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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Divine Forgiveness

Photo Credit:  Darnok from
The English poet, Alexander Pope once said, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.”  We all make mistakes.  It’s the forgiveness part that many of us haven’t perfected.  When it comes to forgiving, we would rather hold on tight to our hurts, anger, grief, and resentment than forgive the one who has wronged us.  Over time, those negative feelings can influence and overshadow most of our thoughts and actions.  And, what is a life consumed by bitterness and hatred?

True forgiveness is freeing.  Anger can get heavier and heavier on our shoulders as time ticks on if we don’t forgive.  It can eventually break us.  Forgiveness is really a gift that we can give to ourselves.  Holding on to our hurts is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  That certainly doesn’t make much sense.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we have to accept the other person’s behavior.  It means we have freed up our heart to move forward and live.  Divine forgiveness is allowing the light and love of Christ to shine in and through us as we forgive the unforgivable.

It isn’t often in this life that we run across an example of forgiveness like the one I am about to share.  This is a follow-up story from my post called, “God’s Will.”  It is a letter written by Gloria Wearden, a mother who lost her son, Will, in May of 2012 to a horrific murder by a complete stranger.  The Wearden family offered a plea bargain of life in prison without parole, but their son’s killer did not originally accept it.  The Wearden family prayed that Michael Lerma would not get the death penalty as Will would not have wanted that either.  Here’s Gloria’s letter:

“I just want to convey our love and gratitude for all the kindness you all have shown since we lost our precious Will and share a little about the experience we just went through.  We were at the courthouse for a ‘suppression of evidence’ hearing.  We had no idea that the plea bargain would resurface.  After the plea bargain was accepted and all the paperwork was done, our attorney asked me if we had a victim's impact statement for Michael Lerma.  I said that we had prepared one for the hearing in July because he was considering the plea bargain at that time, but we had not brought it with us or even thought about it.  Frank and Katie May and I were the only people in our family there (because we had absolutely no clue that this was going to happen), so Frank allowed me to speak.”

“For the first time ever, that boy looked me in the eyes.  I thanked him for the decision he had made.  I said that we were devastated by the loss of a son and brother and uncle who was very precious to all of us and that we were very sorry that he had taken Will's life in such a horrible way.  I told him that if he had known Will, he would have loved him because everyone loved Will, and Will would have loved him because Will loved everybody.”

“I said that we had made a conscious decision from the beginning to forgive him and that our family prayed for him every day and had many Masses said for him.  I said that it is very painful for us but we knew it was very painful for him and for his family especially, and that his decision would bring peace to everyone involved.  I told him that the only thing that made Will's death bearable was our belief that he was now in Heaven, and that our wish for Michael is that he will live the rest of his life in such a way that he can meet Will in Heaven.”

“I don't know where all that came from but it was and is true.  It is what came next that blew me away and I don't know if I can convey how dramatic it was for me.  We had to go in a conference room for about half an hour, first to meet with the defense team and then with the Kleberg County Sheriff and Police officers who had been there to testify (but never had to).  Everyone wanted to meet with us to convey their sympathy about the event.”

“When I walked out, the courtroom was almost empty but Michael Lerma was still sitting chained down to the chair he was in throughout the hearing.  I looked at him and he was looking at me and I just smiled at him.  He smiled back and it was so heartfelt.  I felt like that interaction really brought me peace.  I hope it brought him some.  I ask you all to say a prayer for him every now and then.  He is 21 years old and will be in prison until he dies.  How sad.”

”I love you all so much.  I thank you for being with us during Will's rosary and funeral and burial, and for all the kindness and attention you have shown us throughout the past eighteen months.  I especially thank Katie for coming at such short notice to be with us.  Our family is definitely our strength.  God bless all of you.”

Wow.  Just wow.  Gloria, I see Christ in you, and I just want you to know that.  Your example of love and forgiveness has affected and will continue to affect countless lives.  To extend forgiveness to someone who took so much from you and your family is unbelievable…but, as you’ve shown us…possible.  Thank you for allowing us to witness what it means to love and forgive as Christ.

