Archive for the ‘checking the map’ Category

Not My Face, Not My Mirror

IMG_0483 (2)I looked in the mirror and was shocked by what I saw.  I had lost my balance when my foot hit a pine cone and down I went in the soft grass.  Although I seemed to be in one piece, I knew my face had taken much of the impact when I’d landed.  Expecting minor scrapes, I was shocked to see small cuts, blood streaked down my face, and a bruise already forming on my left cheek.  But while my friends expressed their concern and ran to get ice and first aid, I was seeing something else they couldn’t see in that mirror.

I was seeing the face of my mother.  My mother, sitting across the breakfast table from her ten year-old daughter, with a bruised cheek and blackened eye.  She’d claimed to have fallen out of bed, but I’d heard the argument the night before, the yelling, the slap.  Worst, perhaps, was that I thought she was to blame for it.  “If she’d just leave him alone when he came home late, this wouldn’t happen,” I’d thought.

This was the family secret.  The middle-class neighborhood, the sales executive father who never missed a day of work, Sunday morning mass each week, the outward appearance of a happy family–all hiding the deeper secrets of alcoholism, abuse, denial and infidelity.  I didn’t know any different.  I thought this happened behind everyone’s closed doors.

I was almost in tears, looking at my own face in the mirror years later, a face that was closer to the age of my mother’s then. No.  I never wanted to see this, I thought.  This wasn’t going to happen to me.  Forgotten emotions started to build inside me.  But then I realized it hadn’t happened to me.  What had happened to me truly was an accident.  I truly had fallen. In that moment I realized once again how far God has brought me.

Domestic violence becomes a learned behavior, both on the part of the abuser and the victim.  It is a pattern that often is repeated from generation to generation. Hand-in-hand with other addictive behaviors, it is part of a seemingly continuous cycle.  So what happened in my life that caused the difference?  What broke the cycle?

I credit my older sister, who became a recovering alcoholic, and who took me to Al-Anon and Recovery, Inc. meetings, where I began to understand that the family dynamics in my house weren’t healthy.  I read books such as David Seamens’ Healing for Damaged Emotions and Healing of Memories.  Then I sought the miraculous, transforming power of God’s Holy Spirit, who healed me from the inside out and replaced the pattern of abuse with a heart full of His peace. It took years to fully understand and accept the unconditional love my Heavenly Father has for me. He showed me families who truly lived out the grace of God in their lives together, with no secrets and nothing to hide. In answer to the deepest prayer of my heart, God gave me a kind and loving husband, with whom I have shared 37 years, and who has never once raised a hand to me in anger, or even spoken abusively.  I am truly blessed.  I am truly thankful.

Seeing my face in the mirror that day was shocking. Even after 50 years, the memories stung.  But through my tears, I realized I could sing with joy, “My chains are gone!  I’ve been set free!  My God, my Savior has rescued me! And like a flood, His mercy reigns. Unending love, Amazing Grace!” *

*”Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” refrain written by Chris Tomlin and Louis Giglio  (c) copyright 2006 Sixsteps Music

***October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.  If you need help, please, don’t hesitate.  Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline or your local law enforcement.

Copyright 2015 by Mary Egidio. Permission is granted to share, but with attribution and not for profit.

When Love Truly Wins

IMG_0247When Daniel Jones, editor of the New York Times “Modern Love” column was getting married, he and his wife discussed the possibility of digressing from the traditional wedding vows, to something more realistic.  Rather than a blind “I promise”, she thought  “I promise to try my best” might be more accurate…something on which they could honestly follow through.  Although they stuck with the traditional vows, twenty years later, Jones reaches this conclusion:  “Not once have I felt tempted to break them, only to think, Oops…but I promised not to… I’m more likely to say to myself, I wouldn’t want to hurt Cathi in that way…. Or, I don’t want to do that to us.”

He finishes with this:  “Here, in the real world of marital commitment, it turns out we’re less concerned about breaking rules than about breaking the heart of the one we love most.” *

What a wonderful picture of a life surrendered to Christ!  It’s not about keeping a long list of rules and judging ourselves and others by them. It’s not about attempting a perfection that could never be attained on our own.  Rather, our focus is to be on our love for God and for the people around us.  When the commitment to His holy love truly consumes us, anything less holds no allure.

When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment in the law, His reply was a new commandment:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind….And …Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37, 39 (NIV)

But unconditional love can be complicated and messy.  And there’s that whole “commitment” thing to deal with.  What if I don’t feel like it anymore?  What if a better offer comes along? How much of my time and energy am I really expected to give?  Relationships can be so unpredictable! Instead, despite our Lord’s command, it’s too easy and much more comfortable for us to get out that clipboard and checklist, to track how we and the others around us measure up.

