Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Forgiveness for the Unforgivable

I've been super interested in Nazi history recently. Random, right? I just finished a book called In the Garden of Beasts by my favorite author, Erik Larson, and it's gotten me very interested in the rise of Nazi Germany. Since I've read quite a lot of Holocaust literature, I'm mostly interested in how the rest of the world viewed Hitler and the Nazis, and how the world allowed it to get so out of hand, especially considering the reputation Germany still had from World War I.

As a result, I'm kind of grumpy with Germany at present. I need some happy German reading, pronto! But that's a different post.

Because of this new interest, I decided to watch the documentary Forgiving Dr. Mengele. Dr. Mengele was a Nazi doctor at Auschwitz who performed gross medical experiments on the Jews. He was particularly interested in testing things on twins, and Forgiving Dr. Mengele follows Eva Mozes Kor, a survivor of these twin experiments. She and her sister, Miriam, both survived the experiments and were freed from Auschwitz, but Miriam died later on because of the experiments. Mengele had given Miriam something that stunted the growth of her kidneys, so they never grew larger than they were at age 10. Eva still has a lingering eye problem due to being injected with strains of bacteria that Mengele allowed to go untreated, just to see what would happen.

Eva Mozes Kor at Auschwitz
Throughout the film, Eva talks about her time at Auschwitz, and she even goes back to Auschwitz with another Nazi doctor, Dr. Hans Münch. Münch was the only person cleared of war crimes at the Auschwitz trials, as witnesses testified that he had a kind attitude toward his patients and didn't do the cruel experiments that others did.

While at Auschwitz, Eva gave Dr. Münch a document that declared she forgave him and the Nazis of all crimes committed against her, including killing the rest of her family and the latent death of her sister. She described it as an act of healing. Being able to let go of that hatred and anger and offer forgiveness changed her heart and changed her outlook on life.

What's fascinating is how angry other survivors of Dr. Mengele's experiments became with Eva. They were irate that she decided to forgive the Nazis, and they accused her of forgetting what was done to her.

As if someone could forget Auschwitz. Really. Eva also opened a museum in Terre Haute, Indiana, called CANDLES Holocaust Museum, which stands for Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors. And she tours the country giving lectures on the horrors of Auschwitz and the process of forgiveness.

I don't call that "forgetting."

One man made the point that she couldn't give the Nazis forgiveness because they hadn't atoned for their sins—they hadn't asked for forgiveness from her, so it wasn't hers to offer.

That is fascinating.

I'll admit that I have a hard time with forgiveness sometimes. There are certain things in my life that I kind of refuse to get over. It eats away at me, honestly. I hate it. I want to find forgiveness in my heart, but I also want the guilty party to say, "I'm sorry," and ask for forgiveness. In my worst-case scenario, I forgive them and they say, "Well, I didn't do anything wrong." That would make me crazy. I'm not sure I could hang on to forgiveness after that.

But is forgiveness something someone has to want in order for us to give it to them? Or is forgiveness something that just comes from within us? Something that heals our hearts regardless of the other party?

The Bible says we need to forgive others because God forgave us, and that if we don't forgive others, we're going to be out of luck when it comes to God's forgiveness. We're not allowed to be stingy with the unwarranted forgiveness God has granted to us. Check out Matthew 18:21-35. It's pretty clear on this issue.

But in that story, the guilty party asked for forgiveness, and it was either granted or denied. What happens if someone doesn't ask forgiveness—or doesn't think any wrong was done?

I think forgiveness can be one-sided. It's not as comfortable as an "I'm sorry" followed by an "It's OK—I forgive you." But it can be done.

What say you? Can you forgive someone who hasn't apologized? 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Listen Live!

So tomorrow (Saturday), I'm going to be interviewed on the Drew Marshall Show! It's a Canadian radio show, and I'm going to be his featured God Blogger.

Those Canadians. I knew I liked 'em!

If you're not fortunate enough to be in Canada tomorrow, you can use the "Listen Live!" link from the Drew Marshall home page: http://www.drewmarshall.ca/. I should be on around the 2pm EST mark.

Pray I don't sound like a dummy! Or, if I do sound like a dummy, pray that I sound like a fun-for-the-glory-of-God dummy!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hey, Jealousy!

I just realized (as in, five minutes ago) that, sometimes, when good things are happening to my friends, I get jealous. And when I get jealous, I think, "Why isn't God doing that for me? Why doesn't God like me?!" And it's not even that he's not working for me—he must, in fact, be working against me if I'm not getting the good stuff. God's keeping his best from me! That's what it is! I knew he never wanted me to do __________! He wants me to be miserable, I just know it!

