What About Forgiveness?


During a discussion about the events of the recent murders, our love for our friends of all races, and how to navigate in a world where the violence of some escalated into ridiculous destruction, my husband asked a question.

“What about forgiveness? What would Jesus be thinking/doing in this situation?”

I thought he brought up a good point. One that has caused me to contemplate and consider my thoughts, opinions, and actions in regard to the racial injustice now and for hundreds of years previously.

So many thoughts and questions.

We talked about how we can’t fully understand what it feels like for someone of color to have to be careful where they go, what they do, and how they look. We haven’t been in a situation to have to instruct our children how to be careful when driving or being out with friends.

What little experience I have of that type of discrimination is when my younger brother, in our late teens/early twenties, was pulled over more than a couple of times because his long hair stereo-typed him as a drug user.

Or the numerous times I’ve been followed by men in cars trying to lure me, degrade me, or assault me because I’m a woman. Even as recently as a couple of weeks ago, a man in a doctor’s office elevator undressed me with his eyes. Not a pleasant experience.

But still, it only gives me a small taste of the concern and tension my dear black friends feel on a daily basis.

We talked about how people all over the world are discriminated against, persecuted, and maligned because of their skin, beliefs, or cultures. I asked Brendan, who’s from Australia, if he had any friends who were of Aboriginal descent, those who were native to Australia, and if they experienced the same kind of discrimination.

We talked about how we both felt uncomfortable now with people of color because previously we simply saw everyone we met or knew as people. Not white people or black people or Asian people or Latin people. Just as someone might use skin color as a description of us white folks, we might describe others the same way by their color or ethnicity or culture, but we didn’t think of it in a derogatory way. Is it?

But now, would people assume we did? Had we not been interested enough in the past to find out someone’s story because they were of a different color or background? Should we go out of our way to be kinder than usual to let people know we care about their color? Have I discriminated in some unknown way because the majority of the characters in my books have white skin?

I believe that black lives matter.

They absolutely do. I’ve been ignorant in my assumptions that black people aren’t treated badly “any more” as a whole. I’m grateful for the conversations that are opening my eyes, and breaking my heart.

And I also believe that every life matters.

Every single person whether they’re black, of another culture or race, white, young, old, male, female, unborn, or living with some kind of limitation or disability should never be thought of as “less than.” But haven’t we all at some point looked at someone else and thought they were not as good, right, talented, kind, handsome, fit, pretty, etc. as us?

Not to take away from this current crisis of racial injustice.

But the bottom line is our sinful hearts. Wrong motives. Selfish attitudes. Pride. Fear. Lack of compassion.

And what about forgiveness?

I believe there is a place for righteous anger. God has displayed his in numerous occasions in the Bible. And I believe he calls us to speak out against sin; not people, but sin, calling out evil and injustice. He tells us to speak for those who don’t have a voice. To stand up for those who are in captivity.

But I also believe God calls us to forgive. To lay down anger, and not let it make us sin. Not let the sun go down on it. Not let it turn into roots of bitterness. He says our anger will not bring about his righteousness. Even if we’d like to believe it will.

What the officers, as well as so many others we don’t even know about, did in killing innocent people or turning their backs as it happened, was so wrong. Unjust. Evil. It’s righteous anger that calls it out for what it is.

And, as my husband pointed out, Jesus was beaten, tortured, and murdered in a horrific way too, but he chose to forgive those who did not know what they were doing.

Of course, they knew what they were doing. But they had no real concept of how wrong their actions were. They were ignorant of what it meant in a bigger than human understanding way. They were foolish and led by evil, self-centered hearts.

Doesn’t that describe all of us?

Should we forgive? Jesus forgave us. He forgives the officers that killed Mr. Floyd and the others. He forgives the rioters and looters. And he forgives us for any of our opinions and fears and questions because our understanding about all of it is not his understanding.

He tells us that we see through a glass dimly. We can’t grasp all of what this means. We can’t. Even if we think we can and try to. So the best we can do is to spend time with him asking him to give us his eyes to see. His heart to understand and love with true compassion. For everyone.

