Tuesday, September 13, 2016

This forgiveness thing

Jesus has been really working me over with this forgiveness thing.  For the past few weeks, the subject of forgiveness has been coming up in some form or another.  I'm sensitive to it because I seem to have a little bit of trouble forgiving.

I replay wrongs over and over.  I revisit situations over and over.  I rehash arguments over and over. I "re..." over and over...

Just let it go!

I want so much to let it go, but "something" keeps me holding on.  I now recognize that that "something" is a tactic of the enemy. He is only able to do it because lately I haven't given my mind anything better with which to replace those ungodly thoughts.  Philippians 4:8 says: "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."   I haven't been doing that; I've been foolishly going back to "my own vomit," as Proverbs 26:11 lays out, and falling prey to his schemes that try to lead me toward depression.  I haven't "fixed" my thoughts, I let them come and go, flittering away like a butterfly.  Isn't it funny how the things I should hold onto I easily let go of, while the things I need to let go of, are caught like in a steel trap?  Hmmmmmm...

I say to myself that I have every reason to be angry.  I have every reason to be upset.  I have every reason to be hurt.  I have every reason to react the way I do.  I have every reason to "rage against the machine."  BUT that does not give me the RIGHT!  Because I gave my life to Jesus (coming up on 43 years ago), I gave up that right to be ruled by my own feelings and distorted perceptions.  Because I made Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior, He rules my life, and that includes my feelings and perceptions.  I gave Him my heart, the seat of my feelings and perceptions, I gave Him my mind, the origin of these thoughts and perceptions, I gave Him my soul, the vehicle for those feelings and perceptions.  After all this time, I'm supposed to have a better handle on things, right?

I am still clothed in flesh and so still struggle daily with temptations and distractions, but if I keep my mind stayed...

Wait, wait, wait a minute, I'm doing what I hate to hear other Christians do, spouting scripture when faced with a real, everyday issues.  I'm like a lot of you: I know the scriptures, I've read them numerous times.  I've heard them numerous times.  I've written about them numerous times.  They are imbedded in my memory, but I don't always remember that they are there.  As I get older, if I don't constantly find a way to keep these reminders at the forefront, I will fail, and that's a fact.

Here's some practical advice given to me at various times along my own journey:

1. Start the day in prayer.  This sets the tone for the day.  Prayer doesn't have to be long and drawn out; it can be as simple as "Good Morning Daddy, thanks for letting me sleep and awaken, let's get this day started!"

2. Keep the dialog going all day.  Talk with Him at every opportunity about everything, whether internally or out loud.  Ask Him about your wardrobe for the day, the accessories, have breakfast/lunch/dinner with Him.  Point out different things to Him (it's not like He didn't see it, but it keeps the "line" open).

3. If during morning devotional time, a particular scripture is given to you, write it down (put it in your phone's notepad for quick reference), or somewhere where you can get to it quickly throughout the day.  Refer to it periodically as a reminder of the day's thought and focus.

4. Because prayer is a two-way conversation (imagine that?!!?!  You mean it's not the time to be mesmerized by the mellifluous tones of your own voice?  No. It. Is. NOT! It's the time to speak to God and to be SPOKEN TO BY GOD!), be prepared to quiet your mind enough to hear an answer or an acknowledgment of your greeting.  God loves our conversations, He longs to talk with us, but too many only want to talk, and not listen.  Sometimes we want to blame our overloaded schedules, but if we had placed the schedule in His Hands and asked Him to put things in their proper place, maybe we wouldn't feel so overwhelmed and rushed, and unable to "make time" for HIM.  Hmmmm...guilty...

5. Meditate on HIM and with HIM at times during the day.  Find that morning focal scripture and place it before you.  Speak it out loud.  Pepper the atmosphere with it, and then focus on it.  Let it's relevance wash over you.  Weep if you need to.  Laugh if you have to.  Dance if you want to.  Let it do what it's meant to do for you.

