How to Forgive and Why

How to ForgiveIt doesn’t take long in a day to find an offense–be it a political division, cut off in traffic, a neighbor’s unruly yard (that might be mine!), a long-term disagreement or being unfriended on facebook.  Facebook alone is a source of irritation and strife for many of us.  I often wonder why we subject ourselves to it?

So we find ourselves needing to forgive.  Sometimes, we don’t even know when the switch from contentedness to infuriated occurred.  But it did. And now we are dealing with swirling thoughts of cantankerousness that have muddied up the happy-go-lucky waters. Perhaps at this point we need to be put in time-out?  I think so!

Sometimes, though, much time passes and we are beginning to feel the effects of unforgiveness.  It is eating away at our health, our joy, our other relationships and even our future dreams.  I’d say we are prisoners to that place of unforgiveness.  Maybe we need counselling at this point. Maybe we need to write a letter. Maybe we need to try to talk it out.  But when all of that does not seem to make a dent in it, we may need to change our perspective.  I thought I would share my own healing journey with you.

Perhaps it will lighten your own journey’s load.  I pray it will!

In 2005, my family and I followed God’s prompting to move to Colorado–it was a journey of faith that entire year.  My parents would not accept it.  They tried every tactic they could to regain “control” of the situation and to keep us in Texas–to no avail.  We moved and they refused to bless us in doing so. From this point on, our relationship, which had formerly been what we thought was a GOOD one, would be strained to non-existent.  So what’s a daughter to do?  I did what I thought any good child would do….I held up my end of the relationship as much as possible.  We sent gifts and letters (they sent gifts and letters back). We called them. We even visited four times and stayed with them part of the time (my Chris’ parents live in the same town).  But they refused to visit.  They have called a handful of times over the years.  And when we were there, we were not allowed to discuss Colorado or our lives here.  We had to play by their rules.

Deep down, I fought resentment and unforgiveness–holding it in a tight fist, so no one could see.  I had even felt like I was being forgiving in the way I responded–some of that was completely pretense.  For I was not being forgiving, I was holding a grudge and justifying myself by keeping score.  And the fact is, no one ever keeps score fairly in relational struggles.  There is a skew of perception that tells us we are alright and in-the-right.  It is a tactic of the enemy and for 5 years, it worked.

Then one day, after much distress over the tried and failed attempts at reconciliation, I felt the Lord prompt me to lay down my chess piece…to quit the game entirely.  That day, I did.  I dropped all of the doings, except sending gifts and a card that only read, “I love you.  I am praying for you.” My Chris even spelled it out that we were open to reconcile at any time, but they would need to make some steps for that to happen.  It did not fix the situation–and it may never be fixed.  The Lord gave us both the gift of peace.

The fact is a bridge being built from one end only is not a bridge, it’s a slide to the muddy waters beneath.  Both sides must work to build it for it to stand. We cannot make someone else build. We simply can’t. At this point, we have prayer only, and prayer to the Living God is a powerful tool in all struggles we face!

ONE BIG THING it did do is FREE me to forgive them and release my parents into God’s hands.  You see, I could tell you all the in’s and out’s of the story.  But there is nothing good that can come from talking about it or even justifying it–no one wins.  The effective place to be is in a place of prayer before God.  He is between us and He cares.  He gets it–and knows thoroughly all the aspects of the story.  From this place, I have begun to find freedom in other sticky relational problems.  I have begun to lose weight–30 lbs since last August! I have begun to be disciplined and more focused.  My health has turned around even–I have not been to the doctor in 1 1/2 years.  It is amazing!

Some days I still have a sadness over it all–and feel the great loss.  Some days I feel resentment creep back in.  And on those days, I get quiet and still before God.  He sees me through it all, as I live open-handed before Him, freeing them to go on and freeing myself to live fully.

This is a hard story to share.  I nearly shared it sparing the details, but I knew that this Easter time, Jesus died for ALL of us. He came to set the captive sinners free, of which I am the worst. I share this because light over darkness is a powerful thing!