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photo by Agberto Guimaraes https://unsplash.com/@agb800m

And his grace to forgive.

 

 

It’s Who You Know


A few weeks ago I watched a YouTube post in which a man proposed the heartbreaking idea that many who believe they will spend eternity in heaven may be shocked to discover (in the end) that they have missed out. His words gripped my heart.

Think of it like this.

You go to a high class restaurant. The maitre d’ asks if you have a reservation since they’ve been booked out for a year. You don’t. You can’t bribe him. You can’t plead with him. There is nothing you can do to get in. No way are you getting a table.

Unless you know the owner.

You mention that you know the owner, and ask if you could say hello. The big boss guy comes out front, and when he sees you, he throws open his arms and greets you as if you’re the most important person in his world.

“I’m so glad you came. Let me seat you at our special, reserved-just-for-family table.”

He ushers you to a prime location (for me that would be overlooking the ocean), and brings you a boSunset at Pismo Beach Pier - Pismo Beach, CAttle of his best wine. And not only has he made a place for you, he’s let you know that you are to order whatever you want. On the house.

We can apply this to God and the passages in the Bible about the wedding feast (Luke 14:15-23) to which he’s invited all his people. When we’re on the guest list, part of the family, we are welcomed with open arms. If we don’t have a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus, we won’t get in the door.

Or pearly gates, as they’re called.

People often point to their good deeds as the invitation. But that’s a forgery. Like trying to crash a wedding party without knowing the bride, groom or anyone else in the family. We might think:

“I’m a good person. I try to do the right thing.”

But do you know Jesus?

“I give to the poor, rescue abused animals, donate clothes to the homeless.”

But do you know Jesus?

“I help my neighbor.”

But do you know Jesus?

“I go to church.”

But do you know Jesus?

“I’ve read the Bible.”

But do you know Jesus?

“I put money in the offering plate.”

But do you know Jesus?

“I sang in the church choir.”

But do you know Jesus?

“I told someone I’d pray for them.”

But do you know Jesus?

I grew up knowing Jesus. I mean personally like my dearest friend and brother. I can’t imagine life each day without him. I love him more than my closest earthly friend, my husband. That kind of relationship is developed by intimate conversations, reading his letters to me, pouring out my heart to him, honoring him with my praise and not letting a day go by without consulting him. It started by me giving my heart to him.

You can know him too. He knows you. His arms are open. He gave up his life for us. All we have to do is accept his gift of love and acknowledge that we need him and want him in our lives.

Someday, we will all be asked, “do you know Jesus?”

What will you say?

Life Choices


dsc_0096Every day we each have hundreds of choices to make. Some minor decisions we make without much thought. What will I wear or eat? Where should I park my car? The blue plastic cup or glass?

Other choices affect us in bigger ways.

Should I spend the extra money for a new phone? Are we going out to eat—Chick-fil-A or Ruth Chris Steakhouse? Vacation this year? Put the kids in private school?

Then there are those choices that are life changing.

Go out with my married co-worker and not tell my spouse? File my taxes? Take another drink or those pills? Click on that site? Tithe? Lie? Cheat? Steal? Forgive? Give or take?

The choices we make determine the life we live.

One minor decision may not alter our entire life. Whether I wear jeans or shorts may make me more, or less comfortable depending on the weather, but otherwise will probably not lead to anything life altering.

However, for example, a small lie makes way for another and another until I begin to live in a pattern of exaggeration or avoidance or blaming which opens a door for more lies to cover my actions, get my own way, or secure something for myself. Eventually, lying can become a lifestyle of stealing, gossip, cheating, hiding secret addictions, or living a secret life.

I think you can see where I’m going with this.

Here’s the thing. I can easily say I’ve never killed anyone. But have I murdered someone with my thoughts of anger? And those murderous thoughts can lead to internal conversations that may erupt in speaking or yelling rudely to the guy who cut me off or the gal who didn’t get my order right. And eventually, harboring enough of them may come out in hitting that accompanies the yelling when my spouse says something I don’t agree with, or my child is annoying, or the dog pees on the carpet.

