Friday, May 29, 2009

On Snippet Judging

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The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

“David and Goliath!” my age five son shouted on that long ago morning when I asked which Bible story he wanted to hear. The story of the young shepherd David slaying an enemy giant with slingshot and five smooth stones was irresistible to a young boy.

This portion of David’s life was almost all my young son knew about David, not really enough to make a judgment about his Bible hero. David, like most of us, cannot be summed up in only one or two life-shaping events. Some of his life was brutal. Much was gentle.

Look at some of the highlights of David’s life: He slew a lion and a bear while tending his father’s sheep. Before he became Israel’s king, he slaughtered enemies as a bride price. He became known as a king at war, fighting against marauding nations.

In one of David’s dark hours and weaker moments, he lusted after Bathsheba, another man’s wife, and committed adultery. When she conceived, David had her soldier-husband Uriah placed in the frontlines of a heated battle, guaranteeing his death.

On a happier note, David brought the captured Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem, and celebrated its return with a public dance before the Lord. He had many intimate talks with God, repenting of adultery and murder. He recorded his dismay and sorrow over his sins in his many psalms. To this day, millions relate to the psalms penned by this ancient shepherd king.

What if I knew nothing of David’s life except that he brought the bride price and men’s body parts to his future father-in-law? What might I think of him? Barbarian. Beast. Possessed.

If King David’s psalms were the only means of learning about him, might my response be more tolerant? When I read about the weak-in-the-flesh David who was remorseful, repentant and aware of God’s unfathomable grace, would I think more kindly toward him?

The old cliché is true—you can’t judge a book by its cover. God said about David, “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” (Acts 13:22). David took plenty of wrong turns, but his right turns brought him back to God.

A reader asked me to write about making wrong judgments based only on snippets of life, often by what we see, hear, or read. She tagged a common problem. In thoughts, conversations, and writing, unfair and biased opinions are often made.

Michel de Montaign, a religious writer from the middle ages wrote, “There is no man so good, who, were he to submit all his thoughts and actions to the laws, would not deserve hanging 10 times in his life.” We all log less than stellar moments.

We also have times when we can step away from what we see in a small frame of time and can look at the big picture. Author David G. Meyers gives excellent advice about judging, “When torn between judgment and grace, let us err on the side of grace.”

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Secret Holocaust Diaries of Nonna Bannister

April book winner: Lenae, who left a comment at blog.

Leave a comment here or send an email to and I’ll enter you name into the May drawing for either The Stained Glass Pickup ~ Glimpses of God’s Uncommon Wisdom or A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts ~ Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holiday

By the time Nonna Lisowskaja turned nine years old, she’d learned four to six languages. Also, she was on a path of learning forgiveness, courage and hope, especially from her mother, maternal grandmother, and her father.

April 21, 2009 was Holocaust Remembrance Day. Just prior to 10:00 o’clock in Israel that day, horns and sirens blared, followed by two minutes of silence. Traffic stopped. Pedestrians stopped. Most bowed their heads remembering the 11 million who perished during the Holocaust, six million were Jews.

I read The Secret Holocaust Diaries the Untold Story of Nonna Bannister a few weeks ago. Nonna, of Russian lineage, was the lone survivor of her family of 35. Later, a young adult, she arrived in New Orleans June 6, 1950 aboard the USNS General Haan, determined that her new life in America would look forward to happier times and not look backward at the evil that caused the loss of her entire family.

She brought with her a packet of documents, photos, post cards, and secret diaries that she had written from an early age on miniscule scraps of paper, in different languages. She kept the striped ticking packet hidden under her clothes and slept with it every night of her life.

She married Henry Bannister soon after her arrival, and they had over 50 years together, rearing three children. Her loving husband knew that Nonna had a painful past, but he also knew that when she was ready, she’d talk about it. He honored her time schedule.

Later in life, Nonna began to translate her diaries into English, transcribing them onto many yellow legal pads. One night she took Henry’s hand and leading him to the attic of their home, she said, “It’s time.”

