Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.Psalm 32:1-2
The air was musty as I sat in the balcony of the old theater, turned church. I had heard the pastor speak before, but tonight was different.
He confessed how he and his wife had struggled to remain pure in their dating years—while he was on staff at another church. He explained they had come clean to the Lord but they’d never revealed their sin to that congregation. They now felt the need to confess their past sin to this church.
You could hear a pin drop and the furnace thumping below in an effort to warm the old building. I listened attentively from my vantage point, impressed by his courage to reveal this hidden part of his life.
After the pastor finished his confession, he asked the crowd to forgive him.
As impacting as this was, something else happened that night that I will never forget.
The pastor said something to this effect, “In a group this size, I am sure there are others who have secret sins also. We want to provide an opportunity for you to confess those things to the Lord and also to those gathered here, if that is needed. I am going to open the mic up and, if you feel led, you can come and confess those things. This is a safe place to share.”
No one came, at first…
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Some people live like sandpaper under the skin. Ever noticed? They keep on rubbing and rubbing against you until your inflamed and sore. Usually, I try to smile and keep good cheer, but of late, I’ve secretly wanted to knock these people down. I’ve wanted to peg ’em like little clown heads at a carnival. Boom! The ball bangs ’em and their taunting faces fall.
“Bahaha!” I’d laugh with an evil, cackling tone. “I’ll knock you all down…”
First I’d hit clown #1: This high-flying lady is consumed with sharing all her bragadocious mommy wins. All. The. Time. She tosses them out like Louis Vuitton bags, like showy diamonds or personal victories of her amazingness. My kid? He is reading already. My strategy? They go straight down to bed. My success? All my friends are asking me how I do it. (I bet they are, lady!)
I’m convinced, she wants me to:
Worship at her feet.
Wildy applause her grand strategies.
Hail her as reigning queen. I just want to peg her.
Then I’d hit clown #2: The I-am-right-all-the-time and can do no wrong person.
This person speaks and is 100% right. There’s no changing views. No talking about other options. No going a different path. This person speaks, you best listen.
There’s nothing else to say. He’s like a splinter, digging deeper every time he talks.
What would happen if I hurt him as much as he hurt me?
Clown #3: This girl she is your best friend until someone better comes along, then she trashes you like old milk. You feel sour. Apparently, she’s far more concerned about looking good, getting in with the right people and moving to a different social stratosphere. Underneath your I’m-as-cool-as-a-cucumber persona, you want to sling cuss words, but you’re Christian, so you don’t. Instead, you think, “She is selfish and self-seeking. Hmph!”
You think about pegging her too.
What person is an irritant, so abrasive,
you want to push them down?
Is this person pushing Jesus right out of you?
Well, perhaps, the trick’s on us!!! All along, we thought they were the clowns, the ones hiding behind a facade, but what if it was actually us? Let’s take a look:
Let’s consider, Clown #1:
My makeup-face: If I admit it, I am a bit jealous of this super-momma. I also may not act exactly the same as her, but I long to be seen.
Her truth: She likely feels insecure and unsure about what she is doing. She likely needs the praise of fellow-woman to feel good about herself. Or, she needs constant fuel to keep sustaining herself. She needs a good word to keep going. I can relate to that a little.
My makeup-face: I am not patient. I want to be acknowledged, valued and loved (kind of reminds me of clown #1). I want to be heard.
His truth: He is excited to share. He wants to be valued. He wants to be seen as wise. He is looking to connect not hurt me.
My make-up face: Sometimes I hope people will help me.
Her truth: She’s been abandoned by people in her past and is looking to be accepted today. Her heart needs love, unconditional love.
What I use to knock others down,
really only knocks me down.
What I hate in others, usually is found
somewhere in the trenches – of me.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye
and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Mt. 7:3
3 Clowns. 3 Irritants. 3 Shadows of Myself.
3 people I run from.
Because I hate their little blown-up balloons of whatever – comparison, pride, people pleasing. It feels good to blame them for bad form, rather than seeing my own form pop and burst before me. Yet, when I really look, really consider, I am just as flawed, just as broken, just as needy – and I can’t shape a darn elephant or a dog if my life depended on it.