6. If a crisis arises during the day, don't panic.  I know, your flesh wants to go screaming into the street, "Why me, LORD?  Why now?"  But that is another distracting tactic of the enemy.  Try to refocus on Jesus.  Maybe that's why you were given that particular focal scripture today, to prepare you for what He already knew was heading your way.  Focus your attention on The Answer, not the crisis.

7.  End the day in prayer.  Talk over the day's happenings with Him.  Laugh about the laughable.  Cry over the upsetting.  Talk over the upcoming solutions.  And let it rest in His Hands.  I once heard it said that "A day hemmed in prayer, is like a quilt; it unravels without it."  That is quite true.  Starting the day without it allows the day to meander wherever without a set direction.  Ending a day without it allows the day to spill over into our dreams, or worse, the next day.  At the end of the day, hand it all over to Him, and, here's a novel concept, Go. To. Sleep.

Now you may be wondering, what does any of this have to do with forgiveness?  Well, I'm glad you asked!  Forgiveness is often wrapped up in "me, myself and I."  "They did that to me, and I can't forgive them!"  "I can't believe they did that!  They knew that would hurt me!" "Why would they do that, after all I've done for them?"  The focus is on yourself.  When we start, continue and end the day in prayer with and to the Lord God, it takes the focus off us and puts it where it belongs, on HIM.

When we allow ourselves to see the deeds of others from His viewpoint, the wrongs take on a different meaning and affect us a little differently.  For one, the hurt, though still painful, is not as harsh because the Holy Spirit is right there (because you've been in His presence all day) to help shoulder the load, or, if you let Him, take it all on Himself.  When we see it from His perspective, the lesson may become immediately apparent (notice I said the word "may" because the lesson may be more of a long-term session, rather than an immediate quiz), than it would have without His consultation.  You're able to see more of "why they did it" instead of "why they did it to me."

Given some of these new perspectives, forgiveness becomes a little easier and comes a little quicker.  It doesn't require so much debate and inner turmoil because the immediate discussion with God can eliminate the "flesh, heart and mind inner discussions," if you let it happen.  Letting go of past hurts and pain happens with less trauma because the Doctor has been with you every step of the way: from bringing your attention to the problem, diagnosing the root cause, accompanying you into the operating room, administering the anesthetic, guiding the Surgeon's Hands, removing the infected tissue, sewing up the wound, applying the Balm, wrapping you up in The Comforter, transporting you back to recovery, and being with you every step of the way through your healing process.

This "forgiveness thing" only happens if you want it to.  It's up to you if you want to revisit the places of past hurt and pain after you've already been in the operating room to remove it from you.  It would be your own foolishness in that instance (but sadly, we are foolish beings, and sometimes a trial has to be repeated in order for it's intended message to stick).

We've all heard the adage, "Practice makes perfect."  Well, that is so true in the practice of the things of God.  We have to "practice" being in His presence until it becomes so commonplace that not being there is like not being able to breathe. The same with not revisiting the places and people of past hurts and pain.  If God removed you from that environment and those people from our lives, why go back? Why invite them back into your new peaceful chaos-free zone?  Your compassion may want them to have as much peace as you, but they made that choice, and in inviting them back, they may end up stealing your long-awaited and hard-earned peace of mind.  Don't do it!  Let them be!  Pray for them from afar, but hold onto your peace!  1 Peter 3:10-11 says, "He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.  Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it."  Not everyone is willing to pursue after their peace.  You have!  You've done the Michael Phelps, why would you give up your medals because of the Ryan Lochte's of the world?  Practice holding on to the forgiveness and the peace that comes with it.  You deserve it!  Jesus died for it, and you pursued it.  It's yours to keep!

He leads me beside the quiet streams

Of course, the very same people who hurt you in the past are apt to hurt you again.  The thing about that is if you were able to forgive the first time, and you've practiced this forgiveness constantly, forgiving them again will get gradually easier.  After a while, either it won't even hurt anymore, or the Lord will remove them from you.  But you have to remain in constant communication with Him in order to know the how's and when's of those circumstances.  Practicing being in His presence will facilitate all of that.

