How Do I Know if I’m Fruitful?


Every day we make mistakes.

We say and do things we know are wrong, hurtful or leading us in a direction away from where we want to end up.dsc_0021

And every day we can decide to change our trajectory.

How do we do that? In the Bible, Luke 3:8 tells us to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”

UGH.

Do we hate that word “repentance?” I used to. Until I learned that to repent simply means to turn around.

Like in 180°.

About face.

U-turn.

To see that we are headed the wrong way, catch it and say “I blew it. I’m sorry, God. I want to turn around.”

It’s really not as painful as we seem convinced it is. Well, okay, some things can be – like when we’ve lied to someone, or said something behind their back, or broken a promise. Yes, it is hard to come clean that we’ve been looking at inappropriate material or using the company card for our personal benefit. But when we’re taking our life forward into better, repentance is the way to go. Besides…

God already forgave us.

Done deal. So our acknowledging our sinful ways and receiving his forgiveness is a simple step. And every time we repent, it gets easier. Then we actually sin less.  Some attitudes or action need to be repented of a hundred times in a day at first, but each time creates a new path. Thank goodness.

So what’s this “fruit of repentance?”

The evidence that we’re getting it.

God tells us there are 3 things that show when we are living a repentant lifestyle:

  1. Generosity – A heart that is willing to give to those in need. Things, time, resources.
  2. Honesty -No lying to secure something for ourselves. No accusing others for our gain.
  3. Contentment – Being happy with what we have without trying to take more than our share.

I’m so grateful God forgives us and then gives us a barometer to remind us of how we’re doing. Embracing a repentant life means we’re living a freer life. I’m all for that!

Is there some area where you feel you need to make a U-Turn? I’d love to hear about it.

Our Past Does Not Disqualify Us


Last week we began looking at the story of the woman at the well in Samaria…

Jesus entered an unexpected, undesirable place.

He was tired from his journey and sat down by Jacob’s well. The place was deserted, as the disciples went off in search of something to eat.

I don’t believe this is coincidental.

Jesus could only speak openly with the woman he was about to encounter if she was alone. Her shame would have been too overwhelming. Which is why she probably chose this time, when no one else was around, to go to the most public place in town to draw her water.

She went to draw water, but Jesus was drawing her to Him.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’    John 4:7131 (2)

Okay, I think she might have been a little rattled. I picture her almost defiantly answering Him. In her shame, she felt the need to be on the defensive.

The Samaritan woman said to Him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’” (verse 9)

She asked “How can you ask me for a drink?” Obviously she was surprised that a Jew would speak to her, and the fact that she was a woman was an issue as well. Nice Jewish men didn’t hang out talking to Samaritan women at the local watering place.

I think maybe she wondered how He was allowed by his “laws” to speak to her. Otherwise, she might have asked why He would, but instead she asked how He could.

Jesus was gentle in His response.

He answered,

If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” (verse 10)

We don’t ask for what we aren’t aware of.

She didn’t know that God’s gift was forgiveness for her sins and eternal life. She didn’t recognize Jesus. All she knew was her pain. When we are in pain and shame, we often can’t comprehend that Jesus is reaching out to help us even if we have been calling for him. Sometimes, like the woman, we wonder how He can even speak to us.

Our broken life doesn’t disqualify us from God.

It is the very thing that can drive us to him, if we let it. It is what he longs to restore and make right. If we’ll let him.

Can you feel a glimpse of his love for you?

Why Pray?


Have you ever asked yourself that question?IMG_0368

I don’t mean in a skeptical, it-won’t-do-anything kind of way. What I’m talking about is that deep searching of what prayer means. It’s not like God needs us to tell him what’s going on in our lives. He knows everything. And he knows what we need, so do we need to remind him? Besides, He is God Almighty, creator of the universe and the one who holds everything together and controls it all. Does he need our input?

So what is the purpose of prayer then?

Well, I asked Him. After all, in James he tells us if we lack wisdom to ask and he will give it to us. So I asked. And I guess that is the first purpose of prayer. God wants to give us things and he’s waiting for us to ask. He says if we ask, we will receive. And wisdom is a good thing to start with. But sometimes we can feel like we’re asking Santa for a Christmas list, and that’s not the point. Even though God longs to give us the desires of our heart.

I thought there was something more.

Partnership is a concept we’ve discussed in church. A former pastor, Daniel Brown, used to describe God wanting to partner with us in doing his will. Like a father asking his son to help him take out the trash. Dad doesn’t need his little boy’s help, but it’s about the relationship. Doing something together. I like that.

