Letting Go of Old Identities

identity

Life’s too short for drama and negativity,
Pointing out the problem doesn’t take much ability.
Saturate the day with encouragement and optimism,
It’ll take focus and work, the opposite of passivism.

Only you can go to places that will stretch & grow you,
It will be scary, difficult, but it will reward you.
No one will cheer you, but go there anyway,
Few will understand, it’s the price you must pay.

The sign of maturity is to become less dramatic,
Being the victim has now become anti-climatic.
Energizing those around, you’re no longer a drain,
Hope is your new choice, like the smell of spring rain.

Jesus came to remove the sin of exclusion,
The Pharisees felt threatened like he was an intrusion.
Gandhi was puzzled by the churches prejudice,
He stayed Hindu because there was no difference.

We create our own boxes, it’s time to get rid of them,
We’re far more creative than we can fully comprehend.
So don’t get caught up in main stream philosophies,
The world needs your uniqueness with no apologies.

The only prayer you need is a simple “Thank you”,
Gratitude’s the answer, and miracles are the clue.
Thankfulness leads to joy, it’s the obvious fruit,
Waiting for perfect conditions is a destructive pursuit.

As we grow older we gravitate towards safety,
Talk is cheap, where have you gone lately?
To see justice we must run towards the unknown,
Uncertainty and discomfort, it’s where faith is grown.

His love is unconditional, no grading on a curve,
A stunning faithfulness, it’s not what I deserve.
It’s easy to forget, I strive for perfection,
I’m vulnerable to fail, but grace is my protection.

I have more pants than days in the week,
My 4g is slow, it’s new products I seek.
Lack of sanitation kills, statistics show it,
More people have mobile phones than a simple toilet.

Too many people choosing not to forgive,
It’s become their story, the way that they live.
I must let go of old identities, it’s a matter of will,
I’m canceling the debt, it’s paid in full.

 

The Day After

day-after-easter

It’s the day after Easter and I wonder what is going to happen?

This weekend thousands of churches put on their best show, with worship leaders showcasing their finest music and pastor’s doing their best to wax eloquently.

Lots of time, energy and resources were put into these services to make them the best they could be.

Many of the services came off in a spectacular way, but sadly, these kinds of services do not happen the rest of year.

This weekend hundreds of millions of people around the world went to church in light of the tradition of Easter.

Most people who would consider themselves Christians or believers of God made it a point to find a church and take time to hear and be reminded about the ramifications of the resurrection.

Many people, I am sure, enjoyed the music and were moved by the message, but sadly, they will probably not return next week, or the week after that, or the week after that.

It’s the day after Easter and I wonder if the churches that took so much time and energy to present the Easter message in a spectacular way are working just as hard on this next weeks music and message.

It’s the day after Easter and I wonder if church leaders know that their will be broken, hurting people showing up to their church this week who didn’t make it to church last week who need excellent moving music and a passionate, deeply thought out message.

It’s the day after Easter and I wonder if church leaders realize that their will be some people returning this week after being moved and encouraged by last’s weeks Easter service.

I wonder what they will experience?

It’s the day after Easter and I wonder if the people who attended and were motivated by the Easter service will take the time to come back and learn more about God’s grace.

It’s the day after Easter and I wonder if that motivation will lead to different behavior?

Will they choose Grace over the prison of legalism?

Will they choose to forgive rather than remain in the dark room of bitterness?

Will they choose to serve others and turn away from the emptiness and dissatisfaction of consumerism?

Will they choose to work on their vices or will they fall back into destructive patterns that tear away at relationships?

Will they choose to be less fearful or will they play it safe, running as quickly as they can back to their comfort zone?

Will they choose to allow their heart to be broken for the poor or will they guard their heart, staying distracted by the busyness of their culture.

Will they choose to save an extra $1 or so a day and sponsor a child thus introducing them to their savior Jesus, removing them from extreme poverty, saving them from fatal diseases and protecting them from the horrors of child slavery or will they buy things they don’t really need to impressive people they don’t really like?

Will they choose to make a new habit of coming weekly to church to learn new things, to make new friends and to grow new strength that can only happen by worshipping together?

It’s the day after Easter and people must decide do they really believe that God so loved the world that he sent Jesus do die for their sins and whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.

