“People I Have A Hard Time Praying For And Forgiving”

I went to sleep last night with what I planned to say about today’s comic strip, but when I woke up, I sensed a rewrite was needed. So here goes…This was prompted by some of the posts that I’ve read on WordPress regarding abuse, and so I hope that these words are for healing, not hurting.

This week, Rob suggests a different list idea, still hoping that Laura will think about things a little differently. Laura’s Essential Life List for this week is titled “People I Have A Hard Time Forgiving and Praying For.”

What a brilliant and extremely Essential Life List to have! Why not start yours today!

So what do you think? Shouldn’t we pray for people who hate us and despitefully use us? Won’t God refuse to forgive us if we don’t forgive others? This is what Jesus said.

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Matthew 5:44 (NRSV)

“but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:15 (NRSV)

Here is where the rewrite starts because this comic strip has made me come face-to-face with my own Legalistic-Minded Self. (Sometimes I think of myself as a “recovering fundamentalist,” but more of that another day.)

There is evil in this world. That evil causes people to be mentally abused, physically abused, spiritually abused, verbally abused, sexually abused.

I can’t tell anyone who has been abused “Pray for your abuser. You must forgive that person or God won’t forgive you.” If you have had hatred poured into your body and heart and soul and mind, you know that is much easier said than done. I know too.

So my Legalistic-Minded Self would want to use the verses above to clobber you, me, and everyone else, but that could very easily make things worse. That’s because if you are recovering and healing from abuse, those words can just add more guilt and shame and separation from God. If I’m not careful, my Legalistic-Minded Self will say to me, “See how bad you are? You won’t do what Jesus told you to do. You deserved that and worse!”

Yet my Spiritual-Minded Self insists that I use these next verses for balance and to prevent making the hurt greater by adding more guilt and shame.

The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 (NRSV)

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 (NRSV)

If you have been a victim of abuse of any kind where a considerable amount of healing must occur, I believe Jesus totally understands that.

He can bring you to a place where you can pray for those who abused you and forgive them, but it takes time, and He Knows that. His Cross was the greatest abuse of all time; He is the Greatest Healer.

My prayer is for the healing of us all.

“Absolutely Undeniable Proof!”

I’m giving this a try on Monday mornings rather than Sunday evenings. I’m thinking it might be good to start the week with something ridiculously silly! Plus I never imagined I’d have this many comic strips and ideas! It’s hard to plan them out over the week! Please take the survey below! What is to become of Betty Mae?!?

This is #004 of “The Lloyd Servant Show” and it gives the full photograph take by “Lloyd Servant” (actually named Bradley Martin). he wants to capitalize on the tragedy in the life of one of his followers, Betty Mae Butler, while seeking to place the blame on none other than…Nickel Boy Graphics!

But is the photgraph genuine or a carefully-crafted fake?!!

“The events depicted in this comic strip are fictitious. Any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental.”

——

So how about some reader input for the storyline?

From what we know, Bradley Martin, known by dozens of his television viewers as “Lloyd Servant, Your Servant of the Lloyd,” has begun to capitalize on the injury of his follower, Betty Mae Butler. It sounds like he is planning to pull the plug and collect some insurance money!

What should happen next?!?

“Making Others Happy (Part 1)”

So what do you think? It’s good to do good things for other people and expect good in return, right? What’s more, Jesus sure seems to tell us to live like this.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31 (NRSV)

Oops! I thought Jesus said, “Do unto others and they will do unto you.” Sorry, dear readers!

“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return…” Luke 6:35a (NRSV)

That “expecting nothing in return” sort of settles it. So I guess maybe there really isn’t any “Circle Of Love.” That is, at least not in the sense of love being about “You do for me, I do more for you, you do even more for me, I do still even more for you.”