But, I still believed there was even more.

So when I asked, I was reminded of the Lord’s Prayer. We call it that because it is how Jesus told us to pray. Hmm…maybe there’s something in that.

I grew up reciting that prayer as a rote tradition. Even singing it, while deeply moving, didn’t impart the depth of it’s meaning to me. But the day I asked Jesus about praying, this is what struck me…

If God is all about us talking to him, and asking him for things, and partnering with us, then maybe praying that prayer would look something like this (translation my own):

Our Father, who is in heaven, I praise your holy name! I honor you as Almighty God. You are so holy! You are so worthy of my praise. Because You want to do good things for us, I invite you to bring your kingdom into my life and do your will just as you have purposed it already in heaven because you are great and good and have wonderful things planned for me. Whatever that is, I want it, so I ask you for it. Please, Lord God, I ask that your kingdom would come here to earth. That your will would be done here on earth. And please, since you know all I need, will you provide it. Just for today? I won’t worry about tomorrow, but trust you to give me what I need today. And about forgiveness, Lord. You forgive me for everything so will you please make me willing and able to forgive others the same way? Thank you that temptation is never from you. Will you please deliver us from evil? That awful enemy, Satan, who is looking to distract us from you and destroy our lives? I know you can and will do all this because your kingdom is glorious and powerful, and you love me so very much.

What do you think?

I’ve begun to pray this way, acknowledging who God is and inviting him to bring his kingdom to earth. That his will would be done in my life, in my home, my marriage, my children’s and family members’ lives, my friend’s lives, in my church, community, city, state and nation, as well as the world. Because if I believe God is who he says he is then I have to be open to and accepting of what he wants to do here on earth.

And I’m seeing incredible things happening.

Not always what I expect, but always great and good. In my life, my husband’s life, our marriage and family. Truly amazing.

God is a gentleman and never forces us. But he longs to do good for us, with us and through us. As soon as we invite him, remembering who he is and what is truly important, he will bring his kingdom to us.

I challenge you to give this a try and let me know what you see happen in your life.

How Can I Ever Forgive Myself?


I hate myself. 068

How many times have I thought this, whispered it or screamed the words at myself? Too many to count.

I imagine you’ve done the same. Quick to believe the worst, we punish ourselves, by rehearsing our sins, bad choices or the lies we’ve believed over and over. Don’t we?

And so we reach the final focus in our series on forgiveness—learning to forgive ourselves. I’d experienced God’ forgiveness, and chose to believe Psalm 103:12 that says he forgives as far as the east is from the west (which is infinitely far if you keep going around the circle).I had finally forgiven the people I loved who had hurt me, releasing them into God’s hands.

But I couldn’t forgive myself.

After all, it was me who chose the life I ended up living. My poor judgment caused the pain I suffered. God had tried to gain my trust and attention and pointed out the truth about myself and my situation. But I hadn’t been willing to deal with the truth. It was too hard, too scary, too painful.

I caused my years of heartache.

As my children shared their hearts about all that had happened, I hated myself and my self-imposed blindness. They had come to me with their hurts from a dysfunctional family life, but I did nothing to intervene. I couldn’t forgive myself for the way they had suffered as a result of my leaving them unprotected over the years.

I was so intent on holding onto a dream of the marriage I wanted, that I sacrificed my children. I saw myself as the ancient worshipers of Molech, god of the Ammonites, who threw their children into flames as living sacrifices which God said, in Leviticus 20:1-5 and Jeremiah 32:35, was detestable (refer also to Leviticus 18:2, Deut. 12:31 and I Kings 11:5).

How could I do something so awful to the ones I love the most?

But in spite of my choices, God had been putting the pieces of my children back together. Still, I felt as if the damage was irreparable; that I could never make it up to them. How could crying and telling them how sorry I was ever be enough? How could my right choices and protection of them now make up for all the years I left them uncovered and vulnerable? My children were willing to work through forgiving me, but I was not willing to forgive myself. Then a friend showed me a verse in Job that spoke to my heart.

I felt my spiritual eyes open.

Jesus showed me the huge wall I had built around myself with my lack of forgiveness. It was keeping me trapped in places where He wanted me to be free.  I had been judging myself and keeping myself weighed down with the need for justice against me.

He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food. But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked; judgment and justice have taken hold of you.