Will’s brother and sisters are so thankful for their mom’s example of what it means to be a Christian.  Annie writes, “Mom, you amaze me.  I am just so proud of you and of your strength!  I love you!!!”  Betsy writes to her mom, “Will's legacy will be one of love, and you should be proud to know you are the one who taught him (and all of us) how to be loving, even when it is not the most obvious choice.”  Winchester shares, “Michael Lerma has pled guilty and will serve life without parole!  This is the best possible outcome, and our family is overjoyed to have this closure.  We cannot fully express how much your prayers and love have meant to us during these past months without our Will.  We ask that you continue to pray for Michael's conversion.”

My sister-in-law, Stephanie, shares, “We should ALL pray for this genuine love for our enemies.  Mrs. Wearden is a true saint in my eyes because I could only hope to have her strength and conviction if I were in her shoes.  God bless ALL of Will's family and his murderer, Michael Lerma.”

And, here are a few other things that friends and family are saying: 
“Wow! Amazing grace!  What a true example of faith, hope, love, inspiration, and strength.  A true child of Christ, a mother, a sister, a admiration for this lady, whom I don't even know, is great!  My cup run over....Thank you, Thank you, Thank you and God bless!”

“We are all aware of the tragedies that occur on a daily basis in today's world, but to see it and hear it from this perspective…it really makes me think and now I have a lot to re-evaluate about myself, as a Christian.”

“As a mother to a son, who is my whole world, I shamefully admit that I probably would not have the grace that she has handled this situation with.  She is a constant reminder of what we all need to strive to be.  I wish I had her strength, and after reading this, it gives me inspiration to be that way.  This is how God would want us to live our lives.  We tend to forget that this is not our world, it is His and we are merely living in it.  Prayers to that entire family, as I know they are beautiful people.”

“Gloria, you are a wonderful example of what God would want us all to be.  You’re stronger than I could ever have been through this horrific ordeal and I admire you for your ability to be so forgiving.  Your faith has carried you and your family to be at a place of peace for Will.  We all will cherish Will's memories.”

“Your mom is amazing and such an example to all the world.  Will will be remembered by your love for him and what he is still teaching us through all of you, who love him so much.  Thank you for sharing your brother with us.  Continued prayers for your family as the healing continues.”

Mrs. Wearden extended a smile of forgiveness to her youngest son’s killer.  If THAT gesture is possible, I pray that we all can find it in our hearts to consider offering divine forgiveness to that which seems unforgivable…

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Start From Now

Photo Credit:  kconnors from
Since it’s only January, I still feel excited and eager to talk about fresh starts and new beginnings.  Apparently, my Kindle Fire feels the same way.

We’re not too big on the latest and greatest in technology around here, but my children do love to play games on my Kindle Fire.  I won it a couple of years ago in a poetry contest and they’ve had to share time on it ever since.  You can imagine that it isn’t always peaches and cream with three kids sharing our one cool piece of portable technology.  Many times I end up putting that thing away in a super duper secret location for a month until they agree to take turns in an ever-so-loving manner.

However, in the midst of hollering and grabbing it out of each other’s hands, somehow that device has gotten “deregistered” a number of times.  And, when that happens, my Kindle likes to start ALL over.  She even has a message for me, “Welcome to Kindle Fire.  Thank you for your purchase.  Please set your passwords, time zone, quick settings, etc.”  Really, Kendall?! (Yes, that’s her incredibly original name.)  It’s like we’ve never even met!

When she means start anew, she means it.  It’s like the slate has been wiped completely clean.  The old timey chalkboard has been erased and she’s ready for a fresh beginning.  I know there are some apps in a cloud somewhere over the rainbow, but basically she wants to have a new start.

It’s a bit inconvenient having to reset everything, but when I ponder on the idea of starting fresh, it’s kind of a nice thought.  As Carl Bard says, “Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”

I like that.  Where do we start?  Start from now.  Right now, this very minute, we have the opportunity to journey toward a brand new ending.  Yes, I like that very much indeed.

And, I love knowing that God allows us to have this same unique opportunity to begin afresh each and every day.  I love that He doesn’t hold nasty grudges and open old wounds.  I love that He has endless mercy.  I love that His grace has no limits.  Thank you, Lord, for that.

Recently, I saw these words of reflection:  “You only live once?  False.  You live everyday.  You only die once.”  Oooh.  Good one.