The word “believe” that Jesus used is the Greek word “pisteuo” which means, “to trust in, to cling to, to rely on, to commit to.”

Over 80% of Americans believe intellectually about what Jesus did and said.

But Jesus says, to believe means to trust him with your life, and to rely on his Grace and to commit to his ways.

It’s the day after Easter and people must decide if they really believe(pisteuo).

It’s the day after Easter and these are my questions.

It’s the day after Easter and this is where the real work begins.

Just a few thoughts bouncing around my head and my heart

worldmap

An epidemic of loneliness is creating inhuman actions.
We will never be able to fully do life over the internet.
I can listen to a sermon online, but I can only become fully human by rejoicing and mourning with real people.
The world needs you. And we need each other.
As Desmond Tutu once said, “No one can be human by themselves.”

Make decisions this week based on what is right, not on what is convenient or popular.
Convenience and popularity has led to a weak, shallow culture.
No more blaming, whining and making excuses.
Blaming is the “kryptonite” of taking responsibility.
Take responsibility and make the most of every opportunity.

We play it safe, because it is easy, usually successful, thus preventing failure.
The fear of failure is really the fear of rejection.
Hindsight is 20-20, and it’s what your critics are full of.
Check your ego at the door, and take a chance at doing something great.
As Bono once said, “It’s status that kills you off in the end, not ambition.”

When we live in impatience, we miss out on the beauty and details of everyday life.
Patience is being fully alive in the moment; not waiting for things to get better so you can live. It is experiencing the fullness of time.
In order to be patient we must live a life of curiosity.
Life is beautiful if we slow down long enough to look people in the eye.

Judging makes us small.
Learning from those with different backgrounds makes us humble and smart.
Every creed, every color, every background, every culture, every nation, it is God’s great kaleidoscope.
We are much more the same than we are different.
All colors and creeds are born with a God-shaped hole.

Most people experience happiness, which is based on shallow, fun events or circumstances, sometimes numbing to ignore pain, fear or the hard things of life.
Happiness is ok, but we are never fully alive until we experience joy.
In order to experience joy, you first have to be willing to go to some dark places.
It’s in those dark places that you experience a strength greater than your own.

Poverty looks different in different places.
In Africa it looks like physical hunger, broken bodies and abuse towards women and children.
In American it looks like relational hunger, broken families and abuse towards women and children.
We must fight local poverty accordingly.
We must fight global poverty accordingly.
We are responsible for both.

We are far more powerful than we want to admit.
With power comes responsibility.
If I want to be powerful then I must take full responsibility of the time I have, the abilities I have been given and the resources that have been loaned to me from God.
It is easy to choose not to be powerful.
Choosing not to be powerful is the most selfish decision you will ever make.
One life. One original person. One opportunity. Don’t play it small.

Don’t try to be well-rounded. Lean into your strengths and passions and ignore people who want to put you into their small world.
The problem is that in this world, everybody wants to be somebody else.
It is an insult to God to want to be someone else.
Being unhappy with our looks, shape, abilities and status is telling your Creator that He does not know what He is doing.
Look in the mirror and be overwhelmed by the artistic ability of God.

Praying for our enemy drives us closer to God.
Hating our worst enemy pushes us away from God.
Forgiving doesn’t let those we are forgiving off the hook.
Forgiving prevents our hearts from becoming hard and brittle.
Forgiving allows us to hand that person over to the justice of God and He is much more capable than I am at determining what is fair.

Why can nothing in this temporary life bring us true joy and contentment?

Answer: “God has planted eternity in the hearts of men” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Pay attention! Pay attention! Pay attention!

The gift of life is all around you.
Listen to the wisdom of a child.
Don’t miss yet another spectacular sunset.
Compliment a total stranger.
Smile, it might hurt, but it won’t cost you a thing.
Laugh, they say it’s the best medicine.
Cry, for God is collecting them in a bottle labeled with your name.
Sing, turn up your radio and sing as loud as you can, as Henry Van Dyke observed, “The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.”
Dance, even if your kids run screaming in embarrassment to their rooms.
Worship, for it’s a great reminder that someone much stronger and loving is in control.

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Just some thoughts bouncing around in my head and heart these days. Let me know what you think and what is bouncing around in your head and heart.

