Experiencing Grace

No matter of religious persuasion, or no persuasion at all, we inherently understand the powerful freedom that comes when we find a safe person to whom we are able to admit our guilt, speak our shame, and cut the cords from the demon-burdens we bear. I was recently introduced to the following table to help people work through their past grievances and failings. It was described something like this:

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Now, because I was at a religious meeting when I heard about this, we used more religious terms than what I’ve got on the table. The first column was titled “sin” and the process was called “confession”.  And in religious terms we would call the final column “repentance” – or turning away from prior actions, desires, or beliefs.

Anyone of any faith or no faith at all can go through this process and find some level of relief and feel like they’re starting with a clean slate.  They can get up the next day, read the list, remind themselves of the kind of person they’d rather be, and make choices that work toward that end.

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But through the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus, so much more is available to the believer.  Listen to this good news:

Make your list. And as a believer in Jesus and His gift of grace, tear away the first two columns and destroy them. Shred them. Burn them. Have your dog eat them. You get the idea. God remembers your sin no more.

Now read the words in the last column out loud and let this sink in: Because of the gift of Jesus, God already sees you this way and He promises to  remake you into what He already says you are.  That’s right. It’s not just a clean slate – but a complete slate.

You don’t deserve it and you don’t have to work for it.

It’s a gift.

That’s forgiveness. That’s love. That’s grace.

If you don’t know Jesus and the place you have in His story, or if you have been a Christian and this is new to you, I invite you into God’s reality today.

By His wounds we are healed. 

Jesus is the hero and that’s good news!

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When Love Supersedes

How many hearts have been broken by love ended? And how many faith journeys have been shaken when God has seemingly not answered the prayers for peace and harmony in a struggling relationship?  God is all-powerful.  His Word says that He places a very high regard on marriage. So why would He allow a marriage to fail when there has been much prayer asking Him to save it? Those are very real questions in this world of brokenness.

What do your prayers look like in those situations? I can tell you the gist of my prayers in the past. “God, it hurts me when he ____. Please make him stop. Make him ____ instead.”

While the desired end result (a more loving, peace-filled relationship) was certainly healthy, the means by which I wanted God to achieve that goal were not healthy. When we take our broken understanding of love and try to apply it to God, we can come up with some very unloving ideas about what He ought to do on our behalf.

But God doesn’t make anyone do anything. His kingdom is about love – and love requires free-will. He is not interested in coerced love. He doesn’t manipulate, condemn, or shame.  He doesn’t do that to you to get His way with you, nor will He do that to your spouse to get His way (or your way) with your spouse. His kingdom is built on earning trust through sacrificial love. Yes, God is all-powerful. But He values non-coercive love more than He values power.

So I invite you to change the tone of your prayers. Shift your perspective. Ask God to empty you of your broken self and fill you with more of Him. Ask Him to teach you how to communicate clearly, love gently, and to know Him better. It is through beholding Him, contemplating His love, and understanding what He’s about that you will naturally change on the inside so you can begin genuinely acting differently on the outside. And the bonus is that as you are changed, those around you will see a reflection of Jesus and will be impacted in a positive way.

Hemerocallis Gentle Shepherd 6805I pray that today you catch a glimpse of the tender love God has for you. If you don’t know Him, I invite you to read this blog and this blog to learn how to know God in the scriptures.

Jesus came to show us the Father. He came to save, not to condemn.

Jesus is the hero. And it’s good news!

Maybe it’s Abuse

“I have a praise,” the middle-aged woman raised her hand. “A christian friend of mine had a husband who wasn’t very nice. She sometimes would put the kids to bed at 6:30 and sneak supper to them so they wouldn’t have to be around their dad when he got home from work. He could be pretty mean to them, so she protected them. This went on for years. He passed away not long ago, but before he died he gave his life to Christ. He knew he hadn’t been nice all those years and for her to put up with him, well, he decided there must be something to this Christianity thing. Her kindness all those years was a witness to him. Praise God!” Others chimed in, “Yes, praise God!” and “A-MEN!”

Dear Conflicted Christian,

I’m sorry you were there for that conversation. You’ve been deeply hurt and confused by this relationship you’re in. And you’ve been listening – listening because you want to do the right thing and make the right choices. I know you’ve heard that true Christians turn the other cheek and keep their promises no matter what, but sometimes doing so feels wrong in your gut. It feels like a wrong against you, or perhaps your children. And you think it is your sinful, selfish flesh that makes you think of leaving instead of staying and sacrificing. You’re more afraid of being a bad Christian than you are of being mistreated. Please keep listening.