And, as Max Lucado says, “When you are in the final days of your life, what will you want?  Will you hug that college degree in the walnut frame?  Will you ask to be carried to the garage so you can sit in your car?  Will you find comfort in rereading your financial statement?  Of course not.  What will matter then will be people.  If relationships will matter most then, shouldn’t they matter most now?”  (Thank you, Larry, for sharing this!)

Relationships.  Are we devoting enough time to them?  Quality time.  Or are we spending too much time and effort on “stuff” and all that pertains to it?

When thinking about people and relationships, it’s great to remember that all saints have a past and all sinners have a future.  I saw this on a sign in town and its truth really struck me.  Its message of hope really hit home.  We are all imperfect.  Every single one of us.

While many of us are still tweaking our what-to-improve-upon-this-year list, maybe relationships are a great place to start.  It’s not too late to make changes.  It’s not too late to modify.  Today is in fact the first day of the rest of our life.  We can start from…now.

When focusing on change, what do we want?  As Lysa TerKeurst says, “To prepare well for our next season, we have to release some things like old habits, old patterns, and old ways of thinking.  Take God’s hand, release what needs to be released, embrace a new season, trust His love, and walk in the beautiful opportunity for imperfect progress.”

Imperfect progress.  I like that too.  Imperfect people making imperfect progress.  I read something like this recently, “A perfect relationship is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.”  Ain’t that the TRUTH?!

As we ponder our plans for change, I realize that being physically fit is important.  However, another aspect that warrants our attention is our spiritual fitness.  What are we doing in that department?  There are so many ways to nurture spiritual growth.  Look for them.  Find them.  Embrace them.

One way might be through a Bible study.  If your church offers one, join in.  If it doesn’t, start one.  A group of ladies from our parish will be participating in a study from February through April called, “Unglued,” by Lysa Terkeurst.  With the help of Lysa’s “Unglued” DVD, book, and participant’s guide, we hope to work on making wiser choices in the midst of raw emotions.  Using biblical teaching, we’re going to navigate through how to handle our feelings when people bump into our “happy.”  I can’t wait!

After we complete our upcoming study, we will have these things to remember:
1)  We can declare that we are on God’s side.
2)  We can trust that God is chiseling us because He sees us as a masterpiece.  We’ll comfort ourselves with the words, “Let God chisel.”
3)  We can find peace in our most difficult relationships as we learn to be honest, but kind, when offended.
4)  We can predetermine our lingering words – will they be positive or negative chatter inside our head?
5)  We can gain a deep sense of calm by responding to situations that are out of our control without acting out of control.

Whatever it is that you want to do to better yourself, it’s okay to start…from now.  Right now.  Today.  I’ll be praying for you.  Please pray for me, too.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Words of Gold

Photo Credit:  Alvimann from
As we continue on into this new year, I came across a couple of golden reminders that I’d like to share with you.  The first is a story from Mikey’s Funnies:

There once was a rich man who was near death.  He was very grieved because he had worked so hard for his money and he wanted to be able to take it with him to heaven.  So he began to pray that he might be able to take some of his wealth with him.

An angel hears his plea and appears to him, "Sorry, but you can't take your wealth with you."

The man implores the angel to speak to God to see if He might bend the rules.

The man continues to pray that his wealth could follow him.  The angel reappears and informs the man that God has decided to allow him to take one suitcase with him.  Overjoyed, the man gathers his largest suitcase and fills it with pure gold bars and places it beside his bed.

Soon afterward the man dies and shows up at the Gates of Heaven to greet St. Peter.  Seeing the suitcase Peter says, "Hold on, you can't bring that in here!"

But the man explains to him that he has permission and asks him to verify his story with the Lord.  Sure enough, Peter checks and comes back saying, "You're right.  You are allowed one carry-on bag, but I'm supposed to check its contents before letting it through."

Peter opens the suitcase to inspect the worldly items that the man found too precious to leave behind and exclaims, "You brought pavement?!?!"

“The twelve gates were made of pearls – each gate from a single pearl!  And the main street was pure, transparent gold, like glass.”  (Revelation 21:21)

I never thought about it quite that way, but it’s a great reminder to reflect on what we treasure most.  It’s obvious from the story’s message that there’s nothing material on this earth – not even bars of pure gold - that we can stockpile that will be worth anything in Heaven.

Another jewel I came across is a poem sent to me by my Uncle Erol called, “God’s Boxes.”  I’m not sure who the original author is, but it’s also worth sharing.