He who cannot dance puts the blame on the floor

responsibility

There is an old Hindi proverb that says, “He who cannot dance puts the blame on the floor.”

In this life, taking responsibility is always harder than not taking responsibility.

It’s easier to stay bitter than to choose forgiveness. To give into temptation than to over come it. To eat every piece of candy at Christmas, than to have a little discipline and just take a few bites.

It’s easier to watch TV than to exercise. To spend money than it is to save and to give it away. To gossip rather than remain silent.

Yet, every human must take responsibility for their own actions.

But blaming gets in the way.

We blame the temptations that surround us, the people who discourage us and the hurts that have scared us.

Blaming is the “kryptonite” to taking responsibility.

I know people who have made blaming an art form to avoid responsibility.

They avoid things like discipline, hard work, love, forgiveness, perseverance, even success, to focus on whom they can blame and why they are the victim.

Jim Roan writes, “You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstance, the seasons or the wind but you can change yourself through the power of God’s grace.”

My mother is a great example of responsibility.

She was born during the depression, her father left her at a very young age, and then, while her mom was searching for an identity, gave her up to be raised by her strict Irish grandmother.

There was dysfunction all around her.

There was alcoholism and broken relationships.

She had a lot of excuses to not take responsibility for her life.

She had a lot of reasons to be bitter.

She never had a “real” relationship with her mother except for an awkward, reversal of roles relationship, where as I was growing up, it seemed like my mom was more her mother and her mother more the child.

She never had contact with her real dad.

With dysfunction all around her, she decided that as an adult, she would break the cycle and do life differently.

She made a choice that she would stay away from the things that brought destruction all around her during her childhood.

My mom and my Dad have been married over 55 years, and her commitment to family, while experiencing the loss of two grown daughters, her faith in God and her devotion to serving others is entirely inspiring.

When I hear people try to blame their situations on the hurts, dysfunctions and abandonment’s of the past, I have to feel for them, cry with them, understand their pain, but then I have to tell them my mom’s story.

SHE HAD A CHOICE.

She chose the road less traveled.

It’s always harder to take responsibility than not to, but it’s always more rewarding.

The gift my mother was given at a young age, in the midst of all that turmoil, was she was introduced to the love, truth and Grace of God.

And while there was brokenness all around her,  she allowed Him to be her healer, wisdom, strength and Heavenly Father.

Ernest Hemingway in his book “A Farewell to Arms” writes, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are stronger at the broken places.”

My mom has allowed the broken places in her life to become the places where God was honored most.

There is nothing glamorous about taking responsibility for our lives. It just comes down to hard work.

Donald Trump is famous for saying, “When we want to do something, we find a way, but when we don’t we find an excuse.”

Michael Angelo who spent four years lying on his back, painting the ceiling of the Sisteen Chapel wrote this “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem wonderful at all.”

Author and pastor, Charles Swindoll writes, “What is the sign of maturity? It’s taking responsibility for your life and using it to serve others.”

“For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” Galatians 6:5

A Prodigal’s Progress

ArtRembrandtSon2

“It’s too late for me” is my lifetime cry
“Second tries aren’t possible” screams out the lie
Bitterness feels good, a drug that fills
It’s an unnatural high that quickly kills

I’ve sanctioned my actions, sold out to compromise
Defrauded my mind, it’s made me unwise
I am wonderfully made, it’s called Amazing Grace
My life’s full of fear, it’s such a disgrace

Children should learn, the world needs their illumination
My focus on “I” has muted a powerful generation
More for the rich, more for the strong
Can I keep affording to be wrong?

Prophets redundant in their admonition
Promising pain and affliction
I use up my resources without permission
While missing the point of true religion

Self-indulgence, gluttony, greed, I easily meet
From the inner city down to Wall Street
Covet my neighbor, keeping track of what they own
My happiness is fragile, I don’t even know the Jones

Called to eternal reasons, called to bigger dreams
Called to deeper thinking, it’s harder than it seems
Obsessed with brief amusement, my aim is so small
Bombarded by shallow living, I’ve succumbed to the fall

I’m far more powerful than I believe
Truth is, if I walk in, scarcity must leave
Cynicism rules the day, it has strangled my soul
Stops me from changing, it has taken its toll

Parched soil, empty bellies leads to much heartache
Many won’t eat today, while my plate is too great
I’m not here to manipulate, to throw out guilt or coerce
But I’m missing opportunities that bless and don’t curse

In the words of Paul, “I don’t do what I should”
He goes on to say, “I’m not always good.”
In the words of James, “Your faith might be dead”
He goes on to say, “They’re not works if just said.”

