Forgiveness by the Book

forgiveness pixabay 9 7 17“I forgave you the moment those words came out of your mouth.”

No, sad to say, that’s not a Brenda Koinis quote. It’s something I read in a novel a few days ago. I’ve never said those words. I’m not sure it’s ever occurred to me to think them. Until now. Why not? Why do we wait to forgive?

Should forgiveness hinge upon an apology? Romans 5:8 says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Our Lord didn’t wait to forgive us. Perhaps we want to postpone our grace until the offending party seems deserving of it. We’d better watch out for that excuse. We’re never deserving of divine grace, but have—each and every one of us—received plenty of it.

Maybe we’ve convinced ourselves that we cannot forgive until our emotions allow us to do so. Wrong again. In much of life we are forced to behave counter to our feelings. (Did you feel like going to work today? Or doing the dishes last night?) Why should forgiveness be any different? Forgiveness is a choice, and we may have to commit and re-commit to that choice countless times before our feelings follow suit.

Is there underlying menace in our reluctance to forgive? Do we hope to exact some sort of punishment by our delay. We must stop. We are hurting ourselves, as well as others we have no right to hurt.

I once heard a great tip regarding life’s mishaps: “If we are going to laugh about this someday, we might as well laugh about it now.” Easily edited, this quote is at least as wise when it reads, “If we are going to forgive this transgression someday, we might as well forgive it now.”

Forgiveness never means approval. It doesn’t equate with saying, “I have decided you were right.” Forgiveness may not remove the consequences of a misstep. It is simply a matter of the heart. It opens an avenue to reconnection, and it puts us squarely on the path of walking in our Father’s steps.

 

 

Even as my Texas and Florida friends continue to repair their lives and homes after flooding, new friends in California are suffering from fires. Please take a moment now to ask the Lord to intervene, then join me in prayer throughout the coming days whenever those in peril come to mind. 

 

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Rain

Dagny cookies

It was raining as we drove to Charlie’s birthday party, but first birthday parties are a rare and beautiful thing, never to be missed on account of moisture. We ran through the puddles and up the walk to join a festive crowd feasting on loaded platters of goodies and snapping enough photographs to keep Facebook happy for days. The first thing I noticed was the cookie tray, because Charlie’s mom is an ace in that department (see above). Then I noticed the sign (see below).

dagny sign

I thought, “I should blog about that one day,” took a photo of those thought provoking words, filed it away, and never got back to it.

Then Harvey came, and I wondered if those same words sounded too light and trite, too “just smile and bear it and move on.” I don’t believe God ever means for us to plaster a fake smile on our hurting selves and pretend there is no pain in this life. There is pain. Why else would there be so many Bible verses about comfort? We wouldn’t need comfort if we didn’t have pain.

I do believe the words, “Don’t worry. Be happy.” Don’t worry. Don’t look into the future and assume that all will be forever lost. God is on our side and has the power to do all things, to provide even beyond our asking. Be happy, or joyful if that makes you feel better about the word choice. Underneath all the present pain or rain, we know the One who makes the sun shine is still in charge.

Still we cry, we suffer, and we struggle to tap into the truth, to draw strength from that which we cannot yet see. Harvey wasn’t the only storm many of us will face this year. And when those storms come, it won’t work to hold our breath until they pass. We have to keep going, keep walking, keep working. And when we are truly trusting, maybe we can even allow our hearts to dance. 

           

God’s Crop by Beth Smith *

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When I was teaching high school, I had a poster in my classrooms. It was a picture of a flower growing out of a tiny crack in a mass of rocks.  The caption read, “Bloom where you are planted.” Good idea—maybe even a little inspirational—but how typical of a teacher to tell you to do something without giving so much as a clue as to how to do it!

How do we bloom in God’s garden? God has created us to bring him glory. As the Master Gardener, he puts us in the best soil, setting our roots in his love. And oh what love! In Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV), Paul writes: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.”

Once we’re planted, God takes care of us so that we can grow. He waters us. You’ve seen grass, plants, and flowers all curled up and about to die because of drought conditions. After a good rain they’re all plumped up and beautiful again.  We get droopy and dried up if we don’t read God’s Word. If you feel as if you’re going through a dry period, Isaiah 58:11 (NLT) provides this encouragement, “The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.” Get in there. Read his Word. Get watered.

God also feeds his garden. We’re fed by his Word. “Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on his faithfulness, and truly you shall be fed” (Psalm 37:3 AMP). Maybe faithfulness is God’s weed and feed product. As we feed on his faithfulness, we begin to see that we can trust him more and more. That trust begins to kill the weeds of fear and doubt and worry.

