Image of Forgiveness

I’m not sure why an event has been rerunning in my mind all night, but it could be the message on forgiveness I heard that was truthfully pointed, yet lovingly delivered.  Too often lately it seems that so many relationships have been through trauma.  Deep sadness has resulted from friendships torn apart by unintentional rumors and intentional criticisms.  Families are in turmoil because of misunderstandings gone unresolved for so long there is no memory of cause, but the nettles and thorns continue to grow.  Hurt cuts deep. Healing takes an act of God. Admittedly – healing is an act of God.  puzzle in business hand
Sometimes I think we are put to the test, the test where God asks us to prove our obedience to him, which includes forgiveness.  Could it be that God allows certain conflicts to occur to make us stronger servants who act out of a godly heart instead of through that pious old nature? 2 Corinthians 2:7-9 “You ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.  I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.  Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything.”  This says forgiveness is an act of obedience.

As I was listening to the speaker, I remembered a powerful image of forgiveness I experienced a few years ago at a public picnic. Tim had run off to socialize and I was left to figure out how to network with a bunch of people I didn’t know. (Not my strongest skill.)  Scouting out an observation deck, I found a picnic table with an older gentleman quietly sitting alone.  All primed for quietly observing I thought “Why not go sit over there”?  We fell into casual conversation and I learned he was the age of my dad and served in World War 2, as had my father; but his experiences were 180 degrees different.  I also learned he grew up in close proximity of my parents, but all those similarities, while connecting us in some tenuous way were not what captured my attention.  I love talking about careers people have chosen and their lifetime adventures along the way. I remember this gentleman worked at Lobdell’s the same factory where my maternal grandmother managed the lunchroom. But what I remember most was his hands. As he talked I noticed black marks on his knuckles. Then I realized they were letters tattooed onto his knuckles.

I wanted him to rest his hands on the table so I could see if the letters spelled something. When he finally relaxed his hands on the table I could make out the letters O-R-G-I-V and my curiosity blurted out “Do those letters on your knuckles stand for something?” He then laid his hands out so I could read the full text branded on fingers.  F-O-R-E-G-I-V-E-N “Forgiven?” I had to ask, and he had to tell me his story.  He had been in World War 2, went in as a kid with no burdens, and came back a man encumbered with vivid memories and a bitter heart. He said he fell into alcoholism and a series of damaging choices. He blamed everyone for his condition and treated all his loved ones like they were his personal hell. At his lowest point he realized this wasn’t the way he was going to live out the remainder of his existence and he started searching for the solution for his torn soul. He stumbled into a church one night and met his savior, Jesus Christ, and came to understand the true meaning of forgiveness.

He told me his bitter spirit of unforgiveness was killing him from the inside out. He knew that when he came to Christ, he was a new man and that God had totally forgiven his sin and he had to forgive the atrocities he had witnessed as a result of being in war.  He wanted a visual reminder of where he had been and that he would from then on need to put on a spirit of forgiveness every day to guard his heart and mind from invasion by past experiences.  He was experiencing what the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:16 “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. ”

His story reminded me of Joseph in the Old Testament.  His own brothers hated him so much they sold him to slave traders.  And Joseph forgave them. Genesis 50:15-17 “Joseph buried his father and returned to Egypt. His brothers sent Joseph a message, “Before his death, your father gave this command: Tell Joseph, ‘Forgive your brothers’ sin—all that wrongdoing. They did treat you very badly.’ Will you forgive them?” When Joseph received their message, he wept and we all know that he forgave his brothers – even though they had hated him so much that they betrayed Joseph and sold him as a slave.

How many times in life has someone done something to hurt you? We all have painful memories of situations that have festered and contaminated our spirits.  It’s for these times that God implores us to forgive.  We don’t need tattoos on our knuckles to be reminded to have a forgiving spirit. The subject of forgiveness isn’t one that can be explored and resolved once with effects that last a lifetime. Forgiveness is a daily, even by the moment act of the will. God breathed these words through his writer in Ephesians 4:31 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Maybe you don’t struggle with forgiveness. You might have a naturally forgiving spirit, but there is instruction in the next verse for all of us.   “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

 

 

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The Benefits of Worry

 

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You got it! The benefits of worry are as valuable and motivating as this empty box.  No inspiration; only empty defeat.

If you’re worried about what you hear on the news, see battled on TV, and debated on social media, please remember that worry and fear are worthless emotions. They do nothing to change whatever situation is causing them. Romans 12:9 says “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”  Worry and fear drag you to the depths and weigh you down so heavily, you can’t rise above the burden and live life inspired. 