I have in my hands two boxes,
Which God gave me to hold.
He said, “Put all your sorrows in the black box,
And all your joys in the gold.”
I heeded His words, and in the two boxes,
Both my joys and sorrows I’d store.
The gold became heavier each day,
While the black was as light as before.
With curiosity, I opened the black,
I wanted to find out why.
And I saw in the base of the box, a hole,
Which my sorrows had fallen out by.
I showed the hole to God and mused,
”Don’t know where my sorrows could be!”
He smiled a gentle smile and said,
”My child, they're all here with me.”
I asked God why He gave me the boxes,
Why the gold and the black with the hole?
”My child, the gold is for counting blessings,
The black is for letting go.”

Then, continuing on with the “gold” theme, there’s always the Golden Rule that we learned as a child:  Treat others the way that you would like to be treated.  Of course, it is SO easy to say, yet SO hard to do.  But, it would fit quite nicely with resolution #1 in my New Year’s post, “Let It Shine.”

There are many gems of wisdom to reflect on as we kick off 2014 - Do we share words of gold with others?  What do we believe and why?  Do we make others stop and ask, “What is the source of their joy?”

I’ll leave you with an incredible little saying that I found.  When you read it top to bottom, it is from a non-believing viewpoint.  When you read the same words from bottom to top, it is from a believing point of view.  I thought it was remarkable.  You might find it that way too (please excuse the lack of punctuation…just passing it on the way I found it):

I will live my life according to these beliefs
God does not exist
It is just foolish to think
That there is a God with a cosmic plan
That an all-powerful God brings redemption and healing to the pain and suffering in the world
Is a comforting thought, however
is only wishful thinking
People can do as they please without eternal consequences
The idea that
I am deserving of Hell
Because of sin
Is a lie meant to make me a slave to those in power
“The more you have, the happier you will be”
Our existence has no grand meaning or purpose
In a world with no God
There is freedom to be who I want to be
But with God
Everything is fine
It is ridiculous to think
I am lost and in need of saving

Finally, here are five things I found on facebook that are certainly worth remembering in 2014:

Golden reminder #1 (BE POSITIVE):  An optimistic person is someone who thinks that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster.  It’s more like a cha-cha.
Golden reminder #2 (BE LOVING & KIND):  Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.  Be kind.  Always.
Golden reminder #3 (BE THANKFUL):  Don’t think of the things you didn’t get after praying.  Think of the countless blessings God gave you without asking.
Golden reminder #4 (TRUST GOD):  No matter what you face in life, never let go of God’s hand.
Golden reminder #5 (FORGIVE):  The truth is, people are the way they are for a reason.  If we would take time to know their stories, we would be much more forgiving.

Let’s look for the gold in others, not in a bank.  And, when we speak, let’s make sure they are words of gold.  Certainly that will help us in our journey toward the streets of gold?  Well, it surely won’t hurt anyhow!  

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Let It Shine

Photo Credit:  Penywise from
Happy 2014, Sunshines!  Hope you all are enjoying what this new year has to offer.  I’ve had a wonderful time with family and friends and am looking forward to sippin’ some sunshine with you again this year through my blog.

Resolutions anyone?  Surely we haven’t made and broken them already!  No way – not us!  Ha!  Here are a few that I came up with:

1)  Be faster.
2)  Be stronger.
3)  Lift more.
4)  Run.

Now, at first glance, these all look like things I might be able to accomplish at a gym.  Right?  Well, yes, you’re right.  And while I do plan to include more activity into my day-to-day routine, these four resolutions listed above can be accomplished absolutely anywhere.

1)  Be faster…to forgive and to love.
2)  Be stronger…in my faith.
3)  Lift more…of my friends and family up in prayer each day.
4)  Run…to the Lord for everything.

Over the last two weeks, I was thinking about what to share today.  The same message came to me day after day and it was this – “Let it shine.”  With that theme in mind, it isn’t surprising that I have the following story to share.

Since June, I had been receiving phone calls and mailed reminder letters about a recall on my car.  There was some sort of thingamajiggy that needed replacing or else my low beam headlights, blah, blah, blah, “might” fail.  If you’re like me and most moms out there, being without a car while they repaired it, was last on my list.  So, I ignored the reminders.  I thought my car was different maybe, you know, the exception to the rule.