I compromise with apathy, bragging I’m doing no harm
I do just enough, showing off my charlatan charm
Justice is calling, it’s a Kingdom mandate
My comfort zone is charity, I’m missing my fate

The message is simple, it’s clear and concrete
My directive is obvious, overt, not discreet
Hand over my life, it’s the power of surrender
It’s about loving the least of these and a heart that is tender

As Mother Teresa said, “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.’”

A Gratitude Poem – Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I am thankful for today, it’s a gift not deserved
It allows me the privilege to humbly serve
I am thankful for the poor who teach me real faith
They teach me how to walk, in more eloquent ways

I am thankful for the pain that I try hard to avoid
It draws me to the only One who can fill my heart void
I am thankful for my tears that sting my blood shot eyes
They bring healing to my hurt and expose the lies

I am thankful that man is not perfect, as not to depend
It reminds me to put my hope in the One without end
I am thankful for my mistakes, for my sins and disgrace
It keeps me from religion and makes me run towards Grace

I am thankful for the journey, life’s ups and downs
Living fully in the moment,  possibilities have no bounds
I am thankful for friends, who put up with my foolish ways
“He is a stubborn mule, but we love him anyways!”

I am thankful for the beauty, that never goes away
Looking at her smile, that is offered every day
I am thankful for her brown hair, brunette I’m told
It was that way from the beginning, it never gets old

I am thankful for two gifts, their eyes deep vivid blue
They have grown up wisely, I am enjoying the view
I am thankful for their passionate, selfless hearts
Their maturity comes from the side of their mother’s parts

I am thankful for the two who brought me into this world
They allowed me to dream, to make my life unfurled
I am thankful when they would say, “Follow your passions”
It has brought me to difficult places full of God’s fashion

I am thankful for my creator, who wonderfully made me
He makes me walk boldly with a sense of great responsibility
I am thankful for his patience, his utter sense of waiting
For me to grow up, get on board and become consenting

I am thankful for children, showing hope for tomorrow
They teach me to trust, play, love, laugh and marvel
I am thankful for children, who have no limitations
They teach me to dream, to ask, and not to question

I am thankful for forgiveness, a gift offered freely
Makes me let go of past grudges and do it more quickly
I am thankful for the Sacrifice willing to be punished
My life is based on Him saying, “It is Finished!”

4 Guarantees That Cannot Be Taken Away

There are a lot of things that cannot be guaranteed.

Will I live a long, healthy life?
Will I make a lot of money?
Will my candidate be elected?
Will I find the love of my life?
Will I get that dream job?
Will I be labeled “successful” by my peers and family?

I can’t guarantee those things for you.
You can’t guarantee those things for you.
No one can guarantee those things for you.
God doesn’t guarantee those things for you.

There are 4 things God guarantees for us, everyday, if we embrace them.

They do not depend on the right circumstances, the right candidates or the right economy.

They are secure and cannot be taken away.

The first guarantee that cannot be taken away is…

…the GIFT of being uniquely created

Viktor E. Frankl wrote this while in a Nazi concentration camp, “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.”

Everyday you can wake up and know that God uniquely made you for something greater than yourself.

You cannot be replaced. You are deeply needed.

You have unique strengths and talents that God has planned from the beginning of time to be used to bring hope and healing to this broken world.

No circumstances can take this GIFT away from you.

Everyday you wake up and look in the mirror, remind yourself that you are one of a kind, and God wants to use your talents, passions and experiences to make this world a better place.

Everyday you can live with the GIFT, hope and confidence that you are not an accident and you were created for this moment and this time in history to do something great.

Do not play it small. Do not wonder why you are here.

You are here on purpose. You are one of a kind.

Embrace this gift!

The second guarantee that cannot be taken away is…

…the JOY of forgiveness

There is nothing more paralyzing than the regret, pain and grief of past mistakes and sins.