Ha! I think I just heard God smack his forehead. Silly Rachel.

Jealousy is a lousy thing, isn't it? Here I am, with my pretty swell life, with plenty of good things going on, and I wonder why God's not doing more. Not giving me more. Don't I deserve more?

No. Not really.

The things God does for us have nothing to do with whether or not we deserve them. Heck, we don't deserve anything from God. It's not like he looks down and says, "Well, Rachel managed not to punch anyone in the face today. I think I'll let her win the lottery tomorrow!"

Although, God, if you're keeping track, I don't think I've ever punched anyone in the face. Ever. So if that is grounds for winning the lottery...

But I digress.

Sometimes the things God puts in front of us are experiences he either needs us to have or needs someone else to be a part of. Things that will grow us or challenge us, or things that will impact other people. Sometimes they'll be great things, sometimes they'll be scary things. But, either way, we need to know that God's on our side. He's there to support us either way. And just because someone else has something great happening for them doesn't mean he's forgotten us. Actually, this is one of my favorite verses in the Bible:

Then God remembered Rachel... - Genesis 30:22

Maybe jealousy is a Rachel thing. Biblical Rachel thought God had forgotten her, so she went through all sorts of hijinx to try to "fix" what she thought God had ignored—because she was jealous of her sister and all the great things happening to her. And when it says, "God remembered" her, it's not like he actually forgot. He just decided it was time to show her the next step. The Man's got his own timing. We tend to forget that.

So when great things are happening to the people around you, don't freak out and pull a Rachel. Don't think God's forgotten you or that he's working against you. In fact, when you pick up that line of thinking, the only person working against you is you. And probably The Jerkface.

Do you ever think God's forgotten you?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Why I Don't Like the Big Game

The Big Game (since I don't want to incur the wrath of any NFL copyright folks) is in Indianapolis this year.

My city. Well, my adopted city, anyway. They'll never have one in my hometown of Cleveland. Even though Detroit got one, and Cleveland's weather is at least comparable to Detroit's...

But I digress.

I'm not the world's biggest football fan, although I'll tolerate watching it for teams I like. The Patriots and the Giants? Eh. I'll pick the Giants, just because the Patriots are—well, horrible. I'd throw out the word "evil," like I usually do when talking about the Patriots or the Ravens or the Steelers, but the word "evil" has a little more weight on a Christian blog. So I'll just go with "horrible."

But that's not why I don't like the Big Game this year, or why I don't want it in my city.

As it turns out, human trafficking is rampant wherever there are major sporting events.

This is the part of the Big Game you don't know about until it comes to your city. People with lots of money show up in a city for a game, and they want want their money can buy. That often means sex, and that's where the human sex trafficking comes in. Officials have really had to crack down here—massage places have popped up that are actually fronts for human trafficking, and they've had to raid these places and shut them down. And over the next couple weeks, hundreds—maybe thousands—of underage prostitutes will be brought into our city to be sold.

It makes me sick to think that will be going on here. In my city.

So, if you'll do me a favor, when you think of the Big Game or Indianapolis in these weeks leading up to the event, please pray for the children (yes, children) that will be forced to sell themselves right under our noses. Pray they would be able to reach out to someone who will be able to rescue them from this terrible life. Pray that the eyes of our residents would be open and that wrongdoing will not go unnoticed or unreported.

Please pray against this true evil that will be present in our city.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On

My favorite Christmas present this year (given to me by my darling husband) was this necklace from one of my favorite boutiques, FunkyVintageLovely.com:

Which is a tiny version of this poster:

The poster was issued in 1939 by the British government to boost morale at the start of World War II in case the country was invaded. There were a couple others issued, too: "Freedom Is In Peril. Defend It With All Your Might," and "Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory." But there's just something about "Keep Calm and Carry On" that strikes a different chord. 

Just in case bombs start dropping all around you, keep calm and carry on.

When your world starts falling apart, keep calm and carry on.

When all hope is gone, keep calm and carry on.

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. - Psalm 55:22

Keep calm and carry on. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Short Play by Rachel: Great Expectations

A Short Play by Rachel

Great Expectations

Scene opens on RACHEL and FRIEND riding in RACHEL'S car. They are discussing raising RACHEL'S future daughter.

RACHEL:    I think that while they're growing up, I'll have my son open my daughter's car door for her when we get in the car. 

FRIEND:     Why?

RACHEL:     Well, I want my son to know how to treat a woman, and I want my daughter to know how a gentleman should treat her.

FRIEND:     Don't you think that's setting up unrealistic expectations for her?

RACHEL:     In what way?

FRIEND:     Well, not all men open car doors for women. That's not something she should expect.

