The Forgiveness Project by Lorraine Triggs

I recently read an article in The New York Times titled, “Let Go of Your Grudges. They’re Doing You No Good.” As I read the article, I had a flashback to similar childhood advice we probably all received from our mothers and Sunday school teachers—don’t hold grudges.

The author also referenced the Stanford University Forgiveness Project. Decades ago, a foundation donated money for the university to study forgiveness and its psycho-social and physiological benefits. In short, the conclusion: we should forgive others because it’s good for us.

That first Stanford University Forgiveness Project led to more projects, books, events and the inevitable website that lists nine steps in forgiving someone. One of the steps states, “Forgiveness is about personal power.”

It's true that bearing a grudge can hold the bearer in debilitating bonds, but if one of my Kindergarteners in Bible school said that, I would probably give my handy teacher answer of, “Well, I never really thought of that before.” Instead of saying, “What are you thinking? Personal power?”

Grace, my mother, had her own forgiveness project. My sisters and I were frequent subjects. The project involved either the subjects asking forgiveness for a wrong done or receiving the apology and forgiving the other subject involved. In short, my mother's conclusion: we forgave because Christ forgave us.

One sample from Grace's project revolved around the fact that she didn't drive. In my home state of Michigan's legislative wisdom, at age 18, my middle sister qualified as the adult licensed driver when I got my learner's permit.

She took her role seriously and would sit in the passenger's seat and scribble in a notebook everything I did wrong behind the wheel. It seemed like a personal power play by her. One day, I couldn't stand it anymore. I stopped the car in the middle of Fourth Street and screamed, "Why don't you tell me what I am doing wrong, instead of writing it all down?"

"For starters," she yelled back, "you're stopped in the middle of the street."

Even though we didn't live downhill from Fourth Street, that's where things went as I drove the last two blocks home.

Both fuming, we stormed into the house and soon became subjects in my mother's forgiveness project, both on the asking and receiving end of it.

My sister still takes credit for my good driving habits.

Grace's forgiveness project was on the right track. "Guilty, vile, helpless" we have no personal power to change ourselves, let alone forgive anyone, apart from the spotless Lamb of God and his grace.

All this brings Psalm 103 to mind, and God’s conclusion about forgiveness. It's from him, and "as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us" (verse 12).

Before my mother's forgiveness project, before Stanford University's forgiveness projects and before the foundation of the world, God's once-for-all, all-sufficient forgiveness project was in place.

But the Children . . . by Wallace Alcorn

Wallace's thoughtful musing is a reminder of why we can celebrate Memorial Day with parades and cookouts.

Tony Foulds, now 82, walked out onto the grass of Endcliffe Park in Sheffield, England, last February 22 and waved at four American Air Force fighters doing a memorial fly-over.

He had also waved at a B-17 Flying Fortress on this very spot on this very date in 1944, when he was but seven-years-old. The many children who played there at the time felt safe from the German bombers that had earlier made constant raids on Sheffield’s industrial plants. Along with the RAF, bombers of the U.S. 8th Air Force had driven the enemy planes away and were now pursuing the enemy deep into the continent.

As I read about Tony, my mind returned to Ann and her family’s escaping, by congressional intervention, the Manchester area only thirty-eight miles away just months prior to the commencement of bombing. Although she was born there, her parents were immigrants to the United States still applying for citizenship. When she later wished to show me her childhood neighborhood during our first visit, she could not because the bombing had leveled it—nothing had survived.

British citizens on the home front had come to new appreciation for Americans, and even these Sheffield school children knew these airmen were flying overhead so they could play below safely. They risked their lives on every mission to save their lives. That’s why they were there, to save lives even, if necessary, at the cost of their own. Not a few paid the price as young Tony and his playmates would soon discover.

A plane, now, was circling unaccountably and senselessly low. A crew member waved his arms and the children took it as a characteristically American friendly greeting. They waved back and returned to their play.

