To Listen and Love

Guilty as charged, I am a word junkie. I enjoy looking up words and checking out their nuances and meanings. Today’s word is conviction. Maybe it’s because my husband and I have been binge watching the law series Suits on Amazon Prime. Or perhaps I’m curious about how people are convicted of their beliefs about God. Mesmerized I listened this past weekend when Mount Pleasant Christian Church’s senior pastor Chris Philbeck interviewed a panel of nonbelievers as to why they don’t believe in the God of the Bible.

Merriam Webster gives three meanings for conviction. The first one listed—“the act or process of finding a person guilty of a crime especially in a court of law”—appeals to my strong sense of justice and my love for law and order TV shows.

The second one is more generic: “a strong persuasion or belief; the state of being convinced.” People’s convictions drive their actions. This afternoon I finished reading Bill O’Reilly/Martin Dugard’s book Killing Kennedy. Even though I lived through November 22, 1963, my nine-year-old, fourth-grade self didn’t quite understand what was happening.

When Mrs. Noel came back from lunch, our class couldn’t grasp the gravity of why our President had been shot and why she cried all afternoon. Then I had no idea why someone would do that. After reading this book, I begin to understand Lee Harvey Oswald’s convictions and his assassin Jack Ruby’s contrary beliefs.

My takeaway? Erroneous convictions can cause a great deal of pain, suffering and needless tragedy.

Finally comes the 3a definition of conviction: “the act of convincing a person of error or of compelling the admission of a truth.” Here is where we Christians sometimes dangerously park. Too often we forget that conviction cannot be forced upon someone, even if it’s based on truth.

After hearing the panel explain how Christians come across in their beliefs, I was convicted of not listening and loving enough. God gave us the freedom to either choose or reject him. Our God relationship is not an arranged marriage. It’s a union of choosing to love, with listening and loving being the best pathway in sharing our convictions about God.

“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. . .”

2 Timothy 2:24-25, NLT

My Friend Becky

Sometimes you meet a person who changes your life. That was my friend Becky Neuman.

We met about 16 years ago when I taught a women’s class at Mount Pleasant Christian Church. Actually I was subbing for Lorraine Richardson, who was taking a break due to an auto accident. Since Lorraine had been teaching Portraits of Jesus, on my first Sunday, I suggested we do something different so Lorraine could continue her favorite study when she returned. The ladies unanimously wanted a Bible study about women. I suggested one that featured biblical mothers since I had two teenagers at the time.

Becky raised her hand. “Why don’t you write one, Joyce? You’re a teacher.” And so I did, each Saturday night before the next morning’s lesson. Yes, Real Mothers: a Bible study about mothers for mothers, began with my cramming under a weekly deadline. If not for Becky, I would not be a published author today.

About four years ago when Becky didn’t get out as much, our friends Bill and Melody Cragen suggested we bring in carryout Chick-fil-A for her dinner once or twice a month. My contribution was a homemade pie, often pumpkin, sometimes cherry, and for her 97th birthday, peach. Those evenings sitting around Becky’s kitchen table, we laughed and listened to Becky share her childhood stories from small town southern Indiana, a heritage Al and I shared with her.

But she didn’t park in the past. Becky was a prolific reader, staying current with news and issues. We shared books and magazines. I would take her my latest article like a school girl in show and tell.  Becky always encouraged me to write, and for that, I am forever grateful.

Becky was my husband Al’s and my last link to our parents’ generation. She was much like my father with her incredible memory, directness, and quick wit. Like my mother, she hopped on a bus to Indianapolis after high school graduation and came to Indy to attend business college. Ironically, she passed away February 8, 2017, the day before the seventh anniversary of my father’s passing.

I miss Becky and look forward to our heavenly reunion. With Becky, I could laugh, be challenged, ask questions, share my heart, and count on her seasoned and savvy advice. What more could I ask for in a friend?