Let’s be real.

The truth is, God created us to live a blessed life in relationship with him. He gave us everything good and longs to lead us in prosperous ways. Despite man’s choice to defy him and usher sin into the world, God still had a plan to save us from ourselves and our destructive behavior.

We’re all prone to it.

Don’t pretend you wouldn’t rather have a Krispy Kreme donut than a kale tonic. (That may be an easy choice for some. I personally love kale tonic, but when I came downstairs at 3:30 a.m. and saw the box of Krispy Kreme donuts my youngest son left on the counter with a note saying Happy Mother’s Day on them, I could have easily eaten the entire half dozen. Not that a one-time splurge will alter the entire course of my blessed life, or maybe that IS part of my blessed life—but you get the idea. Enough. Said. Where is that box?)

See how easily we can digress?

Fill in the blank with your own diversion into less than positive behavior that leads to eventual destruction. Be honest. We all have those areas of wrong choices. Or, put another way, sin.

There. I said it.

The word we don’t want to acknowledge because there’s something about saying (or writing) SIN that makes us cringe and feel shame.

What if SIN means:

  • Sudden Impulsive Nature
  • Selfish Immaturity Naturally
  • Sometimes Indignant Narcissism
  • Slothful Ignorant Negativity
  • Self Interest Negotiations

God is perfect. He created us to be also. We are made in his image. Anything else is sin.

And we get to choose. Be like him or not.

If we choose to be like him—loving, kind, gentle, patient, humble, joyful, peace-loving, good, trusting, wanting the best for others, giving, hoping, persevering, faithful, and self-controlled—then we will live well.

If not, we’ll live in destructive patterns that will hurt us and others.

The bad news is that none of us can be perfect like God no matter how we try. (Thanks Adam and Eve.) Even if we do good things most of the time, none of us are righteous. And we can’t count on us doing something good enough to make us have a relationship with our perfect heavenly Father.

The good news? God planned for that.

He sent Jesus.

He says he doesn’t take pleasure in the death of anyone. He doesn’t want any of us to die as a result of our sin, so he sacrificed his son, Jesus, to take all our sin on him so we could have a new way of living and be covered even if we still made mistakes. Through Jesus we can have a new heart, a new spirit, a new life. That’s why we say, “born again.”

He wants us to live. Live well. Live abundantly. Live in freedom and peace. Live in love.

If we turn away from the choices we’ve made that bring destruction (repent), we can live.

God wants us to live.

Today, will we choose to live?

 Rid yourself of all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”  Ezekiel 18:32

What If You Could Hear God?


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Have you ever wondered if you could hear from God how that might change things in your life?

Maybe you’ve listened to people who say “I heard God say…” and thought they were deluded, misguided, bragging, or fanatical?

Who actually hears God?

Everyone.

Yep. You read that correctly. Everyone can hear God.

Because he speaks to everyone. All. The. Time.

The real question is are we listening? Do we recognize his voice when he speaks? Can we distinguish his words from the barrage that we deem is our own thoughts or maybe other “voices”?

The truth is that God says when we seek him, he’s waiting to be found. When we talk to him, he’s listening and will answer us. We can call him Father (Rom. 8:15), and we are his sons and daughters. The Bible tells us that even when we don’t know how to pray, the Holy Spirit groans on our behalf to God.

Sound too good to be true?

It is good, AND it’s true.

Here’s the thing…do you recognize your parent’s voice? Your children, spouse or best friends? Why?

You spend or spent time with them in close settings. They are familiar because you’ve been around them so much. You’ve paid attention to when they speak and what they say. You’ve listened to them and talked with them. Sometimes you can even finish their sentences because you know them so well. Right?

Jesus says his sheep know his voice. Sheep know their shepherd’s voice because they are in his/her care all day and night long. They hover around their shepherd. They’re in his/her presence all the time. They recognize the voice of the one caring for them.

They also know the difference between an enemy and the shepherd. When a wolf comes, the sheep huddle around each other, knowing it isn’t their caretaker.

