Forgiveness Redefined

5 10 2015

I recently learned a new definition for forgiveness. It is this:

“Letting go of the hope of ever having a better past.”*

That may sound like a ‘no-brainer’, and it is…if you aren’t the one who must let go!

As I considered this point of view, it became increasingly apparent that this is the main hitch to forgiving. What happened was wrong. It should never have played out that way.

I want a different story!

For a one-time event, like being cussed out, this isn’t a very difficult task. On the other hand, if you’re talking years of mistreatment, that’s a different matter entirely.

How does one go back and rewrite their history?

Short answer:

It’s not possible.

What can we do with the lost years, or even decades? How on earth do we let go of the hope of having a magic wand waved over time and see the past changed in an instant?

This definition took forgiveness to a whole new level for me…and at the same time, showed me why I struggled with giving up the accompanying bitterness and resentment.

I wanted my life back, written as a fairy tale instead of the ugly reality I lived.

Which is not possible.

It was necessary to let go of the dream of ‘what might have been’.

Until I could do so, I was stuck in pain and despair.

If you’ve read many of my posts, you know that life has showered me with abandonment, rejection, and abuse of every sort. I don’t understand why my story is thus, but am grateful for the lessons learned along the way. Thankfully, God is using my history to develop my character, and to draw me close to Him.

The depth of relationship I enjoy with my Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit would not exist apart from my history.

While I’ve walked through the ‘steps’ of forgiveness, there were parts from which I could not shake free. This definition shed light on the problem.

Maybe it will help you, too.

 The struggle to accept this truth was tough. It’s too bad that mental gyrations don’t count as trips to the gym. I’d be buff!

At the end of each session, though, the conclusion was the same…the past could not be changed one iota.

When I finally came to grips with this, freedom happened.

The final moments between seeing that a different past was a hopeless cause – and accepting reality – was mind-bending in the extreme. I could almost hear the synapses in my brain stretch and, one by one, snap.

Talk about a renewed mind!

Lightness followed, as did clarity. At last I understand:

If we don’t like our history, then we must make better choices today,

which will give us a better ‘past’ tomorrow!

If I hit on a trigger: You don’t understand! I didn’t ask for this; I was a kid, let me clarify. Some of our history was beyond our control, for sure. No two-year-old has a say about much that happens to them.

However, we are no longer two years old. We’re grown-ups with a voice. As adults we have a great deal of say in what we will and will not allow.

Choose wisely!

*****

*This definition comes from Affair Recovery. If you, or someone you know, has either been unfaithful – or been betrayed – this is a fantastic resource. Their video blogs are insightful and informative, too.





Three Little Words to Change Everything

10 08 2015

I’ll bet you’re expecting to read something like, “I love you,” right?

Those will improve life, no doubt, but they’re not today’s topic.

We have a Book that is crammed full of promises. Some are conditional, some are not:

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper.”

“If you focus on whatever is good, pure, right, just, lovely, virtuous, and of good report you will have peace that passes understanding.”

“Seek God’s kingdom above all else and He will provide your needs.”

What if we, say, actually believed the promises we’ve been given? What if we acted as if they are true.

Maybe you’re saying, “Duh, I get that.” For me, though, there was a day when the reality of this truth broke through and illuminated my life like never before.

“I can put my full weight on the Bible.”

What does that have to do with three little words, you ask?

Let me give them to you first:

Jesus is Lord.

There they are….all eleven letters.

Oh, the depths of the riches of those three little words, though. If Jesus is Lord, then:

That means He’s the boss of me (as my kids used to say).

His plans for me are for good and not for evil – to give me a future and a hope…no matter what my circumstances may look like.

Everything I “own” is actually His – to be used whenever, wherever, and however He wants.

Which means:

When my car breaks down – it’s His car. I point out the problem and ask Him how He’s going to get it fixed.

When I’m having health issues, I know there’s a purpose in it and ask Him for guidance.

When I lose my job, I ask Him what He wants me to do next.

When I have needs (not wants – although sometimes He surprises us with those as well!), I look to Him for provision.

I’m not reduced to begging. Instead I can thank Him for taking care of me.

Prayer requests turn into praise meetings when I know that what I am seeking is in accordance with His stated will.

If Jesus is Lord, I can relax and quit trying to run the world. It is in His capable hands. I seek His direction…and then go where He sends me.

Hmm. A timely message for me! So much in life is upside down at the moment. Some of the matters I understand – many I do not.

Nevertheless, because Jesus is Lord, I can rest today, and know that He is in charge.

Yes, these three little words change everything:

Jesus is Lord!

