forgiveness.

We’ve all heard how important it is to forgive.

I think there is only one way to be able to do it.

We have to acknowledge the things we’ve done wrong.

It’s part of our human nature to justify, blame, or excuse why we did or didn’t do this or that. We’re also good at thinking the things we’ve done wrong were not as bad as …

And we’re also good at thinking we would never do …

We’re good at fooling ourselves. We don’t fool God.

God knows exactly how we are made – how we think, how we feel, why we do what we do.

Have you ever really stopped to think about your motives? That’s the part of us God calls our heart. And here are some things he says about it:

  • Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.
  • I the Lord search the heart and test the mind …
  • Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.

These are just a few scriptures establishing the truth that we all have intentions and motives which come from what God calls, the heart. The innermost part of us; our conscience.

We have an ability to dismiss what is the right thing and eventually, our intentions and motives seem justified. We can deceive ourselves. This is what God calls a hardened heart.

Just like hard soil resists rain, our heart can resist what is good, right, and true.

Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch woman who, along with her family, hid Jews during the Holocaust. An informant reported them and they were arrested by German soldiers and put in a concentration camp. Her father and sister died there but for reasons unknown, Corrie was released.

Years later, she was speaking at a church in Munich when she recognized a man who had been a guard at the concentration camp where her father and sister died.  The man made his way forward to speak with Corrie.

 “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein”–again the hand came out–’will you forgive me?’

And I stood there–I whose sins had every day to be forgiven–and could not. Betsie had died in that place–could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it–I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality.

Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.

‘Jesus, help me!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then. (http://www.guideposts.org)

The Bible is not a list of do’s and don’ts in terms of measuring up in order to satisfy an angry God or get to Heaven. God’s intention is to light our path. To help us – not hurt us.

God says, do this not this and you will be a lot better off.

If you don’t see yourself as that bad of a person (pride), forgiveness may come hard for you.

If you will see your whole human condition (humility), born with a bent toward sin, you will know you cannot fix it yourself. You will turn to the only one who can fix it.

In understanding your need for forgiveness, you will have compassion for others who need the same.