Plants must also be pruned to keep them healthy. (We don’t like to talk about that very much.) Jesus said that God cuts off branches which bear no fruit, trimming and cleaning the ones that do bear fruit so that they will be even more fruitful. Pruning makes us more productive in his kingdom. It’s painful to us when we don’t agree with God about what needs to go. Of course, we know in our spirits that God knows best. Hard as it is, we need to say, “Cut away, Lord.”

In winter weather, we often see tarps, old sheets, and old table cloths thrown over plants to protect them. God protects us in cold, hard, and difficult times. Read Psalm 121 sometime soon. It will confirm God’s care and protection of you.

In the hands of the Master Gardener we can be sure we’ll flower. We’ll be fruitful. We’ll fulfill our purpose – to glorify Him. That’s the way we’ll show God’s love and goodness to the world around us.

*In case you’re new to this blog, Beth Smith is my mom. You can read more of her work in Every Wednesday Morning, available at etsy.com.

Quotables

wise owl pixabay 9 7 17Thanks to moleskine.com and the generosity of my children, I carry a tiny notebook in my purse. It helps me remember all sorts of things—the email I need to send, the extra item that belongs on my grocery list, and, perhaps most importantly, the wise words I read or hear and hope to share. It’s time for me to move my latest collection of quotes from the pages of my notebook to the pages of this blog. I’ve identified their source by initials alone. If, however, you are the one that shared these wonderful words and would like full credit, just grab it via the comments section below.

•          We must not allow the ugliness of this world to take away our joy. (From the film “United Kingdom”)

•          “The best plan for us is to not be overly confident of our plans!” (S. N.)

•          “Don’t get chased off your post.” (Author Unknown)

•          “God has the right to interrupt your life.” (Church Billboard, Austin)

•          “It is never a good time to grumble, ever.” (D. H.)

•          “Ask the Helper for help.” (T.V.)

•          “Develop the disciplines of resting and digesting. Digest the Word of God and then rest in his promises.” (J.D.)

Do these resonate with you? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments box below.

If you are in the midst of post-hurricane reconstruction, please know that Steve and I are among the countless thousands who continue to pray for you. A disaster can never be understood. May you be encouraged by the only One that can provide peace that is beyond understanding.

A Hymn by Any Other Name…

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“Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise!” How true! Those words are from “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing” and describe so eloquently our need for psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Certainly hymns are not our only option when it comes to singing loudest praise. However, copyrights make recounting the lyrics of contemporary works a bit “sketchy,” as my kids would say. And so, let me simply nod to the more modern works you readers listed and say with you, “Well done!”

  • “Here I Am Lord” by James Kilbane
  • “In Christ Alone” by Keith and Kristyn Getty
  • “Because He Lives” by Bill and Gloria Gaither
  • “Holy Spirit You Are Welcome Here” by Jesus Culture with Martin Smith
  • “This Little Light of Mine” (author disputed)

That last one, recommended by one of you with reserve, is actually published in at least 38 hymnals. Its simplicity mirrors the simplicity of our calling as Christians. Let it shine!

Loudest praise. Joyful noises. Making music in our hearts to the Lord. Worship tunes. The Book of Psalms. Historic Hymns. Scriptural Chants. We have a wealth of ways to lift our voices in adoration to the Lord who loves us.

When? As often as possible.

How? In whatever way we are inclined.

Why? Because all that is within us is meant to bless his holy name!

Was your favorite song of worship included in this blog series? I hope so! If not, tell me about it in the comments box. I’d love to read the ones I missed!

Powerful Poetry [1]

hymnal-468126_1280 pixabay 8 17

Many of Thomas Chisolm’s 1200 plus poems were set to music. One became the beloved hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” So many times this year, in both joy and pain, I have sung these words within my soul: All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!”

The power of hymns! Charlotte Elliott wrote “Just As I Am.” Her brother, after many years of his own ministry, wondered if the fruit of his labors equaled the impact of the single hymn that included these words: “Yea, all I need in Thee to find.”

“’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” written by Louisa Stead after great personal tragedy, leads me back to a place of peace every time I sing it. “Yes, ‘tis sweet to trust in Jesus, just from sin and self to cease; just from Jesus simply taking life and rest and joy and peace.” 

Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame was much more than a runner. He was also a missionary and a martyr. His favorite hymn was reportedly “Be Still My Soul.” I can imagine these words comforting him as he sat imprisoned in China: “Be still my soul: the Lord is on thy side.”  I wonder, did he also fortify himself while praising the Lord with some of these lines?

  • “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty! All thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea.”
  • “Lord of all, to Thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise.”
  • “And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am his own.”
  • Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my Vision, o Ruler of all.

Perhaps he drew strength from Martin Luther’s words: “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,” also translated to read “With might of ours naught can be done.” How very true! We do indeed need him every hour. He meets our needs. He gives us peace. He delights in our praise.

[1] Many thanks to cyberhymnal.org, my chief resource in this blog series.