Unoffended

A few months ago I attended a special event coordinated by the singles ministry at our church. This singles event has prompted a journey in my life I could not have dreamed possible: the journey to discover what it means to live unoffended.

The Monday after Thanksgiving, a man known in charismatic circles as one of powerful healing came and share his story of how God redeemed him from a destructive pit and delivered him into a life of love. Todd White doesn’t believe that God won’t heal someone he prays for… Does that mean everyone gets healed? 

I don’t know. But, I’ve seen and experienced the powerful way this man administers the gifts God has entrusted him to express and offer. He ministers the Gospel of Jesus and walks in signs and wonders. Believe it or not – he reads his Bible and refuses to believe that what he reads about God is not relevant and valid today. He goes to malls and walks the streets of cities around the world offering God’s healing power to anyone who will receive it. He does not give up until he sees God move.

And if that were all, would that be enough? Todd was so radically healed and set free when he met Jesus that he walks the earth, advancing the Kingdom and giving away what he so freely received at salvation.

Todd’s testimony is amazing from FUGITIVE to GOSPEL FREEDOM FIGHTER. A prodigal, if there ever was one, now walking in victory as a son of the Most High God. I will refrain from indulging my desire to tell his entire story because it really is not the point of this article.

You know, I have come to realize in my life that you can argue points of theology, doctrine and the interpretations of learned scholars (men), but the one thing you cannot argue with is the good fruit that comes from one person’s testimony about God’s love, goodness and grace. Based on what I’ve seen of Todd White I cannot argue with the testimony of his faith.

That night as one of my favorite worship leaders stood on the stage and poured out her heart like oil before the Lord, my heart opened to receive. As Todd took the platform I realized how much God must delight in this man who donned a Hawaiian shirt, Fivefinger shoes, and lots…

Did I say LOTS?

Yes, Lots. and Lots. Of dread locks. He’s a simple man who walks in the simplicity of his utter faith in God and walks also in great authority and power. Not puffed up with pride, but doused and immersed in love and humility.

Where was I? Oh yeah... He took the stage, and this man who looks like he has lived some rough, rough life steps up and starts to speak.

“Whoa! That was worship. Do you feel that? I mean…” He begins to weep. “You shouldn’t sing that stuff if you don’t mean it. Don’t sing it if you don’t believe what those words say… You shouldn’t sing it, man. It’s sick if you do.”

I found myself nodding in agreement and crying along with him. So true.

If I tell you Todd White got all up in my business with his next point, I would not be lying at all. HE. GOT. ALL. UP. IN. MY. BUSINESS. Y’ALL. 

He said, “I am unoffendable. I cannot be offended. I walk in love. I live by love and I choose not to be offended. Forget about boundaries, forget about protecting people – if you walk in love – you cannot be offended and you won’t hurt people.”

Uh-huh. If you are shaking your head, you are beginning to get how I and a number of my friends in that audience felt that night. It’s one of those moments when your heart says, “YES!” And your head says, “NO WAY!”

A tiny bud springing to life is the heart of one newly saved and abiding in Christ,  the Liberating King. Do you know Him?

A tiny bud springing to life is the heart of one newly saved and abiding in Christ,
the Liberating King.
Do you know Him?

I remember thinking: I didn’t know that was even possible! 

Yet, as Todd shared his story I could not get past that one thing. I began to ask God, “What does it look like to live unoffended? ”

As the few weeks that followed led to Christmas I wrestled with God much like Jacob did at Peniel. I came under conviction for all the judgments and offenses I continued to carry. All the times I have uttered the words, “Well, I don’t know about that, but you know she…”

Yeah, that’s me, guilty. I’ve done it over and over. Yes, I eventually move to forgiveness. Forgiveness, and not just in the sense I say what they did doesn’t matter or that it is okay, but forgiveness as in I sit before God and acknowledge what the specific person did that offended me. I acknowledge how that made me feel, and I confess any judgments I’ve made against them as a result. I also acknowledge that in and of myself I have absolutely no power to forgive. At the end of all of that, I choose by an act of my will to give every bit of it to Jesus, who earned the right to take that offense and all of its effects along with my judgments off of me and put them on the cross. Then I ask Jesus to give me something in exchange.