Today I am so very thankful for new beginnings and hopeful for the future.

With Love,

Holly sig2

 

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Mommy Moment: Peace

Tranquility

Mr. Webster defines peace as “the state of tranquility”.

Moms to young ones might describe it like this:

It’s evening. Your newborn sleeps with a heavy head on your shoulder as tiny breaths warm the skin of your neck. Peace.

It’s the middle of the night. Your colic-ridden infant has finally “given it up” and your ears – that have heard nothing but screaming for the last hour – can bask in the silence you’ve prayed for. Peace.

It’s early morning. You’ve had the first night of truly restful sleep in weeks. The children didn’t wake you up, the alarm has not buzzed, you just open your eyes and see sunlight sneaking in the window as birds greet one another outside. Peace.

It’s lunchtime. You and your little ones sit down to enjoy yet another PB& J. Everyone eats happily (for the moment) and you realize how rich you are to have such beautiful children. Peace.

It’s afternoon. You walk by the kids’ room and notice them playing and laughing together. Never mind that within a few minutes, you’ll be bombarded by tattle-tales, false accusations, and high-pitched squeals of injustice. For now, they enjoy their agreement and so do you. Peace.

It’s evening. You’ve done a full day’s work. You pass your husband’s recliner, kiss his forehead, then smile as you send him the toddler who carries a stack of bedtime books. You lock yourself in the bathroom. Bubble bath or no bubble bath … here, you have once again found …Peace.

May you be encouraged today to seek out and recognize those rare but precious moments of peace!

Cari winter2012

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When Grace is the Only Thing Needed

GraceThe past few weeks have been full up with opportunities for me to show a little or a lot of grace.  And I will tell you what, though one might think I am sweet-natured and gentle-tempered, I am not.  In fact, really no one is.  We are all a bunch of live wires ready to go off–just let the electricity go off for four days or a stomach flu that goes through your family of six, one at a time, and see what happens.  We find that we are not grace-givers…but we are surely ALL grace-needers.

A hug that is not returned…

A gift that is spurned…

A call that is more about digging for gossip than concern…

A friend, who should bring blessing, but rather burns…

A debt left unpaid…

A thousand smiles with no smile in exchange…

A kindness left unnoticed…

A thousand times a thousand carrying out the same task with no thanks at all…

And we have a choice. Get even or remember a thousand times a thousand, Jesus says to forgive. I call that grace.

We need much grace for the times we have been offenders. And don’t believe for one second that a day passes and we have not in some way offended–by what we do or say intentionally or sub-consciously unaware. It is our modus operendi.  We are OFFENDERS!

We need to give much grace for the times we are offended. That’s part of it.  Unmerited favor goes unearned. Oh, but the rewards for giving grace?  Now that is different altogether.  There is RICHNESS to be found in the giving of grace.

We have peace in our hearts.

We can live from a place of JOY.

We can sing a song of HOPE.

We can hear a sermon or read a book that helps and not think–wow, they need to read THIS!

We can live out of the abundant, exceedingly abundant, resources of God.

And I don’t know about you, but I would not trade all the JUSTICE in the world for a shaker full of grace. For I have needed it in a “fiscal cliff” kind of way.  And God has given it…and given it…and given it.  I am glad for the justice I did not get.

Perhaps my hugs and gifts went unreceived and unappreciated…my heart wrenched in pain…my reaching out was ignored…my hard stuff went through an archaeological dig for someone else’s pleasure…I felt gutted and cored. YET, this I call to mind…and this I remember–

my Jesus went through more than I could ever imagine to grant ME grace. And I will give it.  And give it.  And give it again. I will trust and try and forgive again.  For grace has been my given.  Therefore, I shall give it.

