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Faith, Forgiveness, Redemption, The Friday Overflow

The Friday Overflow: Ministry Spotlight- Epic Beauty

June 27, 2014

10380129_741059635932254_4318560271331148500_oHere at AGLM we have the blessing of getting to meet a lot of amazing ministries that are serving a need for women unlike any other. One such ministry is Epic Beauty. Operating out of West Palm Beach, Fl they seek to be a ministry to women in crisis. Whether it’s women in the sex/adult entertainment industry or victims of domestic violence, they strive to be a place of hope and refuge for these women. They do this by doing street outreaches and even visiting adult clubs to share the grace of Jesus to the women who work there. They even started a flower shop called Epic Arrangements as a place for these women to find healthy employment and a means of income to support the ministry.

Kim Gomez, one of the founders (and future mother-in-law to our very own Tenth Aver Brendon) shared this amazing story of how God is using Epic Beauty within their community. She writes:

For the past 18 months Epic Beauty has been visiting an establishment in West Palm Beach.  I hesitate to call it a “Club” honestly I’m not sure what it was but every time we entered through the door, it felt like the pit of hell.  The women that worked there were worn, beyond middle aged, outcasts, and many had numbers tattooed somewhere on their body.  Those numbers identified who owned them.  Hitleresqe style…  We never saw anybody dance.  We never even saw many customers.  The oddest thing about it was that we were always welcomed in, the Lord went before us and made a way.  Over time, we got to know the manager, the security guy and some of the ladies.  They were working people with families, stories and dreams.  Just like us.  The first night we visited, the manager set up a small table with 2 chairs in a back room.  As Melissa and I unpacked our gourmet cupcakes, baskets of books and Bibles, and our hot pink Epic Beauty cards, the manager sent in, one by one, the ladies.  They filed in and stood before us, trying to smile and act like this was normal.  They were in all states of undress, wearing barely more than tattered underwear, trying to cover themselves with their hands or cellphones.   They were mostly older women, dark and unhealthy looking.  Many of them were missing teeth and smoking cigarettes, their eyes constantly looking at the curtain that hung in the doorway, they were anxious to get away from us, wondering how long the manager would make them stand there, exposed.  

There are so many stories being silently told in strip clubs, the tattoos are the storytellers. The tattoos quietly cry out details about the girls belief in and need for God, their regrets, their treasures, their dreams, their loves, all these messages written on their bodies, waiting for someone to notice. The one tattoo that has pierced my mind and heart and spirit, was a dark and muddy number written across a woman’s neck, she was my age (50ish) and I wondered about the grace and mercy that left me on one side of the table and left her on the other side.  Someone had tattooed that number into her flesh, so that she and the world would never forget to whom she belonged, which gang owned her. That night, when I got home, I was at a loss and cried out to the Lord, “God, how do I pray for them?  What do I pray for in that place?  How has our city let them stay in business for so long?  It’s a brothel!  One must only walk in to see that!  Are these women too far gone?  Has the degradation erased any hope?  What can we do???”   I needed to hear from my Father. I felt too small, not tough enough for the task, I felt a little scared because we had been warned by so many people to stay out of this dangerous place.  Should we stay away Lord?  One of the women in our ministry had a dream about this place, a dream where we had walked into the front door and they locked it behind us.  We considered not going any more but I knew that was not the Lord’s direction;  Mark 16:15 says to go into all the world and preach the good news to everyone, everywhere.  If we didn’t go, who would?  So I turned to the Word of God and in my weakness I became strong.  His word is my sword and the source of all knowledge and wisdom.  He led me to a scripture in Ezekiel 26 where God himself sent a message to the town of Tyre. Tyre was a city in Babylon that was extremely offensive to the Lord and God sent this  prophesy.  Ezekiel 26: 3-6  “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says:  I am your enemy, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the waves of the sea crashing against your shoreline.  They will destroy the walls of Tyre and tear down its towers.  I will scrape away its soil and make it a bare rock.

The island of Tyre will become uninhabited

So Epic Beauty started praying this scripture over that club, this place was so dark, so sad, and so offensive.  And the Lord does Reign.  For the past 6 weeks I haven’t been able to reach the club by phone to schedule a visit, when we would stop by at night during an outreach, nobody was there.  And yesterday, praise God, we pulled up to the door and found this sign on it…  

PERMANENTLY CLOSED.  The Mermaid is uninhabited!  It’s permanently closed!  Yes, He Reigns and I will never stop praying as long as I have breath.  And the message here is this;

He calls us to call on Him for help.

If you’d like more information on Epic Beauty or would like to get involved or even start your own branch of the ministry, please visit their facebook and websites for more info.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/epicbeauty

Website: epicbeauty.org

Forgiveness, God, Judging, Redemption, Relationships

Thoughts at a Funeral

February 12, 2014

It’s very rare that I find an urge to write.  It was on my way home from a funeral it happened, in the rain, in the car. The drive couldn’t seem to go fast enough for me to find myself here… writing my thoughts.  You ever notice how the thoughts come quickly when despair is knocking at your door or when joy is filling up every corner of your room?  I often find myself reflecting most when I whiteness a change in one’s life… a wedding, a funeral, the birth of new life…

In this case a death.

