Category Archives: Encouragement

Not Invited to the Party

When I was turning 7, I was allowed to have a birthday party. It was my first birthday party ever. I was so excited. I remember sitting at our hutch and writing out my guest list. I had been to a party or two, seen some on television shows, but had little to no idea what mine would be like. I could only imagine how amazing it would be. I was so excited; words could not express the joy. When I was finished writing my guest list, my mom checked it over, asked if I had included everyone I wanted to be there, and then filled out the invitations so I could hand them out to everyone the next day at school.

The next day I went to school, entered my first grade classroom and proceeded to hand out invitations to everyone in the class…everyone, but one boy. It wasn’t a mistake. It was on purpose. I don’t recall now why I didn’t like him; I just didn’t. He didn’t get an invitation and he wouldn’t be at my party. Thank heavens.

Finally, the day arrived. The party had begun. Streamers, balloons, cakes, games, and friends; it was everything I dreamed it would be. I never gave thought to that boy I didn’t invite, until my mom called me over to the side. I had a phone call. Being 7, I didn’t get many phone calls. Someone must be wishing me a happy birthday. I picked up the receiver and said hello. On the other end was that young boy who had not been invited to the party. He did call to wish me a happy birthday…through tears, wondering also why he had not been invited. My heart was crushed. I apologized as many times as I could and told him to please come (lying, I told him I meant to invite him but forgot). I told him to come and have fun and not to worry about a gift. A few minutes later he came. I was glad he did, but furious with myself for treating him so poorly.

Jesus has a lot to say about the way we treat others. Probably his most famous instruction has been paraphrased by The Golden Rule. In fact the saying is: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets,” (Matthew 7:12). If you are an astute student of the Bible you will probably know that Jesus said the same about the first and second great commandments.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets,” (Matthew 22:37-40)

It is easy to love those people you like, but not so with those with whom you don’t get along. That takes effort. Those who rub you the wrong way, those who are needy, those who are different, those who hurt you time and time again. Those are the people, however that we are to invite to the party.

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just,” (Luke 14:12-14).

Throwing a party is often about us. It is to celebrate ourselves. It is to honor our birthday, our accomplishments, our being. Jesus said to make it about others. Make it about those with whom you would rather not associate. That’s loving your neighbor. That’s doing as you would wish they do to you. Yeah, loving the neighbor, especially the one we don’t get along with (the guy/gal that is so conservative or liberal that you want to pull your hair out when you’re around them, the one who is so needy and whiny; those people) is difficult. Jesus knew that. Boy! did He!

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect, (Matthew 5:46-48).

You know, I hate birthday parties. I don’t mind celebrating my birthday with my family, but that’s all I want to do. I’ve had one birthday party since I was 7. It was okay, but I would rather just spend it with my wife and kids. I don’t want to make a big deal about my birthday. I’ve blocked it from my social media accounts. I neither want nor need the attention. A private “happy birthday” is good enough for me. Perhaps I shouldn’t be that way, but I am. Perhaps I should throw a big birthday party and invite my enemies–of course, if they read this they will know that I don’t like them. I’m kidding; I like everyone. 😉

That being said. . .may we all seek to love our neighbors (even those with whom we don’t get along), treat them with kindness, goodness, and respect. May we do to them as we would have them do to us, and so fulfill the law.

I’d love to read your comments so please send them your way; even if it is a short note of agreement or disagreement. If this was a blessing, please feel free to like and/or share it on your social media account.

All Bible quotes are from the ESV published by Crossway Books. And no, today is not my birthday.

Scarred for Life

When I was six years old, my parents took my sister, a friend of hers, a friend of mine, and me to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. I don’t remember the museum from that trip; what I remember happened after the trip. Sheila’s friend was dropped off, and my friend Bobby was to be next.  All of us were in my dad’s dark gray Dodge Ram. It had a beige topper on back, and on the bed of the truck, my dad had put down blue carpet stapled to plywood, and on top of that two long benches (complete with hinged tops for storage) which straddled the wheel-wells, and one short one to go at the front of the bed between the other two.  The topper was high enough that we kids could sit comfortably on the benches, but the benches were low enough to lie down on.  At some point in the day it started raining. When we got to Bobby’s house, my dad opened the topper (but not the tailgate) and Bobby climbed out. I was soon out as well to make sure he got safely inside. As I stepped out, I slipped on the wet metal bumper. All would have been fine if my dad had not had a connection for a CB antennae put on. When I slipped, the side of my leg fell onto that connection. I began to cry so loudly. My dad wasn’t concerned (after all, I’m told I was quite the cry-baby); but my mom got concerned when I wouldn’t calm down. She asked me to pull up my pant leg so they could take a look. When my pant leg got near my knee, it was clear that things were not okay. I had a triangular gash in my leg so deep one could see the bone. They rushed me to the nearest hospital (Community Hospital in Munster, IN) where I received 100+ stitches (inside and out).  A few weeks later I was back to playing around as always.

Let’s flash forward a few years. I still have that scar on my leg, along with a scar on my knee I got when I was a baby (fell on some glass). These scars feel completely different. The scar on the knee doesn’t bother me too much. It’s visible, but it simply feels like skin. The scar on my leg from the accident when I was six, that scar bothers me. For one it itches quite a bit, and if I am not careful I will find myself concentrating on that itch, doing my best to get it to quit–often times at the expense of having a raw leg. But more importantly, it feels wretched when it’s touched. So usually, I don’t actually scratch the scar, but the skin around the scar.  I have never been able to find the words to describe the feeling my leg gets when my scar is touched. I try never to touch it, and if someone brushes up against it, I instinctively recoil from the touch and that person. I hate that scar, but I’m stuck with it. Why God orchestrated all that went into giving me that scar, I may never know.

Here’s what I do know: many people have scars, some outward and some inward and often times it’s both. Some are scarred due to one event, while others are scarred because of a recurring event or a succession of events.  Like my scar, their scars leave them with an itch that needs to be scratched.  They constantly desire attention. They tickle the mind, tickle the memories. Before long, the scratching begins with the hope of stopping the itch. All focus is spent on stopping the itch. Almost anything is an option when that scratching begins; sometimes the itch leads to what many (un-scarred peopled) would be unthinkable actions. It sometimes stops, but sometimes the itch goes deeper and deeper. Before long the emotional and spiritual nerves are raw. I know how my leg feels when it’s been scratched raw, but I can only imagine the pain that these scars bring.

If you know someone who has these internal scars, don’t be surprised if they don’t want anyone to touch them. Don’t be shocked if that person recoils from you emotionally or physically because “you went there” and yet completely unable to explain the reason or describe the feeling. Generally speaking, it isn’t personal. It’s simply a defense mechanism. Generally speaking, like with my leg, there are no words that can describe how the scar has affected them.

That being said. . .the question that arises is: what do I do to help? Pray for their healing; go to God in the name of Jesus and plead their case. Sit with them in silence. Weep with them when they weep. Let them know you’re there (remind them often; remembers scars cause them to recoil and often they believe that their own recoiling causes friends and family to recoil as well). Remember the itch that comes, the desire to scratch, and understand that it is relentless. Encourage them through the itching, but don’t be angry or dismayed if the scratching commences. Love them through it.  Remember, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity,” (Proverbs 17:17, ESV). You don’t have to heal the scar; you can’t. Only Christ can, so make prayer your default mission; pray for them and pray with them as often as you can.

As always, I appreciate any feedback. If I am wrong, please help me to see how. If I have been a blessing, please leave a comment as well. If this has been a blessing to you or you believe it would be to someone else, by all means share it on your social media page (just highlight the link, copy, and paste). I look forward to reading your comments.