Holly winter2012

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On My Fall-filled Walk

Since I have entered this new season of life with our kiddos all in school all day long, I felt a pressing upon my heart to be very intentional in how I spend the moments. To be devoted to my family is a natural thing for me, but to prepare for time with them, as we are apart, for the time we will have together, is a bit more complicated.  It is the overspill of life that I must attend to, so that when we are together, I am focused and present with them.

And that overspill for me includes cleaning the house–praying in each of their rooms, preparing a menu and meals–breakfast and supper together during the week and all through the weekend, adding special touches around the house–delighting in the seasons and times and finally–most importantly–preparing myself.

What do I mean by preparing myself? I’m talking about my anxieties and fears, my physical self, my time with the Lord and just re-remembering who I was (who I am) before I had four children.  That person has gone through a gamut of change, but truthfully? I like who I am.  I enjoy being alone–me and the Lord. Sometimes, I go out and spend time with others–sharpeners of my faith and friends of my heart.  But often, it is just me.

So when I find that life begins to pile up–and it will…and it does–I drive to a nearby park and go for a walk.  I pray there–for myself, my family, friends and folks going through hard times, our community, country and the world.  I speak aloud to God–and listen in my heart for His replies.  I read my Bible–a two-way conversation right there, just me and my Lord. I praise Him there–thanking Him for the yellow leaves that sparkle and glimmer in the sun, for the ducks I saw fly and land on the water, for the time set apart and for timing it, so that I am often completely alone when I go.

Then I feel the air and smell the breezes.  I feel the trees, as I pass, and I watch for birds and animals.  I smile. I laugh. I take pictures!

So today, rather than go on about my walk, I thought I would show you.  Then perhaps, if you wish, you can go on a walk, too. It is your very own time apart–margin and grace-filled spaces. Seek Him and He will be found.  Enjoy Psalm 37 from The Message and the photos from my fallish walk.

Don’t bother your head with braggarts
or wish you could succeed like the wicked.
In no time they’ll shrivel like grass clippings
and wilt like cut flowers in the sun.

Get insurance with God and do a good deed,
settle down and stick to your last.
Keep company with God,
get in on the best.

Open up before God, keep nothing back;
he’ll do whatever needs to be done:
He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day
and stamp you with approval at high noon.

Quiet down before God,
be prayerful before him.
Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder,
who elbow their way to the top.

Bridle your anger, trash your wrath,
cool your pipes—it only makes things worse.
Before long the crooks will be bankrupt;
God-investors will soon own the store.

Before you know it, the wicked will have had it;
you’ll stare at his once famous place and—nothing!
Down-to-earth people will move in and take over,
relishing a huge bonanza.

Bad guys have it in for the good guys,
obsessed with doing them in.
But God isn’t losing any sleep; to him
they’re a joke with no punch line.

Bullies brandish their swords,
pull back on their bows with a flourish.
They’re out to beat up on the harmless,
or mug that nice man out walking his dog.
A banana peel lands them flat on their faces—
slapstick figures in a moral circus.

Less is more and more is less.
One righteous will outclass fifty wicked,
For the wicked are moral weaklings
but the righteous are God-strong.

God keeps track of the decent folk;
what they do won’t soon be forgotten.
In hard times, they’ll hold their heads high;
when the shelves are bare, they’ll be full.

 God-despisers have had it;
God’s enemies are finished—
Stripped bare like vineyards at harvest time,
vanished like smoke in thin air.

Wicked borrows and never returns;
Righteous gives and gives.
Generous gets it all in the end;
Stingy is cut off at the pass.

Stalwart walks in step with God;
his path blazed by God, he’s happy.
If he stumbles, he’s not down for long;
God has a grip on his hand.

I once was young, now I’m a graybeard—
not once have I seen an abandoned believer,
or his kids out roaming the streets.
Every day he’s out giving and lending,
his children making him proud.

Turn your back on evil,
work for the good and don’t quit.
God loves this kind of thing,
never turns away from his friends.

