposing emotions I didn’t think existed. This same man, who considered me a slave rather than his wife, was speaking to me as an equal and making eye contact for the very first time.

Something had changed. Something impossible now seemed not entirely too far from my grasp. Could there be life outside of constant fear and suffering? Was it possible for me to be truly loved? Could I forgive my husband? Again, I felt a tug in my heart towards this Jesus, a man I had never seen nor met.

My husband moved toward me and I, instinctively, shrank backward. Understanding the movement, he buried his face in my hair and, folding his huge body against the wall, he began to weep. Over and over, he repeated, me paenitet. Mpaenitet. Mpaenitet. 

“I’m sorry.”

I felt waves of joyous shock emanating through me at this apparent softening occurring in my husband’s heart. Then my mind suddenly returned to the afternoon. While the other women and I were in the court doing wash as the children played, the sky had unexpectedly become very dark and the ground shook violently. Grabbing our children by their hands, we had left the wash and ran inside, terrified.

A thought that seemed to enter my mind instead of being formed by it made my heart seize then push hard against bone and flesh.

I put my arms around my husband’s trembling body. A sudden peace replaced the pounding in my heart as I understood truth. Just as dawn was approaching and first light streaming in, I lifted my husband’s face to mine and looked into his tear-filled eyes. I said one thing before we drifted off to sleep, together, on the floor as the sun was rising.

“Truly, Jesus was the Son of God.”

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Stay With It One More Day

If you haven’t guessed by now, I can tell you I have an active imagination. One of my college professors referred to it as “rich” in reference to an essay or something we were assigned.

So this is one of my recurring musings. I am driving home from the grocery store. But instead of turning, I drive past my street. I keep driving all the way to the airport. Leaving bags of groceries to their own demise and with only my purse and the clothes I’m wearing, I purchase a ticket for the next flight to Phoenix. I probably also buy a donut or cheeseburger. Maybe both.

Upon arrival in Phoenix, I take cab. “Where to?” the driver says. “Grand Canyon, please.” Now don’t worry. I’m not planning to jump in or anything. That’s not where this is going. It’s just that this giant, massive hole has always fascinated me, and I have yet to see it in person.

That’s it. I get there and stare at it for a while. Then what? I don’t know. I guess I go home and deal with the melted ice cream and chicken cutlets rotting away in our mini-van. I suppose it’s really a very anti-climactic fantasy.

I write from the desk in Nicky’s bedroom because it’s currently the only place I can get a moment’s peace. I left the kitchen table because the piles of laundry, broken kitchen sink, sunburned kids watching cartoons and drugged-out-cone-wearing-freshly-neutered dog laying on the floor staring holes through me was too disarming.

But, eventually, I have to go back downstairs and deal with it all. I also have to deal with Justin’s meds and physical therapy and home-schooling.

Who wouldn’t fantasize about running away? Being a parent is the most sacrificial, mind-numbing, thankless job in history. Yes, of course, there are amazing moments, too. But I don’t sugar coat the drudgery. Add a chronically ill child with special needs? Your mind starts to think the Grand Canyon is calling to you.

It’s not only me. I know you have problems. You sometimes write to me about them, and I am thrilled there is someone out there who gets it. How does one manage? Well, of course, you know my faith is the main sustaining motivator.

But I also say this to myself. Just stay with it one more day, Katie. And then I’ll say that again tomorrow and the next day and the next.

Just stay with it one more day, my friends. And lean into grace with every ounce of the weight you carry.

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A very special thank you to Joyce and the Kisses for Kyle foundation for this family photo taken recently at one of my favorite places, Ocean City, NJ.  

Dirt and Pizza on Day 486

Justin has an ear infection and steroid side effects to contend with this week, which means we are cranky and eating everything in sight. Pizza and lemonade. A real steroid craving regular.


I’ve spent most of the week caring for him, homeschooling and, rather impulsively, planting vegetables and a flower garden. This is very possibly a sign of impending breakdown as this is way out of character for me. I generally don’t care for dirt and earthworms. However, we have made several “cancer friends” on social media and wanted to create something to honor them as well as their families. We chose plants that attract butterflies. To me, these amazing creatures paired with growing vegetables inspire hope. We have enjoyed sharing pictures with our friends all over the world.

Oh and lilac smells wonderful. So far, we have spotted one visiting butterfly.

Today, a sweet friend actually asked about an update as if she looks forward to reading. That was very much appreciated. If there is ever a significant amount of time between updates, it’s usually because I’m hiding in the laundry room with a box of Twinkies. Thank you for your prayers and support.

