Category Archives: Repentance

“Ginger” a Boylston Home Story.

Ginger came through the door of the Boylston Home with a 14-year-old sullen look on her face. She slumped in a chair and glared at me and her social worker. I was amazed at how many 14-year-old girls we had come through the doors. Did you know that being 14 is a very difficult age especially for girls? The hormones are raging! They’re trying to figure out who they are separate from their families, and life is very difficult at that age! She had been brought in as an intervention between home and some other place where social services was going to place her. She was absolutely NOT happy about being there. As we talked our way through the initial interview, when I mentioned the fact that this was a home where we believe the Bible and where we attend church, she angrily protested that she wanted nothing to do with religion, that we were not going to make her believe our stuff.

I immediately agreed with her because Christianity is not just a religion, it is a way of life, it is an understanding of who Jesus is. Nobody can force true belief on anyone else!  Only God can touch a heart and help them to see and understand their need for Him. Jesus does say “no man comes to the Father but by me (John 14:6).” We continued to talk and the social worker told her quite simply she had two choices, stay with us and comply for the three weeks or she got to go spend some time in a much more restrictive placement. She really did not want to go there so she grudgingly accepted the terms of staying with us.

We always gave a Bible to every girl who came through the doors, so we gave her one. She took it almost like it was going to bite her and set it on the table. As those three weeks progressed she would comment on and off about how stupid all this stuff was and that nobody was going to make her believe it. We quietly agreed with her, it wasn’t up to us and that we simply were giving her truth and information that she was fully responsible to choose to accept or reject on her own. The night before she left, she was packing up her things and I glanced into her room to see how things were going. She was nowhere near as angry as she had been when she first came in and she had settled into a routine and realized that we really did care about her and was actually somewhat upset about moving on. We chatted for a bit and then I left her room. When I went downstairs, Brittany, the house parent’s daughter, came up to me and said, “I’m really feeling led to give Ginger a Bible.”

I curiously replied, “Well that’s interesting because we already gave her one, but if you’re feeling that strongly about it then you go right ahead, maybe she’ll give it to somebody else.”

The next morning was a set for her goodbye party. Whenever a girl left the home, if we could anticipate her date and time of leaving, we took time to go around the table and talk about and encourage the characteristics that we had seen in her life, areas where she demonstrated solid character and growth and areas where we felt that she was gifted and could do things that would make a difference in the world. Most of the girls came to us completely crushed by life and we wanted them to leave knowing that they were specially created by God and could do great things for Him if they chose to follow Him. And we would usually give her some things to take with her.
Ginger was laughing and enjoying the party and opening the gifts.  However, when she opened Brittany’s gift, her eyes grew wide, and she dropped it on the table like it was a snake and gasped, “I can’t believe this!” Brittany gently said, “Open the front cover, I wrote a little note in there for you.” She reached out with a trembling hand and opened the cover and looked inside and then snapped it shut immediately, staring almost wildly at Brittany and then at me, she exclaimed, “What in the world! I can’t believe this! This is just too freaky! This is like, Beyond unreasonable! What …….she trailed off, “I can’t hide it, How did you know?..
We were all completely baffled by her response and I asked, “Ginger? You’re going to have to explain yourself, what’s going on?”
She looked at us with this strange expression of disbelief and stammered, “I tore up the Bible you guys gave me last night and threw it in the trash because I told you I wasn’t going to believe this stuff and God’s not real and I certainly wasn’t going to take it with me!! And here it is in front of me completely intact!!! The exact same color and everything…. same style…the same Bible….that’s just beyond weird.  What is even crazier is knowing that I tore that other one apart and then reading what Brittany wrote inside here is insane.”

I asked her what Brittany had written. She read, “A Bible that’s falling apart belongs to someone who is not.”
I could not help smiling as I thought about how God had made Himself and His Word powerfully real to her and every other person sitting at the table.

I asked, “Well Ginger, are you going to tear this one apart too?”

“No way!” she retorted “I can’t!  This is too crazy! This is too real. I guess I need to take this a little bit more seriously than I did.”

I agreed with her, “Yes, God has gone out of His way to make sure that you knew that the Word of God could not be destroyed in your life and He has something He wants you to do with your life for Him will you read it now?” She promised she would.

God’s Word will stand forever.  The Bible will prevail, and you can trust it.  More importantly, I loved that all the other girls were sitting there watching what God had just done in her heart to help her realize that His Word is real, and He is real.
1 Peter 1:24 The grass withers. The flower fades, but the Word of our God endures forever!

Jada

“It’s yours really it is!”

