Monday, August 27, 2012

Prickled People

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

Years ago, a high-school friend handed me a jar with a squished face that read "pickled people." I never did quite understand the meaning of that gift, but, I do know that if it had read "prickled people", I would have better understood. Prickled people are a daily encounter for me. 

Once, while supervising a medical facility, I was pulled into a situation that required my intervention. This particular medical consumer was feared by all, due to the foul, vile manner is which this patron spoke, and the harsh demands placed upon the staff. This day was no different, except it was my turn to be the object of such vile and languishing humanity. As I stood listening to the violent screams and vulgar language being cast upon me, in addition to the threat of my license being future owned by this prickled person, I felt a spirit of compassion wash over me. I realized this thorny soul was really a hurting soul. The prickly language and threats being cast out were really a form of self-protection from a fear of being wounded yet again. In that moment I chose to hug this prickled person with words that reflected the gentleness of a Savior that died so that prickled people could have an opportunity to live eternally. What happened next was the evidence of God's love being poured out through obedience to His precept of how to turn away wrath-speak a gentle answer in return. 

In that circumstance, I was reminded that Christ died for all prickly people, including myself. God is intent on owning the hearts of those he died for. It is my job, as His ambassador, to accurately represent His intent. As an ambassador, it is important what I wear -- compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12-17). In that moment, it mattered how I responded, as it does in all of life's moments. 

God loves prickled people, and He will do whatever it takes to offer them eternal life with Him. This may include using you to represent His Kingdom and its principles. Remember, the next time you feel the sting of someone's prickle, it may be God's invitation to represent Him and His eternal Kingdom to a wounded soul in need of a Savior who promises rest and security. Today, embrace the next prickled person you encounter. 

Father, thank you for using prickled people to remind me of why you died. Thank you for loving and dying for me, when I too am prickled. Amen.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Time to Dust

Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.

Matthew 10:14

Daily I am in contact with a person who lacks the capacity to receive encouragement. I am perplexed by this individual's resistance to smiles and words of hope. Lately I began to feel discouraged, as I found myself focused on trying to find creative ways to penetrate the doom and gloom of this person's perspective. So I did what any normal person would do when all attempts fail, I threw a pity party for myself and found I was the only invited guest present. As I sat entertaining the idea that perhaps not all was lost, and that maybe I had not tried hard enough, a "human dust cloth" entered my realm and dusted off my memory. For the next 45 minutes this downcast soul poured out the lament of a heart hurting, seeking, and broken. I sat listening and occasionally offering words of hope and encouragement. Thirsty, this soul drank in the offer and left voicing both an enlightened and lighter heart. 

This moment reminded me of the message that Jesus taught His disciples; "Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words [God's word's]...shake off the dust and move on (emphasis mine)." I had been obsessed with offering encouragement to a soul tethered to misery and resistant to offers of a changed perspective, while another begged to be set free. God used this moment to remove the dust of self-validation I was seeking from someone who prefers their misery to hope.

Who are you allowing to lay dust over the message of hope and encouragement that another needs to hear? Shake off the dust of discouragement that rejection lays down and move toward the soul willing and ready to embrace change.The old adage that "one man's junk is another man's treasure" is about understanding that what you have to offer will be rejected by some but sought after as a diamond by others. The message of hope and encouragement should never be allowed to suffer under the dust of rejection. Pull out the dust cloth and move on.  

Today, Lord, I seek your perspective. Change my heart. Keep me pure. Remind me that all is not lost to those who reject your hope. Open my eyes to those who are ready to hear your words. Prepare me to shake off the dust of rejection and move toward the one thirsty and ready to embrace you. Thanks for reminding me to persevere and seek the willing. In you, oh Lord, is my hope. Amen.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Infection Control

How can a [man] keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.

Psalm 119:9

Years ago, while in nursing school, I rotated through the surgery department. I was young and very ambitious to observe my first surgery. My thirst for knowlege and educational adrenaline would be satiated as I observed a hiatal hernia repair on an elderly woman. What I most remember was the prep that took place before the surgeon entered the operating room and the first cut made by the surgeon. The staff in the operating room went to great length to prep the patient's skin and secure sterile equipment, so as to prevent any debilitating infection that might infiltrate this woman's body. Additionally, the personnel in the room kept themselves donned in sterile attire and immediately corrected any break in sterile technique.

As a practicing nurse, who presently oversees infection surveillance, I now have a better understanding of why the staff took such extreme precautions. Infection can kill, maim, and permanently impair the functioning of a human being. Consumers and manufacturers are also aware of the importance of preventing infection as evidenced by the saturation and availability of "antibacterial"products.

There is another subtle form of infection that wounds, maims, kills, and permanently destroys humans. This infection is often excused as being part of the cultural norm, so infection control measures are no longer deemed critical. Marriages are broken as men and women live disconnected from their marriage vows, pornography claims the minds of men and women and leaves them unable to maintain purity of thought and action toward innocent children and adults, and minds are destroyed as movies, video games, books, and television normalize murder, crime, and hate. There exists no effort to correct or make adjustments when "sterile life techniques" are broken that could prevent these mortal consequences.

The infection I am referring to is sin. Sin kills. Sin destroys. It maims and claims the lives of families, individuals, and societies daily. There is, however, preventive "sterile life techniques" that can prevent this destructive force, and it is God's Word. His word, properly applied, protects, corrects, and directs the reader on proper "life infection" control techniques and measures. God's Word, in action, saves marriages, protects children, provides peace to anxious hearts and depairing minds, and restores and heals the loss sin demands. And unlike bacteria, which can out smart antibiotics and become "super-bugs," God's word cannot be rendered ineffective.

Today's challenge-practice infection control-read God's Word.

Lord, give me a pure heart as I read your Word. This is your promise. Amen.