Our self esteem plummets as we live with the consequences of what our past transgressions have brought to us.

Depression, addictions and other destructive behaviors try to mask the pain of our past.

Yet…you are no different than anyone else in the room.

You are no better or worse than the people to your left or to your right.

You are not a better or worse sinner than the people in your neighborhood.

You do not have the “corner market” when it comes to irreversible sins.

God sent his son Jesus to die for the sins of the world, and you are not an exception to the rule.

God is bigger than your sin.

God’s love for you is greater than your regret.

When we come to God with our grief, he is there to replace it with his forgiveness and that is a JOY we can embrace and live with everyday and nothing can take that away.

Someone once said, “After grief for sin there should be joy for forgiveness.”

C.S. Lewis said, “I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”

Knowing we are forgiven by God is the biggest step towards mental health.

Forgiveness is the greatest need for the human race.

The third guarantee that cannot be taken away is…

…the OPPORTUNITIES of today

Bill Keane said something deeply profound when he wrote, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”

We are often so consumed by the regrets of the past or the worries of tomorrow that we miss the OPPORTUNITIES of today.

Scriptures remind us over and over that, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

They remind us to, “Remember how short our lives are so we should treasure and live each day wisely.”

They remind us that everyday, “God’s mercy, grace and power is offered to us, to do His will, to be His light.”

Everyday that we wake up and have breath is an opportunity to experience the abundant life God has offered to us.

Everyday is an opportunity to grow, learn, celebrate, laugh, cry, serve and love a world that desperately needs it.

“For God so loved the world…”, and it changed everything!

When we use every opportunity to “love the world…”, it changes everything, mostly ourselves.

Paulo Coelho, author of the powerful book “The Alchemist” wrote, “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

The fourth guarantee that cannot be taken away is…

…the PROMISE of tomorrow

We can live fearlessly everyday, embracing our uniqueness, celebrating our forgiveness and boldly loving in difficult places because of God’s promise of the future.

The Apostle Paul showed us that “No eye has seen, or mind can comprehend what God is preparing for those who love Him.”

He also reminds us that, “Nothing can separate us from God’s love.”

The Apostle John saw that we can live with the security that one day, “There will be no more disease, sorrow, pain, tears, abuse or regret.”

Jesus taught us that as we celebrate our uniqueness, are born again by forgiveness and love the least of these, that we are investing our lives in things that will last forever.

As we live in a fragile, painful world that does not have a lot of guarantees, the scriptures teach us that as we grieve because of disease, war, abuse and broken promises, that we should grieve with a powerful hope that has been promised to us from the beginning of time, that in the words of Pablo Neruda, “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”

Everyday we can offer our uniqueness, be freed from our sins, be energized by our daily purpose and can walk around with a silly grin, not because all things are well, but because…”it may be dark in the night, but joy comes in the morning!”

Each generation seems to boastfully declare they are the last one before God makes all things right.

I do not know the answer to that one.

When asked that question, Jesus said he didn’t know the answer either.

Because we do not know, our job is to know what is guaranteed in this life and to pass it on to the next generation.

That is our job. This is our opportunity.

Let’s make sure the children around us and children around the world know that there are 4 things that are guaranteed and cannot be taken away.

The GIFT of being uniquely made.
The JOY of forgiveness.
The OPPORTUNITIES of today.
The PROMISE of tomorrow.

Carl Sandburg once said, “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” I couldn’t agree more!

Big World, Small Minds

It’s a big world with small minds
Distractions and riches make eyes blind
Egos clash, religions rage
God is love, just keep him caged

Titles and treasures, I am willing to share it
I want to change the world, as long as I get the credit
Philosophies built on Fox News, CNN, Dr. Phil
I am afraid of the wrong things, naivety kills

Pray for my enemy, they were made in God’s image
My prayers fall short, I divide who should be forgiven
It’s easy to do good, but great is what we should
Better to fail at great, then to succeed at good

The shirt I wear, a kid made so far away
The rich get richer, while he barely gets paid
I should care about justice, I know it’s wrong
But my appetite for things, my addictions are strong

I give God my all, I give God my best
As long as it fits my schedule, that is the test
I go to church to feel good, to be entertained
While in Niger, 1 of every 3 girls marries before fifteen

Girls exploited, objects of pleasure
Used as property, yet made as God’s treasure
Seen as the least of these, yet so much potential
Educate, liberate and see the world more powerful

There is no longer Jew, Gentile or color
In the words of Mr. Hybels, “You have never looked into the eyes of a person Jesus didn’t die for.”