I thought about her as I sat there looking over the sea of black.  I took my seat in the last row, my heart heavy and my thoughts wondering.  I thought about how she woke up this morning and the ache that must have hit her in her chest as she had to force herself out of bed.  I thought about how she looked in the mirror and asked herself what she should wear to the funeral.  Her daughters funeral.   Something dark to represent the mourning she feels? Or something bright to bring about the celebration of knowing her sweet babe is in the arms of Jesus?  She chose bright… which in some way tells me that she has a spark of hope that still rests within her weary soul.  I sat there seeing just the very top of her head and began to feel the tears well up in my eyes.  How do you say goodbye to a precious baby?  How is she sitting there in front of all these people?  Is she wishing this would just be over with?  Is she glad we’re here or does she wish we would all just go away?  Oh how her heart must be feeling so many emotions all at once.

I looked out the window of the church and thought about how fitting it was that the skies were grey and the rain was falling heavy.  Almost resembling tears from Jesus’ eyes.  I thought about Him up there and how His heart must be feeling so much the same as hers.  How His heart is crying out in pain for her as he watches her below breaking and fighting to stay strong.  And yet at the same time rejoicing to have this little child in the very hands that had created her- looking up and smiling into His eyes.  So many feelings.  So so many feelings.

And somehow… these feelings brought us all together today.  Some people I recognized and some I had never seen before.  But we all had this common thread.  Her.  She is our friend, our daughter, our wife, our mother….  We all knew her and we all were there to support her.  This thought amazes me.  God created us so that even just our presence in a room can be a support to someone else.  Oh God you are good.  I may not have the right words to say or be able to carry her every time she falls. I may not be able to be a strong foundation for her when she is weak in her knees… I can’t be the perfect support beam or nail to keep everything together when its all in pieces… but through my friendship I can support.   He will be her foundation, He will be her nail, He will be her true support whenever she needs. “The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.”- Psalm 145:14   I will be her friend.

I watch from the back as one by one each person hugs her on their way out.  Everyone so different.  Everyone with different stories to tell, different joys and heartaches they have felt themselves…

And then I see him.  This man who I have strongly disliked for years.  This man who hurt my other friend so deeply.  This man who I couldn’t really look in the eyes before.  But as I watched him hug her and the family.. something in me changed.  I didn’t know if it was the tone of the day, or the smoothie I had for breakfast .. .but just then I felt God say… you must forgive.  You must not let his past mistakes keep your thoughts towards evil.  For I can turn evil into good. Even here.  Even in these dreadful moments.

We are so different.. he and I.. but there was something the same.  We were both being supporters.  We were both being a friend to the same person.  I’m not called to know his motives or even to know his heart.  God knows.

And so, in that moment I watched him and I forgave him.  I buried my anger and my accusations at that funeral.  I buried my lack of faith that God could change someone at that funeral.  And I buried every right I thought I had to hate him in that funeral.

God saw me in the chair in the back row and called me to die.  1 Peter 2:24- ” He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By HIs wounds you have been healed.”  To die is gain.  It hurts a lot to die to ourselves.  It’s painful to let go of sins we hold onto sometimes.   Especially when we feel entitled to hate, entitled to be angry, entitled to think of ourselves better than someone else.  There’s even a comfort we find in our evil thoughts sometimes.  How twisted am I?   But when we surrender them over to death… we find that our hearts start to beat again in a new way.  We begin to see that we are no better than anyone else.  And it is only because God has had to forgive me over and over and over do I find that I can extend the same grace.

Her eyes were heavy and I cried as I held her.  His eyes were indifferent and I forgave him.  I turned my back to the sanctuary and walked away with so many feelings.  I walked away with the ache of a child gone yet the hope that she will be reunited with her lovely mom again.  I walked away with the ache of confession and yet the hope of redemption even in death.

A lot of times I find healing through joys and life.

But in this case it was death.

” In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.”- Ephesians 1

Oh God, come lavish your grace on me so that I may lavish your grace on others.

 

 

 

 

 

Faith, Forgiveness, God, Identity, Redemption

Where are you running?

January 15, 2014

” Tis not that I did choose Thee,

For Lord, that could not be;

This heart would STILL refuse Thee,

Hadst Thou not chosen me…

My heart owns none before Thee,

For Thy rich grace I thirst;

This knowing, if I love Thee,

Thou must have loved me first.”

  • Josiah Conder, 1836

I look in the mirror and I see my flesh.  I see my eyes and the shape of my nose.  My hair and the way it falls.  I critique the outward appearance, every flaw, every wrong line, every aspect that bothers me.  What I fail to see is the pride that enflames with every negative thought I have towards myself.  What I fail to really see beyond the face is the sin.  When I look into the mirror there is the heart… the thing that will never measure up, the thing that will never become perfect, the very thing that I cannot improve or change on my own.  I am a sinner.  I fail to meet the mark every day.  I fail to believe that I am loved by God.  I fail to see that I have been made in God’s image physically and spiritually.  I tend to want to be my own master.  I actually desire separation from community when I choose to be my own God.. and therefore I choose separation from God.