We know that fear and worry don’t come from God. 2 Timothy 1:7 ” God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Let’s all try this instead. 1 Thessalonians 5:17&19 ” pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;Do not quench the Spirit.” Tough to do, huh? I know. We think we have to do something – and we can do something, but let it be focused, productive, beneficial and not encumbered with fear and worry.

How about Joshua 1:9 instead “Have I [God] not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  There’s something else we can do too.  2 Chronicles 7:14 “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

 

We think that applies to the world at large, the population, the civilizations and entire countries, when in fact, it starts with me. It begins with what I harbor in my own heart. Do I humble myself before the Lord and earnestly pray for my country and for the leaders who are making decisions based, not on God’s foundation but on their own shifting political sand? Our nation, any nation, is comprised of millions of unique individuals with varying degrees of knowledge and a boatload of opinion. Only God has the power and the knowledge to sort it all out and be the commander and controller of it all.

Instead of worry and fear, let this be our prayer. “Lord God, you are the awesome creator of all things. Everything, everything, God is under your control. Nothing catches you by surprise. Where you see a defect in my thoughts, please reveal it to me and make me willing to change it before it becomes a defective act. Lord, in all these situations in the news, please infuse your power and your divine guidance. Please have mercy on those who suffer because of ungodly decisions that are made out of ignorance of your will and defiance of your commandments. And Lord God, show me clearly what my role is in the battle for your purpose to be served and exalted.  I love you Lord. Your children love you. Give us grace. Give us peace. We ask and believe you for it. Amen

To that I add:  Selah (think about it)

I woke up thinking of this song this morning. I hope you like it.

Go toward the light …

When I enter a room to relax, kick back, veg out – in short, to become the epitome of a couch potato in appearance and momentum – I dim the lights, grab my blanket, and enter the state of inertia.  Not so when I enter a room with intentions to work on a project, read a book, do some cleaning, or check off items on my to-done list. When I’m on a mission, I turn the lights on, sometimes more than one, because I want to see clearly, need every facet of the task revealed. In a way, like the Psalm of David says in Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to walk by, and a light to illumine my path.”

Do you ever feel like someone turned out the lights? Like everything was progressing nicely, plans you made actually happened just the way you hoped, and in the middle of all that was much happiness. Then the lights went out. An argument with a friend, a broken promise of a family member, a lost job, spiteful behavior from a bully, an accident, loneliness, saying good bye, having to endure illness … especially at this time of year … waiting for spring … anticipating sunshine and warmer weather…  We so often anticipate the joy, but are crushed under disappointment. The light goes dim and it takes all our effort to keep our positive attitude and live through the darkness.  What I’d rather have instead of darkness is for my day to be like Proverbs 4:18 “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”012514_1520_ThatNewCarS1.jpg

The key is turning toward the light, even the tiniest glimmer, when days are dark. It’s easy to be suffocated by circumstances and turn away from the light until all we see is darkness. This is when we have to search diligently to keep hope in our sight and act as if joy is on the way.   Find a memory that brought joy in the past, then recreate it, repurpose it for today. Write an encouraging word to someone in email or on real paper using your favorite pen. Focus on one thing that’s good, then play the add-on game. It’s tough to find enough solid blocks of good when we are encompassed with so many that are broken. Isn’t that what we do though? Don’t we constantly sort through our circumstances and choose which pieces to play with? Let’s choose the whole pieces today. The ones that stand up to adversity, the ones that reflect the light. David, yes the one that killed Goliath, suffered at the hands of both enemies and friends. In those times he knew who to call.  Psalm 118:13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.

This is my prayer for us today, that we will seek the light. Before letting discouragement gain a foothold, let’s remember that God might not stop the storm, but He is there to shelter us and protect us from drowning. Perfect? Life is never perfect, although there are many perfect moments. Those times are like diamonds in fields of coal. Little sparks that remind us to be joyful, to keep searching for the good, seeking the light. It can happen, it will happen.   Isaiah 9:2 & 3 “People walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. God increased their joy; they rejoice as people rejoice at the harvest.”  Harvest. Before harvest, we have to have spring – time of planting,  summer – a time of growing.  Through the seasons we remember God is never early, He is never late, He is always on time. In the nick of time, God’s will is done. Life is tough. Pray hard – then wait on the Lord. Psalm 33:4 For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wR8bLcmI7Cc

Pathway to Peace

I’m working on a pathway to peace. I wish I could say it’s already perfected, but it is not.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this. Today is all I’ve got; tomorrow is the result of how I live it.  Considering what I want most tomorrow has led me to design a pathway to get there. Daily disciplines toward PEACE tomorrow.

  • Prayer
  • Exercise
  • Accountability
  • Character
  • Encourage

Each discipline has defined characteristics which I’ll be sharing in a future post.  Why am I talking about this now?  Why am I talking about it at all?  Do you see the A for Accountability? Could it be that this is a serious step in living a life of peace tomorrow?

