Archive | November 2014

Peace on Earth, Ferguson and Hope for Us All

Peace on Earth by HolleyGerth.com

I looked at the screen of my iphone where holiday cheer and expressions of thanks are the norm this time of year. But #Ferguson had transformed my Twitter stream into a waterfall of chaos and anger, division and pain, confrontations and confusion.

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Whenever I encounter disagreements between people {whether strangers or folks I hold dear} I want to see every perspective. I try to ponder all the questions. I hope to truly understand. But in the end I always come back to this: When we hate each other we are foolish if we don’t think we’re actually on the same side–the side of the enemy of love.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

As long as this world keeps spinning, we will have more work to do when it comes to learning how to love each other. But I’m certain of this:

Kindness is even more fierce than hatred.

Choosing to listen is an act of wild courage.

Gentleness is a quiet bomb that can explode the barriers that divide us.

My prayer this Thanksgiving is that we gather around tables. Yes, with people we already know and love. But also with those who are different than us. Those who we don’t understand. Those who might even make us feel angry or afraid.

Because one day we will gather around another table in heaven for a feast that’s been a long time coming. And I don’t think God will ask us, “Were you right?” I think He will ask us, “Did you love each other?”

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

~Holley Gerth

 

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“Thankful for Thorns”

 *”Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.”

“Happy Thanksgiving” is a greeting we readily call out to those we meet in our comings and goings before celebrating the day with family and friends. I know it’s a bittersweet day; one mixed with sorrow over those who are no longer part of our gatherings. The following story is one I’ve shared before, but will share it again for its timely message. Even with heavy hearts we can find something to be thankful for, don’t you agree?

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~ Perhaps the  fallen rose petals symbolize our teardrops ~

“Sandra felt as low as the heels of her Birkenstock’s as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole her ease. This week she should have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss.

As if that weren’t enough her husband’s company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come. What’s worse, Sandra’s friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. “Had she lost a child? No, she has no idea what I’m feeling,” Sandra shuddered. Thankful? Thankful for what? she wondered. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life, but took her child?

“Good afternoon, can I help you?” The flower shop clerk’s approach startled Sandra. “Sorry,” said Jenny the shop clerk, “I didn’t want you to think I was ignoring you.”

“I….I need an arrangement.” “For Thanksgiving?” Sandra nodded. “Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the Thanksgiving Special?” Jenny saw Sandra’s curiosity and continued. “I’m convinced that flowers tell stories, that each arrangement insinuates a particular feeling. Are you looking for something that conveys gratitude this Thanksgiving?”

“Not exactly!” Sandra blurted. “Sorry, but in the last five months, everything that could go wrong has.” Sandra regretted her outburst but was surprised when Jenny responded, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.” The door to the shop once again opened.

“Hi Barbara!” Jenny called. She politely excused herself from Sandra and walked toward a small workroom. She quickly reappeared carrying a massive arrangement of greenery, bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses. Only, the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped, no flowers.

“Want this in a box?” Jenny asked. Sandra watched for Barbara’s response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems and no flowers! She waited for laughter, for someone to notice the absence of flowers atop the thorny stems, but neither woman did.

“Yes, please. It’s exquisite,” said Barbara. “You’d think after three years of getting the special, I’d not be so moved by its significance, but it’s happening again. My family will love this one. Thanks.”

Why so normal a conversation about such a strange arrangement? She wondered. “Ah, said Sandra, pointing. “That lady just left with, ah….” “Yes?” “Well, she had no flowers!” “Right, I cut off the flowers.” “Off?” “Off. Yep. That’s the Special. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.” “But, why do people pay for that?” In spite of herself, Sandra chuckled. “Do you really want to know?” “I couldn’t leave your shop without knowing… I would wonder about nothing else!”

“That might be good,” said Jenny. “Well,” she continued, “Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling very much like you feel today. She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she faced major surgery. That same year, I lost my husband. I assumed complete responsibility for the shop and for the first time, spent the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel,” Jenny said.

“What did you do?” “I learned to be thankful for thorns.” Sandra’s eyebrows lifted. “Thorns?” I’m a Christian Sandra and I believe God gave us all things in life, but I never thought to ask Him why good things happened to me. But, when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask! It took time to learn that dark times are important. I always enjoyed the ‘flowers’ of life but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.”

