Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. As you slowly inhale and exhale, breathe in the truth of God’s mercy. The radical notion that God extends favor and blessings to us when we don’t deserve them.

What kind of God is this?

A God that seeks your fellowship in this moment.

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Lord, change our circumstances for the better, like dry streams in the desert waste! Let those who plant with tears reap the harvest with joyful shouts. Let those who go out, crying and carrying their seed, come home with joyful shouts, carrying bales of grain!

Psalm 126:4-6

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Today’s verse reminds me of a tragic event of the past summer. On June 17, 2015 during a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, a lone gunman killed nine people and injured one other. The young shooter later confessed to acting in an attempt to incite racial tension. The world awaited the reactions of victims’ family members. We all would have understood if they would have called for justice alone. Certainly they would not be merciful.

Well, as today’s verse says, “Let those who go out, crying ... come home with joyful shouts.” These special people shocked the world by offering the gunman forgiveness and mercy.

This seems unimaginable! How could those who lost so much be forgiving — even merciful?! I can only think of one explanation. They had personally experienced the mercy and forgiveness of Christ. They were following Jesus’ example. In his words, “Blessed are the merciful.”

Bill Ogletree

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Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. Amen.

St. Francis of Assisi, 13th Century

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In 2013, Pope Francis shared that Jesus’ most powerful message for us is mercy.

In a “get even” world, where can you share the radical message of Christ’s mercy today? Can you extend mercy within a broken relationship at school or in the workplace?

It may not feel natural or be easy, but as the Apostle Paul reminds us, with God all things are possible.

Bill Ogletree

Bill Ogletree is a professor at Western Carolina University where he chairs the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. His professional interests center on the communication needs and abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. When not at work, Bill enjoys time with his wife and family, an assortment of pets, and a variety of stringed instruments.

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