“No I don’t believe you, I think you are wrong!”  Those words still echo in my mind years later when I  think of this story that happened in 1994. I remember the date because I have it written on the bottom of the figurine and who gave it to me.

In the years that I was working at Boylston Home, I had lots of adventures with the girls.  All of them were wisdom developing experiences.

One spring afternoon Jada came bouncing in the door from school with a beautiful little Precious Moments figurine in her hands. She pranced up to me with a delighted look on her face and proceeded to hand me this little figure with joy. I said “thank you dear, but where did you get this?”  My heart was already sinking because Jada was known for having slippery fingers and coming home with things that did not belong to her.

“It’s for you Miss Ruth! I got it for you!” She gushed happily, pushing the figurine into my hands.

I asked her again, “Where did you get this?”

“I got it at school, Miss Ruth.  It’s for you! I got it for you!”  She was not to be discouraged.

“Are you sure are you telling me the truth or Did you steal this from someone?” I was sure I was going to have to take her to someone again and make her give it back..

“No, no! I got it for you honestly I did.”  She was starting to look a little crestfallen at my continued questioning.

“Jada, I’m sorry I can’t believe you.  You’ve taken things from people before that weren’t yours and I’m afraid you might have stolen this too.  I have to call your teacher and she going to tell me where you really got this from so you need to tell me now.”

She barely paused but firmly reassured me, “Yes, Miss Ruth, yes ! I know you like precious moments, so I got if for you honest!”

I walked away from her with a heavy heart knowing that she had probably stolen it wondering “how am I going to deal with this?  I’ll try to give her the benefit of the doubt and I will call her teacher tomorrow.”

The next morning I called the teacher.

“Hello, Miss Smith? I’m sorry, I hate to bother you, but you know how we have this history of Jada taking things that don’t belong to her?  Well, last night she came home with a Precious Moments figurine.  It’s really cute and I have no idea where she got it from can you help me out?”

“Yes Ruth, I would love to tell you what happened with that. Jada knows we have a prize box and a month-and-a-half ago I brought in that figurine and put some high points on it because it has value.  Jada took one look at it and she said, “I know Miss Ruth loves Precious Moments, I’m going to earn that figurine for her!” She spent the entire month earning the points, by good behavior, by working hard, by doing everything that she was supposed to do and getting along with her classmates so she could “buy” that from the prize box for you. That figurine is really yours!   I have been very proud of her effort and you can be as well!”

I wanted to crawl under the table where I was sitting. Not only had I misjudged this young girl. I had completely missed how deep her love was for me that she would sacrifice her earnings for an entire month, not tell me about it and not pick something for herself, but pick something to give to me!  My mind immediately goes to a couple of different verses when I think about this situation. “No man knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person ” (I Corinthians 2:11). and 1 Corinthians 13 where it says “love keeps no record of past wrongs” and, “thinks no evil.”

When Jada came home from school that day I sat down with her and asked her forgiveness for thinking evil of her and wrapped her up in a hug thanking her for her incredible young sacrifice for me! Needless to say, that figurine has always had a prominent place everywhere I have lived and worked to remind me never ever to misjudge a student/child until I knew all the facts! Many times since then I’ve had other situations where, because I took the time to stop and ask all the questions, I was able to save those students the grief of being misjudged by an adult. In one case because I asked all the questions first and was willing to ask forgiveness of a student it saved another student’s life. But that’s a story for another chapter.

Lydia (Gideons)

