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Tag: forgiveness

Love Demonstrated

by Mindy Kiker

Forgiven, Loved_Ben Husman
Flickr.com_2803463263_45751eacab_CC BY-ND 2.0

“But I don’t want to forgive him!” In coaching my children about forgiveness, the resistance I meet is familiar. Even I resist letting my offender off the hook with those three magic words, “I forgive you.” The reality is, unforgiveness feels powerful while forgiveness feels weak.

Experts agree that, while seeking healing for our broken hearts, what most commonly blocks our healing is unforgiveness. Saying it another way: the way to mend a broken heart is to forgive.

Do you recall the words of Christ on the cross? “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’” (Luke 23:24)

Read the rest of this entry »

A stronghold in times of trouble

by Mindy Kiker

Hiding Place by Kai Schreiber flickr.com_photosgenista_75511494__aa4aed1e74_CC BY-ND 2.0

The LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9

When I face trouble, conflict, or chaos I look around for a safe place to hide, an escape. God is always there as a refuge or place of retreat, but unfortunately I’ve made a few hiding places of my own. These dwellings certainly are “strongholds” but only in the worst sense of the word.

One of my favorite strongholds is blame-shifting. This response to conflict helps me make trouble someone else’s fault. I frame all interactions into a win-lose paradigm and life becomes adversarial.

I can hear the voice of the accuser and it sounds an awful lot like . . . me! Read the rest of this entry »

Spring Cleaning…Surrendering to the Light

by Dawn Aldrich

 

Pittock Mansion by Brittany Flickr.com8707522400_31cfb20015_z.jpg_CC BY-ND 2.0

Pittock Mansion by Brittany
Flickr.com8707522400_31cfb20015_z.jpg_CC BY-ND 2.0

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

The days are longer now. Morning creeps in under the shades of my bedroom window at 5 a.m. like a slinking cat reaching its front paws towards me for a morning stretch. My almost-half-century body rises less reluctantly, (yet with a few more kinks than the year before), now that light guides me safely from my slumber.

I face the day with great expectancy with a spring of hope in every step and a few more hours of sun light to accomplish great things. But as I walk from room to room throughout the day, things gone unnoticed in the darkness of winter now distract me in the light of spring. I catch a glimpse of dusty cobwebs hanging from every corner of my ceilings; once-white curtains are now a dingy gray; scrapes and scratches appear from nowhere all over my tired, painted walls. Finger prints mar every mirrored surface and I think something is growing underneath my bed. Surrendering to the light, unable to hide what it reveals, I put aside the great things and focus on spring cleaning.

Saturday, words from a former self spilled over my lips like an overflowing bucket of dirty water. Ooooops! That monster named Unforgiveness had snuck back in under the cover of darkness and drowned me with my own words. How appropriate. Words…my passion and my weakness. There they were. My dirty words spilled out for all to hear revealing my heart. I couldn’t hide. I couldn’t take them back or mop them up. I just ignored the puddle hoping it would silence them.

It’s been a few days. Sleep has been restless like trying to ignore the glow of the night light from across the room. Finally, I surrendered to the Light. God’s light. The light revealed by His glory. It’s just there because He is. It’s not a condemning light. He’s not shaking his finger at me saying, “Naughty girl.” He’s just being…in my heart…revealing what was hiding in the darkness…showing me what’s in need of spring cleaning. I can’t always get those “hard to reach” places where monsters like Unforgiveness live, but God can. I’m letting Him do some spring cleaning because I’d like to get on with the great things He has in store.

What about your spring cleaning? Do you need a little more light?

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through (Him) the Spirit who gives you life has set you free…” Romans 8: 1-2a

“If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:6-7

Forgiveness: sometimes it’s like running a marathon

by Dawn Aldrich

Finish line at Disneyland's Star Wars Half Marathon

Finish line at Disneyland’s Star Wars Half Marathon

Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:14 (MSG)

My husband just ran his first half marathon and I couldn’t be more proud. As he crossed the finish line and limped his way through the medals line, he said he almost blubbered like a baby—not from physical pain, but because he accomplished a significant milestone.