Paul instructed the early church in Galatia about such an issue.   As Jews converted to Christianity, they mistakenly thought they still had to follow the complicated Hebraic laws, and forced the converted Gentiles to do the same.  By doing so they were entirely missing the freedom for which Christ had died.  “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free,” Paul explained.  “Do not let yourselves be burdened again in a yoke of slavery.” Gal. 5:1 (NIV)  He goes on to explain it this way:   “The entire law is summed up in a single command:  Love your neighbor as yourself….So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”  Galatians 5:14, 16 (NIV)

It’s pretty simple.  Forget the list.  Live in freedom.  Follow the Spirit.  Love with abandon.  To do anything less would break the heart of the One we love most.

*Daniel Jones, excerpted from Love Illuminated, as published in Good Housekeeping, Feb. 2014, p. 168

Copyright 2015  Mary Egidio — permission is given to share, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

Do You Have the Key?

My phone rang yesterday, and an unfamiliar number came up on the screen– but the voice on the other end was my daughter.  “Mom, are you at home?”

“Yes, what’s wrong? Where are you calling from?”

“The neighbors.  I locked myself out of the house. Do you still have my spare house key?” (There’s a reason for this question, I’ll tackle that later)

“I think so.”

“Good.  I’m locked out of the house.  And Logan is inside sleeping.”

I quickly grabbed every key hanging on our refrigerator and jumped in the car to head to my daughter’s house.  Fortunately, I’m on vacation from work this week, and she only lives a mile from my house.  No biggie, in comparison to much worse situations, but still concerning.  I delivered the key (now I know which one is hers), thanked her neighbor, and headed back home.

I can’t help but thinking that we live in a world where people get themselves into some difficult situations.  Some are more desperate and tragic than others, but difficult nonetheless.  I might have a key that would fit their situation.  A key that would point them to Jesus.  A kind word, a helping hand, a needed meal or clothing, something that’s just hanging around waiting to be used.  While I can’t possibly help every person with every problem, if I’m attuned to God’s voice, I can use some unique key, a God-given  gift or talent, my resources, my influence,  to help unlock them from their dilemma.   I’ve found the more I listen and obey God’s voice in these situations, the more He uses me.  And guess what?  I get the blessing in return.

Paul exhorts the church in Rome:  “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” Romans 12: 4-6a (NIV)  Further along in that section he mentions specific gifts, and then says — “if you’ve got it, use it!” (Egidio paraphrase)

Back to that key story . . . a couple years ago Lizz asked us if we had her spare Mustang key.  Hmmm. The one she hung on the ‘frig?  Hmmm.   Well. Dad was going through the keys on the ‘frig and said, “We don’t own a Ford anymore, why do we still have this key?”  And threw it away.  Ooops!  Sorry, baby.

See you later, I’m gonna go label the spare keys.  Got any you’re not using?

Copyright Mary Egidio 2012 — permission is granted to reproduce this devotional, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

Anticipation

One of my favorite family activities as a child was when we loaded the car and drove to Chautauqua Lake, just over into New York state.  My dad belonged to a club there on the lake.  We’d meet friends and spend a carefree day fishing, picnicking, and just having fun.   I loved the smell of the water, the whzzzz of a line being cast, the tug of a nibble as I watched the bobber float in the lake.  Nightcrawlers and minnows were my friends.  I often made the first catch, even as a young girl. 

The trip to the lake seemed to take forever, but it was less than an hour from home.  I remember a spot on the way, at the crest of a hill, where we could catch a glimpse of the sparkling water shimmering in the distance.  “There it is!” we’d cry.  “We’re almost there.”  We were still a number of miles away, but catching a brief glimpse of the lake ahead made the trip more bearable.

The Bible promises believers a home in heaven some day.  As followers of Jesus, the journey often seems endless, especially when we’re going through difficult days.  But every once in a while, God blesses us with a brief glimpse of the prize ahead.  We may hear or read about someone’s near-death experience, and their vision of heaven.  We may be privileged to be with a godly loved-one who is crossing over, and hear them talk about the departed family members who are welcoming them home. 

God gave John a glimpse of heaven, which he recorded in the book of Revelation.  His testimony serves as encouragement to Christians of every generation.  In it, he describes the city of God, the New Jerusalem:  “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.  The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. . . . Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.  On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.  And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be any curse. . . . There will be no more night. ” Revelation 21:23-25; 22:1-3a, 5a (NIV)

No night, no darkness, no pain, no sorrow, no suffering, no disease, no curse, no sin.  Only the light of God’s glory.  Be encouraged, dear ones.  It won’t be long now.  Look ahead.  It’s just over the next hill.

Copyright 2012 – Mary Egidio   — Permission is granted to share this post, but only with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

The Art of Being Nice

My kids once had a bus driver named Mrs. Nice.  Really, I’m not making this up.  Of course, in our house, the jokes abounded:  “She’s a Nice lady.  Her kids are probably Nice kids.  When her husband proposed, he said, ‘You would be Nice if you married me.'”  Terribly original, I’m sure.