There amid the dusky lighting and unadorned timbers, she opened a double locked truck. Her past unfolded, as Henry read the transcribed pages. First, he read about her beautiful childhood lived out in Russia with her privileged family. Yet, the later sheets of yellow paper told stories of unspeakable loss and sights that no child should witness.

What makes Nonna’s recounting so outstanding is an overriding sense of joy because of the goodness in others during wartime, often at great risk to themselves. Nonna adopted an attitude of forgiveness and compassion from her family and her Heavenly Father, often giving thanks in her diaries.

I admit, her tender account of her father’s dying is difficult to read, and it’s difficult to comprehend the cruelty that mankind is capable of committing. Having been severely beaten by German soldiers and his eyes gouged out, he lingered with only in-home care for six weeks before he succumbed to his injuries. Nonna said he “remained the same gentle and kind person” forgiving the soldiers who had beaten him.

Rich in spiritual gifts, Nonna’s grandmother left indelible legacies of faith to her granddaughter. Nonna also tells about gentle faith building moments with her mother. Among those are the times she witnessed her mother lovingly caring for frozen German soldiers, their enemies.

Instead of gathering fiction for summer time reading, read The Secret Holocaust Diaries. The charity you find within the pages is like a vacation for the soul. I promise you’ll have new “insights.”

Happy Mother’s Day.

Friday, May 01, 2009

But, Daddy, the cat ate the pie."

April book winner: Lenae, who left a comment at blog.

Leave a comment here or send an email to and I’ll enter you name into the May drawing for either The Stained Glass Pickup ~ Glimpses of God’s Uncommon Wisdom or A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts ~ Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holiday

The date was my husband’s birthday, a few years ago when our son was 13 and our daughter was 10. Make that several decades ago. David and I readied to go out for an early dinner celebration, and we gave general instructions to the children before we left them home without a babysitter for a few hours.

The specific instructions came from their dad. Our family usually celebrates birthdays with a preferred pie instead of a cake. I’d baked David’s favorite—southern pecan. David told the kids, “You can each have one piece, but I don’t want to come home and find all my pie gone.”

When we returned home about three hours later, the house was dark, the lights out, apparently the kiddos were in bed early. That was out of the ordinary, but we felt so pleased. What obedient children.

When we opened the back door, we smelled the aroma of fresh baking, and when we flipped on the kitchen light, there sat a brand new pie on the table with a note propped against it. The kitchen was spotless.

The note said, “We’re sorry. We let the cat in. We know we’re not supposed to, and the cat ate your pie. You didn’t have any more pecans, so we made you a walnut pie. Love, Russell and Sheryle.”

So, that’s why the kitchen was immaculate and they were tucked into their beds early. We knew something was up. They had gone to bed early hoping the new pie and the note might soften our hearts. They did.

The next morning, we discussed how their disobedience, letting the cat in, had caused them misery. However, we did appreciate their attempt to make things right — pie dough from scratch and the innovative walnut substitution.

My granddaughter Jolie, who is four, loves to hear stories about her mother Sheryle. Recently, I told Jolie the “cat ate the pie” story. Afterwards, I asked Jolie, “Do you think Russell and Sheryle got into trouble?”

She bobbed her chin up and down saying, “Yes,” but I shook my head no. I told her that David, now known to Jolie as Pop, forgave Russell and Sheryle for letting the cat in and thanked them for the fresh pie. I then got to give details about forgiveness to a four year old. Try it some time. It’s fun. I explained that when someone says they are sorry that we are to accept their apology and forget the harm they did to us.

For each offence committed, there is not always an apology, but we can pattern God’s mercy and forgive anyway. The Old Testament prophet Micah said about God, “You do not stay angry forever, but delight to show mercy” (7:18).

Other familiar words are a good starting place for all offenders and would-be forgivers, too, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

To receive mercy, offer mercy. And if you need to get your foot in the door to seek forgiveness, it might not hurt to have a pie in your hands.