Your Christian Agenda is the Problem

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

“It wears on me.” 

His face was glum as he shared the latest incident involving one of his teenage clients. “I know his dad is abusing him…”

“Physically?” I asked.

“…no, not physically, although I see that too with my other clients. No, mental and emotional abuse. It’s apparent during our sessions.” 

My colleague paused, his eyes searching in front of him for answers. “It’s not this one case, you know? It’s all of my clients. Hour after hour, I see kids suffering, and there isn’t much I can do about it. I try to counsel them, giving them coping strategies; you know, the usual stuff.”  I nodded. 

“But it all seems so pointless,” he continued. “The problem is not their lack of coping strategies. It’s their parents, their families, their home environments.”

He stopped while looking me in the eyes. “How do you handle it?”

I shook my head slowly. “To be honest, I don’t, at least some days. It overwhelms me too. But I try to look for the good in the suffering.”

“The good?” he responded, a hint of skepticism in his countenance. “What good is there in suffering?”

“I have an answer, even though you might not like it. I wouldn’t recommend using it for someone in grief. It’s one of those answers for a mind looking for answers when the pain subsides.”

“Lay it on me.”

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Tuppence a Bag

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

It was the morning of Black Friday, many years ago.

I was a driver delivering random bits of freight to rural areas. My route was a tight schedule, rarely affording the opportunity for conversation. Most days, I did an impersonation of the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland (“I’m late! I’m late!”).  

Not this morning. Black Friday would prove to be the rare exception to the rule. Many of my customers were fully stocked and the holiday rush was not yet upon me. I strolled through my day without a care in the world, greeting my customers with a cheery face while taking the time to share a few words. 

With each conversation, I found myself wishing more and more for my normally hectic pace.

“She pushed her to the ground to get to that T.V! Can you believe it?!”

“They were screaming at each other, right in the middle of the store. The manager had to pull them apart…”

“The other guy got to the laptop first, so he punched him in the face! Amazing…”

I felt nothing but sorrow at the end of the day. Relieved to be home, I thoughtlessly flipped on the television (I still had cable), more for the sound than anything else. To my surprise, the opening credits to a childhood favorite greeted me: “Mary Poppins.” 

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When Your Neighbor Craps on Your Lawn

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

I was sitting in a bible study devoted to the topic of forgiveness. 

A woman, who had been a Christian for most of her life, shared a story on the topic of forgiveness. It seems her neighbor’s dog routinely crossed over the property line into her backyard before crapping on her lawn. This had been going on for a few weeks. Although she addressed this many times with her neighbor, the crap continued. The day before, she had a few choice words with her neighbor. 

“I know I have to learn to forgive him for his callous attitude,” she remarked with a sigh. “But it’s so hard!”

“You’ve been a Christian for how many years,” I thought, “and you’re still struggling with petty things like a dog crapping on your lawn?”

The study leader used the story to reiterate the importance of forgiving our enemies while reminding her that Jesus would do the same. He followed this by saying that, if she could learn to forgive him, then the Lord would surely bless her life (it’s always about the blessings for many). He then moved on to the next participant.

“Really? That’s it? No additional questions?? No probing deeper?!?”

And that’s when I began to struggle with forgiveness. 

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The Cowboy

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

“Wanna make some extra money?”

I raise my head from my deepening discouragement, tilting it towards the voice coming through the passenger-side window.  A man in his thirties is stooping down while leaning inside my car.  His shades slide down a notch to reveal eyes constantly shifting between his shoes, the sidewalk, and me.

“Doing what?” I ask.

“Driving,” he replies. “I need someone to give me a ride to the border to pick up my medication.”

I study the man for a moment and I hesitate. A salesperson’s job can be demoralizing, even for the optimistic. Two weeks of door knocking has produced exactly one sale, a whopping sixty dollars in commission. I was trying to figure out gas money when he approached me. Is this a solution? Or a temptation?

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When Ten Percent Doesn’t Cut It

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Hello my friend.

I wanted to share some follow-up thoughts on our conversation from yesterday, specifically your comment about the ten percent. It bothered me at the time, but I couldn’t find the words to precisely express what I found so troubling. After meditating on your comment, I think I have an analogy which might help you. 

Before I get to that, I want to first express my respect and admiration for how you handle yourself, your affairs, and your business. I’m sure I’ve told you this before. I wouldn’t presume to tell you how to handle your life, even if I had an opinion (which I don’t). I have full confidence that you hear the Lord in all matters warranting your attention because your life proves it. I, for one, have been blessed by your generosity. 

This also means that I don’t have any direct experience with your situation. For me, it’s never been a question of a percentage: my tithe has always been my time and service, in place of any material wealth. I have always been a member of the working poor, and The Lord gives me only what I need, never more than that. Although many have not appreciated what I give (as they only understand blessings in terms of material wealth, a reflection of where their hearts lie), testing has proven that this is the Lord’s will for my life. 

Labor cannot truly be divided into percentages. You do the job until the job is done, or until you are relieved. Which brings me to what is troubling me. 

Is it appropriate to look upon our gifts in terms of percentages? I don’t believe so. 

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