Dictionary.com defines nice as pleasing, agreeable, or delightful.(A nice visit)  Or amicably pleasant, kind (they are always nice to strangers).  We teach our grandson to be nice to the dog, which means to pet her softly and not pull on her ears or tail.  He’s still working on it.

Paul encourages the Ephesians to be nice, too.  He says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)  Sound impossible?  He goes on to urge them to “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children . . .” (5:1a)   That makes more sense.  We can only really be nice to each other when we allow the source of Love — God — to love through us.

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I don’t feel like being nice.  Oh, I don’t think I could ever be downright nasty to someone.  I’m not that bad.  But always being as kind and patient as I should be, as God would be?  With certain people, in certain circumstances, I can be just plain —  well — not nice.  How about you?

It’s easy to make the excuse that I’m just tired, or busy, or distracted.  Sorry.  Didn’t mean to be unkind.  I’m so glad that my Heavenly Father is never too tired or busy or distracted to be nice to me.

So I’m still working on not pulling ears or tails, even a little bit.  Thankfully I have the best teacher in the Universe.

Copyright 2012 – Mary E. Egidio –  permission is granted to share this post, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

What About Lent?

Growing up in the Roman Catholic church, the observance of Lent was a given.  Lent is the 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays), and is generally observed by “giving up” something.  At least that’s how I remember it from childhood.  I generally gave up candy, but I can remember trying to convince myself that licorice wasn’t actually candy, but medicine. And, of course, there was the no meat on Friday thing.

I had been gone from the Catholic church for several years and had become an Evangelical Protestant, when I was visiting with some Catholic friends from my home town on Good Friday and made the mistake of ordering pepperoni on my pizza. Their surprise didn’t escape my notice. I hadn’t even thought about it being a Friday in Lent, much less Good Friday. But as I enjoyed my meal, I remember feeling a sense of freedom.

So the question comes up every year: should Protestant Christians observe Lent?  For the last several years, my home church (not Catholic) has observed Ash Wednesday with the distribution of ashes, and has encouraged members to practice some form of self-denial.  But this year, I particularly appreciated my pastor’s insight on Lenten observance.  His comment was that we shouldn’t be giving up something just for self-denial’s sake, but that by giving up something we could be using that time or energy to do something else for God’s kingdom.  Pastor Brett shared that he was giving up an hour of sleep each day so that he could spend that time praying for us, his parishioners.

This is the example Jesus gave us.  The Creator of the Universe came and walked among His creation, in humility and servanthood.  He denied all that He was to show us the depth and height and breadth of the Father’s love for us. He used the time to teach and heal and touch and restore, and ultimately, to pay the price for our sins.  Then He conquered death and the grave so we could know the promise of new life.

As we prepare to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection, why shouldn’t we share in His denial and sacrifice, as well as His servanthood?

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11 NIV

A Second Look

Okay, I have to admit it.  I cheated on my driver’s license test last month.  There.  Now I feel much better.  Except I hope my friend the police officer isn’t reading this.

Actually, I cheated on the eye exam.  You see, when I put my eyes up to the machine, I was instructed to read the letters on the third line.  I saw three rectangles in a row, but  the first rectangle was empty!  I could see letters only in rectangles two and three.  Never fear, I knew exactly what to do (this is where the cheating comes in).  I closed my right eye, and letters magically appeared in rectangle number one.  After I read those letters aloud, I simply opened my right eye and closed my left, and read the rest of the letters.  In the busy DMV office, no one even noticed.

Fact is, I’m able to see pretty well out of both eyes, just not at the same time!  (see Body Parts) Friends who know this about me get a little nervous when I’m driving, since depth perception isn’t my strong suit, but hey, I’ve got a great driving record.  If you don’t count that red light in April … but I digress.

A man in the Bible was having some trouble with his vision, too.  He was a servant of the prophet Elisha.  One morning this guy woke up to discover the hills were alive – but not with the sound of music!  Instead, an army with horses and chariots, sent to eliminate his boss, surrounded the city.  He ran off to deliver the bad news, but soon learned he needed to take a second look:

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (Our friend had to be thinking –‘So, exactly how many imaginary friends do you have?’)

And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”  Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”  2 Kings 6:16-17 (NIV)

When he took a second look, with a different pair of eyes, he discovered the true picture.  Phfew!  What a relief.  God was in control.  Nothing to worry about here.

Like my eye test, and Elisha’s servant, sometimes I miss it on the first glance.  It’s too easy to focus on the circumstances and the problems, and forget to take a second look with God’s eternal view in mind.  When it seems like the odds are overwhelming, I have to remember the God who created the stars is on my side.  It’s a huge relief when I finally see the real picture and realize God is in control.

You may not see Him yet.  But, trust me, He’s there.  Look again.

Copyright 2011 — Mary E. Egidio  Permission is granted to share this work, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.