Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Unforgiving Forgiven.

Can you be forgiven if you are unforgiving? I think about this sometimes. Christ thought it was a good idea to forgive others.
"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." Matthew 6:14
However, from one professional grudge holder to the other, this seems a lot to ask. So you are telling me, Lord, that I must forgive everyone...but what about that guy? You know that guy. The guy who totally ripped my heart out in high school for a prettier model? Or that other guy that I've heard about...the guy who has been accused of everything from child molestation to abandoning his own family and drowning a litter of puppies in the process?

What about that porn addict?
What about that murderer?
What about that jerk who daily cheated on his wife then left her?
What about that lady who won't say anything nice to save her life?
What about that man who killed thousands?
What about that "dad" who abused his baby girl?
What about the lady who gossips about my best friends, myself and my family but acts like my best friend at church?

Do I have to forgive those people? Do I? HONESTLY?

What about the people who hate you, Jesus? Do I forgive them?

Mark Sishel a writer for Psychology today had this to say in his article Find Freedom in Forgiveness.
"Living with resentment is like taking poison and expecting and hoping that the other guy get sick. Resentment refers to the mental process of repetitively replaying a feeling, and the events leading up to it, that goads or angers us. We don't replay a cool litany of "facts" in a resentment; we re-experience and relive them in ways that adversely affect us mentally, emotionally, physiologically and spiritually. The inability to overcome resentment probably constitutes the single most devastating impediment to repairing close relationships."
I have a history of making stupid analogies that make complete sense to me, but not to anyone else. My husband routinely teases me for these ridiculous analogies. Today, I will share one with you and you can laugh from afar and I won't hear you...

Forgiveness reminds me of the hungry lion at the zoo. If you get too close to that cage that hungry lion will instinctively snatch your child and eat him. You'll be sad, of course, but you'll forgive that lion because he was hungry and acting on instinct. But what you won't ever do is walk too close to that cage with your other kid. Actually, what I would do is call for the lion's painful demise while I watch...but that is getting away from the analogy. Generally it is at this point my husband rolls his eyes and reminds me I should never try to create analogies in the first place.

Unfortunately, I often use my amazing memory of the lions in my life as an means to never really forgive. You see while God does expect me to forgive, it's the forgetting that often gets in the way. I really like to tell myself and everyone else that I've forgiven those that have hurt me, and then because I place a high priority on self-preservation I hang on to every detail of the pain and hurt that was inflicted refusing to trust the perpetrator or anyone remotely like them ever again. Often I recount the details of the wounding, just to remind myself of the injustice. You see, I love justice. I would like to avenge so many wrongs in the world. However, I am not the avenger. God is. And my ever growing memory (that eventually will inspire hatred by the way) will merely create more sin...but this time I carry the burden of sin not that guy, that guy that hurt me in the first place, that guy who in realty is likely already forgiven by God.

The unfortunate aspect of being a self-proclaimed-justice-loving avenger is that we live in a fallen world. We live in a world where all have sinned. Yes, some definitely do a better job of it than others. Some appear more despicable in our eyes. Sin, my friends, is sin, and it all requires forgiveness. A good look in the mirror reminds me that forgiveness is needed right here at home. I feel that grudge holders exist because when your focus is on the sins of others it is easier to ignore your own.

Here's the point: When we refuse to forgive we breath venom that wounds masses all based on our search for justice. We hurt those around us and we give the real perpetrator in our spiritual walk control over our lives. When we refuse to forgive we defy Christ. We become the perpetrator and make ourselves out to be the infallible judge and jury. The rub is: we are all soooooo fallible. We all need forgiveness.

In my quest to offer forgiveness to those who have disappointed me, to those who have hurt me time and again, to those who have lost my trust, I hope I never give up the journey toward reconciliation and forgiveness. A man hung on a cross for me when I didn't deserve it. I owe Him the attempt at love for the underserving. I hope that I am offering others what I expect and hope God to daily offer me.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mom Lessons.

My mom deserves more than a blog entry, but my mom would never ask for more. She, like many other moms, put herself last. My mom taught me many lessons by never saying a word. These are some of those life lessons.

My mom taught me to tell people how you feel, but to recognize that you may not always be right.

My mom taught me to go to worship even when you don’t feel like it, because you may bless others by being there and worship is not about us.

My mom taught me to always put my best foot forward as God expects our first fruits not our leftovers.

My mom taught me to respect authority. She never told me not to question, but she did expect me to respect my elders in word and deed.

My mom taught me that wisdom often means turning off the TV, walking out of movies, and walking away from negative friendships.

My mom taught me to never slander and to ignore gossip.

My mom taught me to work in and outside the home and never complain.

My mom taught me to be loyal to my husband even when irritated with him. A commitment is a commitment. A vow is a vow.

My mom taught me that it is OK to move away from parents to further the gospel because Jesus is number one.  She would rather have no other number one than Christ.

My mom taught me to appreciate home cooked meals and to always try something before deciding that you don’t like it…even okra.

My mom taught me to be a professional woman who doesn’t demand respect, but one who displays it and earns it.

My mom taught me that you will, indeed, catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

My mom taught me that beauty comes from the inside… and a little mascara.