If forgiveness were a race, I’d be a plodder. In fact, when it came to forgiving my dad, it took me thirty-five years to even get off the couch and start training! It’s a common story, Dad walks out on the family, leaving behind wounded hearts, but the pain an absent father causes hurts just the same.

For years I prayed, “God, please bring my daddy home. Put my family back together the way it was, please.” However, when he did return to remarry my mother, just before I turned seventeen, life became unexpectedly awkward. Filled with mistrust, I’d built thick, protective walls around my heart so no one—especially my dad—could hurt me again. Although my lips uttered, “I forgive you,” I didn’t forgive my father heart deep.

Fast forward 28 years. I attended a woman’s retreat where the speaker taught on the names of God. Based on the name Abba (Father), she asked us to list all the positive lessons our earthly father had taught us. “Yeah, right!” I scoffed. “What positive lessons could my father have taught me, God? He walked out on me, remember?”

God and I wrestled until dawn when I finally limped toward the chapel, journal in hand. I blasted God for daring to open that closed chapter in my life. Finally, God asked, “Are you done yet?” And God did an amazing thing. He showed me all the positive lessons I learned from my earthly father—because of how God created him and despite his sin. Most importantly, God reminded me that He freely forgave my father, so who was I to withhold forgiveness from him?

I’d love to say I ran home and forgave my father, but I didn’t. I wrestled with God for seven months until I finally surrendered. As I freely released forgiveness, heaven’s gates opened and God’s fullest love and blessing spilled over me.

Forgiveness can be a difficult and painful ordeal. For some, offering forgiveness may be like running a marathon—it may take years of healing and processing before we’re ready. But, whether we forgive quickly or not, the important thing is that we do forgive one another—heart deep and with love.

Is there a person you find difficult to forgive? Won’t you ask Jesus to help you see that person through His eyes and, with His help, make steps toward forgiving that person? Forgiveness doesn’t mean we forget the sins against us, but that we release the hold their sin has against us.

Abba, help us to freely forgive those who’ve wounded us. We surrender our unforgiving hearts and pray for courage to release the hold their sin has had on us and to set them free from our unforgiveness.

When Love Rewrites the Ending

by Dawn Aldrich

the end

You show that you are a letter from Christ…written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God…2 Corinthians 3:3 NIV

Bent over two bowls of soup, we share lunch on the hospital tray. He doesn’t say much, for what’s there to say when you traverse between the bed and a wheelchair day after day? We’d all hoped for a better outcome – one that found restoration either this side of heaven or the other. Instead, I share soup across the table from the shadow of a man I call “Dad.”

He sips and labors over every bite like he’s plowing through a banquet-sized meal and I sense his frustration – how little pleasures like eating aren’t pleasures anymore, but rather, struggles that steal his breath and I know what he’s thinking – “Why go on living?”

My spirit cries within me, “Take him home, Jesus. Take him home!” But Jesus answers, “I’m not finished writing his story just yet. Keep reading.” 

I read between the lines through the silence – flashback to a time when I would have wished him gone – not to relieve his pain, but my own – to suffer the same pain his abandonment caused me – wished he’d simply disappear. But he came back.

And now.

Now, I stand at the bathroom sink scrubbing his dirty dentures and bend over the laundry basket folding his shirts wondering from where in his story this love comes? What makes me want to do these things for him? It’s no love I conjured up on my own for this dying man; nothing I ever wrote down or plotted.

This is all part of God’s story written between us. The story where forgiveness dissolves diseases like anger and resentment and where Love rewrites the ending, not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.

And, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom to love as He loves; to see others as He sees them; to restore all the time and circumstances once stolen. This Spirit breathes warmth and light and new life into our cold, cold hearts, our deepest, darkest thoughts and our shattered families and redeems all things through the love of Christ.