The alternative is, well, you know...

Sunday, September 4, 2016

You're valuable

You! Hey, you!  Yes, you!  You are valuable!

You are important!

You matter!

You are worth so much more than your mind can conceive right now!

God already calls you the "apple of His Eye" (Jeremiah 2:8) and "His workmanship" (Philippians 2:10).  So why are you calling yourself anything else but the treasure that you are?  Why does your face look like a gloomy day?

Don't you know that you mean the world to someone?  No, seriously!  Here's your "It's a Wonderful Life" moment.  You may not have recognized how many lives you've touched as you've gone throughout your day, but there's someone out there who may owe their very life to you, simply because you may have glanced their way.  To you, it was just another moment out of a million other "insignificant" moments, but to them, it may have been that split second that saved them from stepping in front of a speeding bus.  Or someone who was feeling invisible and your glance let them know that someone actually "saw" them.  That child that you smiled at may go on to produce the cure for AIDS simply because they felt like they mattered enough for you to smile at them.

Don't take yourself for granted.  God created you for a purpose.  Today may feel like a struggle just to get out of bed, and there are days like that, but trusting and believing in the God Who knows you matter, makes all the difference.

Say to yourself, "I matter!  I am important! I hold significant value!"

Keep repeating it until you believe it.

Now walk in it!
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What is Normal?

Originally penned 9/4/12

The dictionary defines “normal” as “conforming to the usual standard, type, or custom.”  But then we take a look at the definition of “conforming,” which is then defined as “behaving acceptably, following standard, or being, or making, similar.”  Ergo, being or making similar to the usual standard, type or custom of what or whom? Hmmmmm….

God defines those of us who are His children as “a peculiar people, a royal priesthood.”  That, in itself, goes against the dictionary’s definition of normal; peculiar being, in essence, the antithesis of normal, if not its direct antonym, and royalty setting the standard, not conforming to it.

So just remember, the next time someone tells you to “act normal,” ask them, “according to whose or what standard?”  If they say, “according to the standard,” tell them, “if it’s not the Lord’s standard, no thanks, I rather like being on the Lord’s side.”  If they say, “well, normal according to everyone else,” then remind them that “ ‘everyone else’ died in both the flood and Sodom and Gomorrah.  Again, I like the Lord's side.”

Going against the grain is my “normal.”  I’m your sandpaper, baby!  ‘Nuf said…

Friday, September 2, 2016

Just because...

"Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims." - 1 Corinthians 6:12 MSG

In essence, just because I can, doesn't mean I should, because I might get used to doing it and become convinced that it's the right thing to do, simply because it's become a habit.

Examine some of the things you're doing in the light of the Word. Is it really the right thing, or is it because of custom or habit, or because "they" told you to? Often, even our mentors give us bad advice, not because it came from a bad place, but because it's not the right thing for you. It may have worked for them during a crisis, but it should not have become a repeated "go-to" solution.

Examine your own solutions and make sure they are what you're supposed to do, not because it's what you thought you were supposed to do. We all make mistakes. We all fall short. We all miss the mark. The key is learning from those errors and veering back onto the straight and narrow.

Being mindful of what we're doing at all times can be exhausting, but we are not told to do that either. We're told to "keep our minds stayed on Him (Jesus), and He will keep us in perfect peace." We're told to "cast our cares on Him, because He cares for us." We're  told to "trust in the Lord with all our heart, leaning not to our own understanding. But in all our ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct our path."

This walk could be a lot easier if we stop letting the enemy crowd our minds with legalistic conundrums and wasteful doubts. Trusting God takes time and practice if we're not used to it, but the benefits are so worth it. However, a child trusts implicitly, and we're told to be like little children. So maybe, some of these "myths" of what adulthood should be came out of someone else's misguided notion from a habitually wrong practice? Hmmmm, something to keep in mind when considering whether what you're about to do is really right, or just right for now...