In a future post I may expand on how this daily discipline works, the plan, the factors, the benefits, the action items.  It’s not rocket science. It’s vision. It’s personal responsibility.

Word Test

How many words does it take to make a point? Chances are by the time you’ve reached this point in your day, you’ve already been told what to expect from the weather. “Wear your jacket, take your umbrella, and you might need your sunglasses at times.”  The newscaster revealed all that happened through the night, covering the globe from unrest in the Middle East to the heroic rescue of people from a burning apartment complex. Music infused ads entice us to shop early for those Black Friday deals that now start before the calendar even turns to Friday. Textbooks, email, Internet sites, online magazines … how many words does it take to make a point? How about one?  “Stop!” That’s a pretty clear message.  “Thank you!” Two words we should use often.

So what’s my point? It’s not in the number of words, it’s in the message we convey. As leaders, as parents, as students, as employees, we are caught in a mesh of words from the moment we awake to the time we sleep at night. How do we communicate our message? When the topic is all about reward and life is good, our words exude kindness. But what if the situation is less than optimistic and shrouded in disappointment? When we are called upon to evaluate, correct, or even reprimand; how is our conversation then? In all circumstances, do we choose our words wisely? Do we seek to speak only the truth and with the mindset that’s honorable and builds trust?

Daily, we are subjected to opportunity to make a difference just through the words we choose to convey our message. When faced with a choice, how do we react? This word test has been around for decades.  I know, because I learned it decades ago.  Could we apply this test to our words today?

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it necessary?
  3. Is it encouraging?

If the conversation we are about to have fails in any of those points, Stop!

Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in the sight of God who is my strength and redeemer.

Let our words be full of life.  John 6:63 The Spirit gives life; the words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.

Are our words beautiful? Proverbs 25:11 Words spoken with the right motives and from a heart of love are like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCM8LB2to-o

unfriended

They unfriended me

Times have changed. Ya think? I was listening to moms of teenage daughters lament the developing epidemic form of rejection, Facebook unfriending. My first thought was, “Are you serious? Facebook is just a game, a place to read something funny, learn about the latest fiasco in the life of an accident prone friend, or pick up a tip on the best month to buy tires”.  Until that moment, I had considered Facebook as nothing more than a mechanism of communication on a personal level and a marketing tool for businesses who want to sell me their products. Never had the thought occurred to me that Facebook or any social media phenomenon would be used to appraise the value of a person or to rank their acceptance. Times have changed.

The basis of this blog formed out of the discovery that there are bullies in this world.  Through their speech, through their acts, and through their attitudes, bullies are on a mission to bring everyone down to their level of misery.  They have been on Earth since God kicked Lucifer out of heaven, along with his followers. The methods have changed, but the consequences have not. The battle between good and evil continues.

The subject of bully warfare is too broad to cover in a few sentences. We could be here for hours debating the cause and effect of bullying, but just for today – some ways to combat the bullies in your life while you support others who struggle with bullies in theirs.

Start with something easy. At my favorite Meijer Department store there’s a man in a wheelchair who greets customers and welcomes them as they enter.  Throughout the day there are others who fill that role but this is the lesson for us.  When the door opens that initial greeting says ‘acceptance’.  How easy can it be to smile and with sincerity say, good morning or a simple Hi!

Go ahead post a positive comment with joy-filled undertones on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or Google+ or Pinterest or – here’s a novel idea.  How about posting on the bulletin board at the coffee house?  You could start today with saying, “Today I am thankful for … the fact that when I woke up, I could see, walk, talk, and hug my child, my spouse, my pet”. Well you can figure it out.

Spread encouragement – especially to the young who are in this life phase where their life experience is so limited, each event is significant.  This is not just drama; it’s real to them. Being unfriended or put-down via Facebook is a form of rejection. Today, be a source of emotional strength and be the light to someone who is struggling with feelings of doubt and drained of confidence.

Today is all we’ve got. Tomorrow is the result of how we live it.  How can we build barriers against bullying and tear down walls of defeat? Let’s look inward and fix what’s inside, so tomorrow is better and we can live with a peaceful heart, not one that feels like a train wreck.  Ephesians 2:14 God is our peace…he destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.

Now if you unfriend me, I might care, but it won’t decrease my value as a person or cause me to evaluate my worth. It just means one less ‘friend’ in my list of ‘friends’. This is the message we need to get across to friends (Facebook or otherwise) that they are priceless and that their value is more precious than rubies. [Proverbs 3:15] God does not make junk. He makes masterpieces. Ephesians 2:10  We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Our job is to do good – to all people.

Live life inspired “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3