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While it was difficult watching Dad slowly whittle away, God’s love rewrote the ending of the story between my dad and I. It was the perfect ending to this final chapter of God’s story written between us; father and daughter. I will forever cherish our final moments together

Abba, Father,

Help us to always look for your story you’re writing in the midst of all the suffering. Fill us with your Spirit that helps us see others through your eyes and love as you love. Grant us the patience and understanding during these most difficult times and where forgiveness needs granting, humble us to offer it as it has been freely given to us through your Son, Jesus. Amen

My Jacob Moment

by Dawn Aldrich

Wrestling_states063_edit

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. Genesis 32:24 NIV

There comes a time in our walk with Jesus, when our past catches up to the present. That past that we gulped down hard and packed away deep below the surface; the chapter that we thought we finally closed. But the funny thing is, if we don’t resolve the past, it keeps challenging us to a wrestle in hopes of a resolution.

It was early spring and the New Hampshire mountains remained captive by winter’s frozen veil.

Lost in thought, I trudged my way up the newly formed snow path from my bunkhouse to the chapel, wondering if I’d made the right decision, because women’s retreats weren’t “my thing.” Maybe it was all the fluff and foo-foo conversations that seemed to permeate every women’s retreat I’d attended before. I’d much rather bypass all those niceties and jump right into the hard stuff—the meaty conversations that changed your heart forever.

I waded through the thick molasses worship set and then poised myself to take copious notes of the speaker’s message, all-the-while praying, “Dear God, I showed up. Now speak! Make this retreat worth my effort, please?” Oh, boy. Did. He. Ever.

It wasn’t so much what the speaker said, but the challenge she presented for the next morning. Based upon God’s name, Abba (Father), we were to make a list of all the positive life lessons we garnered from our earthly fathers. {In marches my past…that chapter I’d slammed shut when I was fifteen when I spewed disrespect towards the father who walked out on us all.} I wrestled God to the ground all night—argued my fatherless, painful past was punishment enough. How dare He open up that closed chapter again? Besides, what positive lessons could I have possibly learned from a father who walked out on his daughters?

By daybreak, I conceded and slipped away to a quiet room, alone. In the silence I gave God another punch, spilling my angry words onto paper. Five pages later, I took a breath and God asked, “Are you done yet? Now, write these words down. Here are all the positive things your father passed onto you.” And God proceeded to bring to mind all the wonderful characteristics embodied by my father—those things that I saw in myself, but ignored because I knew it meant I was a bit like him. Then when the list exhausted itself, God said, “Now write these things down. Here’s the positive lessons you learned DESPITE the fact your dad walked away. And this list was where God showed me how he redeems the past, the wrong and makes all things work for good for those who love Him.

And before the hour ended, God threw me a challenge. Knowing the wrong and the pain my father caused me, knowing now, all the positive aspects he added to my life just because of who God created him to be and despite the facts, God forgave him. God could see the wrong no longer and only saw the man…the father…He created him to be from the beginning of time. So, what about me? God asked me to offer my father the grace and forgiveness that Jesus freely offered me.

Exhausted, I left the retreat a few hours later—a whole day early—and pondered God’s challenge. I’d love to say I took action immediately, but I didn’t. I’d be lying if I said my heart melted that day and I ran to my father’s side and threw my hands around his neck and forgave him instantly. It took months. God wouldn’t let me go and kept reminding me of Jesus’ grace so freely given. When I finally had enough wrestling, I visited my father and relayed this story, face-to-face. I truly forgave him for the past and God redeemed the past.

I call this wrestling, my Jacob moment after the Old Testament story found in Genesis 32:22-32 where Jacob wrestles with God through the night. Have you ever had a Jacob moment? Are you resisting God’s prodding for some unresolved issue? Is there someone you need to forgive?

The Empty Suitcase

by Dawn Aldrich

 Sharing stories gives voice to the silent ones locked deep within another soul. When we step aside and let the Holy Spirit use our words to unlock those stories, we bring God’s encouragement, healing, vision, and transformation that can change a life, a family, a community, the world. 

My friend, Lynne, has a story to tell: 

Somehow I did not expect God to touch my heart so deeply “at just another Easter service,” but  he did.