Job 36:16-17

Jesus had already forgiven me and begun to restore my relationship with Him and my children. It was me not forgiving myself that kept me trapped. I had to let go of wanting to punish myself for not changing my life situation sooner.

I confessed my lack of forgiveness for myself.

God showed me His love for me in special ways unique to me, like seeing dolphins jumping in the ocean by my house. He reminded me of the good plans he had for me–even though I may not see them all yet. Through the Bible and other relationships, he taught me how to better love and help my children in their lives. My new freedom also brought the ability to let go of them. As I released myself from the guilt and shame I had been living under, I was able to let God work in His own way in each of their lives. That did more for them than me beating myself up on their behalf.

Forgiveness of God, others and self.                       DSC_0016

Each one holds an important key to the door of freedom.

Below is a link to a song that greatly aided me in the process of learning to forgive myself.

Wait for Your Rain by Todd Agnew

Have you forgiven yourself?

How Do I Forgive?? – Part 2


Hawaiian Honeymoon
Hawaiian Honeymoon

God forgives us. Now, He asks us to forgive others.

 

But you don’t know what they’ve done!”

Acted foolishly? Lashed out because they are in pain? Stubbornly chosen their own way?

Haven’t I done the same?

God reveals to us what we have done that needs repentance and forgiveness, and lavishes love and grace on us. Then He asks us to do the same for others.

 

Freely you have received; freely give.     Matthew 10:8

When God reminds us of the details of what someone has done to hurt us, He’s helping us deal with each issue, forgive it and let it go. Remember that last week we talked about how our lack of forgiveness hurts us more than the other person. God doesn’t want us to suffer in anger, resentment and bitterness.

At first, I felt guilty for reflecting on things done to me, but then I realized I could only forgive as I saw the full truth of what I was forgiving. Contrary to what many of us think, forgiveness begins when we can honestly acknowledge the hurt we’ve experienced.

Let’s say my sister used my car without permission and wrecked it.

(Just an example, I don’t have a sister.) If I don’t acknowledge the facts of the circumstances, how can I forgive my sister? If I deny it: “My sister didn’t do anything wrong;” or minimize it: “Well, after all, she’s my sister so isn’t it okay for her to take my car?” or ignore it, then I’m not forgiving her action or the fact it has hurt me.

Doesn’t granting forgiveness means I condone hurtful behavior?

I’ve wondered this, and also if forgiveness requires me to return to a painful situation. But I learned that forgiving doesn’t mean I must disregard or tolerate someone hurting me. It doesn’t necessitate continuing to live in a deceptive, dangerous or abusive relationship. Forgiving someone simply releases that person into God’s hands to handle it. When I was able to forgive, I could let go, and not go back.

Sometimes, a person’s lack of remorse can trip us up.

I’ve struggled with forgiving someone when I sensed they were more concerned for their own suffering as a result of being caught than because of pain they caused. But forgiving is to free me. So I’ve asked God to help me let go even if the other person refused to apologize, excused their actions or didn’t seem sincere.

Sometimes, I wasn’t willing to forgive because I was holding onto pain as proof that I deserved justice. I felt like giving up the pain was giving up my chance to make things right. But God is the one who brings justice. He is the one who will hold the person accountable for their behavior. It may be now or later, but He will call them to account. When we let Him deal with the situation, we are free.

Forgiveness really comes back to trusting God. When we believe He has everything covered it’s easier to be gracious towards others.

What has kept you from forgiving someone?

How Do I Forgive??


DSC_0005Last week we looked at repentance and forgiveness.

I shared how God showed me every detail of things I had done that needed His forgiveness which led me to godly sorrow. And how God has already forgiven us so all we need to do is acknowledge our need.

But what about me forgiving?

I’ve found three areas in which I need to forgive: God, others and myself. Believe it or not, our forgiving isn’t about the other person. Our lack of forgiveness towards others ends up hurting us, not them. We become resentful and bitter, and it carries over into anger at everything in life. That is not the abundance that God has for us.

Often, we don’t even realize we are unforgiving.

This happened to me with the Lord. Through a series of circumstances, God arranged for me to attend an event in which a particular man who has a ministry of speaking prophetically to people was to be sharing. I didn’t want to be there, but it was a required activity because of something I was involved in so there I sat.

Arms crossed, I was convinced this man was a liar and would mislead people. You see, he had given my ex-husband and me a prophetic word exactly six years to the day prior to this event. He claimed that God would be offering us a “turnaround time” in our lives. I had copied the verse he provided and slipped it into my Bible. I read that promise every day for years. But, shortly after that night, our business failed, we lost our home and within a couple of years we were separated. Again.