Then, to Tony’s horror and that of the other children, the bomber dove into the nearby woods and crashed. The local paper reported all ten crewmembers were killed, but this was all they heard at the time.

When Tony became seventeen and curious, he began to read historical accounts. What he eventually learned has driven him back to this spot in Endcliffe Park 260 days every year for seven decades. He tends a simple marker that commemorates the event, but this year people he had interested worked with him to arrange this fly-over. They watched as one plane veered skyward in the traditional missing-airman formation.

What Tony learned and what the crowd now celebrated was this. The crew had named their plane “Mi Amigo,” and the pilot was Lt John G. Kriegshauser from St. Louis. Though only twenty-three himself, this was already his fifteenth bombing mission. Although none of the crew was old enough to be a father to children of his own—but the children below….

The crew had successfully completed its mission of disabling the Aalborg airfield in German-occupied Denmark. Heavily damaged, it nursed the bomber across the North Sea toward its home base near Chelveston, England. It had survived enemy anti-aircraft artillery and defending fighters, but ran into equally dangerous conditions in clouds over England. When it broke through, they found themselves over Sheffield, eighty miles from their airfield. Without enough fuel to reach it, they had to crash-land somewhere right then.

Yet, what Lt Kriegshauser saw below was a park bordered on three sides by terraced housing and on the fourth by woods. The park offered a perfect landing spot—but the children….

As Tony grew older and saw things more broadly, he recognized that crew member, probably one of the gunners, was not waving a friendly greeting but desperately waving them out of the park so they could attempt a landing. With the children returned to play and housing on three sides, the pilot, with evident concurrence of the crew, intentionally aimed for the woods.

Tony Foulds insists: “No one will ever tell me any different. I killed these lads. And that will always stay with me.”

Tony, thank you for your gratitude and all you are doing. But, no, Tony, those American lads — soldiers as they were — chose to give their lives so you and your playmates could have yours and grow up, as you have, to remember them with very great honor, indeed. And so do we.

A Pastor Prays for His People

Good news—we now have copies of Wendell’s book A Pastor Prays for His People at the Sunday morning book stall.

Blessed Redeemer, beautiful Savior
Author of all grace and comfort.
We approach you with the deepest reverence
Not with any presumption, not with servile fear—
But with respectful boldness—because of your gracious invitation.
In days of yore, you met the invited penitent at the mercy seat.
There the sprinkled blood was a covering for sin,
Today, our needed blessings are to be found at the throne of grace.
Here it is that we find grace in every—every—every! time of need.

It is easy for us to elaborate our needs, as trouble upon trouble piles up on us:
fragmented friendships,
hostile relationships,
adversarial conditions,
financial roadblocks,
family nightmares,
unanswered questions.
Some of these heartburning situations have plagued us without relief,
and we have pled with you to alleviate—
Yet still we wait for divine answer.
Lord, we have nowhere else to go but to you,
And so we again cast ourselves upon your mercy.
Maybe you delay because of the insidious sins
we tolerate or turn a blind eye to!
Galatians tells of good old Barnabas and influential Simon Peter who were
Captured by flagrant hypocrisy.
Maybe that’s our sin today—protection of self—
Desiring the approval of the crowd rather than God
to wash away that sin.
We confess with tears all the times we played the hypocrite
and curried the world’s favor—in the world’s place—
and tried some face-saving, self-serving falseness around God’s people.
Forgive us, Lord, as we pray now for deliverance from such sin.

Thank you, Father; help us to never again indulge in hypocrisy.

As a Mother

Director of Childen's Ministries Diane Jordan shares this prayer for Mother's Day.

Almighty God, king of creation, who formed us in our mother’s womb, who knows us best but loves us still, we worship you.

We praise you for your protective love which longs to gather us under your wings as a hen gathers her chicks.

We thank you for your tender compassion as you comfort us as a mother comforts her child.