 





By Faith, Gerbil…

11 06 2015

When our three-year-old granddaughter showed up on Friday with her swimsuit and goggles in her arms, I knew one thing for sure:

There was a pool in her future!

She had been asking Grandpa for one, suggesting that he take his truck so she could get the box home. This went on for a couple of weeks.

On Friday, she changed her tactics. Instead of asking to go to the store, our little Gerbil (affectionately so nicknamed for how she sounds when she speaks – too cute!), told Grandpa that she would take him to the sale. Now, who can resist a sale!

She returned home with her parents later that night, undaunted by the fact that her ‘prayer’ was still unanswered.

We marveled at her faith, her persistence – and her calm assurance that she would receive that for which she asked. No temper tantrums, no whining; just patient waiting.

Impressive for a three-year-old!

You know what happened next:

We went shopping on Saturday for a wading pool!

At the same time, I’d been asking Abba for a writing table; a dedicated place for my laptop where I could be with my hubby while I work. Like Gerbil, I was patiently waiting.

That same Saturday, Wendel said, “Hey. Why don’t we go find a writing table for you.”

Out of the blue, just like that.

“You know,” he said, “we could learn a lot from Gerbil. Instead of taking the car, let’s take my truck. That way, when we find your table we can bring it home with us.”

Following Gerbil’s lead, he took a step of faith.

(Or would it be called a “drive” of faith?)

We went to a consignment shop and looked at every table. They didn’t have what I was looking for.

I finally decided that I could ‘make do’ with one of them if we took the shelf off the top. We were looking it over to see how difficult it would be when the owner of the store came to see what we were doing.

After we explained, she said, “Did you see the drop-leaf table over there?”

Over where? We’d looked at every piece of furniture.

Or so we thought.

Sure enough, hidden in plain sight, was exactly what I was looking for.

It’s amazing what we can learn from a three-year-old!

It was fun to watch my Father reward the kind of ‘faith that asks with expectancy’ for both my granddaughter and my husband.

While this lesson “in the natural” was great – we all got what we wanted – it will no doubt encourage faith in weightier, “spiritual” matters as well.

Assurance of the thing for which we’ve asked is important

– especially when we know that what we’ve asked is in God’s will.

There was a matter for which I prayed with expectancy for years. As time wore on, however, my prayers became rote – I prayed less often, and more because I “ought” to, than because I anticipated the fulfillment of my request.

This is a dangerous state of mind. Doing so can cause us to miss out on the gift when it comes.

Like Zechariah, it can seem like too little, too late. We’ve lived with the stigma of barrenness for so long that it’s become familiar; comfortable.

Instead of gratitude, bitterness erupts.

That was my situation this year. Even though God spoke (Behold I am doing a new thing…Isaiah 43:19), and there was no denying the ever-enlarging abdomen of the forthcoming birth of the answer to my long-forgotten prayers, my response was less than gracious.

I’d resigned myself to the status quo. It became a ‘badge of honor,’ and for some absurd reason, didn’t want to give it up!

Much of the year was spent unraveling the multitude of lies I came to believe when God tarried (by my standards 😉 ) in moving on my request. Even though my request was being fulfilled, in my bitterness I nearly ‘aborted’ His gift, then considered putting it up for adoption. I came to believe that I didn’t want it anymore.

I was angry! At my age?? Really? Why couldn’t You have done this when I was young enough to fully enjoy it??

(No, I am not pregnant!)

You understand what I am saying? Sometimes the thing for which we ask seems like it would have been better ‘delivered’ when we were younger, more agile, and had more time to enjoy the benefits of the fulfillment…careers, relationships, etc.

I love that even when we’ve given up, God is faithful to do that which He has promised.

All that to say this:

For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry. ~Habakkuk 2:3

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. ~Romans 8:25

When we patiently wait with anticipation – especially when everything tells us that it’s hopeless – our names are added to Hebrews 11:

By faith, (your name here!)…





Behold, She Stinketh!

8 06 2015

Whose ‘skin’ fit best? A good question – one I had not considered before, really.

When reading Scripture, I search for Jesus in the stories – especially the Old Testament. I’ve learned much about Him using this method.

On this day, however, two separate people made the same suggestion:

Find yourself in the story to see what the Lord desires to show you.

The posts I wrote concerning Lazarus came to mind. Which one was me? Easy: Lazarus!

I still recall the day I met Jesus for the first time. The Sunday school teachers told us about Him and His great love for us. He captured my heart that day, and I welcomed Him as Lord and lover of my soul.