Aren’t we all just trying to get past the past? Aren’t we all just trying to fill the gaps of pain that existed? Aren’t we all in need of love, a helping hand and a person who understands that we aren’t perfect – but, still, stays with us?
In so many ways, when I love them, I am loving me.
In so many ways, when I show kindness to them, I am welcoming Jesus’ kindness to my own heart.
In so many ways, when I give them grace, I am learning what grace really is.
5 Ways to Build up People, Instead of Knocking them Over (GRACE):
Get to the heart of the matter. Ask, “How is their heart feeling?” Respect the idea that our hard roads give us all hard edges. Accept that you can’t change them, but you can change how you react to them. Come to the Lord. Ask him for how to best approach them with love. Evaluate your own heart to see where your sin might reside.
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Today while driving home from a meeting I had a revelation. I’m living on the training grounds for love.
You’ve heard what praying for patience gets you, well I want to explain where praying to love takes you. However, before I got to this place of truth I first had to pass through a few painful phases…
Maybe you’ll be able to relate.
I know it’s hard to believe but not everyone loves/likes me. I’m pretty sure I know a few people who don’t (and some of them may be relations)!
There was a time not so many years ago, if someone said something to me off-putting, unkind or otherwise just plain mean, I would pick up the phone and call my mom or one or two, okay maybe three of my “true” friends (who would side with me) and I’d dice, slice and dissect the cruel words ten different ways until I was worn slap out and tearless. I suppose this kind of talk could be interpreted as gossiping… about myself. And it never truly made me feel better.
This was my phase one.
Finally after exhausting my friends and when I couldn’t solve the mystery of the perpe-“traitor’s” meanness, I might take it to God and dump on Him asking Him to make certain necessary changes in said mean person.
This was my phase two.
Phase three went something like this…
As I grew in my relationship with the Lord, talking to Him (praying) and listening, I started recognizing how He was working in my life. I came to trust Him, really trust Him. That’s when I started taking my hurts to Him first—a big move for me. When I’d be tempted to pick up the phone I’d feel the Spirit nudge me to stop.
I finally did.
This graduated me to the phase three.
As I started aspiring to be more like Jesus, my desire grew to be obedient to His Word in every way, which meant I needed to love like He loves.
A tall order.
I began to pray a specific prayer for each difficult person I came across. A prayer I still pray today and It goes something like this.
Dear Lord, help me to see ______ the way you see them so that I may love them the way you love them.
This phase lasted many years. I thought I was making real progress but I had to go a step further. I needed to recognize my part in the equation. And God waited until I was ready to hear it.
I came to a place where I would pray to see the hard people the way God saw them and pray to love them the way God loved them but I didn’t want to have to deal with them.
My thoughts would be, away with you hurtful person. I want nothing to do with you. I can pray for you and love you from afar but you can’t hurt me if you can’t get close.
It was after a painful rejection, while I was having this conversation in my head, I heard God say, what makes you any different from them? Do you not treat me at times the same way they treat you?
It was honest, it was convicting and in God’s infinite wisdom, the right time for me to hear and accept this truth.
And the Truth changed my perspective and brought me the next phase and the training ground for love.
Here my eyes can see, these hard people in my life are not part of the problem, they actually provide the solution.
They are the training grounds for love.
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.”1 Corinthians 1:7
It’s easy is to love those who love us, share with us, give to us? On the other hand, it feels almost contrary to reason, foolish even, to love those who snub us, hate us, ridicule us, whose mouths drip with sarcasm aimed at us.
And yes, if I keep my eyes focused upward on Jesus, I can see these hard people the way He sees them; the way He sees me—a hurting soul in a broken world.
Today I can say it’s an honor to come to this place. The battle ground where I lay my life down for a better one. On the training grounds for love.
What ground are you standing on right now?
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Christy is a girly girl who chases tennis balls for recreation and at the end of the day does her best thinking in the tub.
She’s also a wife, mother, mother-in-law, soon to be grandma, speaker and mentor. Her passion is to encourage women to move forward, and press on while seeking God’s presence in every bump and turn in the road.