We are like those sheep. Jesus cares for us. He searches for us when we’re lost. His voice is stern when calling us back from danger and lovingly kind when he’s ministering to our wounds or needs. When we spend time with him, we will know his voice.

When he speaks, we will hear him.

There’s no great mystery or secret about hearing God if we want to. If we’re asking. If we’re listening.

Jesus said many times in his word:

He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15

I hear him. You can too.

Sometimes he speaks through his word, the Bible, sometimes through a friend, leader or pastor. He speaks through creation, music, art, pictures(visions) and dreams. Often, he whispers in our hearts, and sometimes we may even hear his audible voice.

If you want to hear him, ask him to help you. If you don’t know him, tell him you want to.

Hearing God is for everyone and anyone who so desires. We are all his children. He loves us. He’s for us. He wants us to know him. And we CAN hear him.

If we’re listening.

The Tale of Two Men


131 (2)Two men approached Jesus. They were both wealthy. They were both important figures in society with places of high position. One was named as a young ruler, the other’s name was Zacchaeus.

I know, not a common name today. But stay with me.

When Jesus came to town, the ruler sought him out to ask a very important question. You see, he had everything money could buy. He’d followed all the rules so he believed he was good. But the one thing he couldn’t put his hand on was how to live forever. He believed that was the only thing he lacked. So he asked Jesus how he could inherit eternal life.

Jesus told him there was one thing he lacked. But it wasn’t eternal life. It was the right heart attitude. Jesus’s answer for the ruler was to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. Then to follow him. The Bible says the man went away and was very sad.

Did Jesus say the man’s money was bad? The poor were more important? He wasn’t allowed to have wealth?

No.

He simply pointed out that the man’s primary focus was on his money. The ruler believed he could inherit eternal life from Jesus, but he wasn’t looking for Jesus. He wanted a guarantee, not a relationship.

DSC_0141The second man, Zach (we’ll call him), heard Jesus was coming. The Bible says he ran ahead and climbed a tree just to get a glimpse. He wanted to be in the presence of Jesus and did whatever it took to get there.

Jesus spoke to him, calling him out of the tree and offering to come to Zach’s house for dinner. It says Zach came down at once and welcomed Jesus gladly. Even when all the people around him complained about him. Even though Zach had potentially treated people unfairly because of his job as chief tax collector.

And in the presence of Jesus, Zach’s life changed immediately. He joyfully offered to give half his possessions to the poor and repay four times the amount to anyone he may have cheated. Jesus never asked him to give all he had to the poor.

The ruler wanted eternal life. Zach wanted Jesus.

The requirement wasn’t to get rid of their wealth. Jesus gave them both instructions based on their heart posture. One went away in sadness, holding onto what he had; the other obeyed, opened his life, and was transformed.

Today, in the midst of unprecedented times, I believe Jesus is coming our way. He’s looking to bring salvation and transformation to all. We can be like the man whose focus was on everything he could get or keep for himself, or we can be like the other man who did whatever it took to get into the presence of Jesus.

Which one are you?

(Scripture referenced is Luke 18:19-30 & Luke 19:1-10)

Are You Angry at God?


pexels-photo-247314.jpegMaybe you’ve never really thought about that question. Or maybe you shake your fist at him daily. Perhaps you’ve had a loss or tragedy occur in your life, and you can’t reconcile the idea that a loving, all powerful God could allow something so horrific.

You’re not alone.

I’ve never met anyone who didn’t at one time or in a lifetime question where God was when ________ happened. I certainly have.

As a matter of fact, for six years I was angry at God and didn’t even realize it. You see, I loved Jesus and believed God was good so I never considered that I could be harboring anger towards him. I believed he was in control in a good (well, mostly good) way and had brought me into a better place than I’d previously been in.

And he had.

But when God had spoken through someone that “turn around time” was coming for my life, I believed God meant that my failing marriage and business, my soon to be foreclosed on home and my hurting children would all suddenly turn around and come out rosy – you know, butterflies and unicorns stuff.

But it didn’t.

We lost our business and home, were forced to file for bankruptcy and ended up divorced with kids that had suffered far more than I ever thought possible.