We became fast friends and I could ‘listen’ to Him talk for hours (through His Word, through pastors and teachers).

Then came the day when I was desperately ‘ill.’ Others went to bid Him come and heal me.

Imagine my hurt and confusion when He tarried, and seemingly allowed me to slip from life.

Dead.

Cold.

Isolated.

Surrounded by darkness.

So bound that I could scarcely move.

I thought He loved me. How could He treat me this way?

Just when all hope was gone, a light broke into my tomb, and I heard Him call my name.

Despite the tight cocoon-like wrapper, I managed to get to my feet. Shuffling along, I made my way back to the light of day.

Every movement brought a fresh whiff of the stench of death.

Then I heard Jesus command that my bonds be loosed by the onlookers.

Some looked on in horror. Others covered their noses and drew back, repulsed by the sight and putrid odor.

Thankfully, some braved the mess and began to set me free. Even some of these were overcome and also pulled away.

Bit by bit the grave clothes were removed.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that beneath the wrappings I was naked!

What to do?

At first I clung to those disgusting rags. I didn’t want to be exposed.

Awkward!

Embarrassment and humiliation became additional shrouds to be peeled away. I didn’t want anyone to see me in this state.

I had a choice to make: maintain my dignity and remain in bondage – or submit to being stripped bare in humility.

Finally the stench became so nauseous that I could no longer endure it. I surrendered to the gentle hands as they removed layer after layer from my heart.

Still in a weakened condition, others had to bathe me. At last I was dressed in fresh, clean clothes.

We marveled at the miracle of which we’d been a part.

‘Happily ever after’ loomed large on the horizon.

Instead, I found myself a target! I was hunted like a fugitive by Jesus’ enemies from that time on.

That’s a loose paraphrase of Lazarus’ story, laid over my own.

I found myself overtaken by ‘disease’ through no fault of my own.

As a teen, I began to ask Jesus to come heal me. He said He loved me, so a prompt response seemed like a no-brainer.

Instead, He took His time…so much that I was inwardly dead when He arrived.

Hopelessness, despair, unbelief that He could do anything at this point – these were the emotions I felt.

Abandoned.

Forsaken.

Forgotten.

These are the lies I believed.

Nevertheless, He called me from death to life and asked for volunteers to do the unpleasant work of releasing me from my putrid ‘grave clothes.’

Some didn’t know how – and shrank back.

For others, the mess was overwhelming. Offended by the stench, these also slipped away.

Some even tried to shove me back into the ‘tomb!’

A few brave, compassionate souls, though, came forward one by one and began to gently peel away my bonds. This took many years of counseling and prayer. To these women I will be forever grateful.

These sweet ladies not only removed the mess, but lovingly bathed and dressed me.

What amazes me most is that, instead of being seen as a living example of Jesus’ ability to bring life from death, the ‘religious’ folks did their best to ‘kill’ me. They would have liked nothing better than to see me bound up once again, and removed from sight. Sadly, some of these I once called ‘friend.’

Go figure!

************

That was an entry from my journal last October. It’s been a smelly, messy ordeal that took more than a year this time. I’m in the ‘being bathed’ phase at long last, and am not as stinky. God is good!

Jesus came to give us life to the full. He stated His intentions in Luke 4:18-19:

The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to
the poor;
He has sent Me
to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to
the blind,
To
set at liberty those who are oppressed;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

He heals our wounds by revisiting memories with us. He gives us a new identity. He gives insight and revelation – a fresh perspective on old thoughts, and delivers us from the hands of the evil one. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Jesus doesn’t heal in this way. I am walking, living, breathing proof that He does!

Salvation is so much more than a future home in heaven. It is eternal life, beginning now!

I wonder, which Bible stories most resonate with you?





Which Tree Will You Choose?

22 04 2015

In the Garden were two trees: the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

A few years ago, the word knowledge caught my attention. It would seem that prior to eating its forbidden fruit, good and evil existed – Adam and Eve were simply unaware of it. Since the devil was around, this was certainly true. Interesting.

In a way, it seems like these two trees are now resident within us. (Work with me here. This is all new to me, and I’m not likely to put it down as clearly as I’d like! A little grace while I work it all out, okay? 🙂 )

The Tree of the Knowledge is like our old nature. The Tree of Life is like the Spirit that now indwells us.

We are free to choose our source.

When Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, everything changed. God was no longer the lens through which they saw things. They became like God, all right. Thereafter, they decided for themselves what was good and what was evil.

As do we.

How do we determine what’s good and what’s evil, though? It depends upon how it makes us feel:

If it makes me happy, and I feel content or satisfied, then it is good.

