The Journey of Forgiveness.

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Recently, as I sat in worship I was pondering the greatness of God’s love for me, what little we can actually comprehend, and I went back to about 14 years ago.  It was a painful time in my life, but the love of God was ever present and ever pursuing me.  The key to much of my freedom over the years hasn’t just been receiving the forgiveness of Christ, but forgiving those who wounded me deeply…even forgiving myself.

I think about the women I work with, beautiful, precious and brokenhearted.  For some, the greatest steps of healing they will walk through will be to forgive those who exploited, abused and wounded them deeply.  While those will be some of the hardest steps to make they will also be some of the most freeing.  I love the quote floating around about how keeping unforgiveness in your heart is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die, because it is true.  Nothing binds so much as unforgiveness.  Maybe that is why the journey of forgiving seems daunting, painful and at times unattainable, because it is possibly one of the most freeing journeys to make.

Maya Angelou once said, “You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’”  That seems to fit with Jesus’ final words on the cross, “It is finished.”

The cross doesn’t just represent freedom, but forgiveness.

Jesus made that journey over 2000 years ago.  It was the hardest journey anyone would ever have to make.  He took each step strengthened by the power of His Father and the Holy Spirit and His passionate love for us.  His journey of forgiveness paved the way so that we could make that same journey of forgiveness that leads to freedom.  Remember that love keeps no record of wrongs…that means forgiveness is an act of love.  Jesus went through the ultimate act of love…He forgave and still does today.    I don’t believe that forgiveness is so much about loving those who hurt you, but more about loving yourself enough to let go.

Let’s follow that lead and walk in the freedom He intends.  Take the journey that leads to a whole heart.  During this month of “love,” make a decision to love yourself a little better…you are worth it.

His Love Brings You into the Promised Land

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Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah (and Abraham) what He had promised. Genesis 17:21

Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.
Joshua 21:45

Are there promises from God that you have been waiting on?  Words He has spoken to your heart that you are waiting to see the fruition of?  You are not alone, just remember Abraham, Sarah, Hannah, Moses, all of Israel, heck all of the disciples too.

God promised Abraham and Sarah.  God promised Isaac and Rebekah. God promised Jacob and Rachel. God delivered His promise because He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel) and as Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?”

Were there people who didn’t make it to the promise? Yes, those who didn’t trust, complained even after all God did for them…an entire generation of people.

Want to make it to your promised land?  Worship, cry out in praise, refuse to complain, and refuse to believe the lie that God’s love isn’t enough to get you there.  Refuse to believe the lie that God’s heart isn’t towards you and that He is good.  Believe that His word, His character, and His love is true.  Believe.

Psalm 26:3 says, “For I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.”

Psalm 37:3 says,

“Trust the Lord and do good.  Live in the land and feed on truth.” (NCV)

“Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.” ( NKJV)

“Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness, and truly you shall be fed.” (Amplified)

As a practical way to feed on God’s faithfulness try doing to two things:
1)      Post His word (scripture) on post its or sheets of paper everywhere-remind yourself daily of God’s character and His heart for you.  Remember the enemy didn’t just deceive Eve into sinning, but He was able to get her to doubt God’s heart for her.
2)      Make a list of things God has done for you; you should have a lengthy list, if you don’t try re-examining.  Review that list and “feed” your heart with God’s goodness and faithfulness.

May this New Year be the year you live in your promise and in the meantime… feed on His faithfulness.  Remember, His love will get you there.  Happiest of New Years!

for the sake of the dance

A time always comes into our lives when we are consumed with what needs to be done, work, errands, chores, school work, grading school work (in my case) and the list goes on…it always does because a to-do list never really goes away, right?

When this happens though, the most important things tend to be forgotten or pushed to the back burner.  Here is a thought provoking questions…what happens when you leave something on the back burner and focus on those things that “need” your attention now and always “need” your attention now?  Those things on the back burner, if kept there, will eventually burn and generally it is our relationships that get placed back there.  Especially our relationship with God, seeing as He isn’t in our face daily to ask us when dinner will be ready or is requiring something of us.  Sometimes we need a reminder that relationships are the most important things in life, not to-do lists.