Someone said some things that made me question some things – about myself.
Things that made me wonder:
Do I shine Christ well? Do I really have anything important to say? Does God’s mission for me count?
Their words unloaded doubt, fresh pallets of discouragement set directly on my heart- the weight of which seemed nearly unbearable.
Every part of me wanted to yell back at them, “Be nice! Don’t you know I am fragile.” “I just poured out my heart to you – and you’re now stomping on it?” “How dare you? You are mean.”
But, grown people don’t normally talk this way. So, I didn’t.
What I did say, or rather hear from the Word of God was this question (which is probably a million times more impactful than my original response): Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? Gal. 1:10
This verse plays out to us, hurt ones, in layman’s terms much like this:
– Dear child, others may try do define you, but I have made you.
– Dear child, you may not be good enough for them, but I have created you good enough for me.
– Dear child, I don’t rule according to man’s opinions, I rule according to my truth.
– Dear child, I am looking for those who follow at all costs, not those bending and breaking to man’s needs.
– Dear child, if I led you, you can’t be led wrong.
– Dear child, if you listen, you will hear my voice and can walk assured of my path.
– Dear child, if I am for you, no one can be against you.
– Dear child, if you do something with me, no grain or crumb expended is a waste.
– Dear child, take a pause, for I have told you not to seek applause.
– Dear child, you do not know their internal battle; perhaps you are the peace to their war.
– Dear child, people speak from the depravity of flesh but I speak from the wellspring of life.
When you hear these kinds of things from God, you look at God and say, “Ok. You know best.”
And somehow, maybe even unknowingly, you set that person free in your mind, figuring, in them, God is probably doing some work. You see them flying smaller and smaller in the distance and you trust that God’s will is being done – in your life and theirs. And maybe, just maybe, you even let it sneak out – a little smile.
One that all can see as you walk. One that shows that, with God, you are just a tad bit more at peace, full and taken care of than you ever could have been without him.
Suddenly, you don’t feel so bad anymore. For you know, that this small progress is what faith is made of and that small scales up a mountain, before long, land you at the top – where you can see everything with clarity.
So you trust God, and step up by faith – knowing that, one day, you will stand on the mountaintop of eternity, where all things culminate – and where real life begins. So, until then, you stay firm in your pursuit of what matters and carry on fighting and climbing, listening and returning, hoping and trusting – until that one day comes where you find yourself, home.
You talk too much. Alone. Your words are simply dissertation on yourself. Alone. You judge others. Alone. You live too far. Alone. You make me feel uncomfortable. Alone. You don’t go deep enough. Alone. You are a square peg in the round hole that I have designed for my ideal friend. Alone. You are only free when I am busy. Alone. You just didn’t end up being who I wanted you to be. Alone.
No wonder I lack friends right now.
I never intended to feel so isolated and so absent of peace in the friend category, but this is what happens when your standards are higher than Mount Everest, when busyness takes precedence over connectedness and when people become more burden over blessings.
I kind of know it is my fault. I do. I have forgotten the fact that unity, relationships and bonds are a calling. When you are called to something, sometimes the jog over to the destination is a bumpy road filled with pot-holes, but all the same – you go the distance – for God.
God will always give the “go,” when all appears impossible.We simply rely on him and he shows us His way.
I implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.… Eph. 4:2
Paul tells us we can do it.
We can walk like people who know, in the end,
their God will take care of them.
We can go in humility, making way for people’s weaknesses. What better way is there to show someone you love them?
We can show tolerance – loving others just as they are, exactly as they are. What better way is there to confirm to our heart that God loves us just the same way?
We can show patience that excuses the mishaps that drive us nuts. What better way is there to become a person that doesn’t drive others nuts with high demands?
We preserve the unity of the Spirit knowing that if this person is a brother or sister in Christ we are bonded forever. What better cause for celebration and unity is there?
The result is staggering. It feels worthy of a jump-up-and-down celebration and a big victory arm raise to my bond-decayed heart: God bonds me over again with his bond of peace.
What is better than that? Suddenly, what looks fallen apart has hope for being pulled back together again.