If it makes me angry, hurt, afraid, or upset in any way, then it is evil.

We pass everything through the filter of our knowledge, our understanding, and our perspective – then label it “good” or “evil” accordingly.

Where this can really get us into trouble (experience speaking here), is when we are faced with a massive test.

Last year, I came up against the granddaddy of all trials. As we are all prone to do, I ran to the Tree of Knowledge to figure out how to handle the thing. I ran through my database, where I’d stored all my vows and agreements:

“No one will ever do … to me again.”

“I will never…again.”

“I’m unlovable. This is all I deserve anyway.”

My source for what to do with all the pain and turmoil was my own history. From my perspective, this was clearly EVIL.

If my heavenly Father truly loved me, He would have protected me.

Checking my database again, I came to the conclusion:

God is not good…

…at least, not to me.

Even He thinks I am worthless or He would have kept me safe.

Because my source for deciding good and evil was my limited knowledge and understanding – and a very warped lens as to what a father is like, I was nearly taken out.

I had expectations of what God should have done.

When He didn’t act according to my understanding, I was hurt and disappointed.

My own database was insufficient, so I consumed volumes of others’ thoughts and conclusions on the matter. I picked from their trees and put it on my own. For eight months, I sifted through tons of information in search of relief.

A Tree of Knowledge is like a lone redwood tree planted in the sand. 

A redwood has very shallow roots that must be intertwined with other trees if it is to stand during a storm. Alone, and in shifting sand, it doesn’t have a chance!

All the while, there stood the Tree of Life, solid as a Rock:

Abide in Me.

Ask Me.

Trust Me.

This last year would have looked very different had I chosen to eat from the Tree of Life, instead of the Tree of (my own) Knowledge. I didn’t know that I could go to the Lord and ask Him to give me His perspective on the matter at hand. I didn’t realize that He wanted to change how I viewed Him, and how I thought about what was going on.

If you hear nothing else, get this:

Our Lord is the only  reliable source for every moment of every day. Ask Him often to give you His mind concerning everyday life. You will be surprised at what He shows and/or tells you! There’s the added bonus of His peace that goes far beyond our comprehension. 😉

This, of course, brings to mind one of my favorite verses:

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. ~Proverbs 3:5,6

I’m in a new season now. My source for daily life (and not just when I get into a jam!) is the Tree of Life. I am learning to:

Cast down arguments and every high thing

that exalts itself against the knowledge of God,

bringing every thought into captivity

to the obedience of Christ.

~2 Corinthians 10:5~

All the junk that grows on the Tree of Knowledge, based on our human perception and understanding, is an argument and an high thing that exalts itself against our knowledge of God, and the only source for accurate knowledge of Him…is the Tree of Life.

Choose Life!

***

This is woefully inadequate – a topic that would take many chapters to flesh out. I hope you get the gist of what I shared. ❤

***

I’m thankful to Bob Hamp at Gateway Church in Texas for opening my eyes to what I was doing. His foundational classes are worth their weight in gold. You can find them here: http://gatewaypeople.com/ministries/freedom/events/foundational-classes





The God of Second (Third…Hundredth) Chances

6 01 2015

January 1, 2015 began a new year, new beginnings…another chance.

When I opened my Bible app for the Verse of the Day, guess what it was?

Behold, I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; do you not perceive it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19.

This is the same verse I received last year!

As I read the words for the umpteenth time, I sensed the Lord’s smile as He let me know that I have a “do-over.” I get another run at this promise. That’s good news!

Last year, I had expectations of what that would look like for me. Those are now gone. I have no preconceived notions of what He has in store…only that He will be faithful to complete the work He has begun.

Life took a crazy turn last year. As I look back at where I was last January, I am amazed at the growth He’s wrought in me – despite my confusion and disappointment. Through all that, the Lord took my faith in Him to a new level.

He used the trials to reveal some very ugly things that I believed to be true of Him, and replaced them with a greater understanding of His infinite love for me.

The training received on making disciples – have no opinion in other’s situations, do not judge, do not advise, only love them – was well-tested. I had ample opportunities to walk out what He’d worked in.

I didn’t do it perfectly {gasp!}.

However, I did much better than ever before.

Progress!

Nothing is resolved yet, but this year I have hope…hope for a brighter future, hope for transformation and restoration.

How I appreciate the fact that the Father loves us where we are, with all our messed up thinking about His character; and that He continues to pursue us in hope that we will finally see Him more accurately.

I said some really mean things to God last year, all borne out of my misunderstanding of what He is really like. My words did not deter Him. He didn’t throw up His hands in exasperation and write me off as a lost cause.