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. Psalm 33:5b

 

Upcoming Surgery and The Perseverance Thing

shady-forestAfter a year, it’s time to remove Justin’s central chest line. Switching to IV’s in the hand when in clinic. Ouch, I know. Somehow we think it still beats repeated stabbings and large bandage adhesive removal on a sensitive skin chest area.

Conversations with mom and role play with an IV needle and a pin cushion “hand” with the child life specialist. He’s apprehensive but prepared.

Justin will have the surgery as well as a spinal tap this Wednesday morning. We are scheduled to meet with the surgeon this afternoon. Pre-op checklist: nurse informs me this can be a very uncomfortable procedure because body tissue has adhered itself to the central line. In the same breath, she says this particular surgeon doesn’t like to give pain medication. He thinks Tylenol is just fine. WE WILL JUST SEE ABOUT THAT.

We love to receive homemade cards if you have a moment and feel so inclined. Justin will be recovering later this week and I know funny pictures and encouraging words will lift his spirits. I believe a positive attitude and outlook can aid in healing and recovery, which is why we schedule FUN and LAUGHS and PRAYER and SCRIPTURE.

But the body can also be a downright funny thing. Feeling entirely calm in spirit, but I’m broken out teenager face and way too many thoughts about Amish buffet fried chicken.

Teaching Sunday School yesterday. The test of Abraham. One of my more interested, pensive students asks if we are “still tested today, like, could WE get a test?” Yes, my dear thoughtful one, and DON’T I KNOW IT.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:2-4, 12

Well I’m NOT doing cartwheels over here, but I AM now pretty good at the perseverance thing. Grace be with you, my friends.

 

The Dawning Time

fullsizerender-39The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2

Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali—to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:“…the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:13-16

What has impressed on me more than anything this Christmas is the link between Scriptural prophecy on the coming of Christ and the fulfillment recorded in the gospels. I mean I KNEW about it and I BELIEVED it. But this year it’s really jumping off the pages for me.

God said Jesus was coming. People wrote it down. Everything He said would happen, did happen. People wrote it down. And the pages survived and flourished in translation for thousands of years. This is unequivocal reliability.

We will all most likely spend the next twenty-four hours or so in various kinds of traditional Christmas activities or preparing for said activities. And we will feel joy, nostalgia, sentiment, perhaps great sadness. But, to me, none of this comes close to the soul-bending awe that results when I think about the dawning of a Light that has reached down, in great hope, to our helpless state of darkness.

Even on a day sometimes referred to as the Festival of Lights, we can experience that dimmest kind of murkiness, simply resulting from our imperfect existence. May you know and see and feel and believe that which darkness CANNOT prevent from breaking through.

To me, Christmas is a beautiful reminder and celebration of the dawning time.

My sincere gratitude for your prayers and support as we continue to journey with childhood cancer. Justin and the boys enjoyed decorating cookies last night. Grace be with you, my friends.

Love’s Greatest Victory

cross-danger1Last night, I yelled at Nicky because he kept making careless mistakes with his math homework. Like really yelled at him. Like a lunatic. Over multiplication.

But I wasn’t really mad at Nicky or the fundamentals of fourth-grade math. I was just mad. Angry. Annoyed. Agitated. Because this recent cold, damp weather is not a friend to muscular dystrophy. Because my son has cancer. And because my days are filled with constant mind-draining, mentally exhausting negotiation with a five-year-old to STEP FORWARD “because everything is okay.”

Cancer has been like a tornado in Justin’s life, coming on suddenly and fiercely, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. He’s continuously disappointed over missed activities, physically hurting from chemotherapy and afraid of EVERYTHING. And, yes, there have been big victories and huge blessings. But there are days we just can’t seem to remember them clearly no matter how hard we try.

Yes, I get frustrated and angry and tempted to think that God is not good or loving. But I FIGHT those feelings with Truth. I often go to the Psalms and the promise found in Romans 8:28. “And we know that all things work together for good…”

But today, I am also reflecting on a sermon by Jonathan Edwards I’ve recently read. On Christ’s agonizing prayer to the Father on the night He was betrayed (Matthew 26:36-46), Edwards writes this:

Thus powerful, constant, and violent was the love of Christ; and the special trial of his love above all others in his whole life seems to have been in the time of his agony. For though his sufferings were greater afterwards, when he was on the cross, yet he saw clearly what those sufferings were to be, in the time of his agony; and that seems to have been the first time that ever Christ Jesus had a clear view what these sufferings were; and after this the trial was not so great, because the conflict was over. His human nature had been in a struggle with his love to sinners, but his love had got the victory. The thing, upon a full view of his sufferings, had been resolved on and concluded; and accordingly, when the moment arrived, he actually went through with those sufferings.