Live this way and you’ve got it made,
but bad eggs will be tossed out.
The good get planted on good land
and put down healthy roots.

Righteous chews on wisdom like a dog on a bone,
rolls virtue around on his tongue.
His heart pumps God’s Word like blood through his veins;
his feet are as sure as a cat’s.

Wicked sets a watch for Righteous,
he’s out for the kill.
God, alert, is also on watch—
Wicked won’t hurt a hair of his head.

Wait passionately for God,
don’t leave the path.
He’ll give you your place in the sun
while you watch the wicked lose it.

I saw Wicked bloated like a toad,
croaking pretentious nonsense.
The next time I looked there was nothing—
a punctured bladder, vapid and limp.

Keep your eye on the healthy soul,
scrutinize the straight life;
There’s a future
in strenuous wholeness.
But the willful will soon be discarded;
insolent souls are on a dead-end street.

The spacious, free life is from God,
it’s also protected and safe.
God-strengthened, we’re delivered from evil—
when we run to him, he saves us.

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Leveled

It all started about three months ago.  I began to consistently pray a specific prayer: Lord, sift me. Lord break me.  Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours. Less of me, Lord, and more of you.

So you know what has happened since then? Ripping life. Trauma. Anxiety. Mental distress. Struggle with the same problems.  Struggle with new ones. Disappointment. Discouragement. Weariness that goes so deep, I couldn’t even make a map for you. Anger. Distrust. Cynicism.

There was out-working of all of this on various days–with tears, angry words, and other disagreeable discourse.

Then there was peace. Quiet. Stillness. Calm.

I believe the answer to this prayer has come in the form of leveling of myself–stripped of all pride and laying face down.  Not grovelling, mind you, no.  But surrender. Surrender over and over again to God’s plans for my life.  Surrender to His timing–His way, His how.

What shall come out of these ashes, I do not yet know.  But I know that it will be good.  I know that it will shine forth in beauty.  I know that it will come without the need to be known or understood by any man or woman. That affirmation that has always driven me has been tossed out at a roadside, park waste receptacle, never to be heard from again (I hope). I also know that it will come without the need for receiving credit or recognition.  For every crown, I lay at His feet. Jesus alone is worthy.

You see, underlying all of this is great loss, accusation without defense and a lose-lose situation.  Only God can restore what has been ripped from my hands.  Only God can make a way from the crookedest pathway. I have One, who stands in my place.  I have Jesus.  And His nod of approval over my life is all I need.  So I now stand under a beautiful weight of daily carrying the cross, which He has faithfully allowed me to bear.  I follow Him.  And there alone, I find peace.

It’s like an old injury I struggle with in my right ankle.  It needs daily exercise to be loose and willing enough for me to use it. When I don’t exercise it, my walking is a limping forward.  It’s painful, embarrassing even.  But with daily exercise, I have freedom to run! God’s weights upon us are always, always for us and for good, building core strength built upon a strong and firm foundation–Jesus.

Now, you may be asking, why?  Why would I pray such a prayer?  Why would I even care or bother? I’ll tell you why.  I just got to the point where I was sick of myself, sick of who I was becoming, sick of the same old topics being rehashed in the same base way. I have reached the point in my walk where I care more about God having His way through me than me having my way for my own comfort.

And it’s uncomfortable. It’s hard.  It’s weighty.

But I am not alone.  Daily I pick it up.  Daily I walk it out. All with Jesus. If I am stripped of everything I hold dear for the sake of His call, I say YES, in advance. I do not long for that, no.  But I am willing.  And everything we hold out willingly to our Savior, He sees our pureness of heart and He shines through.  That’s all I want–I want for Jesus to shine through and make a difference in this little piece of ground under my feet and surrounding. Even if…

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If I Could See What You See…..

A couple of years ago, the company I worked for wanted to provide a community of prayer for our readers.  Once a month they would make available downloads of worshipful songs.  As the site developed, they added videos to go with the songs.  While the site didn’t really work the way they had wanted, the music was a hit.