Instead, He continued to tenderly whisper that He loves me, that He understood my confusion but wanted me to know that what I believed was simply not true. He asked me to trust Him with the hard things I’m dealing with, and to believe that He will work all this for my good.

I saw this quote on someone’s blog earlier this week. It resonated with me, and so I share it with you:

“Everything is going to be fine in the end.
If it’s not fine it’s not the end.”

-Oscar Wilde-

And so I begin this year with my hand in my Father’s, trying to match my steps with His, in full confidence that He has this. It will be fun to look back over this year in 2016 and see all He has accomplished in, around, and through me.

To God be the glory! Amen.

How about you? Do you find this the Year of the Great Do-Over? Do tell!

PS If you live in Northern California, the Legacy class (disciple/mentoring) begins soon at The Stirring in Redding. Jim Bailey and his wife Amy are amazing, and very gifted teachers. Don’t miss it!





Of Promises and Poo (or “Messy in the Middle”)

29 12 2014

Diapers: The most appreciated gift any new parent will receive.

Oh, all the pretty little dresses, smart suits, and adorable shoes are loved as well; but without diapers, they will soon be ruined!

Why? Because “poo happens!” It’s unavoidable.

When yes wears a diaper in response to our prayers, we will handle things better if we know this “minor” detail:

We will be messy in the middle!

The sooner we learn to roll with this, the sooner we can trust God and His process. He has a purpose and will finish what He has begun (Philippians 1:6).

The year began with a promise from the Lord. It is Isaiah 43:19. I’ll bet He’s repeated this to me at least a couple dozen times this year. It reads:

Behold, I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; do you not perceive it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Now THAT’S a promise! I was very excited, believing the “new” thing would “spring forth” from all the music studies of the previous year. Surely beautiful music would soon be forthcoming.

Next thing I knew, we had a houseful of people. There was no possible way I could work on music…or even blog. We had five adults and seven small children here for several months. Days consisted of housework, meal preparation, and child care.

To say that I was confused would be an understatement!

My confusion turned to hurt, as I began to believe that God had pulled a “bait and switch” on me. It felt like He promised me something wonderful then, when my hopes were high, switched it for something ordinary…like when my dad drove us to the gates of Disneyland, then said,”The guys said this is just a glorified fair. We’re going to Knotts Berry Farm.” (In the 1970s, Knotts was more like visiting a film set.)

In the midst of the chaos, God chose to bring transformation to a family member.

Now? Really?

You need to know that when a close family member begins to deal with their “stuff,” it’s like their anchor is being raised with all their junk on it. Because of your relationship with them, all your stuff gets hauled up as well.

That’s when things start to get messy in your middle. You’ll be dealing with your own “poo” – in addition to that of your family member!

You can put a pretty little dress on it, complete with ribbons and bows. Keep up appearances at all cost.

But the “mess” will leak out and be unsightly…no one will understand why you stink!

How thankful I am to be part of a congregation where it’s okay to be a mess; where people are willing to wade in and help clean things up!

It’s been costly, and I’ve had to say “good bye” to pride. I’ve had to reach out for help – including a counselor to help me sort things out.

To my surprise, we’ve talked very little about the current situation. Instead, we’ve mostly dealt with what their stuff was triggering in me…old, unhealed wounds and strongholds.

Having other people living with us was an effective way to keep me from saying things that would only delay, hinder, or halt altogether the work the Lord was doing.

His ways were very wise!

Interestingly enough, a “baby” promise kind of made me become the baby. Helpless, inactive, and in need of a lot of love – these became a reality for me. I cried so much that tears no longer came forth…only goo. We hit the bottom of the well of tears and sludge was all that left. Gross!

Through it all, the Lord kept asking me to sit quietly in His presence. As I stated in my last post, I was certain that a butt-chewing would be involved, so I avoided His presence…only to discover that He was making me into a new person in this process and wanted to get re-acquainted!

Every week from September through just before Christmas, God addressed another stronghold in me and together we tore them down. There have been more than a dozen…ones I’d previously been unaware of. There were countless lies, and an insane amount of forgiving that I had to take care of: others, myself, and even the Lord (who’d done nothing wrong! There were many lies I believed about Him as well.).

Much repentance had to be done, too.

It’s been a lot of work, but worth it.

It wasn’t until yesterday that I gained God’s perspective of what He’s doing. The promise given last January is a “baby promise;” one that I will have to grow up alongside. It’s been messy in the middle, and I may not be ready for my “big girl panties” just yet.

At least now I have hope that they will be forthcoming!