We have the medicine, the resources to give
In the words of Mr. Hewson, “Where you live should not determine whether you live.”

Lose your life to find it, you are more blessed when giving
I’m holding on too tight, I’ve lost the point of living
My Father loves it when I invest and share it.
My culture loves it when I keep and spend it.

Life’s mixed with blessings, struggles and pain
Make sure you laugh, cry and help those through the rain
The only thing certain, is that nothing is certain
Except for eternity, on the other side of the curtain

Today is a gift, tomorrow not guaranteed
Love overcomes evil, captives are freed
So what is required, heaven will applaud
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

PRAYER reminds me…

“I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming
conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom,
and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day.”
Abraham Lincoln

PRAYER reminds me I am not alone.
“Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.” Psalm 23:4

PRAYER reminds me there is Someone more powerful on my side.
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.” Isaiah 43:1-2

PRAYER reminds me of the goodness and promises of God.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house
of the LORD Forever.” Psalm 23:6

PRAYER reminds me of God’s faithfulness in the past.
“He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemies,
from those who hated me and were too strong for me.
He led me to a place of safety;
he rescued me because he delights in me.” Psalm 18:16-19

PRAYER reminds me that I can overcome temptation.
“The temptations in your life are no different
from what others experience. And God is faithful.
He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.
When you are tempted, he will show you a way out
so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

PRAYER reminds me of God’s forgiveness.
“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12

PRAYER reminds me of the part I play in my requests.
“Show me the right path, O LORD;
point out the road for me to follow.” Psalm 25:4

PRAYER reminds me of whom I should serve.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

PRAYER reminds me that God’s ways are not my ways.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” Isaiah 55:8

PRAYER reminds me that God is more concerned about my character than my comfort.
“I will take action against you. I will purify you
the way metal is refined, and will remove all your impurity.” Isaiah 1:25

PRAYER reminds me of how I am supposed to fast.
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” Isaiah 58:6-7

PRAYER reminds me of my priorities.
But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants.
Then the other things will be yours as well.” Matthew 6:33

PRAYER reminds me that God finishes what he starts.
“And I am certain that God,
who began the good work within you,
will continue his work until it is finally finished
on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

PRAYER reminds me how much God loves this tired, old world.
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world,
but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

ultimately…
PRAYER reminds me how I should pray.
“Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew 6:9-13

Forgiveness is Tough!

I met Jennifer (name has been changed), several years ago.

Her beauty could not hide her sadness.

I was speaking at a conference and she came up to me after I was finished speaking about God’s unfailing love, and asked if she could have a few moments of my time.

We sat down and she shared about how she doubted what I had just said. From her experiences, God was not there in her biggest time of need.

She shared with me that when she was 12, her brother sexually abused her, and when she went to her dad for help, he rebuked her for being a liar and told her he never wanted to talk about it again.

Now at 25, having experienced many bad relationships and sabotaging the good ones, her bitterness towards her brother and father was just growing stronger.

The deep pit of anger and hurt was affecting all of her other relationships.

What do you do with the hurts, whether words or actions, by those you have trusted, loved or maybe even didn’t know?

What you do with the hurt will determine your success in future relationships with people and God.

Continuing to carry wounds, hurts, and bitterness from the past will only bring painful dysfunction into future relationships.

This was where Jennifer was.

I think many of us can relate.

Jennifer was deeply wounded.

For Jennifer it was like carrying around a bottle of poison and pouring it into new relationships.

And it was not just affecting her human relationships, but it was affecting her view of God.

She was angry at God for not protecting her from those who had hurt her. Can you blame her?

There were two things about Jennifer.
One, she was angry at her Heavenly Father because of her earthly father.
Two, She felt worthless and ugly.

This combination was lethal. She hated herself and didn’t trust anyone enough to have a healthy relationship.

I asked Jennifer three questions:
“Would you like to begin to have healing in your heart from the hurt?
“Would you like to have better relationships?
“Would you like to really believe God loves you?”
Her answer to all three was “Yes!”