So, after completing a grocery store trip in record time one evening before Christmas, I headed down the highway feeling especially accomplished.  I was in my zone, just jammin’ and singin’ along to one of my WOW Worship cds.  All of a sudden…darkness.  What the?!  I messed with my lights a bit and still nothing.  I quickly realized that the only way I could use my lights at all was in “brights” mode.  Hmmmm. 

I also quickly realized that that wasn’t very popular with the oncoming traffic.  I felt terrible about it.  All the cars were flashing their lights back and forth at me and presumably saying nasty things about me too.  Ugh.  I only had two choices.  Brights or nuthin’, folks, brights or nuthin’.  I couldn’t wait to turn onto our country road.  I prayed for no cars to be on that road that night.

No such luck.  Being smack dab in the middle of the Christmas travel season, even our lonely back roads were busy.  Poo.  More flashing of lights back and forth from my fellow night travelers and my ears were burning with what they were sure to be calling me at that point.  WHERE is that garage of mine?!  I wanted to hide.

The next day, my sweet husband took the car in.  The dealership took him to work and my dear ole dad picked him up after work.  Here’s the rest in short form:  Got to the dealership.  They said it was fixed.  Got home.  It wasn’t.  Took it in the next day.  Said they repaired the recall, but not the lights.  Really?!  Really.  They said that because the recall wasn’t fixed earlier (uhem, like six months earlier); there was a short that burned out both headlights.  They then repaired the headlights.  Husband was spent.  Ordeal over.

The moral of this story?  For goodness sake, let us take care of our lights…not just the car lights, but that beautiful light within all of us.  Let it shine.  Keep it tuned.  Take special care of it.  Don’t let it burn out and catch us off guard.  Don’t ignore the gentle reminders that encourage us to care for the light God gave to each and every one of us.

Fast forward to Dec. 31st…raise your hand if you enjoyed some lovely fireworks on New Year’s Eve.  Me too.  Normally we do a little dancing to ring in the New Year, but this year we enjoyed the evening with friends at their home.  Homemade stew, cornbread, Aggie football, and fireworks included!  Our children had a blast watching the fancy schmancy fireworks show that Darrell, the Pyro-King, set up for us in his backyard.

The fireworks were incredible…once we lit them.  The pictures on the packages looked spectacular and the names were catchy, like Tomahawk Rockets and Crackling Saturn Missiles, just to name a couple.  But, the smiles didn’t come when looking at the packages.  The smiles came once the fireworks were lit…once we let them shine.  Let’s not keep OUR light inside this year.  Let it shine!

My daughter asked me something the other day that was very interesting.  She asked, “Why does exhaust come out of our mouths when it’s cold?”  Hmmmm.  I found it very profound.  Of course, she was just asking why it looks like smoke comes out of our mouths on cold days when we talk, but my thoughts took it a step further (always).

Yes, why is it that when we are “cold,” we oftentimes let exhaust come out of our mouths?  What can we do in 2014 to prevent ourselves from saying toxic words that can harm others?  What can we do to be sure our hearts don’t turn cold?  What can we do to keep our light shining?  Can we read, watch, or listen to something inspiring?  Can we give the same type of love that we so desire to receive in return?  Can we give hope to the hopeless?  Can we forgive the unforgivable?  Can we love the unlovable?  Can we give a glimpse of Christ’s love to everyone we meet in everything we do and say each day?

Of course we can and one way is to keep our focus on THE LIGHT.  We can be a beacon of Christ’s light.  Father Bentil also reminded us to let the light of Christ guide our way this year.  I found some other wonderful resolutions to share from one of Pope Francis’ facebook pages:

  • Don’t gossip.
  • Finish your meals.
  • Make time for others.
  • Choose the more humble purchase.
  • Meet the poor in the flesh.
  • Stop judging others.
  • Befriend those who disagree.
  • Make commitments, such as marriage.
  • Make it a habit to ask the Lord.
  • Be happy.  (The Joy of the Gospel)

However you choose to nurture your light this year, just be sure to let it SHINE for all to see!  The song that has been playing in my head constantly for over a week now is Chris Rice’s, “Go Light Your World.”  I encourage you to take 5 minutes and 17 seconds of your time today to listen to it and watch the video.  I think you might be inspired too.  “Take your candle and go light your world.”  Happy New Year!

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!