Next: forgiveness pt 2

~~~

candle lantern heart

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surely God.

It’s not the weight you carry but how you carry it.

There is a way to carry grief.

Once you get knocked over by it, once you finally stand up, you look ahead to the years without that one you loved so very much, and wonder how you will live without them.

When I watched the days my father slipped away from this life, try as he may, conscious of wanting to live for family and friends, he could not.

Grief is like that. You can’t live for others. As much as you love them, your heart is torn in two. Particularly, the pain of losing a child is like no other. It is so very deep, it doesn’t help to hear you have to live for your other children. You want to. But your broken heart consumes your mind.

I think grieving is very close to dying.

The dying slowly drift away until there is a sudden wakefulness when the mind says to live. Then dying takes over once again.

But grieving is not dying, even though it feels just like that. And how we feel is not always indicative of what is absolutely true.

God gives us the ability to carry the weight of pain and suffering. Our willingness to let him is our part.

There will be a day, an hour, when you feel a gentle nudging. You will probably brush it away. Allowing ourselves to feel the pain makes us fight. And that fighting keeps us going.

Yet, God gently nudges us again until eventually, we are brought face to face with a choice: how we will carry the weight of pain and suffering.

When we stay in a fighting position, whether passively or aggressively, we become used to coping this way. It feels like an intrusion when truth gently brushes our deeply painful heart. And if we’re honest, we know exactly where that truth is coming from. For some of us, whether we realize it or not, we may be angry with God, the truth giver, for not explaining why he allowed this. Why he saves some from accidents, sickness, and death – and didn’t save mine.

Understood.

When the worst day of my life came to my doorstep, I felt like I was drowning. I could not think of anyone else if I wanted to. The physical pain was so intense, so overwhelming, I wanted to die.

I am thankful for those early days of friendship and love. But then everyone goes home and life goes on.

Here is when the seeds of anger, resentment, bitterness, depression, and so much more can settle into a vulnerable, broken heart.

And at the right time, God nudges.

Joy and sorrow dwell together in this world. We are not victims of sorrow because God made a way to carry it. Not only that, but we have hope in his promises of eternity.

The Bible tells us to trust the Lord with all our heart and not to not rely on our human understanding. When we acknowledge him, he guides and directs us.

I chose to do that even though what I was feeling was nowhere near trusting God.

This is how we carry the weight – no matter what it is.

We can see God as an unfair, confusing, unpredictable entity who allows pain and suffering and is not to be trusted or believed in for that matter.

Or we can choose to see God as one who is ready to comfort, guide, and show us how to carry the weight through the pain and suffering in life, even when we don’t understand why it exists.

It’s okay to limp through life. I don’t believe for one second the mindset of some Christian streams of thinking/teaching/preaching who claim otherwise. I cannot look at photos of my son. I cannot listen to certain songs. I avoid stories of when he was here. I avoid places that make it worse. I avoid people who make it worse.

I live life differently and I have been absolutely amazed how God has let me know how close he is to me. Some little ways and some big ways. Thing is, no one can take that away from me. It is so personal to me, I can’t help but feel loved.

I hope you will respond to the nudges to your heart of trusting in a God who knows you don’t understand, but will help you in ways you won’t believe.

path

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but how you carry it.

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had his hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel,
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it –
books, bricks, grief –
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.” So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled –
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

—Mary Oliver

woman's fall woman girl

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days like this.

Sometimes, when I think about my life, it has felt like a roller coaster of unpredictability, guided by an unseen force which doesn’t compliment my orderly mind, always looking for bottom lines.

But then, there are days like today – humid, still, and with a light rain (the kind you don’t mind getting sprinkled with). The kind of moment when we allow ourselves some meandering because we are not in demand. I don’t wear gloves pulling weeds. I want to feel the damp dirt and don’t mind it getting under my fingernails. And all the while I think, it doesn’t get old – the earth gives us food. This is amazing. How can someone not believe in God when his presence is everywhere?

Since working in a garden is slow, quiet work, it made me think about meditating on the scripture. We are accustomed to the quick read or sound bytes of information. That’s like a quick rain storm that doesn’t penetrate to the roots.

God wants us to be deliberate in meditating on how he sees things (which almost always contradicts how we see things), allowing truth to penetrate our easily distracted, misdirected, and confused thinking.

I don’t think it matters where we live or what challenges we have. God says his word guides us and lights the way for every single human being. It is the daily bread, feeding our mind, will and emotions. Without allowing it to settle in and take hold, how do we perceive things? God’s perfect way? Or our imperfect way?

One leads to peace and contentment despite circumstances. The other is unrest, fear, and worry.

Even the really bad stuff will have an answer when we meditate on trusting the Lord with all our heart, believing what he tells us about the day when he makes everything right.

God is in the power of the universe and in the tiniest seed.

If God can do that, how much more can we patiently wait and trust him with our lives and all of the sorrow?

garden 6

Between a Rock and a Hard Place – After the Death of a Child: Trying to figure out how keep on living

A blogger friend of mine posted this today. So much resonated with my own personal experience. I wasn’t alone. You are not alone. Just knowing others have similar feelings is half the battle.

Additionally, may God open the eyes of Christians to go the extra mile.

Grief: One Woman's Perspective

3ba6f4816f1b8a7144239926911e1bc9I recently got a text from a friend whose co-worker’s daughter committed suicide. When I told my husband about it, he said, “I don’t understand why anyone would commit suicide. Why would someone not want to live? Why would they want to die?” Joe is a very black and white person, while I have always been a person who sees both sides of a coin. When Joe was a young boy, his grandfather (the person for whom Joe was named) committed suicide. Suicide has never been something that he could get his head around.

After sitting there for just a moment, I told him that I could understand why someone wouldn’t want to live any more. Sometimes the pain is so great that it reaches a point where it seems no longer bearable. I told him that, right after Jason died, there were a few times when I just wanted to drive…

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anticipation.

God created us to look ahead, to anticipate, and to hope.

We make plans and look forward to an event, a completion of a project, a vacation, retirement – even the end of the day when we can rest.

It takes more effort to take a step back and think about life beyond death, but it is attainable.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

God put it in our heart to think about eternity. Even though we cannot possibly grasp all that God has done since the beginning of time – or the beginning of our lives for that matter – doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

When we are hurting and life is difficult and confusing, God wants us to remember eternity.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Perhaps, never before has life been so full of “seen” things that distract us. Our lives are full and overflowing with temporary comfort and satisfaction.

When something goes wrong, those things are reduced and God gets our full attention.

Whether your body is hurting physically, emotionally, or mentally, it is possible to be renewed within (peace, hope, joy). How? Seeing beyond and anticipating eternity where God promises us he will make it right.

Remember, countless numbers of people throughout the centuries who have endured. You can, too.

Earth is our temporary home. Live it, enjoy it.

But always live with a view of eternity and the culmination of perfection yet to come!

 Sunset with mountains and clouds

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heaven.

On June 23, 2018, my father died. He was 89 years old.

I helped care for him the month of June in between working at a nearby school. June came and went – hard to believe.

The days seemed long but looking back, everything happened so quickly.

And now, reality sets in. He’s gone.

From here.

This prompted me to re-read a book I read 13 years ago, Imagine Heaven.

The reason I chose this book is because the author, John Burke, spent over 30 years researching the topic of near-death experiences from all kinds of people and all kinds of religions along with what the Bible has to say about Heaven.

It got me thinking about how little I have heard about Heaven. I’ve been in church for over 30 years and I do not recall a sermon or teaching. Is it because the Bible has little to say about it? Maybe. But since it is our forever home, I would think God would want us to know something about it.

Because to live well here, don’t we have to know something about life there?

One common thread with those Burke read about and interviewed, was the intensity of love the departed individual experienced. With their life displayed in a kind of panoramic view, the good, bad, and ugly – the love was still intense – no matter what. No shame, no guilt, no condemnation. Just love.

Granted, this is difficult for us to grasp but so is the enormity of the universe. Yet, we believe.

*Side note: all to often in Christian circles, morality seems to have replaced the love of God. Usually, Christians lean to one or the other. God does not condone sin, but his way of drawing us is with chords of love.” Holding morality, Christian values, and/or character up as the standard is missing the point. Time and time again, God has chosen men and women in the Bible who would not meet the criteria in conservative, traditional, Christian thought. Are we holding the Law up to the world of morality? Or are we holding up the Light of the world?

Each day, I watched my father dying. Death is ugly. And if God is good, and if Newton’s 3rd law is true, then there has to be something far greater in power than death.

We have all seen the beauty around us. It is only a foretaste of what is waiting for us.

Have you lost a loved one? Are you hurting? Suffering? Live with the hope and confidence of Heaven.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

-Revelation 21

 Tree in meadow under dramatic sky

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