What the heck?

So, six years later, to the exact day, when that someone who had spoken those promise-filled words showed up at my now different church (in a different state) speaking promises to people, I found myself perturbed. Conflicted. Angry.

I knew our pastor to be full of integrity and completely trustworthy so I wrestled with what I felt had been lies spoken to me years earlier. Later, after a strategically orchestrated meeting (only God made that happen, but that’s a different story), I drove away, parked my car in a remote location and let God have it.

Screaming, crying and recognizing my anger at him for the first time.

Until he whispered in my heart, “Didn’t your life turn around?”

Well…uh…yes. I guess it did. Because up until that point, I had accepted behaviors in my marriage that never should have been allowed. All that tragedy caused me to decide that I wanted a different life. As a result, I made new choices, and my life completely changed.

What I believed God meant and what he said were two different things. My perspective was shallow and off. We both wanted better for me, but he saw big picture and I saw immediate. He had change in my heart while I looked for change in circumstances. He set my course on a new, amazing life that would never have come if I had gotten what I asked for.

I realized I had to forgive God.

Forgive the one who forgives? Yep. That’s right. And thankfully, his grace and love for us it so great that he doesn’t hold our anger at him against us. He took care of me and my kids and blessed us incredibly during those six years that I was angry at him and didn’t know it. He knew it and waited for exactly the right time and orchestrated my circumstances perfectly to gently speak to me.

I cried, told him I was so, so sorry and our relationship grew deeper that night. I’ll never forget that night. Sometimes I share that story and it helps other people too.

As a matter of fact, I wrote a book, Rachel’s Son, about a young woman who felt that same anger when her only son was murdered. It took her many years and a path of destruction in her life until she could face her hurt and anger and finally forgive the Forgiver.

You can get the kindle version FREE on Amazon right now through tomorrow, March 3. And, the print version is more than half off. This is what one woman said:

“…I just finished reading Rachel’s son and it has changed my life. It was a gripping book. Couldn’t put it down but the most amazing thing has happened. When u got to the end…I sobbed.” (omitted words to avoid spoiler!)

It might be something that helps you handle anger with God, even if you don’t know you have any. I pray it will bless you.

Where Is Your Thinking Taking You?


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“If you change your thoughts, you will change your existence.”

I’m not sure who said this, but I saw this quote recently and it made me think.

The Bible says that “as a man thinketh, so is he.” I’ve never fully embraced that idea. I guess I didn’t really understand the meaning behind it. Or maybe I grasped the concept with a “Yeah, I get that” but didn’t actually internalize it. Then. But now?

What I think is what I become.

So what am I becoming? Where are my thoughts taking me?

When it’s been a season of great challenge in mental toughness, how do we handle life? I understand this from the viewpoint of an athlete. I was one once. But how do we apply this to everyday life? When bills pile up, the car breaks down, illness sets in and our relationship seems stuck or the business or job isn’t panning out the way we expected?

And then we get that call…you know the one that sucks the air out of you with it’s unexpected, tragic message.

How do I think about all that? Where do my thoughts take me?

Down a path of fear, regret, doubt or anger? Do I allow self-pity, bitterness or resentment to set in? Are conversations or situations replaying in my mind in the middle of the night keeping me awake in anxiety?

What are my thoughts doing to my existence?

There’s a reason God says we need to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. God knows how easily our thoughts can lead us astray into an existence of hopelessness, despair, depression or even destruction.

But how do we take a thought captive?

  1. Recognize that we have a choice about what to think. Often, we feel as if our thoughts happen to us, when the truth is that we can choose them.
  2. Feelings – our emotions are God given, but we don’t have to let them control our thoughts. How I feel in a given moment, may not accurately reflect the truth of a situation. I may experience anger, but I can choose how to think and act about it.
  3. When I have a thought, ask if it is bringing me into a positive, life-giving place or leading me into a small, negative space. There is always another perspective.
  4. What does God say in his word about me, my life, his plans for me? Are my thoughts lining up with that?
  5. Speak the truth instead of the doubts.
  6. Remember that God loves me and wants good for me. He says I lack nothing because he’s my shepherd. If my life shows a lack, but God says I lack nothing, what is another way I can think about my situation according to God’s truth?