It’s making sense. While I thought peace was found by running from the horribly unpeaceful, I’m seeing, sometimes, it’s about submitting to the seemingly awful. As we release our high demands, our relationships fall into better hands. Hands that heal, rather than steal our joy.
Friendships aren’t just about me; I am learning. It seems obvious, but sometimes it can be, oh, so hard.
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She talked and talked and talked.
I listened and listened and listened.
While my mouth sat still, hers moved a hundred miles a minute.
Would I ever get a chance to speak?
Will she ever ask me about me?
Some people can really talk about themselves – a lot!
As my mind spinned a web of annoyance, God came to undo it with his Spirit. He nudged me to truth.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Jo. 14:26
Bring to remembrance. When we remember what Jesus has said to us, done for us and given to us, we suddenly remember what is really important.
Things like:so the last will be first, and the first will be last. Mt. 20:16
Remembering centers our soul on the crucified-and-risen one.
The man who never demanded to be fully known. The man who never took the road of delight, entertainment or self-pursuit. The man who surrendered his whole life to the will of his Father. The man who was treated unjustly, unfairly and unbelievably by so many.
But did Jesus ever stop pursuing, reaching and caring?
For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. Jo. 6:38
No, he knew who he served.
But, do we know?
Every moment is an opportunity to serve up love and every pain point is an opportunity to reach beyond ourselves.
What holds us back? Feelings?
Truthfully, Jesus may have felt out of control, used or taken advantage of too.
Yet for Jesus, feelings, control and personal justice were never his greatest cause – love was.
And, it should be my greatest cause too.
Jesus laid down his crown of full control, so he could care for the Father’s greatest creation – us.
Love links arms and drops demands.
Love heals the broken and mends their aches.
Love reaches out when it’s not easy.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Jo. 15:3
As I sat critiquing my friend, God spoke love over self, he whispered: “So what Kelly? Do you follow me? Kelly, go deeper on her behalf.”
I followed. With a gently rebuked and softened heart, and said, “Wow, you have been going through so much. I can only imagine how you feel.”
This sentence opened the floodgates to reveal deep pain, hurt and trials. She needed this moment. She craved this moment. It was a moment of healing ministry that God had set aside.
I am so glad I listened.
What if I had chosen apathy instead of empathy?
I would have missed this opportunity.
When we choose to follow Jesus, rather than our annoyances, all roads lead back to love.
It doesn’t matter if our mind protests, because Christ’s love can still work if we are just ready to drop our signs of injustice.
We simply set down our preconceived notions, we stop going through the motions and we watch him work.
We may lose all control, but it doesn’t matter because Jesus Christ has all control anyway. Following him is finding yourself under the control of the only one who really can control all things for good.
I want to reside there.
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So, I sat before the Lord and asked the Spirit to reveal to me if there was anyone I needed to forgive. Someone did come to mind. Someone rather unexpected.
This person had hurt me again and again.
They had stepped on my toes.
They had left me annoyed.
They had let me down.
I had forgiven them in the past, but new offenses had taken the place of their forgiven place.
I thought, in my mind I thought, “This person – again? How many times do I have to go back to this person?”
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Mt. 18:21-22)
Jesus doesn’t call us to forgive and be done. He knew that one who is forgiven once, likely needs to be forgiven and forgiven again and again. He doesn’t call to a blanket statement forgiveness system, but a system of ever-flowing, ever-aware and ever-outpouring forgiveness.
How many times does Jesus forgive me?
He calls us to seek out the unknown pits of resentment we hide- in us – to uncover the known depth of love that he stands ready to outstretch – through us.
A moment of prayer highlighted my black tar within. I never would have realized it if I hadn’t asked. I had forgiven this person so many times, I thought they were covered. I thought I had forgiven.
Jesus knows that people hurters (like you and me) are likely to hurt again and he calls us to forgive them again. Why? Because we are called to something greater – agape love. Not love that says, “I love this day, I love your hair, I love that shirt. I love this place.” Not a shallow, convenient or useful love, instead we are called to the hard depths of real love. We are called to a love like Christ loved.