My mom taught me to appreciate the creation by planting a garden and watching God provide the increase. If the weeds come, don’t complain just get rid of them before they kill the beans.

My mom taught me to never demand gifts, never expect praise, and never pout till getting attention. Although, gifts from her were many, praise constant, and attention from her consistent.

My mom taught me that feminism was faulty, but that equality was God-given.

My mom taught me to never stop learning.

My mom taught me that money does not bring happiness, and that life is not found in things. Birthdays and Christmas are not about gifts.

My mom taught me to put Christ at number one, my husband at number two, my children at number three, and my church family at number four. All else is somewhere down the priority list.

My mom taught me that living right is a better means to teach the gospel than just talk. She said, "actions speak louder than words." Nevertheless, words are what spread the gospel and she taught me to never be ashamed to tell the good news of Jesus Christ.

My mother means many things to me: She is my role model, an example of professionalism, motherhood, ministry and womanhood. She taught me the message of Christ and passed down a rich heritage of faith. She was/is faithful to her Lord, my God. She was/is loyal to her husband, my dad.  I am who I am because of my mother.

I love you mom. I miss you, but I know, more than anyone else, you understand.

Happy late Mother’s Day, mom.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Treadmills and Broken Toys.

Training your son to 'turn the other cheek' in a culture where the 'boys will be boys' philosophy reigns is more than difficult. Like most boys, my boys are active wiggly noise makers. I love them for that. From day one with each of my children, my goal has been to teach them biblical wisdom rather than merge them into the pop cultural trend of the moment. For my daughter this is surprisingly gender equalizing, thanks to my good friend Paul, the apostle. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, we are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28

For my sons, this is a wee bit more difficult.

I can't tell you which plays into gender roles more, nurture or nature. We could debate that all year, I suppose. What I can express to you, from my experience, is that to some degree both nurture and nature create who our children are and become. A fact that should wake parents up any day of the week.

My experience with my eldest son has been quite educational to say the least. He is the proverbial bull in the china cabinet... but with a heart that breaks when he discovers his guilt in breaking the china. He is a jewel, indeed. He is all boy, as they say, without a doubt! But with the addition of a rare tenderness and compassion that keeps him from walking away from a hurting friend on the playground. In our house we believe that self-control is paramount and that there is no excuse for hurting another person whether in play or retaliation hence the 'turn the other cheek' philosophy.

The last few weeks we've worked on training him to play gently with his toys rather than launch them across the house for use as artillery especially when our pug dog is in close proximity. He's doing better and better with this. We made a deal the other day that if I found another broken toy, he would lose that toy for good to someone else or to the trash can. He agreed to this and vowed to do a better job of being careful and respectful of his things.

Tonight as I tucked him into bed I noticed two toys broken on the floor. I asked him about it, and he knew where the conversation was heading. He confessed to throwing them and then began to sob. Between gasps for breath as he dramatically waved good-bye to a trick-track robot he said, "Mommy! My heart wants to be good! My heart is so good! My body, though. It messed up! It's bad, Mommy, but my heart is good! Really it is!" I stopped in my tracks.

My sweet son's middle name is Paul. Immediately, it was my good friend Paul, the apostle, that came to my mind again.

"I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." Romans 7:15
"For I know nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing." Romans 7:18 
I run. Every morning I run on a treadmill. I hate it, but I need to do it. I know it is good for me. Those endorphins give me energy and mood boost, and so I begrudgingly do it. This very morning as I sweat through the first half of mile 2, I just stopped. I gave up. While gasping for air and dragging myself over to my water bottle, I started telling myself how stupid it is to run on a treadmill. You never get anywhere (especially when you keep stopping before finishing your two mile goal). Suddenly, I began thinking about my life. I began to dwell on where I wanted to be by now.

I wanted to run a 5 K. Clearly, I'm not ready.
I wanted to weigh 20 pounds less at this age. Again, clearly, not happening.
I wanted to be kinder to my husband.
I wanted to publish a book.
I wanted to have a regular prayer life.
I wanted to finally organize my closet.
I wanted to have read through the Bible X amount of now.

The list goes on and on. I think our Savior sums it up nicely for us when he said, "The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak." Matthew 26:41.

I climbed up to the top bunk to hug away my son's frustration and tears tonight. We talked about Paul. We talked about how hard it is to make good choices when everything around us tells us otherwise. I confessed to him that I mess up everyday. (He didn't seem as surprised at my fallibleness, or imperfection, as I had expected. I guess my kids notice more than I thought.) We prayed together that God give us the strength to try even when it seems we are not getting anywhere.

My good friend Paul, also apparently frustrated by this treadmill life, doesn't leave us alone on our worn conveyor belts hurdling our broken toys. He reveals that there is an end in sight. Praise God!
"There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of LIFE  has set your FREE from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1
Friends, bad days come. Horrible decisions happen. The attempt to try is what we cannot give up. We may lose battle after battle after horrifying battle, but our Savior has won the war. When we couldn't, he did, and I'm so very thankful we can share in the victory.

" all these things we are more than conquerors through HIM who loved us." Romans 8:37