“What in the world? How did you know?”
(This is a Gideon Bible story.)
In the years that I was at Boylston Home, 69 girls came through the doors. (I will never use the real name of any girl unless she has given me permission to do so.) Regardless of whether they were there for 24 hours, or several years we had a few non-negotiable principles that we shared with them. Some of those principles we taught were … they were valuable, …. they could take care of themselves, do laundry, dress, basic house cleaning, treat others with kindness and dignity, etc. and … their past did not have to define their future.
The most important thing we did, however, was to put a Bible in the hands of every girl who came into the home. We shared the truth of the Gospel with them using that Bible, knowing full well that it was entirely up to them what they did with that information. Some chose to believe immediately, some chose to wait and think about it and then believed, and some chose not to believe, at least not in the time when they were with us. Our responsibility was not to force a response, it was simply to tell them the truth from the Word of God and let the Holy Spirit() do His work in their hearts. “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest… “Hebrews 4:1 – 3 NASB (E-sword)
How God absolutely prepared a heart to hear the truth never ceased to amaze me!
We had a girl come to us in her mid-teens. She had quite a painful story that we would learn in the time that she stayed with us. In the first week of her being with us, I sat down with her with a Bible and started to tell her the basic truth of how to trust Jesus Christ as your Savior. I took her through the “Romans Road” with which many of us are familiar.
Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” I told her that we are all sinners who need a Savior. She readily admitted she was a sinner. I told her that sin had separated us from God.
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ Our Lord.”
Romans 5:8 “But God commended (showed) His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
I showed her how these verses clearly demonstrated that even though we are sinners, God loved us enough that Jesus came and died for our sins.
Then I took her to Romans 10:9-10 and 13, “That if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in your heart that God has raised Him (Jesus) from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness but with the mouth confession is made known unto salvation….Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
I told her how genuine Christian faith requires stating with your mouth that you believe that Jesus Christ is God, that He died for your sins and that He rose again to demonstrate He had the power over death and hell too.
I asked her if she had any questions. She told me she was very interested, but she wasn’t grasping it yet. At that point, I quietly prayed to the Lord in my mind and asked Him if there was another verse I needed to show her that would help? He immediately brought this verse to my memory. (I had been to a Bible study a week before where they had talked about using this verse when you share the gospel with someone, so it was still fresh on my mind.)
John 5:24. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes on Him who sent me has everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation but is passed from death to life.”
When the girls were old enough, and could,I always put the Bible in front of them and let them read it out loud or to themselves, because it tended to help them take more ownership for what they were reading. She started to read this verse and then stopped with a gasp. She looked at me with an incredulous face and looked back at the verse and then looked at me again and then shook her head and then kept exclaiming, “Wait! How in the world did you know? I can’t believe this! This is amazing! What? How did you know? I don’t get this? Unbelievable!”
I was, of course, completely surprised and had no idea what she was talking about, so I asked, “can you explain yourself? What’s happening here?”
Still shaking her head and glancing back and forth between me and those words she proceeded to tell me this story.
“Miss Ruth, you already know that my dad kidnapped us kids from my mom and that he had us on the run from the police all over the United States. We’ve lived in abandoned cars. We’ve slept on the side of the road or in the woods. He abused us, and we’ve stayed in cheap hotels. Often, when we were in those hotels, he would go off on a drinking binge. I, being the oldest, was left behind to take care of my three younger siblings. I got pretty bored of watching the same dumb stuff on TV so once my siblings went to sleep, I would pull the Bible out of the drawer. Did you know they have these Bibles in hotel rooms with the word Gideon on the front of them?”
I told her I did because I have friends who work for The Gideons and my parents encouraged us to support Gideon Ministries years ago.
“Well,” she continued, “I would pull that Bible out of the drawer and try to read it and I kept coming to this verse…This one you just showed me… I still can’t believe you knew!! How did you know?? I never understood what it meant, but I wanted to! I even talked to my mom about it when we were reunited.”
I, marveling at the Divine leading of God, asked her “do you understand now?”
“YES!” she declared, “and I can’t wait to go back and tell mom all of this and what this really means!”
I felt like Phillip with the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:29cf.) All I did was teach her some basic principles from God’s Word and He had her heart prepared to trust the truth of the Gospel ahead of time because of what she had read before she ever met me.
Love how God works!

When someone thinks they needed you and you did not do what they wanted.

I was reading a blog today that talked about dealing with the accusations of someone who was demanding attention and the blogger discussed the fact that the individual who was attacking was essentially not trusting God enough.  Having experienced some things in my life these are my thoughts.

Several topics are needing to be addressed here, Forgiveness, trust, boundaries, true love, confrontation, blame-shifting, mercy.

Having experienced my own situations like this and unfortunately once being the one making the accusations I have a double-sided perspective on this that has caused me to pursue answers. These are things I have learned.

When someone accuses me I start by asking a very important question.

  1. Am I guilty of this selfishness that has been levied against me. If so, how must I change and be more Christlike? If not, how must I carefully confront the sin? You can’t do this till you ask some careful questions because “he who answers a matter before he fully hears it is a fool..” Proverbs 18:13
  2. Have I misread her confusion as accusation. 1Co_2:11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? There are situations where people genuinely do not know how to engage in relationships and I need to be willing to deal with some anger to help them see how to relate as adults but only if they are demonstrating the humility to change and look at their relational misunderstanding. I was in a situation once where I was seeking counsel and at a time of very real need and confusion reached out to someone who said she would help. She left me hanging instead of following through on her commitment. It left me confused because she had invited me to ask.  When I came back with a hurt, questioning email (never a good idea BTW– go talk to people who say they care at that level and Biblically go back again with someone else if you can’t get resolution Matt 18) she accused me of manipulation. I can honestly say, as God is my witness, because of the things I was dealing with, that manipulation was the farthest thing from my mind. I needed genuine help.  That accusation devastated me.  To discern this takes two things.. Patience and careful questioning.  The next time this happened the new person was more mature and wiser and started asking questions and went to the root of my confusion knowing what she was really dealing with (first by not assuming I was intent on evil thinking) and with genuine loving, carefully-crafted Biblical questions and guidance helped me gain a whole new level of understanding in relationships.

