Soften My Heart, Lord

Wednesday, September 24


Gary McDonald

By Gary McDonald of Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

…do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry.

—Psalm 34:14–15 NRSV

I never thought of my earthy father as righteous. On the surface, he looked and behaved like everyone else, unlike my immature opinion of Jesus.

Dad grew up during the Depression years of the 1930s. Like his peers, he was rough, tough, and fiercely determined to be independent and self-supporting. When he connected with the church, Jesus softened his heart.

I witnessed Dad helping those who in need. His brother, Mickey, suffered from alcoholism after his service in World War II. Mickey spent many of his postwar years in an alcohol-induced haze.

Every so often, Dad would take me, and we would go look for him. We searched alleys and itinerant settlements along the Spokane River. We would find him beat up and hung over. Dad would bring him home, and Mickey would sober up at our place. He would play with us kids and eventually return to the streets. Eventually Mickey met a young woman, fell in love, and sobered up permanently.

My father helped people outside the family, too. One day there was a knock at our door. It was my father’s former supervisor, now selling cleaning products door-to-door. The last time we saw him was when he fired my father, who had covered for this man’s inadequacies at work. Clearly, his incompetence had caught up with him.

Dad treated his former boss like a long-lost brother, inviting him into our home and buying products from him. The man was humbly grateful. This amazed me because I wasn’t sure I could be as generous. Dad’s actions stand in my memory as acts of righteousness followed with forgiveness as taught by Christ.

Prayer for Peace God of the peace we seek, guide us to the life of Christ so we know how to find it. Help us accept one another, no matter our differences. Help us forgive one another, no matter the hurt.

Spiritual Practice: Forgiveness Sit in silence, releasing all thoughts. At the end of the silence, say a silent prayer of gratitude. Now, think of something you have not forgiven, perhaps an action by a family member or a member of your congregation. As you hold that thought, breathe in deeply. With each breath, whisper “God, soften my heart.” Do this “breath prayer” seven times, remembering that Jesus asks us to forgive “seventy times seven.” Throughout the day, take time to practice the exercise, always asking, “God, soften my heart.”

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will not slam the door, but invite one who has hurt me into my home.

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  1. Sharon Poynter

     /  29 September 2014

    Gary, what a flood of memories comes to mind of your dad Ray and mom Florence, after reading this brief snippet of the past. I loved them both and personally benefitted from their selfless acts of love and support. What a blessing they both were to soooo many lives they touched. Thanks for the precious walk down memory lane.;-) Love to you and yours.

  2. What a beautiful story! It made me think of my father and how good he treated people when sometimes I thought I might not. Thank you.

  3. Vera Entwistle

     /  24 September 2014

    Gary, what poignant memories you have of your dad. Your story left me with a lump in my throat. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Diane Akers

     /  24 September 2014

    Very wonderful words, touched my heart!


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