Now, it would be nice to sit here and confess right after that moment when I receive from Jesus life-giving power to overcome offense that the issue never arises again. But, that would not be true. I remember one particularly difficult year when I was nursing a broken heart and a particularly grievous offense that threatened a vital relationship in my life. I chose by an act of my will to engage God’s heart of forgiveness early in the journey through that valley of betrayal. But, before I even got to that forgiveness prayer, I sat in my car the night I learned of the offense and prayed, “God I cannot forgive ____________ right now, but You can. I don’t even know what is going on yet. But, You do. So, God I ask You to forgive _____________ and then work that out in me. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

I believe had I not set my heart on forgiving this loved one that very night this story would have come to a very different conclusion.

But, after that day a few weeks later when I engaged my will to embrace God’s grace and mercy, the wound remained like a surgical incision working through the process of healing. Stitched as it was, if you got to close and bumped up against it – it bled, it ached, it throbbed and it even tortured my heart. I would run into the one place I could be alone – the “toilet closet” and sit there on the closed lid of our commode rocking and praying, confessing Scripture until the moment passed. I would say, “Remember… God. Remember, I forgave ___________. We did this. Help me, God. Help me to heal.”

That season changed my life. But, not like this new season is changing my life. 

Right after Christmas an offense rose up between someone else close to me. And God used that as an opportunity to bring Todd’s words from a month earlier home to me. What does it mean to live unoffended? 

After several days, I remembered something that had helped me through the earlier episode where forgiveness became so relevant and healing to me. A pastor I respect and admire sat in a board room and shared about grace.

He said, “God’s grace is what it is. You can’t out-sin it. You can’t undo it. You can’t earn it. You can’t take advantage of it. It is what it is. Once you receive it you cannot lose it.” 

Powerful. Right? I sat there as revelation poured over me like a soothing wash of anointing oil. I knew he wasn’t saying that grace is a license to sin – but, that it covers sin and forgives it. As he spoke I began to feel this awareness come over me so I raised my hand.

He smiled and nodded for me to speak.

“So, what I hear you saying is that if I try to forgive someone out of my grace, they can take advantage of that, they can hurt me with that – because my grace is not unconditional, it is not free. But, if I forgive someone out of God’s grace at work in me, then they can’t take advantage of me or hurt me with it because it was never mine to give in the first place. It is up to God to take care of that – and He is a God of grace.”

The pastor smiled. He picked up his pen and said, “Would you say that again?”

I did.

He then responded. “So, what I hear you saying is that you are not going to be codependent on someone else’s response any longer. You’re not going to live codependent anymore.”

I just nodded and smiled. “That’s right.”

I needed to immediately let go of the thing that hurt me in what my loved one had done. So, I chose not to let it offend me.

Wait. What was that? You read that right. I chose not to let it offend me. 

You are probably asking what I asked that night when Todd White first illuminated this topic for me. “Can you choose not to be offended?”

And, my testimony, is yes. Yes, you can.

In the days that followed God showed me that His heart is that we remain unoffended so we need not forgive. You see, I cannot control what other people say and do to me or around me, but I can control how I respond to it.

Bitterness, prolonged unforgiveness, is like a weed in a lush green lawn. If you let it go unchecked, soon it will take over the entire yard and destroy the beauty that is planted there and instead replace it with dry and drab unsightly scrags that creep along the ground choking the life out of everything around it. Oh… I know I may be stepping on some toes, but it is just where I am in all of this.