It isn’t easy, but with practice, I’m learning to change my thinking. God says that he transforms us by the renewing of our minds. Changing our thoughts, changes our existence.

I believe this is only truly possible with allowing Jesus to take our thoughts captive and making them line up with his thinking. Maybe our very first step would be choosing a relationship with him. He’s always waiting for us with open arms to come to him and receive what he did for us on the cross.

Do you like the existence you currently have? Where are your thoughts taking you?

Love Dispels Fear


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“Perfect love casts out all fear.”

I know the Bible tells me this, but there are times when I’m still afraid.

Maybe fear comes from a job loss, a diagnosis of illness or an approaching storm. We can feel afraid when the power goes out, a car swerves into our lane or our child isn’t home on time.

And while some fear is a God given way of keeping us safe, living in a state of fear is not what God intended.

He wants for us to be so intimately acquainted with him that we trust he’s got our back no matter what.

Knowing God loves us causes us to feel safe. In his love, we become who he created us to be. He loves us no matter what we’ve done or neglected to do. His acceptance of us, as his wonderfully made sons and daughters, drives away fear.

Remembering what he says in his word and holding fast to those promises of faithful love will banish fear in those situations which threaten us.

I must keep choosing to stand on his word because it is true. All else is a lie.

And in that place, in his presence, fear evaporates. Peace comes. I can rest.

Contentment or Settling?


I’ve always struggled with settling.

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But I believe God is teaching me that being content doesn’t mean settling.

God is the God of more.

He takes us from glory to glory and tells us Jesus came to give us an abundant life.He says he wants to prosper us and provide for us according to all the riches in Christ Jesus.

 
 
Not just in our finances, although his word makes it clear that he desires that for us, but in every area of life he wants us to be rich.
 
In relationship, creativity, passion, love, kindness, goodness, peace and joy – all of the fullness of who he is, he wants to bestow on us.
 
And yet, we settle.
 
We think that good enough is good. That mediocre will suffice. There couldn’t possibly more, could there? Isn’t that what it means to be content?
 
I don’t think so.
 
In the Bible, Paul tells us he learned to be content in all circumstances. He wrote that from a prison cell after being beaten. But he had also been rich in his day as well. He said he knew both and could settle into each one with contentment knowing that in each situation, God had more.
 
As I consider the meaning of contentment, I think of God creating the world and saying “it is good” at the end of each day even when he wasn’t finished yet. He was still building something, but was able to lay it down each day with a sense of rest and peace knowing more was to come.
 
Can I do that? I believe that describes contentment.
 
Lord help me to live in a place of contentment today. And each day.

Impossible?


Photograph Laura Bennet - artist unknownEvery day we are faced with situations that seem impossible.

Whether it is an illness, the ruin of a relationship, a sudden traumatic event or even goals and dreams that seem out of our reach, impossibilities surround us.

But God says that nothing is impossible with him.

I’ve had a number of impossibilities in my life this past year. Relational, financial, career, family issues have at times left me discouraged at best and downright despairing on a couple of occasions.

But God reminds me that NOTHING is impossible for him.

I’m learning to stand more firmly on the word of God. His word says:

  • He is faithful.
  • He does not change.
  • He gives good gifts.
  • He redeems us and restores all that has been lost.
  • He sees us, hears us and answers us with a great plan far beyond what we can hope for or imagine.
  • What he says, he means.
  • He never forsakes us or leaves us or condemns us when we fail.
  • He waits with open arms when we’ve run off and pursues us with relentless passion.
  • He loves us and wants our good which also brings him glory.

As I continue to remind myself of truth, I see impossibilities turn to promise, hope and outcomes that blow my mind. But then, isn’t God that big? When I keep my eyes on the greatness of God, he eclipses the situations I think can never work out. And just because I can’t see what he is doing about them in his supernatural world, doesn’t mean he isn’t.

Persevere without gazing at the impossibilities…only at Jesus – the overcomer of impossible.