Tag Archive | forgiveness

OH RATS!!

 

Swiss Cheese heart

Sometimes life provides insight in unexpected ways. Currently, we are working on evicting the “upstairs neighbors”, code for rodents living in the attic. This began a couple of years ago when we first discovered there were squatters in the attic. We hired a company to help. They put out poison and that’s about it. (Ideally, the rodents – this case rats – eat the poison, get thirsty, leave in search of water, and die outside somewhere.) Because the access points weren’t sealed, we have the same issue again. Now the treatment is to bait/catch the perpetrators and seal the openings. Anyone see where I’m going?

God wants my heart – ALL of it; NO SQUATTERS! When I let God into my heart, the current inhabitants must leave. Things like fear, doubt, bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred, etc. BUT, if I am not diligent in keeping God’s promises, His words and His fellowship in my life, the old inhabitants can easily creep back into my heart. I strive to seal the access points with prayer, fellowship, scripture, and worship. Matthew 12:43-45 comes to mind:

43 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

 

Let us strive to keep God occupying our hearts.

 

lg

Advertisements

Marketing Our Assets?

ImageMy heart has been heavy this evening.  Admittedly, I have never been a great fan of football.  However, ever since I found out (two years ago) that the Super Bowl is the single largest human trafficking event in our nation, my indifference has morphed into something approaching aversion.   I purposed to pray for God’s mercy to wash over this event and pierce people’s hearts with His love.   In that vein, I thought it might be a good idea to at least turn on the game for a few moments while I addressed that issue in prayer.  It turned out that I caught the last few minutes of the halftime show.   Although I was aware that such shows are purported to be “bigger and better” every year, my jaw dropped in horror at the raw marketing of sex portrayed as general-consumption entertainment by women who, at least I thought, should know better.

As women, do we still not understand how we sabotage ourselves and set ourselves up for all manner of voyeurism and exploitation when we cast every vestige of modesty to the wind?  What we perceive as power over men, our sexuality, actually serves to enslave them and us in unholy patterns and paralyzes us for what God has in store:  healthy, fulfilling romance with a life-long partner.

Lest I sound judgmental, please know that I have great compassion for those ensnared in the cycle of sex as a commodity.   With no education, no personal affirmation from parents, and no means of providing an income for one’s children, any woman could easily fall prey to traffickers.  God has set His heart on all of those who are held captive in any way — He loves each person with unrelenting fervor.   However, what disturbs me is that women in the entertainment industry who serve as role models for others would use their sensuality to fuel a stereotype that is the very currency of slavery.

May Jesus reveal Himself to us all, right here in America, the ostensible land of the free and home of the brave.   Sadly, we are neither free nor brave.  We are enslaved and cowardly, afraid to admit our brokenness and in despair of ever being healed.   Yet,… God has a plan, and it is good.  He has ordained a future and a hope for us (see Jeremiah 29:11).   He also promises that He will abundantly pardon, if we but turn to Him (Isaiah 55:7).

Father, soften my heart and make me quick to hear Your voice and understand when I am fueling a system that is not established by You!  Forgive me and heal me!  Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do….

Boundless Mercy

urlAs the years roll by, I become more acutely aware of how much forgiveness God actually has poured out on me.   When I was a little girl and first learned to pray, I had a vague understanding of repentance.   When I was talking to God, I tried hard to think of what I might have done wrong so I could tell Him I was sorry (of course, bossing my two younger sisters around seemed only RIGHT, since I was older and knew what was better for them, so that never made the list of offenses in my mind!).  In fact, I was twelve before I remember having an overwhelming sense of failure and sinfulness.  By that time, I was mired in a deep sense of self-doubt and incipient self-hatred; I recall making a list one day of all my talents (which, from a child’s perspective, still seemed pretty extensive – ha!) and another list, side-by-side with the first enumeration, of my character flaws.   In my estimation, the few character flaws were SO pervasive and wicked that they FAR outweighed anything I could do well (which, by the way, was mostly limited to excelling in a long list of academic subjects).  Hopelessness and a profound sense of guilt entered my heart at this point, accompanied by a boatload of self-condemnation.

My sense of defilement continued to increase as I navigated the murky waters of college life.   I entered university at age sixteen and quickly grasped that the youth culture of those around me was immoral and misguided.   In spite of my academic success and best resolutions in the ethical standards department, I found myself affected by the “frog-in-the-pot” syndrome; when I paused at intervals to examine my heart, I realized I had compromised in some areas and was no better at heart than many of those around me.  How did I cope?   I continued to read my Bible and worked even more assiduously at performing well by worldly standards.   I enrolled in increasingly heavier course loads and even excelled in some graduate courses as a very young undergraduate student.   I finished a triple major in under four years and was catapulted, quite unprepared, into the working world, where I found I could no longer be a college student; I was forced to be a grown-up.   My self-loathing had not disappeared.   I loved God but had no clue how active He longed to be in my life.  I judged myself harshly; regardless of how many awards I had received or how high my grades had been in school, I found myself severely wanting in the righteousness department.  After over three years of pushing myself with campus activities, leadership in various organizations, and heavy course loads, all the while pretending to have a casual attitude about school to avoid being ridiculed by my peers, my health had also suffered.   A success on paper, I left university years behind; however, I also left school anorexic, bulimic, and hypothyroid.   Worse still, I despised myself and knew in my heart of hearts that no successful performance imaginable could erase the heaviness in my heart.