I know this has been me lately, event planning, work, finishing up the homeschool year with my kids, dozens and dozens of daily emails to respond to and oh by the way God… “hi and thank you for today.”

Whenever God and I become “passing ships in the night” and I don’t stop to protect my time alone with him, (which goes far beyond just spending time reading the bible and devotions) exhaustion, frustration and lonelinessImage can set in.  I am talking about sitting down and having a “date” night with the Lover of your soul.  I am talking about not just having passing conversations, but taking time to dance with God in private worship.  If you are married, have children or friends for that matter, what develops more intimacy, passing conversations or sitting down and having dinner together?  Passing conversations are a part of life and needed, but I am talking about something deeper.

I have been focusing on all that needs to be done, including the “dance” steps of my relationship with God, like reading the bible and the list can go on.  Well, tonight in worship I felt the lover of my soul speak deep into my heart and say, “you are focusing too much on the steps and not just dancing with Me.”  Just dance for the sake of the dance, stop focusing on making sure that you are carrying out the right steps.  I am pretty sure that if you are looking towards the One who gave His all just to dance with you, He won’t mind if you step on His toes ;)  Not to mention, when we are looking towards God and allowing Him to lead we naturally follow in His step.

Just enjoy the dance.

(And if you want an idea for a great family time…turn up the radio and have a dance off!)

Great Joy in Weakness

I personally have been wrestling with weakness or faults in myself.  The weaknesses or faults in other people do not bother me. I seem to have a grace filled heart for others, I on the other hand…grace tank empty.  A while back God showed me how I was living a double standard…I would encourage others and talk to them about God’s great love and compassion and in my own heart would be so hard on myself.  After all who doesn’t like to be perfect, right?  Well maybe there are a few of you out there who don’t mind having faults, but it is something that I wrestle with.  Just being real with you, because real is what we need to be with each other.  I don’t try to pretend to be perfect or act like I am, but I am extremely hard on myself at times.

This is something God has been speaking to me about (because yes, I believe God speaks through His word and to our hearts).  I have been drawn back to the scripture where Paul talks about boasting in weakness because in our weakness Christ is made strong (2 Corinthians 12:9) and I sit there saying, “God, my heart isn’t comprehending this.”

Last night, God showed me what mattered.  I was co-emceeing a benefit for orphans and when we came to the entertainment portion of the evening we had several amazing, well-rehearsed, practiced dance groups.  Yet, the first group to come out were 4 young ladies, two of whom were most likely under the age of 9 years old.  I watched as the two younger ones were very excited to be on the stage, counting their steps (very obviously), they were not in sync with the older two and would spin off in opposite directions.  Their precious teacher was back stage with me watching, shaking her head and chuckling to herself.  In that moment God touched my heart profoundly with how imperfect their dance was (by the standard of the world- not God’s standard) and how it brought Him great joy.  How, we are so imperfect and still bring Him great joy.   How we should be like little children, excited to be before God and bringing our best, whatever it may be and know that it brings Him great joy.  Later that night God spoke to me and said, “it is not your perfection that brings me joy, it is you.” Immediately I thought of the scripture,

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2

WE WERE AND ARE THAT JOY.  Remember, it’s not the perfect dance that brings Him joy…it’s the dancer.

So maybe, just maybe when Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:31, “Let one who boasts, boast in the Lord,” he is saying that because of God’s amazing, phenomenal, mind-blowing love and who sings over us continually, we should shout from the roof tops “I AM WEAK, I MAKE MISTAKES AND HE DOESN’T JUST LOVE ME ALL THE SAME, BUT I BRING HIM JOY!”

So,will those girls get just as good as the adults with practice?  Of course, but that isn’t the point.  After all, God told us to be like little children.  By the way, the song those beautiful girls were dancing to was Joy to the World.

Ok, God…point taken and received.   I am thankful today for those 4 little dancers :)