If I allow offenses to take root in my heart, at some point I have to go and dig them out. If I don’t they become a root of bitterness that covers up all the beauty God intended for me to receive in this life and contaminates the lives of all those around me. Can I just say weeding the garden is a LOT of work?

So what if we tended the garden by choice, and refused to allow those weedy seeds of offense to enter in the first place?

What I have learned is this… I can walk unoffended, unaffected, by the choices and offenses of others. I must guard my heart and take responsibility for what I allow to take root in it. I am only responsible for what I allow the actions and words of others to do to my heart. I cannot change them, but I can change me – and if I remain unoffended I can pray for them and what it is that is hurting them to be revealed and healed. AMEN?

Above all else, watch over your heart; diligently guard it because from a sincere and pure heart come the good and noble things of life. ~Proverbs 4:23 (The VOICE)

In Full Bloom,

Michelle sig

 

 

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Just before Easter I ran across the following video that moved me beyond what words can adequately expressed. It is powerful! Life like that.

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One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Please leave a comment on this post OR email Trish (specifying which gift you are interested in) to be entered. All drawings will be on September 8th at 5pm MST to give everyone a chance to enter.

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The Treasure Box

Something that this new generation is missing is a bundle of letters tied up, hidden away in a bottom drawer or in a shoe box on the top shelf of the closet.  No one writes letters anymore.  We stay in touch by emails and text messaging.

You can’t bundle emails or text messages with a red ribbon, re-read them until they tear at the creases, start to brown from exposure and smear because of your tears.  Oh, you can lock them so they aren’t erased, file them away on your computer….but there is just something about pulling those old letters out from under the bed and re-reading them when your heart is broken or you are missing the one that wrote them.

When I was going through my mother’s things after her death, I found a box in her closet.  I had seen it before, but it was her closet and I had tried really hard not to snoop, but this time, I needed to look inside.  It was a beautiful, satin covered box held together with a ribbon.  I pulled it down just days after her funeral and found treasures.  I sat down in the closet and gently lifted the lid.

It was full of letters, tied with a ribbon.

I knew instantly what they were because when I was a teenager and did snoop, I found them in her hope chest…letters written by both my parents, when they were dating.  They talked about how much they loved each other and the plans they were making for their future.  There were terms of endearments that I had not heard them share in public and I felt like I was intruding on their intimate thoughts.

I left the letters as I had found them and took the box to my dad.  He held the box and with tears in his eyes, said that he would read them on his own.  He told me later that he wanted me to read them; he wanted me to share in his memories.  I’ll read them one day, but for now, I’ll leave them in the box.

I thought of my own letters, not in a box, but stuffed in a journal.  Memories come back so quickly when I read the letters written to me from my true love, full of details of how he was preparing for the day we would marry and he would bring me to our new home.  I read those letters when I feel a distance growing between us (that sometimes happens after 25 years of marriage) and I need to remember our first love.

As I thought about that box of treasures, I was reminded of what I’ve always taught children in regards to the Bible.

The Bible is a collection of letters, love letters so to speak, written from the One that understands and loves us better than anyone.  It’s full of the plans the Groom has for His bride.

I’ve started reading the Bible as if it was written directly to me…only me…from my first love.  I’ve rewritten verses, adding my name, to make it more personal.  If you were to pick up my treasure box, my Bible, you might be embarrassed as the intimacy between my Love and me.  You might even be a little jealous that I have such a relationship.  The thing is….my Beloved wrote you the same letters.

Where are your letters?  Are they on a shelf, collecting dust, in a drawer, stuffed under the bed?  Maybe it’s time to pull them back out and remember your First Love.

I wanted to share just a peek with you one of my letters.  It means a great deal to me.