When Pastor Wes spoke of the empty tomb, I expected to hear that old familiar story. But, God surprised me. Oh, the story never changes, but my perspective transformed on Easter Sunday. In the reading of Jesus’ resurrection story, Pastor Wes pointed out that the stone was rolled away to let us see Jesus was gone, but also to let us in to see the real miracle.  Yes, Jesus’ body was gone (raised from the dead) leaving the tomb obviously empty, but continuing, he reminded us that all sin was gone.  Sin did not hold Jesus in the grave.  Halleluiah!  And because of His sacrifice all of our sins are not only forgiven, but gone.  The tomb is open.  All sin is gone.

I know you are asking…so what does this have to do with the title, The Empty Suitcase?  Well, I realized that I have been carrying around a suitcase packed full of my sins.  Over the years it has gotten heavier and heavier and heavier.

baggage

Oh, certainly I have sought and received God’s forgiveness, but then I repacked my suitcase with those same sins; all covered by the blood of Jesus and ready for my trip to heaven.   I thought they were all secure in the suitcase, but it was as if they were seeping out to remind me of my failures.  Making me feel unworthy of God’s love or anyone’s acceptance.

Then God said, “Open up the suitcase, Lynne.”  And in my mind I did just that and guess what I found? It was empty!

suitcase

The true reality of forgiven sin took my breath away.  My sins are gone.  No more.  So why do I allow them to tear me apart with guilt and shame?  After pondering this revelation, I closed that suitcase and kicked it to the cellar.  I have no use for it anymore.  Once forgiven, my sin and yours disappears – gone.  Will I remember my sins?  Oh yes, but rather than feeling guilt and shame,  my heart is filled with love and thanksgiving to my Lord Jesus Christ for his great grace and sacrifice.

I hope you are not carrying around a heavy, sin-packed,  seeping suitcase.  I pray that you know the fullness of forgiven sin and the reality of the empty tomb {and an empty suitcase}.

Blessings,

Lynne

About Lynne Bowen: Lynne is a generous friend, devoted mother, grandmother and  follower of Christ living in New England. She loves teaching young and old alike about God’s saving graces. She enjoys playing piano and solving jigsaw puzzles.

Freedom In Three Little Words

by Dawn Aldrich

woman-dancing-outside-green-dress

I forgive you. 

Three little words hardly spoken, hold great power. They tear down walls, mend broken relationships, and free the heart. Yet we trade freedom for pride, swallowed hard behind tight lips, clenched fists, and bleeding hearts.  We hang onto blame with pain rather than releasing forgiveness. 

We suffer long and hard in quiet desperation or spewing anger wondering when the pain will dull just a little–when will we ‘get over it’ once and for all? No matter how hard we try, the pain continues, rears its ugly head at all the wrong moments and we hit the wall.

 In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us the importance of forgiveness (Matthew 6:5-15 NIV) :

“Forgive us our debts (trespasses or sins), as we also have forgiven our debtors (those who trespassed or sinned against us).

Jesus takes it one step further in verses 14-15:

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” 

Does this mean God’s forgiveness is conditional? Not at all. If we seek God’s mercy for ourselves, we must willingly offer mercy and forgiveness to one another. God sent Jesus into the world not only to reconcile us to himself but also to one another. If we call ourselves followers of Jesus, then we must embrace all of him–including forgiveness. But how do we do that when there’s so much to forgive?

Ask for God’s eyes

God only sees us redeemed-in perfect form-how He created us. We need to look at the one who wronged us through His eyes and offer mercy. God did not create the sin, the ugly, or the pain. But, He did promise to make all things good and it starts with 3 hard words: I forgive you. 

Offering forgiveness does not right the wrong but forgiveness frees up our hearts from bitterness and allows us to move forward either toward reconciliation or away from the pain. 

Is there someone whom God is asking you to forgive? If so, ask God to show you how to forgive. If the person is living, and the situation is safe, offer forgiveness face-to-face. If the individual has passed or the situation is unsafe, release the pain and speak forgiveness aloud, as though they were right there with you. Our minds remember and our hearts respond to audible words. 

“Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.” 2 Corinthians 2: 7-8 

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