It’s your turn to rise again: A letter to a sinner

I thought of you today.

It’s a day before Easter Sunday and I was finally able to see “Son of God” in theaters. A fitting time, if you ask me.

Throughout the movie I tended to focus on a particular person: The sinner.

Judas, who betrayed Jesus all for a handful of coins and ended his life because of the shame of it. Peter, who denied Christ three times and couldn’t even bear to sit at the foot of the cross because of his shame. The woman caught in the act of adultery, who cried at Christ’s feet and expected nothing except a stone.

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The woman in the crowd who reached out to simply touch the hem of His garment–hoping that it would simply make her clean again. The pharisees, who within their doubt and corrupted laws, hammered nails through the purest hands that ever came to earth and then fell to their knees when the skies went dark and they realized they had killed the Messiah. Thomas, who doubted that Jesus would rise, and then fell in a guilty heap at the master’s feet when he saw for himself the holes in His hands.

The sinner is also you. Me. The man next to me who I’ve never met.

We often talk about Christ and his atonement and we praise faithful acts of John and Matthew while also scoffing at the fear of Peter. We shake our heads at the Pharisees who refuse to believe. We wonder how Thomas could doubt.

But then– ahhh yes. We come to a point in our lives when it hits us harder than usual that we too have sinned. That we too have slipped so far away. That we–just like Peter or the adulterous woman or the tax collector within the temple–have messed up horribly.

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Sometimes that realization and the shame of what we’ve done is enough to keep us away from the foot of the cross. Sometimes our sins seem “so dark” or so beyond recovery that, like Peter, we decide to step back. That might entail skipping church every sunday morning. Maybe it means we stop praying. Sometimes we decide we’re too far gone and we let other mindsets or beliefs take the seat of what once was reserved just for Him. Then there are the times when we decide to put our scriptures in a drawer that never really gets opened again.

Sometimes we just stop believing altogether.

I write this to you, Sinner, because I’m a sinner too. And maybe, just maybe, this is more for me than it is for you today. Maybe not. But either way, I write this because I think that as humans we have the habit of seeing the beauty in the gospel and the faithfulness and power in others while telling ourselves beneath muttered breaths that we’re no good. That we’re lost. That we don’t fit in with the mold. That we’ll never be up to par. That Christ is beyond disappointed with us.

And I think that when we buy into that thinking, we step so far back that we trick ourselves into thinking that Christ was the one that stepped back first.

This painting was my Dad’s favorite.

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While he was hospitalized during the last month of his life before coming home to hospice, this painting was hanging on the wall opposite of his bed, and I would catch him staring at it often, amidst the muffled beeps of machines and the chatter of visitors. The one time I asked about the picture he told me that it’s his favorite because he feels like he’s the man in the picture. No matter what I’ve done or how bad I’ve messed up in the past, he said, Jesus will welcome me home with open arms and say ‘Well done’.

I wish, especially this Easter, that you’ll remember the same thing my Dad did.

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I don’t know what kind of mistakes you’ve made. You might be a teenager who slipped up in a relationship and didn’t quite wait for marriage. Maybe you’re a victim of something that made you feel less than what you are. Maybe you’re overcoming an addiction or have spent the last fifteen years convincing yourself that church isn’t a place for you. Or maybe–I’m actually quite certain–you’re a sinner just like me who sometimes pushes Christ away when all He really wants to do is give a hug and show us the escape. We’re forgiven.

Christ came for the sinner. Not for the perfect. That’s my cue that we can let him into our damaged, fragile, beaten and bruised hearts. We can let him see into those dark shadows of our minds and those painful remnants of the past. He can see our scarred hands and tear-filled eyes and he can see all of our second, third, fourth, fifth chances and all the times we fell short. We can rise again out of the ashes and still be confident that he loves us. Each and every time.

Let him rescue you, fellow sinner.

Let him be your Savior.

 

A word from Mr. Lemmon: It’s time to look outward

 My husband isn’t a writer. He’s not what he would even consider “creative” or artsy. He’s a nursing student on track for an RN next year and most of his days are inundated with numbers, long words I can’t even pronounce, stacks of books, and hour after hour of studying every single muscle, organ, and disease you can imagine. But “I’m not a writer” he told me three–maybe four–times before he showed this to me, telling me it’s something that’s been heavy on his mind lately. And I guess I’d have to disagree with him there.

You see, we’re all writers when we have something to say. And I think he said it perfectly. 

 

As I sit reflecting the world we now live in, I feel a sense of urgency in our need to change. Most especially in the youth and the twenty-somethings. Although there is much good in the world and I recognize there are countless acts of kindness that go unnoticed, I would like to highlight what could make our human relationships much more enjoyable.

Although I’m not going gray, I don’t own a home, I don’t have children, and I’m still in college I feel like my generation growing up was so much different. I grew up with computers that had green and orange screens which ran off MS-DOS. (Before the days of Windows) I grew up when the number of cell phones were scarce, not in every hand. In fact I didn’t own my first cell phone until I was 17 or 18 which didn’t even have a camera, and I had to pay for each text I sent and received. Before I continue to age myself any further (I know I’m not THAT old) I’d like to get into the heart of the matter.

I have noticed ever since cell phones have become glued to our hands and have overrun our attention, human relationships are dwindling. Now I’m not saying that cell phones or technology are sinful, I just feel it has gone too far. Let me explain.

One word has recently come into our dictionaries and more so our everyday vocabulary. That word? Selfie. What word is found in Selfie? You guessed it. Self. But I’m not immune to it. At least when I was a teenager. Even before the word selfie existed I got my ol’ point and shoot digital camera and tried to look so good for I don’t even know who. I would put on my new, favorite shirt. I’d pop the collar, cause that was “cool” then. I would take 20 or 30 to get the best one. I look back and realize that there was a need for validation. Validation from friends. From girls. From classmates. But it wasn’t until later that I realized the validation I truly craved and needed in life is from my Father in Heaven—and He didn’t even care to look at those pictures.

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We are created in the image of God, however, we are not God’s gift to the world. Who was God’s gift to the world? Jesus Christ. The Savior of the world and our ultimate example. Still, many focus and are obsessed with themselves. In 2nd Timothy 3:2 we read:

“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy…”

You may be thinking, why are you complaining and not giving any solution? Well, this morning I read in the April 2014 Ensign, a church magazine, “A focus on self is not the path to happiness. Rather, joy is found in surrendering our egos in service to others.”

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                Let us spend more quality time with one another and take pictures that will treasure memories. Let us find true enjoyment other than praying others will “comment” on, “like”, or “retweet” our latest self-portrait. Let us give a loving hand to someone who needs it. Let us spend our days serving our fellow brothers and sisters. Let us visit those who need our love and encouragement.

We are the Lord’s hands. I am confident His hands would not be magnifying himself. His hands would be serving others.