We stand amazed at the depth of your love for us—a love that paid the ultimate sacrifice—death on the cross, so we could be your children.

How precious is your steadfast love, O Lord.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we get a glimpse of your divine love—a love that is gentle yet fierce, humble yet strong, kind and true.

And we thank you for our mothers, and for those who have been like mothers to us—for those who show us in tangible ways what your unconditional love looks like.

May we honor, love and cherish those who gave us birth and those who have been spiritual mothers to us, who have nurtured us, taught us, prayed for us, cared for us and shown us the face of the Savior by their example of faith.

Strengthen them in their daily tasks. Give them wisdom as they teach, patience as they discipline and perseverance as they pour into others’ lives. Help them to see in every mundane task the eternal significance of what they are doing.

Help each one rest in the knowledge that they are but stewards of the children you have given them. Enable them to be strong women of faith, relying on you for their every need, living and loving in ways that point to Jesus.

Father God, we know that for some, today is a day of heartache, not celebration.

We pray for those who have lost a mother, a child, a loved one. We pray for those who are ill, whose bodies are failing. May the reality of the resurrection give them hope.

For those who have longed to be moms but never had children of their own, for those struggling with the process of adoption or infertility, for those dealing with shattered dreams, Lord, we ask that you mend their broken hearts and empower them to live, trusting in you for the future.

Lord, we lift to you those distressed over choices their children have made, for those with children who have turned away from you. We ask that you comfort them in the knowledge that your love is constant, your understanding is perfect, and your compassions are never ending. Remind them that you are a God who pursues the lost.

Father, the many seasons of our lives are marked by transitions and changes, but your nurture and affection for us remain the same. Your steadfast love never ceases. Your mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.

May the power of the Holy Spirit enable each of us to love and live a life of faith that points others to you and your steadfast love.

For your honor and glory. Amen.

The Door to Forever by Virginia Hughes

First, the door,
a welcome in.

Set it down, the bag of rocks you carry,
empty out your pockets full of grief.

Sit and lean toward the warming fire,
soothe your ever aching back and feet.

Before you were born I saw you. 
Before you were formed I knew exactly what you need.

Here is love. 
Forgiveness in a bath for you.
Wash in my salvation. 
Wrap a towel of pardon
around your weary soul.

This is my body, the bread that feeds. 
This is my blood, the drink you seek. 
Be filled at the never-ending feast.
Do this in remembrance of me.
Here is love.

The key in a door apart,
turns and opens,
now a part.

I knock on your door,
I AM also the door.
I AM the bridegroom who heals your heart. 

 Virginia Hughes

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  Rev. 3:20 ESV

My Mom's Legacy: Pirates, Horses and Edmond Dantès by Pat Cirrincione

A friend of mine recently gave me the book, I’d Rather Be Reading, The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel. What a great gift to give to a fellow all-around book enthusiast! As I began to peruse its pages it made me wonder how my love for books began, and then these wonderful memories of my mom surfaced in my mind’s eye.

It all began when I was quite young. My siblings and I would run into the house after school, and Mom would have a snack waiting for her four hungry hounds. We would then do our homework before dinner, and so each day would go. The magical time came after dinner. Everything in the kitchen would be washed and put away, and we would gather around the sofa for story time. We never knew until right before the story began if a treat would be involved--either Jiffy Popcorn or a square from a giant Hersey Bar. Happily munching on our goodies, we would await the sound of the book being opened and the pages turned to whatever chapter we left off from the night before.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson was always one of our favorite stories. A story of “buccaneers and buried gold.” Long John Silver shaped my perception of pirates, including tropical islands and one-legged seamen, bearing parrots on their shoulders. Treasure Island propelled me to playing Captain Hook in a play, and I paraded around the house as a pirate for weeks. “Ahoy, matey!” I yelled at my siblings each night before we went to bed. To this day, I just love stories and movies that involve pirates, and I even own a small collection of books about pirates.