What was the root of my dilemma?   A blindness to the overwhelming power and magnitude of God’s mercy toward me.   Jesus said that the one who is forgiven much is the one who loves much (Luke 7:37).  What I had not understood was that all sin is sin, regardless of how minor it may appear.  The blackness of my heart was not my responsibility once I had given it to Jesus, who DOES forgive and wipe away that blackness of heart.   Somehow I had believed God’s Word but had been incapable of receiving it as truth for myself.   I had somehow become trapped in a paradoxical mindset that regarded myself as somehow better than others because I KNEW what was right, yet far worse than others because I was therefore more accountable to DO what was right and found myself utterly incapable of that perfection.   I thereby had exempted myself from receiving God’s forgiveness and mercy.   However, through all those years, Jesus never left me; He continued to tug at my heart, and as my desperation for deliverance from myself increased, He poured His love out on me and wrapped His arms around me, His broken child.  Ultimately, I found myself at His feet in complete despair.   He responded by speaking to me of His love.  What an incisive revelation it was to me that He really loves me more than I hated myself!   His mercy for me was unlimited; He loved me before He set me free of self-condemnation and the downward spiral of self-hatred.  He had loved me all those years as He watched me descend into the morass of hopelessness I had become.  Ultimately, He met me at the bottom of the pit I had dug for myself (with some assistance from the enemy!).

I am forever grateful to Jesus for pouring His mercy out on me.  I cannot thank Him enough for His acceptance, His goodness to me in spite of my faults, and His willingness and kindness to pick me up every time I stumble.   Now, years later, as I find myself involved in outreach to bring His love to those trapped in some form of slavery, I have great compassion — for I am no different.   I have a message of hope that no one can take away from me.   God’s love is UNFAILING, and His mercy and delivering power are, indeed, BOUNDLESS!  As Isaiah 55:7 states, God “will abundantly pardon.”  As the psalmist says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has HE removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

“Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?  He does not retain His anger forever, because HE DELIGHTS IN MERCY.  He will again have compassion on us and will subdue our iniquities [good news, huh?].   You will cast all our sins INTO THE DEPTHS OF THE SEA (Micah 7: 18-19).

 

Hound Dogs and the Power of Forgiveness

Although the Elvis era came and went before I was old enough to have an opinion on the matter, one of his iconic songs has made a distinct impression on me of late.  That is the song about the hound dog — particularly the line, “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, cryin’ all the time.”  Although my family has always had indoor pets, I have discovered that Texans often keep outdoor pets; some folks keep their family pets chained to a post or tree in the back yard. It is not unusual for these dogs to howl when overwhelmed by loneliness or to bark when they grow weary of running in circles around the tree to which they are tethered.

Lately, God has been showing me that Christians have ample opportunity to be just like those dogs chained to a post.  I don’t think I know a single person who hasn’t been gravely wounded at some time  in his or her life.   That is something we all have in common!   The difference from one person to another is what we DO with that hurt.  If we nurse it, give it life, and make it our identity, we allow that hurt and pain to control us and direct everything we do.  Essentially, we chain ourselves to the problems and wounds of the past.

Pain and sorrow are a normal part of life, and there is a natural season for grief; it is perfectly acceptable to mourn and to allow ourselves time to recover from trauma.   However, I have noticed that forgiving people who have hurt me is a key to freedom and healing.  God has given me a choice:   I can hold an offense against the people who hurt me, or I can forgive.   If I only forgave people who said they were sorry, I would be missing the point.  Jesus died for me when I was an unrepentant sinner, before He ever made me, and before I ever knew that sin was sin (Romans 5:8).  I didn’t deserve forgiveness.  Similarly, in order to live an emotionally and spiritually healthy life, I need to release forgiveness to others, independently of whether I think they recognize how they have hurt me or whether I think they deserve it or not — in fact, forgiving others is the only way I can be free!  If I don’t continue to forgive and bless other people, I end up living life just like that hound dog chained to a tree:  limited in my movement and focused on going around in circles.

Worse yet, perhaps I don’t even recognize that I have failed to forgive — perhaps I’m not really chained to my afflictions anymore, and perhaps I’ve even forgiven to a degree.  However, I find myself bumping up against some kind of invisible fence (like the one our neighbors put in the front yard for their dogs) that causes discomfort to the degree that I venture no further in my relationships with other people.   The solution?  I hear the Father prompting me, ever so gently, to draw from Him MORE forgiveness to give away freely to those who have wounded me.

Thank You, Jesus, that I don’t have to live life as “nothin’ but a hound dog, cryin’ all the time!”  Thank You that my pain and hurt does not define me or control me or dictate who I am!  Thank You for your forgiveness, which I don’t deserve, but which You freely shower on me!  Thank You that I can choose to forgive other people and be free to live as You have called me to live.  I can agree with David when he declared: ” Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!”  (Psalm 68:19)