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Jesus loves you. You’ve heard it so many times perhaps you didn’t really hear it just then. Jesus loves you. The Creator of the universe, the Savior of mankind, your Redeemer – He loves you. Not only that, but Jesus loves you. He adores you. He was willing to give up His home, His power, His position in heaven to heal His relationship with you. And further more, Jesus loves you.  Perhaps you’ve been told in words or actions that you are not lovable. Or perhaps you believe that Jesus loves the institution of marriage and the character traits of purity and commitment more than He loves you. You and I understand that people are more important than things. So don’t you imagine that God, whose very character is the definition of love, prioritizes people over things even more than we do? Jesus loves you.  Now walk forward in this conversation from that point of safety.  Please keep listening.

Jesus is your Savior. Jesus is your spouse’s Savior. You don’t need to sacrifice your life in hopes of saving your spouse. Jesus already provided that sacrifice. I’m sorry for the messages within the church and among  Christians that have informed you otherwise. Please keep listening.

The cross that Jesus asks you to bear is not the abuse, it’s not your marriage, and it’s not your vow of silence. I know you’ve heard preachers tell you it is. But it’s not. Jesus tells us that His yoke is easy and the burden He places on you is light. You need to carry your cross so you can die daily as Paul did. That means your selfish desires – including your urge to cleanse your life by being good – must be nailed to that cross every day. Please keep listening.

No one can help you unless you’re honest. That means being honest about everything – even the things that don’t reflect well on yourself. You will have the strength to do this only if you’ve accepted in your heart the things I’ve already said. Maybe you’re easily manipulated. That will need to be admitted for your own healing. Maybe you’re ashamed of things you’ve done that were not consistent with the person you want to be. Betrayal of self is perhaps the deepest of injuries. But there is compassion, grace and healing in Jesus. In the presence of a safe person, allow that wound to be opened so He can heal you.

There will be people who are not safe and may create obstacles to your healing. They may say things like:

  • “That doesn’t seem likely. I’ve never seen your spouse act anything like what you’re saying.”  Spare your breath. Their response doesn’t negate your experience or make them a bad person. They just can’t hear you right now. That’s ok. Find someone who can.
  • “You’re being too sensitive.” If you’ve lived with abuse for years, you probably believe that’s true. So let’s just say it is true. A loving spouse and friend respects – and dare I say even admires – a sensitive spirit. Find someone to talk with who isn’t going to condemn you for that character trait.
  • “You’re the one who decided to marry them. You’re just going to have to deal with it.”  No one signs up for abuse. You didn’t choose to be abused.
  • “You just have to put up with some things in order to have a long term relationship.” Yep, you sure do. You’ll experience differences in likes, priorities, and ideas. There will be a lot to work through. However, that does not include putting up with habitual mistreatment or manipulation.
  • “You’re not being forgiving enough.” Forgiveness relates to your attitude toward another person and impacts your motives. Forgiveness does not equal embracing destructive behavior.
  • “Your spouse probably has reasons for acting that way. You need to be more understanding.” There are always reasons for what human beings do. But understanding why a thing is so does not necessarily make it healthy or acceptable.

While there may be some element of truth in all of those statements, it still may be abuse that has you on edge and your stomach in a knot. Find someone who will believe you and give unbiased feedback. A counselor is a good option or follow this link to talk with someone at the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Just because you and your spouse go to church every week doesn’t mean abuse can’t happen in your home. Studying religious beliefs and doctrine doesn’t automatically give you an understanding of the love and compassion Jesus has for you or equip you with the tools to share that love with others in a healthy way. Please get to know Him!

Talking about what you’re experiencing doesn’t necessarily mean your marriage is over or that your spouse is a horrible person. But it does provide a doorway to a future that is more peace-filled and less chaotic. Now walk through it.

Be strong and of good courage.

Much Love, Me

Church – Do we not realize that our words are encouraging domestic abuse to continue in our midst? Yes, praise God the man in the story gave his life to Christ. Praise God He is able to take a bad situation and bring about good. But no, not “praise God” that the wife’s “kindness” witnessed to him. Where did we get the idea that God requires us to enable abusers and how did we come to see it as kindness?  What is kind or loving about habitually shielding our abusive loved ones from the natural consequences of their actions?  Where is the growth in their journey when we do that? How will they come to the end of themselves and see their need for God when we run perpetual interference? Yes, relationships are complex and there will always be more give than take. But let’s not confuse that with abuse.

Please allow Jesus to be the Savior of mankind.

He is the hero.

And that’s good news.

 

Dear Christian Porn User

Dear Christian Porn User,

I know what you’ve been up to. I’ve seen the browser history, the credit card bills. I’ve found that stash of magazines you thought you hid in the basement. I’ve heard your stories when you thought I wasn’t listening. You may think you’re being clever, but you’re not.

