Forgiveness

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to be part of The Women’s Conference at NewSpring.

I didn’t go with any big expectations. I only expected that God would meet people at the point of their deepest need. To be honest, I’m not really one of those women who get a big charge out of weekends like these. Maybe it’s because when I was younger and we had these weekend retreats/conferences, and I would get on such a mountain top ride only to be letdown when Monday rolled around because life went back to the same old ways and patterns. Aside from that it’s been so long since I’ve been to one of these events, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. That being said,

When you don’t go in with false expectations chances are you won’t be disappointed.

While much of what Lysa had to share came from her book, It’s Not Suppose To Be This Way there were many things she said and illustrations she used which were not in her book.

Side note: If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. It is a story all of us can find a connection with because we all have things that don’t got according to our plans, hopes or dreams! (I would offer to share my copy but I’ve marked it all up)

However, if you would like a free copy, drop a comment on the blog and two winners will be randomly selected and notified on Sunday, November 10. (This is a totally self-sponsored giveaway and also how much I want you to have your own copy of this book. It’s just that good!)

Now back to the conference. Opening night began like this Watch here. I don’t know about you but the encouragement of knowing that I belong to Him and I have a seat at His table set the tone for the whole event. After the opening, the names of all the women attending the conference scrolled across the screen. To know that each name had been spoken before God Almighty prior to the conference was both impactful and powerful.

As Lysa began on Friday, she talked about forgiveness. A topic that is very familiar to her and one familiar to me. A topic I’m certain she wished God would’ve taught her in another way like most of us who’ve been there do! Forgiveness is a very heavy subject and brings with it a ton of emotions.

As she spoke I wrote a few phrases that I wanted personally to remember that were not things I read in her book.

Here are a few and I will expound more later:

  • Forgiveness is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.
  • Forgiveness is only possible with cooperation with what Jesus has already done.
  • Forgiveness is a daily process Matthew 6:9
  • The weight of un-forgiveness is heavy and painful
  • The best time to forgive is before we’re offended. The next best time to forgive is now.
  • Forgive so you can keep your heart swept clean.

Look at the the fifth statement: “The best time to forgive is before we are offended. The next best time to forgive is now.”

What does it mean to forgive before we’re offended? She explained it this way. If you look at the Lord’s Prayer Matthew 6:9-14. First of all, immediately after we ask God to provide our daily bread. In the next breath, we ask God to forgive us in the same way we forgive others.” (Ouch) Then skipping to verse 14, ”For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Double ouch) If we can get ourselves to place where we forgive before the offense has even been committed, it is already covered by the blood of Jesus. That doesn’t mean our feelings may not be hurt, it simply means that we have already taken the initiative to not hold anger in our hearts and we are not allowing the sun to go down on our anger. Ephesians 4:26

However, if we have allowed the sun to go down on our anger and our hearts are becoming nothing but fertile soil for bitterness, then the next best time to forgive is now because it is being revealed that a root of bitterness is beginning to take hold and grow. Because what happens, if anger and an unforgiving spirit takes up residence for too long the weightiness becomes too heavy for us to bear and we begin taking it out on those we love who’ve played no part in the cause of our anger.

There are so many good quotes about forgiveness. But I love this one

You see forgiveness isn’t for the other person. Forgiveness is for you. And like Lysa said, “Forgive to keep your heart swept clean.”

But what about when your heart has been shattered and broken into? How do you forgive? The same way Christ forgave us, make the choice. But what if the hurt is deep and the pain cutting like a knife? Your feelings are real. Don’t push those aside. The heartache is there. Let it hurt. Cry. Scream, Shout. Write it out. Because your hurt matters. But remember, it won’t always be this way. The pain will lessen. The heartache won’t sting as much. But if you don’t get rid of the anger, it will eat away at you and affect other relationships. Don’t give it a foothold.

And how do I know this? Because I have experienced this. I came to a crossroads in my life and had a choice to make. Forgive or not! I knew ahead of time I would never hear the words. “I’m sorry.” I also knew if I kept holding onto that root of bitterness my life would never move forward. It was a choice I had to make. I made the choice to forgive. In doing so, I found freedom and in that freedom I discovered that I could love again with a whole heart.

The practical application Lysa shared was an exercise her counselor asked her to do. He gave her a stack of 3 x 5 cards and asked her to list her hurts one by one. When she was finished, he gave her red felt and said, “Now, stand over each of the hurts and proclaim, “I forgive ..” Then drop the red felt and say, “For whatever my feelings cannot forgive now the blood of Jesus covers it.” This was a very tangible way for her to see that not only her feelings mattered but that she could forgive because the blood of Christ would cover it.

I don’t where you may be in life right now. Maybe all I well and you were just interested in what I had to say. Maybe you’ve had an experience in forgiveness. If so, I would love to hear about it. Maybe you’re in a place where it seems to hard to forgive and it seems easier to hold onto anger. Maybe your feelings are so raw right now you can barely breathe. Wherever you are in this process it is my hope that this has encouraged you to move onto the the next step. I can promise you this, there is sweet freedom when you get to a place of real forgiveness!