I have also been in relationships that despite continual attempts to help them see and change, they refused and asserted their rights.  Then the Word of God is also clear. (More below)

  1. Forgiveness cannot be granted unless it is asked for on the human level, otherwise every person on this planet gets to go to heaven, no matter what, because God is the ultimate forgiver. So what does this look like biblically?

Forgiveness is first Vertical. Mar 11:25  And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Mar 11:26  But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.  Before God I choose to hold no animosity towards this person. We all MUST do this. This means letting go of my right to retribution before God where He can truly make it right.

Forgiveness is also Horizontal. Luk 17:3  Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.

That means I rebuke the other person (in a spirit of meekness knowing I can also be tempted Gal 6:1) But s/he also has to repent. Which means s/he has to ask for forgiveness before I can grant it.  This does not mean I am holding on to anything because I already placed it before God. It simply means that I can’t say “I forgive you” to someone who does not ask for it.  God does not forgive us until we ask Him.  A very important point here is the term “repent” which means change your mind AND change your direction. If people ask for forgiveness but they make no attempt to change, they have NOT repented and you need to consider if you should “cast them out” (Proverbs 19:25; 22:10) of the ability to associate with you or if you are “casting pearls before swine and they will rend you”(Matt 7:6) so you must flee if they continue in sin. (More under boundaries below).

  1. Forgiveness is not a one-time act. It is an ongoing choice to not engage in negative thoughts about that person and as things are triggered, even when they are not there, we have to choose once again to take it back to God until it no longer triggers us.  For some that is a once or twice process because the wound is a skin scrape. For others it is an ongoing process because the wound is deep, like heart surgery, and like a physical wound, needs time to fully heal.  Modern medical research has shown that the same area of the brain is activated when you suffer an emotional wound as is activated when you suffer a physical wound. Emotional wounds do leave scars inside that need to heal. They cannot be seen but they are VERY real!
  2. Thankfully God has never commanded that we trust anyone but Him. Trust is earned and can be broken. Once broken it must be re-earned and as Proverbs 18:19 says “a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city.” There is a reason for this!  It is not about the brother being bitter. It is because offenses deeply wound and healing takes time and can be very hard to do.  This is completely separate from Love. Unconditional love is NOT the same as unconditional trust and just like you don’t cast your pearls before swine, you do not trust someone who has not earned it by long use and reliability. Or a demonstration of true repentance in action.
  3. Healthy relational engagement means that at times we have to say “no more!” Jesus got away by Himself at times. He eluded the angry, accusing crowd. He confronted the accusing Pharisees. In Acts, Paul escaped in a basket from his accusers. He confronted his accusers as well. More examples are in the Word. The verses “They went out from us because they were not of us (1 John 2:19).” and “cast out the scorner so contention will cease.” (Pro 22:10) come to mind here.  We hate to call a fellow believer a scorner, but at times this is actually the case.
  4. True love does not allow sin upon a brother. (Lev 19:17) Love is not all mushy. It is compassionate and it is also. It is also neutheteo, (the greek word “admonish” in Romans 15:14 I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another) means able also to exhort one another and means at times confronting Jude 21-22 says “on some have compassion making a difference.” But it also says “others pull from the fire, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”  Compassion comes first but repeated unrighteousness needs to feel the fire.
  5. Questions prick the conscience, accusations harden the will.
  6. One of the most gracious experiences I have ever had was when I reacted in anger to another person’s failure to follow through and she responded in anger back, initially, but later came back to me and did what I would consider over restitution for the offense because she cared more about the relationship then her agenda to prove I was demanding too much. I needed to learn that, I, in fact, was not considering everything that was on her schedule and needed to think more of what she needed. She put so much value on the relationship that she sacrificed later in a way that greatly humbled me!  It taught me a whole new level of what love looks like!  It let me know how much more I NEED to learn of what AGAPE looks like. She did this because she knew I was invested in truth and in the relationship with her as fellow believers. She would not do this with someone who was unrepentant.

Just my thoughts😉