RACHEL:     And why not? My husband opens the car door for me. If we teach our son to do it, there are probably other moms out there teaching their sons to do it. It's those little niceties that make all the difference sometimes.

FRIEND:     But maybe she won't meet one of those guys. Or date one. You're setting her up with unrealistic expectations.

RACHEL:     I don't think it's an unrealistic expectation. It's a high expectation. 

FRIEND:     Well, maybe it's too high.

RACHEL:     And why wouldn't I want my daughter to have high expectations? I want her to end up with a man who treats her the way my husband treats me—the way a man should treat a woman. I don't want her to settle for some schmuck who doesn't know how to treat her well. I wouldn't raise her to think she should only marry a rich man or someone who falls at her feet. But opening a car door for her? That's something small that says, "I care about you," every time she gets in the car. 

FRIEND:     Well. My husband doesn't do it for me.

RACHEL:     So you think I'm giving my daughter unrealistic expectations just because your husband doesn't open the car door for you?

FRIEND:     I—I guess.

RACHEL:     Well, he should open the door for you. It's not that hard. You tell him I said that.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Grass is Always Greener

Lately, I've noticed a trend in my life and in the lives of my friends. It seems we all have an overarching struggle in our lives. No matter what's going on in our lives, our frustrations all come back to one particular issue that we constantly seem to be dealing with. Mine is a combination of mommy issues and low self-esteem, if I'm being honest. Which I try to be.

What I've been pondering lately is the frequency of other struggles in my life. Sometimes my friends are going through something, and I think, "Gee. I wonder why that hasn't happened to me?" And a little voice inside me says, "Well, because you've got other things to deal with, missy."


For example, I've got this whole pregnancy thing going on at the moment. For the next four months of moments, actually. I have many friends who have had many miscarriages. But I haven't had any. I have friends who can't get pregnant at all. But I can. I have. Twice. Sometimes I don't think it's fair that they've had to go through those things while I've had an easy time of it. It's pretty easy to beat myself up over it, to tell you the truth. I think about it a lot.

But every time I stop and think to myself, "Why them? Why not me?" the same small voice says, "I've got different things planned for you." I think that's abundantly clear now that I know my little one is a girl. There are a whole lot of things for me to work through on that front—which comes back to my mommy issues and my low self-esteem. Of course. And this experience will somehow make me a better, stronger person and a better, stronger Christian. At this point, I'm sure of that fact.

I can't pretend to know what others are supposed to learn from their experiences or from their primary life struggle. That's not for me to figure out. My friends are on their own journeys, and God will help them figure it out as they go along. But I know that I've been through enough in my life that I trust God to help me understand over time why things have happened. He's helped me come to terms with a lot of things that I thought I'd always carry around with me.

What helped wake me up was all the time I spent imagining how the other side would be. What if my life were the opposite? What if all the problems I've had were suddenly the opposite—easy, breezy? Well, that means a whole lot of other things might be the opposite, too. Things that, if they were changed, would turn my entire life upside-down. Things that would put me worse off than I am in so many ways.

So when you're busy thinking of all the things you'd want to be different in your life, immediately picture all of the other things that would also be different. All the wonderful blessings you've got that may need to change to accommodate your ideal situation. Would you be willing to give those up?

I wouldn't.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Backward Planning Your Life

As some of you may know, I was a secondary English teacher for a time. A short time. My degree is in English, but I went back to get my teaching certification a few years later.

One of the strategies we learned in my teaching program was called "backward planning." When you're planning lessons, you start at the end result and back into your lesson from there. For example, say I wanted my students to understand the concepts of metaphor and simile. That's my end goal. Then I think, "Well, what would best assess their knowledge of that concept?" So I create an assessment of some sort---a test, a project, etc. From there, I back up and say, "What would best prepare them for that assessment?" Then I decide on activities and homework that would teach the concept and prepare them for their assessment. It's a super logical way to approach teaching, although it does take some time to plan.

But it's also a good way to look at a life. What is the end goal for my life? Are there things I want to accomplish or a legacy I'd like to leave?

Then you back up. How will I assess that goal? What's a measurable way to say, "Yes, that goal has been reached?"

Then you back up further. What are the steps I need to take to reach that goal? How will I pass that assessment?

Then back up even further. What am I doing right now to follow those steps? What am I doing to aim myself toward that end goal?

It sounds like a weird way to approach a life, but it's a logical way. Things we do every day shape who we are and where we're going. We shape our children, we affect people around us. So we need to make sure that all of our time is being wisely invested in that end goal.

I need to work on that.

What about you? Do you think about the end goal of your life and truly aim for it each day?