Tattered and Torn

When Ryan, now 29, was a baby he had a security blanket, addition to his pacifier. At 8 months of age with limited vocabulary skills, he named it “Draggy”, which was appropriate because he quite literally dragged the blanket everywhere. His attachment to the blanket wasn’t the blanket material, but the edges of the blanket itself; hence the dragging of the blanket. He would rub the outside fringe of Draggy against his face and between his fingers. It was almost impossible to pry it from his grip. The only time Draggy got a bath was when Ryan was sound asleep and we could sneak it from his bed.  

From time to time, Ryan would misplace Draggy and we would spend hours hunting for him. As soon as we would find draggy, Ryan would hug it tight and squeal with delight, “I love you Draggy”

As time went on, Draggy continued with us everywhere, but because he was so well used, he began to deteriorate, little by little. Thankfully we were able to have draggy repaired. Eventually, time would tatter and tear Draggy beyond repair. However, until that time came, Ryan didn’t care how Draggy looked, or how tattered and torn he was. All that mattered to Ryan was Draggy belonged to him and it was his and Draggy made him feel safe and secure.

Isn’t that what God desires of us? Oh, how he longs for us to find safety and security in His arms. He loves us so much that it doesn’t matter if we come to him tattered and torn to pieces by our choices, mistakes, and failures, all He wants to do is throw His strong gentle arms around us and squeal with delight, “I love you because I made you and you are precious to me!” Like Ryan, He doesn’t care how tattered and torn we are because He made us and we belong to Him.

Psalm 139:13-18 ”For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. You saw my unformed body, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand–when I awake, I am still with you.”

Ramps anyone?

I literally pulled these babies up from my yard today. Yes, I said yard, not garden. Immediately my olfactory sensory neurons perked up. It was then I remembered a story from my childhood about the potency of ramps.

First, in case you don’t know, ramps are wild onions. Here’s a little background and apparently now they’re in high demand. Read here. Golly, if only I’d kept mine. However, their pungent odor is now permeating my trash can. Good thing tomorrow is trash day. Sorry, had to chase that rabbit.

Back to the story.

Summertimes were always a time we, my sister and I, looked forward to. It meant extra time spent with our grandparents and in particularly with Grandma and Grandpa Reese. We always looked forward to staying with them because other cousins came to stay as well. Sometimes there would be four or five of us at the same time. Unlike Mamaw who loved to have and spoil us individually, Grandma preferred the whole lot of us! I think she did it that way because she wasn’t going to be our entertainer. She knew she wouldn’t have to deal with our boredom if there were others to play to keep us occupied. She was the no nonsensical type anyway. Drama didn’t exist in her realm and she refused to deal with drama.

Anyway, on this particular occasion at Grandmas, I wasn’t staying. It was just my sister Kristi and cousin Stephanie. Grandma was an avid gardener. She had a splendid green thumb. Anyway, she had the girls outside and showed them they could pick and eat even the wild onions or ramps. Eat them they did. I don’t know how many but as officiously odious as the two ramps I picked today, one can only imagine the pungency seeping from them.

Mom came to pick Kristi up from Grandmas. She had an appointment with our dentist, Dr. Cabe. Mom said as soon as Kristi shut the door she said, “Dear Lord, what have you been eating?”

“We ate ramps. They are so good.” Kristi replied.

At this point my Mom’s memory is a little foggy but knowing her like I do, I would imagine she went on a mild tirade using the dreaded middle name saying something along the lines of , “Kristi Lynn Reese do you know what you’ve done? You knew you had a dentist appointment and now you smell so bad, I don’t know if they’ll see you or not. I can’t believe you ate stinky ramps before going to the dentist.”

I am certain Mom was embarrassed to take her in the dentist office reeking but she had no choice. I guess they could’ve refused service. Mom doesn’t remember. I’m sure they didn’t. They just put on their masks and dealt with my sister’s ramp breath.

Isn’t that how we deal with sin in our lives? We know it’s there and yet we mask it and deal with it that way! The only problem is that even with the masking we do, sin stinks. God smells it, we smell it and over time others smell it too. How do we rid ourselves of the pungency of sin? First, we confess our sin. I John 1:9 (KJV) says, ” If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”

Why confess when God already knows? Sometimes being able to verbalize puts our sinful ways into perspective. It’s an open admission of what we’re doing wrong and often, it’s where healing can begin to take place.

Sometimes we confess to others, especially when the sin is destructive behaviors or addictions. Trusted friends who won’t heap judgement on us but who will gently love and lead us back to a right relationship with the Father. Ones who have our backs and love us enough to help us get well.

Keep in mind that we all sin. Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Our nature is bent toward sin and it is only by the blood of Jesus that we can be forgiven and set free.