Then there was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. If you’ve read this haunting tale you probably can still see Beauty as a carefree young colt, and you probably still cry when he begins a difficult life journey pulling cabs in London. If you’ve ever felt confined or been treated cruelly, then you might feel as joyous as I felt when Beauty gets his freedom. You can feel his breath of relief as he returns to the countryside to enjoy a happy retirement in the fresh air he enjoyed as a young colt.

And if you’ve never read The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, I urge you to do so now! The story revolves around Edmund Dantès—betrayed by those he thought were his friends—and his desire for retribution. It’s a story of the conflict between good and evil told in a mesmerizing way with much excitement and drama (and more pirates)!

These were just some of the stories my mom read to us. Each of book full of richness and wonderful detail, and the sound of my Mom’s voice as she read to us. They brought my siblings and I into other worlds for just a moment each night, and were full of life lessons about kindness, sympathy and understanding.

In her book, Ann Bogel writes, “A book well written will make you think about things in a new way, or feel things you didn’t expect a book to make you feel, or see things in a new light. A book you won’t want to put down, whose characters you don’t want to tell good-bye. A book you will close feeling satisfied and grateful, thinking, Now, that was a good one.”

All of this made me think about the one book that never got opened in our home. The Bible. I read it for the first time as an adult. And when I began to read it, the words between its covers brought a whole new world to life. It has any theme you want between its pages. It has places to visit. It has characters to meet throughout its 66 books. It has a story that has still not ended. It’s a book that you will love, and every time, you close it, think, “That was amazing!” From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals everything he has created. It is a treasure trove of lessons in how to love, how to forgive, how to endure turmoil in daily life, and how to find true wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Through the Bible God shows us how to live as God would like us to live, as His children. God’s Word also shows how hard it is to break away from our sin nature. We get a realistic picture of ourselves and the struggles we face and the habits—for good or ill—that we cultivate.

So, Mom, although we never opened that particular book in our home, God did not forsake us. He showed your children how to connect over good books at a young age, and through these books as Ann Bogel say: “the full range of human emotions were shown to your children, from gut-wrenching, puddle-of-tears reactions. They captured the truth of our experiences, and validated our losses. They surprised us. They made us feel the loss of what could have been. They made us laugh. They allowed us to explore places we might never travel to.”

Reading became a habit I fell in love with, and one of my favorite so-called escapes. Thank you, Mom, for the bookshelves filled with amazing tales of life. Thanks for passing along your fascination with books—from cookbooks to mystery novels to biographies. Thanks for teaching me the joy of browsing libraries and bookstores. Thank you for making me fall head over heels in love with the joy of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Winnie the Pooh. 

And thanks for pirates, horses and Edmund Dantès.

Drowning: Do you not care that we are perishing? By Wil Triggs

I did a lot of odd jobs growing up. Cutting lawns in exchange for the goods or services of others, painting my trumpet teacher’s stucco-sided garage in exchange for music lessons, but what seemed like my first real job was working at the day care camp at the YMCA in Torrance, California.

It wasn’t really a job job exactly. I wasn’t on their payroll. The official Y employees/swimming teachers also had a day camp program for little kids. I would go to the camp and hang out with the kids.

When it was time for them to go into the pool, there were too many of them. They had the day campers all roped off in about a third of the shallow end, while the regular swimming lessons for older students and adults filled the rest of pool with their activities. There were really too many people in that pool and only one lifeguard. So my job during pool time was to make sure that none of the day camp kids drowned.

I had no training in CPR. I don’t even know if there was such a thing. There was mouth to mouth resuscitation. I remember learning that. I’m happy to say that I never had to use it. I’m also happy to say that none of the kids drowned. But I do remember pulling up a lot of kids who seemed like they had been under too long, their heads breaking the surface of water, sometimes laughing smiling, sometimes coughing, choking. Ocassionally someone drank water and needed to sit with me at the side of the pool to catch their breath and take a break.