You’ve probably said you think there’s nothing wrong with it – that no one is harmed by it. But your attempts to hide it and your defensiveness when caught betray that your heart knows differently. We do not hide that which is right and just and pure.

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I know you go to church every week and have called yourself a Christian all your life, but don’t fool yourself with your title. Do not let who you think you have to be blind you to who you really are. And listen up, because I’ve got some things to say to you!

Jesus loves you.  

Yes, I know. I know you’re a hypocrite. God knows, too. And He’s crazy about you – right now! He loves you. It’s not conditional. He doesn’t ask that you change your ways before you accept His love. In fact, accepting His love is the only way to change your heart.

The gospel is for you.

You’ve often heard about how we need to tell the unchurched about Jesus. But, the good news is, the gospel is for you, too. While you were an enemy of God, Christ died for you. He took on the wages of sin for you. On the cross, He  freely chose to die, forsaken by His Father and without hope for Himself, to give you the right to a new life.

You are valuable.

The cross tells of your value. The God of the universe – the one who can create stars or tell mountains to rise up or to fall down – He offered His Son to bear the price of your sin and mine. Do not reject or scorn the value He places on having a relationship with you.

Now, leave it!

Walk away from it. You know the fleeting moments of pleasure are a high price to pay for the dysfunction it’s brought to your home and the chaos in your heart and soul. So leave it. You’re tired of the scramble for more and feeling like it controls you. So leave it. But you actually can’t, can you? You’ve tried and it pulls you back every time. Perfect! Yes, perfect! You are in the perfect spot to drop your pride, stop the charade and proclaim your utter helplessness.

Call out to Jesus.

I know you are in the church, but call out to Him from the broken place you find yourself. His mercies are new every morning. Now is the time for salvation. Allow His love to soothe and heal those hurts of your past that have been so influential in where you find yourself today.

Pray these words:

Lord God, I acknowledge that I am unable to control my desires. You know the brokenness of my life. I need you, Lord. I am a sinner. Please forgive me. Thank you for displaying Your love and might on the cross through the death and resurrection of Jesus. You overcame the power of sin on my behalf! Sin no longer has to reign over me. Jesus, I want my old life to die with You and Your risen life to live in me. Holy Spirit, remind me of this love and new life throughout my day. Thank You for loving me even while I am a sinner. You are a compassionate God, full of mercy. In Jesus name, Amen.

I urge you to find two or three Christ-followers who will not condemn you, but will walk with you in humility and uplift the cross of Christ to you daily. In His strength is your freedom. In His love is your healing. You cannot do this alone.

Now, to you other Christians still reading because you wanted to see what cursings might be called upon the sinning pornography users, I hope you realize that a good many things could be the topic of this blog. Exchange pornography for pride, workaholism, gossip, greed or self-exaltation. It’s not as easy to count the victims of those acts, but they are destroying others and ourselves just the same. They are a violation of the law of love – out of harmony with God.  My message to you is the same.

People” don’t need Jesus.

WE need Jesus.

25 Things

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  1. I’m finding joy, freedom and peace in discovering who I am in Christ and allowing God to grow me rather than trying hard to be the person I think I should be or must be.
  2. The hands-down, single most redefining process in my life has been that of getting a tiny grasp on righteousness by faith. The situations God has been able to use to take me down this path defy my logic.
  3. As I increasingly embrace righteousness by faith, I am more able to allow me to be me, God to be God, and you to be you. It’s called boundaries.
  4. Simple pleasures for me would be a drive in the country, a book and a hammock, an iced coffee drink, a campfire, wandering through an art gallery, or a walk in the woods.
  5. I have a hard time turning my brain off at the end of the day if there is an unsolved puzzle buzzing around in it.
  6. Life is a bunch of unsolved puzzles.
  7. Since becoming single, I’m more relaxed around married men than single men.  Married men create no puzzle.
  8. My ideal set of vehicles would be a big ol’ pickup and a sleek, classy convertible.
  9. I’ve lived in 5 states and don’t know where to call home. I’m most emotionally attached to WY but there is no logical reason for me to call it home.
  10. I’m not very motivated by the quest for money or impressed with social position. Ironic for a doctor, but true.
  11. I more often tackle my fears and hurts than I flee from them ~ after I get done denying they exist.
  12. I believe most everyone is doing the best they can in life. But sometimes their best is detrimental to my well-being and their having good intentions doesn’t necessarily make a thing good for me. I believe God can read hearts and will honor their good intentions. He offers me the same grace.
  13. I still experience growing pains. Boy howdy!
  14. I’m finding the hardest part of parenting is the stopping part.
  15. Life is full of ironies. The hardest things are generally the most rewarding. Recognizing my weaknesses is a strength. Letting go allows me to fully attain.  My spiritual growth has resulted in my life looking less traditionally spiritual. Ironic.
  16. I like playing with boy toys (you know… guns, ATV’s, 4WD’s, tools… ~ sheesh ~ ).
  17. It never ceases to amaze me how my kids can be so much like me sometimes and the spitting image of their dad at other times.
  18. I’ve always wanted to explore Alaska. Wild places call me.
  19. My ideal house would be a cabin in the mountains or woods with a lake nearby.
  20. I enjoy the arts.
  21. My best memories from childhood include fishing and camping with my family.
  22. A writing project will distract me from my work most any day ~ like today.
  23. I’m grateful for my past ~ as tough and messed up as it’s been at times ~ because it’s brought me to where I am.  It’s been worth it.
  24.  I’ve always been sincere. But many times I’ve been sincerely wrong.
  25. I used to think I could and should do great things for God. Now I understand that it’s God who does great things for me – most of which are not seen and can’t be touched with your hand. The best I can do for Him is simply share what He’s doing in my life so others might choose to get to know Him for themselves.

