by day, in the decisions we make and the actions we take, we are choosing whether
to live in the desert of division or in the promised land of peace; in the
wilderness of exclusion or the paradise of acceptance; in the far country of
fear or the home of love. 

know all-too-well about division, exclusion, and fear.  They have their roots, I am convinced, in our
estrangement from ourselves.  We reject
ourselves, even our truest and best selves, fear our desires, grieve our history,
regret our experience, cheapen our gifts, minimize our possibilities, and
dismiss our dreams.  Because we view
ourselves with such harsh disdain, we are sure God must see us with impatience
and displeasure. 
tragically, we make the world around us like the world within us. 
magnify nationality and race, gender and sexuality, social class and economic
status, success and failure.  We minimize
our shared humanity; dishonor in others the yearning we all have to know and be
known, to love and be loved; and forget the dignity of each person, a dignity
based on his or her identity as a bearer of the image of God. 
classify, separate and stratify ourselves and others according to characteristics
like blue collar or white collar, labor or management, Republican or Democrat,
Red state or Blue state, black or white, brown or white, male or female,
literate or illiterate, healthy or sick, old or young, sinner or saint.
doesn’t have to be like this.  We can
choose a better way; we can choose, as God has chosen, the way of Jesus. 
Jesus, God welcomes the marginalized, the outcast, and the excluded— the people
no one else sees, no one else wants, and no one else cherishes.  And, God embraces the shadowy stranger who
lives in us—the parts of us we’d rather not see and know and the things about
us which are true but which we wish were not.
 God leaves no one out, no one unaccepted, and
no one unloved—including me and you. Including our neighbors.  Including our enemies.   
Jesus, God draws near to the to the anxious and worried, those who find trust
difficult and who, for that reason, find loneliness inevitable.  God says: 
“I am with you.  I will not leave
you as orphans.  Where I am is where you
is no fear beyond the power of God’s tenderness to gentle it and no loneliness
so vast that God cannot fill it with divine friendship. 
Jesus, God says to the guilty and the ashamed, those whom everyone else is
ready to bury under hurled stones of judgment: “I do not condemn you; go and
sin no more.” 
no sin too great for grace to forgive and no hurt too painful for mercy to
heal.  God forgives you, me, him, her,
them, everyone.
isn’t much hope for me or us or the world without forgiveness.  Without forgiveness, we are bound to our
failures, trapped in our guilt, and locked-up in isolation. 
isn’t easy to receive or to practice. 
When we forgive those who hurt us, we give up our quest for revenge and surrender
our right to get even.  We work to see
them as human beings, as people more like us than we are at first willing to
think.  Maybe they aren’t people whom we
will be able to trust again, but they are people nonetheless, people with their
own disappointments and dreams, wounds and hopes. We pray for their healing and
believe that novelist Wally Lamb said it well in the final lines of his book I Know this Much is True: “I am not a
smart man, particularly, but one day, at long last, I stumbled from the dark
wood of my own, and my family’s, and my country’s past, holding in my hands
these truths: that love grows from the rich loam of forgiveness, that mongrels
make good dogs, that the evidence of God exists in the roundness of