To love with a love that says, “Despite what you did to me (Example: nailing me to a cross):
I see who God made you to be.
I offer unconditional benevolence towards you.
Nothing can hold me back from offering deep goodness to you.
Christ shows me how to turn the other cheek.
Nothing can conquer the deep heart I have for you.
“…The greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13)
“As the Father loved me, so have I loved you, now remain in my love.” (John 15:9)
Does a bag of unforgiveness weigh you down? Have you been carrying around load of unneeded junk?
I noticed, the only back unforgiveness was breaking was mine.
It didn’t cause pain to the person that hurt me.
It didn’t teach them a lesson.
It didn’t make them change.
But, my shoulders slumped, my heart felt a little more heavy and my walk with God was burdened.
Yet, as I sought God; he revealed to me new view that changed my perception on forgiveness.
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” (Acts 3:19)
“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Mt 18:18)
When we forgive and we remove junk out of our purse, the Lord doesn’t leave us with an empty hole.
He doesn’t leave that space unoccupied.
When we forgive the Lord comes back in to fill us up again.
You see, forgiveness is an exchange of our weighted junk for his refreshment.
Refreshment that offers wave after wave of grace, mountain after mountain of joy, an eternal hope of glory, solid-rock security, never ending significance and a waterfall of constant renewal.
Will we accept all that he has for us?
Will we reach out and grab it?
Becuase he holds this refreshment out to us.
The question is – will we seek to forgive?
Let’s ask God who to forgive.
Then he will remove the weight of unforgiveness that ties us down to resentment, so we can run our race unencumbered.
As we humble ourselves in love, God fills our bag. He fills it so high it brims with his goodness.
We let go of the stronghold we have on the straps, we realize we are strongly held by him. He removes the weight of our straps and lightens our load in his love – to love.
The power of forgiveness is immense. Love transforms, lightens and lifts. Don’t miss the chance to ask God who you need to forgive today. He will pack your bag so full, you will finally see that what he offers is far greater than that ugly bag of junk you have carried around so long.
“…Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Luke 7:47-48
I walk in to see my son’s underwear, pants and toys stuffed into the toilet. I go off. I take personally the advice my husband’s offering. I act irritated. I am late to my son’s school. I get anxious. I get in the slow checkout lane at the grocery store.I tap my foot withimpatience. I get stuck on a customer service call, it takes forever and I get nothing done. I snap at them. I talk with a family member who has issues.I immediately respond with advice. I hear a person talk about their problems and pains.I jump in to rescue. I listen to a friend talk.I cut them off.
The common denominator? I just can’t wait. In a flash, I respond.
But, what if, I changed my course of action?
What if I decided to have a “reaction of inaction” instead of a “reaction of dissatisfaction”?
Might things change?
Would a simple one second wait change my fate?
Might I evaluate and not retaliate?
Could I see more and not end up being one I abhor?
When we take a second to wait, we actually set our paths straight. We not only delay our reaction, but we delay our heart from going the wrong way.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Prov. 3:5-6)
I don’t have to react based on my understanding, I can grab hold of a “reaction of inaction” so that in every moment, I seek to trust the Lord. I don’t have respond to a stimuli, but only to the will of God.
God offers me freedom from my circumstances.
If I seek him, he will be faithful to guide me.
Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Is. 30:18)
Even more, what would happen if I considered that the Lord is ready to be gracious to me in these tense moments?
Would that change my response?
Because He is waiting to be gracious. He is waiting to show mercy. Imagine that – in our tense, overwhelming and frustrating moments, he just waits to see how he can pour out on us.
I don’t want to miss that. Do you?
Our “reaction of dissatisfaction” robs us of joy, but through a “reaction of inaction” we have the opportunity to seize joy.
Inaction for one simple second might entirely change the course of our relationships. We don’t have to be the wild responder; because we can now be the grace-filled responder.
I want to invest and not divest in my relationships. Don’t you? I want to practice myself in the wait. I know God will be, as he always has been, faithful to me. And, he will be to you too.
Let’s trust him as we wait. We can choose the one response that will leave us blessed instead of feeling stressed.
The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. (Lam. 3:25)