My Darling Deborah,

This is God.  I wanted you to know that I created the heavens and the earth just for you, it was the beginning of the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you, Deborah, all good things, nothing to hurt you.  I put things in motion that day so that today you would have what you needed to not only survive and but thrive.  I know that you have been in a dark place lately; you’ve felt much like the earth was that day…formless and empty; the darkness seems to run deep in you right now.  But, Deborah, I want you to know that my Spirit is hovering over you, just waiting for my Word, so that a new creation will begin in you.  I’m going to bring light and order into your world, I promise and, my dearest Deborah, you know that I always keep my promises.  

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Obedience

Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared. Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good. How I long for your precepts! Preserve my life in your righteousness.

Psalm 119: 33-40

Work through Psalm 119, verses 33 to 40. You’ll see:

  • God teaches, we follow
  • God gives understanding, we keep and obey
  • God directs, we find delight
  • God turns our heart and eyes from selfishness and worthless things
  • He will fulfill His promises
  • He takes away disgrace and dread
  • He gives good things
  • He gives us His righteousness, we long for His words

Jesus told his disciples, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). Joyful gratitude and love yield obedience, a deep devotion to the Lord, and a longing to move closer to God. No legalism here; just a desire of heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30) to know the Lord, follow Him, love Him and obey His commands.

 

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Salmon Croquettes

If you are cooking on a budget and need to add some fish oil to your diet for a healthier heart, this is a good recipe to incorporate into your monthly menu.  For less than 6 dollars, you can feed a family of 8.  Often, I make homemade hashed browns, add fresh fruit and a salad–and as a family of 6, we are eating for less than $12.

2 eggs
1 can pink or red salmon, boned and flaked, skin discarded (keep the liquid)
3/4 c. all liquid drained from the salmon plus milk to the measure
2 sleeves saltines
1 T. lemon juice
6-8 green onions, chopped
3/4 c. canola oil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in frying pan. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Make 2 inch round, 1/2 inch thick patties from mixture. Carefully place in heated oil. Fry on both sides, until golden in color. Remove onto plate with 2 sheets of paper towels to soak up the oil. Makes 14-16 patties.

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Savoring His Presence

In Beth’s Moore study Believing God she encouraged us to look for God Stops.
Savoring
The
Observable
Presence

Her purpose was to encourage us to look for His activity and presence in our daily lives. I recently experienced a wonderful touch that encouraged me and I hope it will encourage you too.

This past week a dear friend called me to pray with her. I had some deep prayer concerns myself. As we were talking I said that I felt like I should write a list of names and wear them over my heart like the high priest would bear the names of the tribes on his chest before the Lord.

“Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the LORD.” Exodus 28:29

That afternoon my husband brought in the mail that contained my son’s Mother’s Day card to me. Inside the card was a simple necklace consisting of two silver disks. One had the names of our three granddaughters and the other disk had the names of our son and daughter. I loved it. Later that evening the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the statement I had made about the need to bear names over my heart before the Lord. I hadn’t made the connection at all. I was so grateful that He didn’t allow me to miss it.

I try to be faithful to put His loving touches in my journal so that I won’t ever forget the kindnesses that He has shown me. It has occurred to me that He is also savoring and recording those moments when we show our esteem for Him.

“Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name.” Malachi 3:16

Isn’t that just amazing? My own words fail me.

 

Your bountiful care what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light,
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In you do we trust, nor find you to fail;
Your mercies, how tender, how firm to the end,
Our maker, defender, redeemer, and friend!

O measureless Might, ineffable Love,
While angels delight to hymn you above.
The humbler creation, though feeble their lays,
With true adoration shall sing to your praise.

O Worship the King
Author: William Croft
Tune: Hanover
1st Published in: 1833

Let’s give Him something to write about today.

 

[Read more…]

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Heart Prompt #15

Choose a scripture you would like to memorize. It can be as short as a sentence or two, or as long as a paragraph or more. The length of the passage is not important; what is important is that the verse you choose speaks to you directly. Then write your verse on several 4×6 index cards, and put them in places where you will see them often throughout the day (your bathroom mirror, the refrigerator, the inside of a kitchen cupboard door, etc., etc.). The first time you encounter one of your index cards, read it out loud ~ from that point, every time you see an index card, try to recite it from memory bit by bit, until you’ve worked your way through the verse and have memorized it.

“ ‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ ” Jeremiah 31:33 NIV

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Heart Prompts

A little over a month ago, I began to sense among my fellow blog sisters a weariness.  And that weariness can WEAR on us, until we have no idea which side is up.  We long to sit at Jesus’ feet and let Him restore to us our rest in Him…yet, we either do not or can not choose it. 

So I spoke to Trish about a time of consecration here at A Martha Heart–a set apart time to anticipate and celebrate the birth of Jesus, born to die that man might live.  I didn’t want it to be a completely silent time, but a short time of prompts to encourage women to sit at Jesus’ feet and recover their lives. 

Then I began to think of the advent season coming up.  I will be honest, my understanding of advent itself is lighting different-colored candles in church each week and knowing that the candles symbolized something, but really not grasping it.  Even so, as I grow and learn more about the body of Christ, I began to ask friends questions.  What is advent?  What does it mean?  Beyond the traditions shared, I wanted to know and understand the word advent–arrival.

My friend Diane said it begins with Hope. My friend Meredith that that it is encompassed by anticipation, expectation, reflection and centering in Christ Jesus.  It also has the word LONGING tied into it.

God longed to redeem us.

Mary longed to give birth.

The world longed for His coming then and some missed Jesus.

Today, believers LONG for Jesus to come back.  Or we don’t…some of us are losing our longing, our anticipation, our expectation and we are getting LOST in the process.

So from November 28th through December 25th, we will be sharing heart prompts only here at A Martha Heart.  As Meredith said, we get so busy during the Christmas season, we forget to be still.  Dear sisters, being still before Jesus is our Life. We need to find our center in Christ Jesus.

Expecting Him…Longing for Jesus,

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Never-ending Laundry and My Heart

I have a confession. Today is one of those days that I’m glad that my laundry room isn’t the pretty kind you see in magazines. In fact, my laundry room isn’t really a room at all–it’s more a corner in the basement. If it was the pretty kind, I’d have to climb under the piles of laundry sitting on the floor and hide out of embarrassment. It’s bad, ya’ll.

(So I am not a Southern girl, but my mom grew up in New Orleans, and I so I say things like ya’ll. And “Oh dear Gussie!” And “ma’am.”)

My family (that’s my husband Toben, my daughters Audrey and Emma, and my parents who are known around here as Gran and Papa) spent last week camping in the Grand Tetons. And Yellowstone. I have to stop and say, WOW! and WAY TO GO, GOD! But that’s a whole other post. If you’ve never been, put it on your list. Near the top, preferably.

Anyway, back to the laundry. As I headed down to the basement yesterday to start the seemingly never-ending, towering mountains of camping laundry I worried that it would be out of control. That it would take far longer than I’d like. That it would never, ever end.

So when I just scrolled over the Laundry Room sign on the front page of A Martha Heart and saw what it says under the sign, I had a little epiphany. It says “A cleansing of the heart.” And isn’t that true? Heart cleansing–being changed and transformed and made whole and new–doesn’t always fit into a pretty magazine picture.

Getting our hearts cleansed can get messy in the process. We start to feel wrung out, a little ragged, like it will never end. And sometimes in the midst of a heart cleansing, we’d really like to climb under the piles of junk in our life and simply hide out of shame.

Like the laundry in my basement, it seems like heart cleansing is an ongoing process, one that gets done again and again. One stain gets removed, and in the next wearing, something new gets spilled. The wear and tear of life means cleansing is a repeated process.

And that’s okay. Because that’s how God designed it. One load at a time.

But when it’s finally done–and God always finishes what he starts (Philippians 1:6 says so!)–we find ourselves in the place David prayed to be found–cleansed, washed, renewed.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow…
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:7,10

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