My favorite line is, “but his love had got the victory.” Oh praise him! Christ could have chosen to forego the cross, but He went willingly because of His great love for us. Love’s greatest victory was won for me! How can I not know and grasp and believe and rejoice that God is GOOD?!

Well I just put Quiche and organic broccoli in the oven and am able to take a minute to conclude this post. Don’t be impressed. We had hot dogs last night.

Today, I apologized to Nicky and asked for his forgiveness. Then I jumped on him where he was sitting on the couch and gave him hugs and kisses until he laughed and said, “Yes, I forgive you, mom, but you’re crushing my leg!”

If there is one thing I’ve taught my boys, it’s that we are all in need of grace. To be given as much as we have received.

My thirty-eighth birthday is next week. I’m too young for all this grey hair. Grace be with you, my friends.

 

I Won’t Ever Let You Stay Down

Taking care of Justin is like taking care of a newborn or a toddler. I spent most of the day cleaning him up, supporting him while he walked, carrying and feeding him.

Tonight he got up from the couch to use the bathroom. I couldn’t get there in time to “spot” him as he was walking. He lost his balance and fell to the floor. Of all the painful, scary things we have been through, seeing his weak legs give out affected me the most.

Because it drove home feelings I’ve had nagging at me all week. Cancer is robbing Justin of being a little boy. Justin was active, rambunctious and loved to play sports. He was a fast runner and really good at soccer. Now he has weak, pencil-thin legs that can’t support him when he is tired. He is quiet and despondent. My heart aches desperately when I look into his blue eyes, once bright with mischief and enthusiasm, now darkened with fatigue and sadness.

Seeing him fall also hit a little too close to home. I often struggle with muscle weakness of the legs and mine have “given out” on me on more than one occasion. I hated seeing it happen to my five-year-old child.

So I drench my pillow and pray, “How long, Lord?” And I plead with Him to heal Justin and restore my little boy.

And people say to me, “How can you have faith? Why does God allow this to happen?”

I understand those questions. And I do pour my heart out to God in anger, frustration, fear and sadness. But I never ask why. Because whatever purpose God is working through all of this is too fantastic for me to understand. His ways are not our ways. (“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9)

And because the God of the universe doesn’t owe ME an explanation.

And because I trust God. I trust His reasons. After all, He was willing to allow His own Son to die on a horrid cross for me. When I think of this incomparable measure of grace, I trust the One who is the author of my faith. (“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2)

To put it very simply, I trust Someone who was willing to do THAT.

Although I don’t expect to know why Justin is suffering, I AM promised that God is with me and we are not forsaken. (“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8)

So I cling to this promise for dear life and continue to hope in my salvation and my God. For God alone my soul waits in silence;
    from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)

After I held him in my arms, I told Justin this, “You know what I do when I fall down? I get back up. Falling down doesn’t make us weak, staying down does. I won’t ever let you stay down.”

Grace be with you, my friends.

 

The Name of Stars

He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Psalm 147:4

I gazed at the stars while I laid next to my four-year old in his twin bed, waiting for him to fall asleep. (Yes I still “lay down” with my kids at bed time, rubbing their backs or just holding them close. After all, they are only little for a little while.) Okay, they weren’t real stars. It was only Twilight Turtle projecting illuminated five point shapes across the ceiling.

But, still, the clever scene got me thinking about stars and, subsequently, the glory of God as their Creator. According to some online resources, there are an estimated 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone. That is a LOT and that is only ONE galaxy. The number quoted for the estimated number in the Universe is beyond our comprehension.

Are you ready for this? God has named them ALL. You may have read quickly over the verse at the top of this post, but pause and take a minute to really think about it.

Wait there’s more! I came upon another verse about God’s distinctive relationship with His stars.

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:26

Billions of stars. Billions of names. And not ONE is missing.

Our God is personal and relational. He speaks to the stars, calling them out by the very names He has taken time to give them.

Our God is methodical and intentional. He has not only named the stars, but He also brings them out in an orderly fashion, one by one.

Our God doesn’t make mistakes or grow weary. None of His stars will ever go missing because God dropped the ball or became too weak to hold the Universe together. No star will ever “burn out” because God is a little low on power. (Stars shine by burning hydrogen into helium, a process which God created and sustains) He is mighty and powerful beyond our understanding.

We don’t know the particular names God has given to His stars. But, collectively, I think their name is Glory.

I hesitate to draw any conclusive application to us since the stars are so clearly about God and His renown, undoubtedly deserving of our praise and honor. But I can’t help pointing something out. This kind of strength, wisdom and individual attention to detail are the character traits of a God who’s promises can be trusted. And He lovingly promises this:
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
What kind of trial are you facing today? God is bigger, stronger and He knows your name. Grace be with you, my friends.