I added this song to my personal playlist and when I lose focus of where I need to be, I play it over and over.  It has a calming and uplifting effect on me.  The words remind me that God sees us differently than we see ourselves.  We need to learn to see what He sees.

Enjoy the worship video for “If You Could See What I See” from Maribeth Johnson.

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Joy and Peace

I love this photo. Two of my favorite people are in it. In the foreground is Reyna, the beautiful redhead. Reyna is one of those amazing young women who doesn’t really know how truly incredible she is. Reyna is now in college, majoring in interior design. I’ve known Reyna since she was 7 years old, and I’ve watched her grow and change in many ways. Most of all, she has grown in her love for Jesus. She is a beautiful young woman on the outside, but it’s the inside love of Jesus that shines so brightly through her that makes her one of the most beautiful girls I know.

Next to Reyna is my youngest son, Sawyer. This photo is “a keeper” for me (although I didn’t take it) because that smile on Sawyer’s face is genuine. He and Reyna were having a great time when this photo was captured on Reyna’s camera by some unknown person. I don’t know what they were doing ~ probably something related to a youth group activity ~ and to be honest I don’t even know when or where the photo was taken, but someone did an amazing job of capturing the two of them having a great laugh together.

Sometimes I wonder…if someone were to snap a photo of me without my knowledge, how would that photo turn out? Would I have a joyful or peaceful look on my face, or would I appear grumpy? Or even worse, would I have an angry look on my face? My husband calls it my sour puss face. I’ve caught glimpses of my sour puss face in the mirror, and let me tell you, it’s not a pretty look.

Am I always happy? No, of course not. But I can be joyful, despite my circumstances. Am I always calm, cool and collected? Not by a long shot. But I can be peaceful, no matter what is going on around me. Humans have emotions ~ they allow us to feel, to empathize, sympathize, to laugh and cry, to be excited, and to handle moments of great happiness and great sadness. We’re meant to experience a wide range of emotions. It’s the way God made us.

I find myself wanting more peace, more joy in the Lord. I want the large majority of those candid snapshots to show the joy and peace my Lord brings to my heart. My life will never be perfect, but my God is ~ and He can handle whatever emotions I feel at any given moment. And in return, He fills me with peace and joy beyond understanding.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. ~James 3: 13-18

 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4: 4-7

 

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Weighing Words

The heart of the righteous weighs its answers,

but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.

Proverb 15:28

Words can be like a healing salve to a painful wound, or they can be like a knife and cause a painful wound. Words can bring us together, or rip us apart.

It only takes a moment ~ stop, take a deep breath, consider the weight of the words you are about to speak. Are they helpful, or harmful? If your desire is to pierce another with your words, reconsider.

The damage done by our words can irreparably harm, or they can bring joy, peace and happiness. Goodness and grace trump meanness and pain any day.

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other gods

A few years ago, I began an overview study in Isaiah–looking for Christ in each chapter.  Studying God’s Word is not for a select few, it is for everyone, you just need a few tools and a seeking heart for God.  In studying, all you need are a few tools to begin.  Your Bible, pen, notebook, a concordance and a Bible dictionary–or you can find all the study tools you need online with Bible Gateway and Blue Letter Bible. Read the portion you want to study.  Re-read it and write down the words that most interest you.  Engage in the Word, by allowing the Holy Spirit to direct your time. Then dig into the phrases and context.

Today I will share my insights from Isaiah 26, where there is much to glean.  One of the best messages I ever heard was on Isaiah 26:3 by Beth Moore at a Living Proof Live event in Little Rock, Arkansas several years ago. The part of her message that most struck me was about this verse: “You will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.” Picture laying your head on God’s lap and He has His Hand upon your head, as you lay there. He is then applying His thoughts to yours by showing you HOW to think about all the WHAT that is going on.