A Step Forward

Move your foot forward.

He whispers.

It’s too hard! It’s too hard! It’s too hard!

I cry.

Just a little.

He whispers.

I reluctantly shuffle my heavy foot ~ fearing the worst.

I stumble ~ but don’t fall.

Move your foot forward.

He whispers.

It’s too hard! It’s too hard!

I cry.

Just a little.

He whispers.

I shuffle my heavy foot.

I don’t fall.

Move your foot forward.

He whispers.

It’s too hard!

I cry.

Just a little.

He whispers.

I shuffle my foot.

I am standing.

Move your foot forward.

He whispers.

I will.

I reply.

Just a little.

He whispers.

I step forward.

I am standing ~ with other warriors.

Whatsoever Things

We know the drill…

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

Having trouble with your thoughts? Do that. We’ve heard it. We know it. And we feel inadequate and ashamed when we can’t do it.

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But I didn’t quote the text quite right. I left off the first two words- and perhaps those are the words most essential to successfully implementing the text.

“Finally, brethren…”

Finally. Finally, after all these other things. After you’ve gotten to know Jesus. After you’ve devoted your life to Him. After you’ve seen His power in your life and know He is real. After you have been willing to give all for Him. Then. Then you are ready for what I want to tell you next.

Brethren. Friends. Co-travelers. Bonded together deeper than blood. Here within this community of support. Shared with deep regard and compassion. “I get it. I’ve been there. I know where you’re at. I understand the journey. I’m not just telling you what to do. I’m in it with you. I’d do anything for you. This instruction will bring such positive change to your life, I can’t restrain myself from telling you what has been helpful for me on my journey. Now here it is, my friends.”

Now it’s not a drill. Now it’s not a check list filled with condemnation. Now it’s meaningful and filled with abundant life.

Time Heals

After my failed experiment with tangential volleyball flight, I found my daily activities significantly limited and altered. Every move I made seemed to be directly linked to my injured elbow.  But I expected pain since I had been told I had a severe sprain and probable crack in the head of my humerus, which oddly, didn’t seem very funny.  After two weeks the pain was better only while at rest.  So, I begrudgingly decided I should probably follow-up as I’d been instructed with a doctor who was wiser with elbows than I.  An MRI was ordered.  Since I am who I am, after the test I called and got the results myself and decided for myself that I didn’t need any more treatment.  The torn ligaments and small chip in the articular surface would just have to heal with time.  There wasn’t much else to be done.  After two more weeks of hampered daily activity, I begrudgingly decided I should follow-up with that doctor again.  He agreed with my treatment plan, but if the elbow was catching when I tried to bend it, maybe that little cartilage piece needed to come out. Two weeks later I waved my white flag and surgery was scheduled.

As I walked in the office for my first post op visit, the surgeon smiled big and said, “That was such a rewarding procedure!  I bet you felt better as soon as you woke up.”  Somehow secretly hidden from view of the MRI images were four chips of bone crammed into the small joint space.  It never would have recovered without that surgery no matter how much time it was given.

Hearts seem to be similar. When they are damaged, it takes more than time to heal them.  Ever heard someone repeat their story of hurt as if it happened just yesterday?  When left alone the heart may feel ok.  But as soon as it is opened up and put to use, the injury rises to the surface fresh and new.

They say time heals all wounds.  I say time heals diddly squat.  It’s what you do with time that heals.

I’ve been doing some reading lately about healing those hurts in life.  I’ll share with you in later posts some of what I’ve learned.  It’s good stuff.  And it’s healing.