Sandra gasped. “A friend read that passage to me and I was furious! I guess the truth is I don’t want comfort. I’ve lost a baby and I’m angry with God.” She started to ask Jenny to “go on” when the door’s bell diverted their attention.

“Hey, Phil!” shouted Jenny as a balding, rotund man entered the shop. She softly touched Sandra’s arm and moved to welcome him. He tucked her under his side for a warm hug. “I’m here for twelve thorny long-stemmed stems!” Phil laughed, heartily. “I figured as much,” said Jenny. “I’ve got them ready.” She lifted a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerated cabinet.

“Beautiful,” said Phil. “My wife will love them.” Sandra couldn’t help but ask, “These are for your wife?” Phil saw that Sandra’s curiosity matched his when he first heard of a Thorn Bouquet. “Do you mind me asking, Why thorns?” “In fact, I’m glad you asked,” he said. “Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but we slogged through, problem by rotten problem. We rescued our marriage our love, really. Last year at Thanksgiving I stopped in here for flowers. I must have mentioned surviving a tough process because Jenny told me that for a long time she kept a vase of rose stems-just the stems-as a reminder of what she learned from “thorny” times. That was good enough for me. I took home stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific thorny situation and give thanks for what the problem taught us. I’m pretty sure this stem review has become a tradition.” Phil paid Jenny, thanked her again and as he left, said to Sandra, “I highly recommend the Special!”

“I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life.” Sandra said to Jenny.

“Well, my experience says that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, Sandra, Jesus wore a crown of thorns so that we might know His love. Do not resent thorns, actually be thankful for them.”

Tears rolled down Sandra’s cheeks. For the first time since the accident she loosened her grip on resentment. “I’ll take twelve long-stemmed thorns, please.”

“I hoped you would,” Jenny said. “I’ll have them ready in a minute. Then, every time you see them, remember to appreciate both good and hard times. We grow through both.”

“Thank you. What do I owe you?”

“Nothing. Nothing but a pledge to work toward healing your heart. The first year’s arrangement is always on me.” Jenny handed a card to Sandra. “I’ll attach a card like this to your arrangement, but maybe you’d like to read it first. Go ahead, read it.”

“My God, I have never thanked You for my thorn! I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorn. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear, teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed to You by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.” ~George Matheson

Jenny said, “Happy Thanksgiving, Sandra,” handing her the Special. “I look forward to our knowing each other better.” Sandra smiled. She turned, opened the door and walked toward hope.”

*Alphonse Karr, brainyquote.com

 

This entry was posted on November 21, 2014. 2 Comments

Words are Weapons

Speak Kindly by HolleyGerth.com

We’ve often written on social media our concern about words and how others use them in ways that add to our suffering. You’ve experienced this. I have experienced this and we’d like for it to stop, right? This post by Holley is so right on in my humble opinion and I will share it where I can. Perhaps you have places you can share it as well . . . even directly to those who have caused you pain. It is hard for pain to have a voice. But since I have been on this journey for awhile perhaps my words can “stand in the gap” for others who are to weak to speak. Read and be encouraged.

*  *  *  *

They walk into my counseling office and bare the scars on their hearts.

They lean into me at blogging conferences and tell of unkind comments.

They confide in me over coffee–the lines still echoing all the way back to childhood.

I nod my head, understand.

“Reckless words pierce like a sword” (Proverbs 12:18).

Words can be weapons.

A careless remark. A bit of gossip. A little less sensitivity in a stress-filled moment. Do we know what we do to our sisters?

I sit alone and pray about this one day. I’ve become afraid of words–of what they can do. And it seems in the dark I sense a whisper, “Daughter, words can defend and protect too.”

It’s right there in our armor: “The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

We must choose how we wield our words.

In my heart I once pictured the enemy coming and a wounded woman on the ground behind me. I put my sword in front of her and said, “You can’t have her. She belongs to the King.” I still get goosebumps as I put those words on this page–because that is why I write. Because life is hard and we all fall and we need sisters who stand in the gap for us. Because words have the capacity to hold back evil, to bring forth life, to sustain, encourage, and unite us.

Words are powerful.

And if you think yours aren’t part of a battle much bigger than you, think again.

So what do we do with this knowing, this sword that’s in our hands? Sisters, let’s choose to put our words firmly on the side of the Kingdom–to use them to protect and never to harm. I’m raising my sword and pledging my allegiance to you and to the One Who Loves Us.

~Holley Gerth