Saturday, March 31, 2012


There is a challenge at Gypsy Mama each Friday to write about her chosen topic for five minutes.  You are not allowed to correct grammar and you are encouraged to just let the thoughts flow.

Here are my thoughts...

Gift...that is the word I am to talk about for 5 minutes.

The first thing that pops to mind is good gift givers.  Bloodhound and his mother, who passed away a few years ago, are and were wonderful gift givers.  They put a lot of thought into their purchases and they remember what their loved ones have said in recent days, weeks or months, to know what is the best gift to give.

And then there are the gifts of time...those can be better than any store bought gift.

This led me to thinking about the gifts of forgiveness.  In families we offer a lot of material presents during the holidays or on a birthday, but more often than not this is the place where the gift of forgiveness is the greatest gift of all.

Why do we sometimes stumble when we should offer this gesture of kindness and love?  What gets in our way?  Who does it hurt the most when we refuse to forgive?  Many of us who struggle with this the most call ourselves Christians.  That would be Christ followers.  And he certainly called for forgiveness.  How do you create a habit of forgiving?  How do we teach our children to forgive?

I find it is very easy to forgive most things.  I can forgive, forget and move on.  But the really big hurts I hold on to, make plans to prevent them from every happening again, and distance myself in some way from the loved one who inflicted the pain.  Not exactly the formula suggested by the Bible.

I am almost certain that this kind of forgiveness leads to division and not unity, within a family.  And it tells me that I think I can control getting hurt.

Bottom line for me:  I must offer the gift of forgiveness because I know it is best for me, and more importantly, because my faith as a Christian requires it.  If I want to love and offer love in its purest form I have to risk getting hurt again, and then demonstrating my ability to be forgiving all over again.

This story of forgiveness is humbling and makes my inability to forgive seem small, prideful, and embarrassing.

Corrie ten Boom and Forgiveness
March 31, 2012

In 1939 Corrie ten Boom was 47 years old and lived with her widowed 82 year old father and elder sister Betsie in Haarlem, in The Netherlands.  Neither sister had ever married.  Her father had a little watchmakers shop. It was the year the war came to Holland and with it much evil. The night the first bombs fell, Corrie had a dream. About a strange old farm wagon pulled by black horses across the city square. In it she saw herself, her father and Betsie amongst friends and other family members many of whom she recognised. They couldn’t get off the wagon as it slowly was dragged across the square. But they didn’t want to go and the wagon was taken them far far away...that dream proved to be prophetic.
It took 5 days until Holland surrendered. Initially business boomed but the streetscape changed as more and more German soldiers arrived and life became more and more controlled and frightening. A year into the invasion attacks on Jews became frequent. And the Ten Booms had friends and employees that were Jewish. Corrie’s brother was the first to work with the Underground.  People began to vanish.

Slowly the family began helping Jewish people to escape. They created a hideout in their own home. In early 1944 the inevitable happened. Corrie, Betsie their father (now 87), their brother Willem and his wife, their sister Nollie and her husband, her nephew Peter and many others were arrested and transported by bus out of Haarlem and to the Hague.  Within10 days of the arrest her father died. Later they were taken by train to a concentration camp in the Dutch town of Vught.  And several months later, in September 1944 by train to Ravensbruck. And this is where my story begins.

I will leave to your imagination the atrocities that Corrie and her sister suffered. I want to tell you a story. A story that touched my heart so much that it cleansed me of feelings I had harboured for years.
On arrival at Ravensbruck the women were marched to the processing centre for new arrivals. Here they had to pile all of their belongings in the centre of the room and then strip naked and also add their clothes to the pile. Naked they had to walk under bright lights and past the scrutiny of a dozen guards towards the shower room. Using her ingenuity Corrie managed to take her sister into the shower room before undressing and in this way she managed to hide her bible, a bottle of vitamin pills inside a sweater which later her sister would wear. By this stage Betsie was emaciated and quite ill. The bible became Corries only comfort and daily she would read from it to herself and to the other women. Thus in that evil hell hole, Corrie’s faith blossomed. And all the time she watched her sister get sicker and die an agonising death but never once wavering in her faith.

And then a miracle occurred. One day... for apparently no reason...Corrie was taken aside and given a card that said the one word RELEASED.  She was released out of that death-trap New Years day in 1945. And Corrie’s life as an evangelist began shortly after the war ended. She travelled all over the place talking about God’s love. And about forgiveness.

Corrie’s story:

“It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former SS man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing centre at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain- blanched face.

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message Fräulein”, he said “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”

His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.  Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more?

Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your Forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”

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