I felt angry thinking about this man speaking to us.

The circumstances I lived through weren’t my idea of a turnaround! I took notes of each scripture to prove my point, but I knew our pastor would never subject us to someone who would hurt his congregation. The conflict in me grew.

At the end of the service, I couldn’t get to my car before tears began to fall.

I don’t understand, Lord. How could you speak through a man who lies?”

Driving to a nearby cliff overlooking the ocean, I sobbed my heart out without knowing why.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Pigeon Point Lighthouse

I parked and wailed some more, throwing all that had happened to me at God with whatever verbal force I had. Confusion, anger and despair swirled through my head and heart.

When my emotions abated, I heard a whisper in my mind.

Your life did turn around.

I thought about that. It was true. As a result of those awful circumstances, I had finally chosen to get out of a bad situation. I lived in a beautiful place. My children and I were happy. Our church family was safe, and we were all healing. My life had completely turned around. The situation was simply different than I had expected. I thought my business would thrive, the mortgage company would deal honestly with me and my marriage would be saved.

Suddenly I realized I had been angry with God for those six years.

Tears began again as I faced my anger at God and told Him how sorry I was. He hadn’t betrayed me. The prophetic man hadn’t lied. I had misunderstood and harbored bitterness in some closed off place in my heart. I forgave God and the man. And I asked Jesus to forgive me.

God is so good.

Peace washed over me and filled my car. God knew I needed to forgive Him. He orchestrated circumstances so I would be in that meeting. I hadn’t been happy about that initially, but now that I realized it had been for my good, to bring healing and freedom, my anger turned to gratitude.

Sometimes we need to forgive God.

While it’s natural and even okay to ask God “Where were you when____ happened to me?” or “How could you let___ happen?” or “Why have you done this or that?” we can get stuck in the questions. Sometimes God gives us answers now. Sometimes later. Often, not at all. But if we pit our understanding against his wisdom, we may land in a place of anger. And He knows that in the end, our lack of forgiveness will hurt us more than it hurts Him.

Is there something you need to forgive God for?

What is Forgiveness?


Whether we are trapped in addiction or in a relationship with someone who is, God can shed light on the places of darkness and has a DSC_0035plan to rescue us from disaster. It is His delight to do so.

His rescue comes through forgiveness.

Jesus offers it to us. He asks us to extend it to others. But, we have to be willing to give up what we hold onto: our sin and/or the sin of others against us.

Without forgiveness, there can never be restoration for us.

God wants to bestow on us every good thing He can imagine for us. That comes with forgiveness—His forgiveness for us, and ours for others and ourselves.

God’s forgiveness is immediate, but ours can be a process.

Jesus died on the cross to forgive every sin we could ever commit. Because He has already forgiven us, He simply waits for us to acknowledge where we’re off and accept His offer. That forgiveness is immediate, but when it comes to us forgiving others and ourselves, it can take time to work through.

Thank goodness, God is patient and leads us.

First, God makes us aware of what needs forgiving. When Jesus reveals our waywardness, we should feel sorrow (not shame) for what we’ve done to hurt ourselves and others. When we hurt, God is also grieved. The Bible says that

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

2 Corinthians 7:10

This means when we are willing to look at what we have done that is different from what God intended for our good, we’ll be brokenhearted. The full weight of our actions will be a revelation to us in a way that makes us grieve for the pain we’ve caused ourselves, others and God. Our heart fills with a sincere willingness to accept any consequences. We experience gratitude for the forgiveness offered.

That is godly sorrow leading to repentance.

That kind of sorrow brings us to our knees in front of our Lord, who then reaches down and lifts us up in love, saving us from what has trapped us. We are then able to move on in life with no more regret, knowing that Jesus has seen, forgiven and restored us. Then He’s able to lead us into the good things He originally planned for us.

Worldly sorrow, on the other hand, is when we promise to be good to avoid trouble—sorry we’re caught, but more concerned about not getting caught in the future or dodging consequences. That kind of “sorrow” only leads to more destruction and shame, never to a place of freedom.

God is thorough. Forgiveness is specific, not general.

God points out details of situations in order to free us entirely of sin. It is the same if we ask for and accept forgiveness, or when we forgive someone else. Forgiveness doesn’t come with a careless blanket statement of “whatever I’ve ever done.” We must be willing to honestly and specifically admit what we have done.