What if maybe, just maybe, this whole “Circle Of Love” idea is missing God and His Love? Then it’s not a “Circle Of Love” but an ever-widening, ever increasing, exploding “Wave Of Love” where everyone is receiving from God more and more of His Lovingkindness and pouring out His Lovingkindness until we lose sight of what we are “getting” and instead are caught up in the overwhelming joy of what we are “giving”…? Wow! What about that?!?

“Feeling Good About Ourselves”

I had really planned to “retire” Ashley Jennifer Smith as a letter writer, but this week I came across something on WordPress that I found very disturbing. It was a series of posts made by a church that proclaimed they didn’t allow atheists, homosexuals, whores, or people with autism into their church building.

After I got over my shock, I remembered one of Laura’s Lists several weeks ago titled “People We Don’t Like, Don’t Want In Our Church, And Don’t Want To Spend Eternity With.” I had no idea that there were actually churches with the word “Christian” in their name that believed like this so publicly. In that comic strip, I was thinking more along the lines of “That person is so irritating! How am I ever going to spend all eternity in heaven with them?!”

So this letter from Ashley today is based on seeing that on WordPress and to make sure that you realize these posts are never intended to make anyone feel alienated and bad about themselves. If I am to represent Christ properly in this world, I can’t shut anyone out, not even those who would seek to shut me out.

With that explained…

I do think that I may be giving Laura a hard time. To tell you the truth, I do see some of my own un-Christlike ways in this character. I’m just dragging that “stuff” out into the light of day to deal with it.

I did try switching it up where Rob had the list idea rather than Laura, but it still ends up with Laura potentially looking “not nice.” When she says she didn’t need to give up anything to become a Christian, we don’t know if (1) that’s because she believes God’s gifts are free or (2) because she thought that she was already practically perfect without God. How you look at it is important.

So potentially, Laura could be relying on her own righteousness but maybe not. Could this ambiguity causes self-reflection in readers…maybe, maybe not? I do hope so though. Know what you believe and why, even if we don’t agree.

As far as drawing comic strips that make you feel good about yourself…? All I can really say is that too often I’ve seen “feeling good about ourselves” caused by “group membership loyalty.” I don’t want to come across as being aligned with any one particular denomination or group. I want to avoid any resemblance to “our group is right, and your group is wrong” because Jesus prayed for our unity.

“It’s Not About Giving Up Teddy Bears”

The images used in this graphic page contrast two different worlds, yet whatever the Gospel is, it must have a message for both worlds.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus went about “preaching the gospel” and telling people to “believe the gospel.”

But what was that message? And what does it have to say to hurting children?

Not everyone has a carefree childhood. Some people have a harsh and brutal childhood. Inside every hurting adult is almost always a hurting child.

This is why I think that in order for the Gospel of Jesus to have something to say to that hurting adult, it must first have something to say to that hurting child hidden deep inside.

Addictions are things we hold on to in order to not feel the hurt so intensely.

Whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting child (or addicted adult), “Get over it. Everybody has hurts. It doesn’t matter that it’s the only thing that has ever helped ease your pain. You can’t call yourself a Christian until you give that up. You can’t inherit the Kingdom of God until you stop it.”

A hurting child can’t see beyond what they know will help the hurt, even if only a little. They may be offered the most wonderful things possible that would ease and heal that hurt, a whole pile of gifts under the Christmas tree even, but they will not give up their ragged and tear-stained teddy bear because that is what eases the hurt. It’s what they know. It’s what they trust.

The hurting child grows up to be a hurting adult, and the teddy bear gets replaced by alcohol or drugs or tobacco or sex or gambling or food (too much, too little) or rage…and on and on…

Whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting child, “Give that up! Jesus has so much more for you once you give that up! You have to give that up first!”

Eventually the hurt child may begin to think that God only cares about what other people see, and not about the hurt that is getting buried and hidden even deeper inside.

Jesus knows about healing us and about replacing the things that we hold on to that ease the pain. It takes trust, and trust takes relationship and time. Sadly, sometimes time runs out, but never the love and grace of Jesus.