Friday, May 6, 2011

Risky Business!

O.K. I know. You were expecting the other picture of Tom from the movie, "Risky Business," but ironically I thought it too risky to post.

Today's thoughts are about risks though. A couple of "events" have happened this past week that are risky and make me reflect on what God expects of me as I am in this in-between part of life.

The first risky situation is that we are going to have an exchange student from Korea live with our family and become a member of our little family for one year starting in August. She will be twelve, two years older than my daughter, and speak very little English. Attending my daughter's school, she will become immersed in American culture and life as well as language.

I am a little nervous. What will our family look like to someone from another country? Will we demonstrate Christ to her daily? How will we help her in her own walk of faith? Will we all get along well with each other? How will our own lives change?

It is a risk. I believe God put this desire though in my own daughter's heart as well as mine to do, and I am going to trust He has a plan for this girl as she transforms from stranger to "daughter" in our lives. I am also trusting He has a plan for us as a result.

It would be so much easier not to do this. To be able to relax fully each night during the fall and winter, not worrying about someone else's needs and work on our own normal lives are appealing thoughts as we face the coming year. However, God does not call us to complaceny, does He? We are to be His witnesses and caregivers. So say a prayer for our family as we embark on a this new risk.

The second risk I did not take. A woman from my childhood days took the risk. Its impact was unusual on my own life.

The risk came in the form of a letter and a check. Expecting the usual mail of bills and advertisements, my sister was surprised by a letter from a woman she had not conversed with since my father's funeral three years ago. Before I tell you the letter, I must share my father's testimony for context.

My dad ran a small lumber company in a community of about 10,000 people. It had been his father's business as well. I remember my dad putting in long hours trying to make the company successful. Sometimes he paid his employees but not himself. You see, Dad ran the business before credit cards were used. People could come in and charge accounts to their name. Dad would trust them to pay their debts.

He was not a good business man. He said so himself. He trusted people too much. As a result, Dad had many people not pay their debts. They were large debts, construction debts. In addition, my dad's small business could not compete with the large discount places like Home Depot, Lowes, and Wolohans. Dad's business floundered. At the age of 60, my dad was able to sell the company and find a job as a clerk in a Wolohans. Watching him worry about making ends meet each night, reminded me of George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life."

Dad struggled not just financially though. He struggled with bitterness at times. He went to church in our small home town or went into the town to shop and would see people who had never paid their debts, people he had to cover with his own money and as a result see his own business fail. It was hard for him to see them knowing they refused to pay the money owed his company.

Dad wrestled with God over this and finally, like the parable in Matthew 18, Dad forgave. He took the book of debts he had kept over the years and with his few remaining employees, Dad went to the Big Muddy River and threw the book into the murky waters, giving the bitterness to God and letting God's clean waters of forgiveness wash over his mind and heart.

Now, back to the risky letter. Over twenty years, later my sister received a letter from a woman who owed my father money. She had promised my dad to pay the large debt. She had been convicted by the Holy Spirit often to do so, but she did not. It was easier to pay immediate needs because she was not wealthy and to let this debt, especially such an old one, be forgotten.

For some reason, though, the reminder came back to her heart and mind. She found she HAD to pay this debt even though my dad and mother are now in heaven. Explaining this to my sister, she included a check for the amount and asked to split the monies among the siblings. She asked for forgiveness.

That was a risk. You see my dad never told his children who the people who owed him money were. This lady was a regular in our church. I had no idea the amount of money owed nor who the people were. I am glad because suddenly I started to pick up the bitterness Dad had fought for so many years.

I started remembering the nights my father was sick with migraines and worry over paying bills. I remembered the arguments over money and the long days and nights of work. I remember Dad working almost alone at his lumber yard because he could not pay any employees let alone pay benefits required by unions. I remember Dad's sadness in having to sell his father's business and how it was like a death for him. I remember Dad going from president of his own company to working as a clerk in a business that did not value small-town interactions or chats or shared coffees. I remembered how Dad ran his own company on a personal level and how he had to adjust to the impersonal large company for whom he worked. I remember Dad's company and the many carpenters and construction workers who used to come into Dad's lumber yard and sit by the fireplace he had ready for them and drink free coffee on cold mornings before starting their day.

-And I started wondering. I started wondering who else in our church stole from my father. I began picking up his struggle.

That was not right. That was not what God intended with the letter. This woman took a risk exposing herself to my family in what she had done, and she asked forgiveness. Reading Matthew 18, I knew I had to forgive as well. My sister and brother did, too.

We are sending the check back marked VOID with a note that the debt was paid in full long ago.

If Jesus can forgive me for all of my sins and can cancel the debt I owe God, who am I not to do the same?

My dad left me a wonderful legacy, one of modeling how to forgive even when people don't ask you to forgive. I am grateful for that.

Whom have you forgiven lately? -Or are you wondering like I, if there is a letter YOU should write asking forgiveness as well?

Perhaps it is a risk worth taking...

For His glory,

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