When God showed me what I did to become stuck in unhealthy relationships, as well as what others had done to me, each denied, ignored, hidden, minimized, or never dealt with incident needed forgiveness. As long as there was denial, minimizing or excuses, I not DSC_0047able to receive or grant the forgiveness that would restore me. But I knew if I asked God to show me the truth about myself and my past, He would free me from the pain that enslaved me.

There were many such situations, and it took a few years to process them, ask for forgiveness and forgive those who had hurt me. It was worth the struggle.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share more of what that process looked like for me.

What have you experienced regarding forgiveness?

Ready for an Enjoyable Read?


Newest Release

Author, Sherry Kyle, has written a delightful novel that weaves a thread of forgiveness and redemption throughout the lives of four very real and loveable characters.

“When the alcoholic father of Jessica MacAllister’s son reappers in their lives, Jessica and her son go to her Uncle George for advice and refuge.

Following a year of grief, Evelyn Sweeney is finally ready to move on. Pondering her new path in life, her mind drifts to her first love, George MacAllister.

When the lives of these two women cross, they discover that one heart-shaped ring binds their stories together. But will the results be a rekindled faith and new hope, or will it lead them both back into the darkness they’ve fought for so long?”

The Heart Stone was hard to put down.

The romantic possibility and tension as well as intriguing suspense kept me engaged and guessing. Jacob, the 6 year old son, had me smiling and even brought an outright laugh. By the end, I felt as if these characters were my friends who had overcome obstacles and grown emotionally and spiritually. I wished the book didn’t have to end.

Sherry Kyle’s gift as a connector of people shines in her novels which rekindle and reconcile relationships. I believe Sherry’s ability as a writer grows with each new release. I can’t wait for the next one.

Well done, Sherry.

The Heart Stone, Published by Abingdon Press released on April 1, 2013 and is available from these retailers:

Cokesbury

Christian Book Distributors

Barnes and Noble

Amazon

What are books you’ve enjoyed reading lately?

20 Tips for Parents


As the parent of 7 wonderful children (4 of my own and 3 delightfully inherited), I’ve made some observations over my past 32 years of summer vacation '12 068parenting.

Thus far, I’ve concluded four things:

  • Raising children well doesn’t mean we have to be perfect or have it all figured out ahead of time.
  • Parenting is as much for our benefit as for our children’s.
  • God’s the perfect parent so we should examine how he does it.
  • Each person has free choice. No matter how well we train a child, he or she will choose how to live. Remember that perfect parent God? Even Adam and Eve made a devastating choice.

Dr. James Dobson wrote a book called Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, but most of us find ourselves cowering in our hearts at one point or another along the way.

Here are some tips to boost your bravery:            028

  1. Respect them. They are people too.
  2. Right or wrong, be honest. They smell hypocrisy.
  3. Tell them you love them every day.
  4. Ask for forgiveness when you blow it.
  5. Allow God’s grace to cover your mistakes and failures.
  6. Don’t exasperate them with inconsistency, lack of boundaries or unrealistic expectations.
  7. Ask the right questions. Ones that open discussion not shut it off.
  8. Tell them you are proud of who they are not only what they do.
  9. The Bible is the standard, you are simply the messenger. Let God direct them. Be accountable to God for the message you give.
  10. Show them Jesus by your actions and your love for them and others.
  11. Listen, listen, listen to THEM, and they will listen to you. (HEAR what they are saying.)
  12. Don’t declare war on them—you are on the same side so fight their battles with them.
  13. Put yourself in their shoes. We are parents because we’ve been there. If we forget what it was like, how can we relate to them in order to help them navigate through it?
  14. Take your role as parent seriously. You are accountable to God. He entrusted you with the children you have.
  15. Train them to make good decisions and be trustworthy and responsible for their actions. Self-governed not rule governed. They need to learn good choices for life not just to keep from being “in trouble.”
  16. Teach them to obey because it will bring them good not because you hover over or threaten punishment. Focus on the positive rather than simply avoiding trouble.
  17. Be self-disciplined. We can’t expect our kids to follow through when we don’t.
  18. Allow them to be who God has made them to be. Help them see who they are, not who you want them to be.
  19. Don’t take their behavior or words personally. Avoid reacting. Even though they may be a reflection of you, don’t make that your goal.
  20. Love them enough to say no. Be willing to say yes.  Even when it’s inconvenient.

Hopefully these tips I’ve collected will encourage you in your parenting journey. DSC_0011

How about you? What things have you learned along the way? Or what would you share from a young person’s perspective?