My pay was a few dollars every day and free high-level swimming lessons. They taught the dolphin kick and the butterfly. I swam with weight belts on my chest. Sometimes I'd sink.

With this job, when I first started, I was so excited. As I look back, I can see God preparing me for years of ministry to kids and students even at this young age. I took my role seriously—watching after the kids in the water. But even the exciting becomes rote, you sort of melt yourself into the routine of swimming pools and kids, and it's easy to forget what you're really there for.

One day when I was off, I went to, where else (?), a pool. It was the municipal pool in my city’s park—kind of like Northside Park. The pool bigger than Northside’s, at least it seems like that looking back. It was nice to swim on my own, no kids to worry about, no weight belts strapped on. I swam underwater a full length of the pool. I was great. Then I saw underwater bodies heading to the ladders and the sides, everyone all getting out of the water all at once. I surfaced and saw what I never had to do myself.

The lifeguard on duty in the water instead of his perch, a child in his arms. The lifeguard rushing to the side and resuscitation efforts beginning immediately. Everyone stood frozen, all of us looking, wanting, hoping to hear the cough, the choke, the catching of breath signalling life. But in the confusion, pool staff rushing everyone to get out of the pool and out into the park on the other side of the locker rooms.

Minutes that seemed like hours later, the child was wheeled out to the ambulance, her eyes open, looking very much alive.

The pool closed for the rest of the day.

You can believe that when I went back to work on Monday, I was more aware than ever of every child entrusted to my care—watching, checking more than I needed to, making sure that pool time was fun time the way it was supposed to be.

It seems like such a long time ago, and yet the memory and the danger still seems fresh. My mind wants to take the metaphor of drowning to the people around me who don’t know Jesus—while I might be drowning in stuff or tasks or fears or worries, what about people who think they’re fine, but don’t know the storm around us all? What kind of a lifeguard might I be today?

This Sunday morning, in our Kindergarten Bible School, we get to tell the story of Jesus calming the storm. It’s my favorite lesson of the year. We make the boat and the storm and act it out as a whole group. And with all of the waves and the storm going strong, we wake up Jesus.

Help us. We’re going to drown. Don’t you care?

Real waves. Real fear. An ocean roiling all around us, swallowing us into death. All of it happening in Room 001.

And then Jesus gets up and says, “Peace! Be still!”

The Kindergarteners all at once are silent (at least it’s always worked so far). The storm is stopped. Drowning averted.

Jesus asks, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Kintsugi at Easter by Daniela Abuzatoaie

Earlier this spring, someone’s breaking his coffee mug reminded me about the Japanese art form called Kintsugi, a process whereby broken pieces of pottery are repaired with a lacquer resin mixed with, most commonly, powdered gold or silver. Through this technique, an artisan carefully mends the broken ceramics, covering the cracks and flaws with the metal mixture, rendering the vessel a new, more attractive appearance. While the location of the formerly broken lines remain visible, paradoxically, their gold or silver covering adds to the final workmanship’s new beauty.

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Easter Sunday reminded me about the Kintsugi of my existence and about how God in his mercy, has mended and continues to mend the broken pieces of my life through the power of Jesus’ blood and resurrection. “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1: 18)

Through Christ, God takes our sin and washes it white, he takes our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh, he makes old things pass away and we become new creations. All of this is possible because we are his workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). Those who have trusted in Christ’s atonement for their sins, have experienced the powerful transformation from death to life, from bondage to freedom, and from being spiritual orphans to children of a loving God. This transformation is not imagined, but is real and powerful and alters the small and large choices of our everyday life, changes the affections of our hearts, and redirects our deepest hopes toward heaven.

Nothing under the sun brings greater meaning, greater motivation, and greater joy, than to become a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. (2 Tim. 2:21)

Will you give God the broken pieces of your life and let his loving hand restore you to glory?