Do you have a difficult situation? Put your head on God’s lap and pour out your heart before Him. Then let Him speak over you in that situation. I often pray, “Lord, help me to see how to think about all this WHAT going on in my life.” Perspective. Oh, I need it! A good Word from my Sister, Beth!

What I first saw when I read Isaiah 26 was that our strength lies in our salvation! Our salvation through Jesus Christ has become the walls and ramparts (protective barrier prepared to fortify) of our city. We have a strong Defender! His name is Jesus.

I also noticed that the city’s gates are not closed, they are open. Salvation is not an exclusive club. It can be accessed by anyone, who comes with faith. All we need to do is share with others about knowing Christ–his blood shed on the cross to cover all their sins and make them white as snow. Are your gates closed or open?

The third verse has been a stay for me through the years. I have often thought upon the verse to the point, where I have it memorized like this (you will not be surprised): “Holly, God will keep you in perfect peace. Keep your mind stayed upon Him! Holly, put your trust in Him.” I talk to myself like this all the time. Personalize the Word of God. It is for you. It is written TO you. Why should you not insert your name? There are scriptures and promises that through the ages have marked the way of men and women, because they took it for their own. Is His Word something you cling to as your own? His matchless, changeless character has kept His Word. It is true, every bit.

So try it for yourself with verse four: “(Your name), Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.” What does that mean when you say it? It means that the Lord God, the covenant LORD, is worthy of your trust in ALL situations. It means He keeps His promises. And it means that forever, He is strong, steadfast and firm.

Do you want your path to be level and smooth? Then look to verse seven: “The path of the righteous is level; O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth.” It doesn’t say He might make, it says He WILL make. Our part is to be righteous. Oh, you say, then I guess I cannot take this verse to heart, righteousness is an impossible standard for me, a sinner.

I have Good News! That Good News is Christ Jesus. When you ask Him to be your Savior, He becomes the righteousness in and over your life. Like clothing, we daily need to put on Christ. In putting Him on, we will long to know Him more by reading His Word. We will long to please Him more, by obeying His Word. We will long to serve Him more, for His love in us COMPELS us to do something for others. Ahhh, the great exchange occurs (His life for ours)…and we are never the same. Jesus becomes our desire.

Need a verse for your life? Verse eight is a life verse for our family: “Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.” I am laughing, because His Word never returns void. In our lives, we have over and over and over had to wait on the LORD. Every single time, we have understood that in the waiting, we were growing in the Lord and declaring His renown wherever we went. Oh, it is a hard path to travel, but I would never exchange it–no, not for all the wealth and fame and honor this world might offer.

You see we have longed for Him in the night, we have seen His Hand upon us, we have learned His ways (oh, there is much left to learn!) and He has established peace for us in our family.

How has this come about?

Verses 13-14 say it well:
O LORD, our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us,
but your name alone do we honor.

They are now dead, they live no more;
those departed spirits do not rise.
You punished them and brought them to ruin;
you wiped out all memory of them.

Oh Praise the LORD! I am so glad. For indeed, we HAVE had other lords besides the LORD our God. We have bowed down to other gods. They ruled over us, and we walked bent over and with a limp–blind to see anything of God’s Hand. Only now, walking under the authority of Christ, have we found that we can truly see how we were before. We are quite familiar now with all our ways during those times. God has taken His Word and spoken over those times. He has put to death our sin. He remembers them no more.

In light of who Jesus is and who we were, we begin to see that even then, He was there. Today, we walk in that Light, His Light…oh, Praise God for that. So many gods…not one worthy. Every one, cast down before the feet of Christ. Then in love, our Savior, Jesus, became the Lifter of our Heads.

Is your head hanging low today over some situation? Lay that situation down. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16). Let Him fill your mouth again with laughter (Psalm 126:2, Job 8:21)! The King of Glory has come in (Psalm 24:7-10)! Open wide the gates of your city, that many may come and know Him. Let Him come in and enlarge the boundaries of the city. There is room…Christ made room. Come on in!

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