This is where it got tough.

I looked her in the eyes and said as gently as I knew how, “Then you need to forgive your dad & brother.”

Her response: “Why in the *%@#$ would I ever do that?”

My response: “Because your bitterness, anger and lack of forgiveness is only hurting you.”

Her response: “How in the *%@#$ could I ever forgive my dad & brother?”

My response: “First let me tell you about God’s forgiveness.”

I told her that while Jesus was hanging on the cross, falsely arrested, mercilessly beaten, barely breathing, he looked at those who were killing him and said some of the most powerful words ever spoken in the history of this world, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

An innocent man forgiving the guilty.

I told her about how He has forgiven our sins and canceled our debts which were nailed to the cross, and because of His death, sin, guilt and death are gone!

I told her that God was a different kind of father than our earthly fathers.

His love is unconditional (no grading on a curve).
He fearfully and wonderfully created us.
He chose us.
He will never abandon us.
He will never hurt us.
He understands our pain.
He experienced our injustice.

And then I said, “And oh, by the way, He thinks you are beautiful and is madly in love with you!”

I could see the tears in Jennifer’s eyes crying out that she wanted these statements to be true, but could she really believe it?

The healing Grace of God and the example of His forgiveness is the only thing that can set us free from the hurts and tragedies that we as humans experience in this world.

Famed psychiatrist Karl Menninger once said that 75% of people in psychiatric wards could walk out the next day if he could convince them that they were forgiven.

On her death bed, well known novelist and atheist Marghanita Laski said, “What I envy most about Jesus followers is His forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.”

While Jennifer was wrestling with my statement about forgiving her brother and dad, I stated that “Forgiveness brings freedom and you don’t have time to allow people from your past to continue to hurt you.”

I told her, “Accepting God’s grace is the beginning of life and healthy relationships.”

I asked her, “Would you like to do that? Give your life to Jesus?”

Her response was, “YES!” So we prayed.

I told her, “Jennifer, you will never regret following Jesus. He’s your lover, protector, provider, peace, joy, and your ultimate purpose.”

I asked her, “So you love Jesus, not religion, not rules, not an organization?”

Her response was, “YES!”

I said, “If you trust him with forgiveness and eternal life, then can you trust him with some other words he said?”

Her answer was, “Sure.”

I reminded her, “Jesus always wants what is best for you.”

She said in a doubtful voice, “Ok.”

I shared with her the words of the apostle Paul
“…never hold grudges. Remember, Jesus forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

I quickly said, “So you don’t feel like I set you up, let me tell you what forgiveness is not:”
It is not saying what someone did to you was o.k.
It is not letting them off the hook
It is not necessarily about reconciliation
Forgiveness is releasing that person so that they can’t keep hurting you!

Two monks find a woman at a rivers edge, unable to cross.
They lift her up and carry her across the river.
Leaving the lady, the monks continue to walk.
One of them begins to complain about how he hurt his back carrying the lady.
He complains how his clothes are all muddy and wet.
He finally falls to the ground and says, “My back hurts so bad, all because of helping that silly lady across the river! I CANNOT GO ANY FURTHER!”
The first monk looks down at his partner, lying on the ground and asks, “Have you wondered why I am not complaining? Your back hurts because you are still carrying the woman. But I set her down 5 miles ago.”

The rest of the story is that Jennifer, now understanding what forgiveness is and what it is not, goes to her brother and dad and tells them that she forgives them for what they did to her.

Her brother still denied it and her father said it wasn’t his fault.

When it comes to forgiving those who have hurt us, we have no control how they will respond.

As much as it hurt that her brother and dad are still in denial, Jennifer is moving forward, drawing boundaries and turning her hurts over daily to the one who understands, Jesus.

She is moving on, with the power of forgiveness, so that her future relationships will be healthy and she won’t carry bitterness and hurt to the next generation.

In one way or another, we all can relate to Jennifer’s story. I will tell you what I told her.

Give your hurts to God everyday
Work on your stuff (Whatever that is)
Remind yourself of God’s grace and live in His forgiveness.
Remember, you are beautiful!

The great theologian Buddy Hackett once said, “I never carry a grudge. You know why? While you’re carrying a grudge, they’re out dancing!”