And who is this God whose image I am made in? God is made up of the Trinity.  The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  He does not exist as one, rather, exists as a community.  Something our little minds may never fully come to understand.  But because God is made up of three-  God is love.  If it were just Himself, his love would not exist until He created someone to love, but because He is community, His love is passing through them and overflowing with its perfection and glory!  So why did God create us?  Not because He needed us, or because He was lonely, but because His love was so beautiful and so wonderful that He desired for US to experience this love as well.  So He created you and He created me to be poured out into.  That is my God.  The God who created me so, He could love me.

Who is your God?  What do you seek in order to feel loved?  What are you running towards to be saved?  Whether you know it or not you’re running to something for salvation. We all are.  We’re all in need of saving because we are all broken.  But why?  If we were created for love, then why are we so screwed up; failing time after time?

In that beautiful Garden God first placed the ones He created… Satan desired to stop the love story.  “We” believed the lie that we could be our own Gods.  We could be happy without Him and we only need to trust in ourselves rather than Him.  So we sinned, we lost our trust in Him and we fell short…  we broke.  “And that terrible lie would live on in every human heart, whispering to every one of God’s children- “God doesn’t love me.”- Sally Lloyd Jones The darkness crept in and God’s perfect world began to unravel.

We chose darkness over light.  We chose ourselves, rather than our creator.  We chose to stop trusting and start running.  Isn’t that true in us today?  Are you still running?  Are you still searching for what your heart has lost?  Are you still seeking to be loved?

In spite of our evil hearts.. God chose to love us still.  He would not leave us to the darkness, but He would rescue us from ourselves… and so He did the one thing that would bring Him most pain.

Jesus came into the world.  God’s Son.  The one that is a part of His perfect community.  The One who His love would not be complete without.  His own self, brought to a broken world and He became just like us.  Heart beating, flesh and bone, eyes to see… and He experienced all evil and all that God Himself could not be near because He was too perfect and too beautiful.  He stepped over the barrier to be near to us so that He could save us.  Matthew 1

God looked at you… and He couldn’t leave you to your brokenness.  He couldn’t just let you fade away into lifelessness.  He had to do something. He had to intervene. Even though you chose to run away… He still loved you.

Sin is separation from God.  Sin is moving away from God.  And God is life.. therefore if we are moving away from life then we are moving towards death.  You could even say running towards death.  In order for God to forgive us there had to be a death to take our place before we reached it.  He had to take on the pain it is to feel when we forgive and instead give us the grace and love that we don’t deserve.  The consequence to our sin is for our blood to be shed and to die.  But instead.. God sent His Son to shed His blood in the worst way possible so that we might live.

Jesus hung on the cross… ” and cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit.  And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, and the earth shook and the rocks were split.”- Matthew 27  The fullness of God’s anger at sin was coming down.  On His own Son instead of on us.  Instead of on the ones who truly deserved it.  “It was the only way God could destroy sin, and not destroy HIs children whose hearts were filled with it.”- Sally Lloyd Jones

” For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by HIs blood, to be received by faith.  This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”- Romans 3  “Therefore, wince we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ!!!  Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into His grace in which we stand and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God!”- Romans 5

We can now have peace with God!  We can stand in His presence, and when He looks at us He no longer sees a sinner… He sees a daughter who is clean and pure because of the blood of Jesus.  He chose to save us, He chose to love us, and He is still choosing you.

Are you running from Him?  Why do you think we are so desperate to be loved?  So desperate to be noticed?  So desperate for ‘likes’ on our instagrams, friends on our facebooks, followers on our twitter feeds??  Because we were created to love and be loved.  We were created to be in community with God!  You just need to ask yourself… what are you searching for to save you?  Everyone is looking for a savior… but Jesus is the only Kind One.

The gospel is not about religion.  It is not about self discovery.  It is not about you.  The gospel is about redemption, about grace, about love…. about Jesus!

In the book “The Insanity of God” Ripkin says something like this-

”  The reason that the people sitting around me in church that Sunday were not getting excited about the Gospel story was because they had heard the story so many times before.  Maybe they had heard the story so many times before that now they saw it as… just a story.  I am sure that they believed that it was the truth- but it was truth that had very little to do with real life.  Evidently, it was a story that did not demand much excitement or response.  Evidently, it was just another good story, maybe even a great story.”

Don’t let this story remain just a story.  Let God speak to you.  Let God give you life.  May your inner spirit soar with gratitude as you come to see just how much grace we have been given.  Just how much love we are born into and yet continually run away from.  Run to Him.

I can’t help but feel a little sad that this is just a small little post to this story!  There is so much more to behold and experience… I can only write so much.   I encourage you to read in between the lines and crevices of the Bible.  There is so much more beauty to behold than what I have written here.

When we look into the mirror… we can now see redemption. We see a life that deserved death yet lives! We see grace upon us and love flowing deep. We see ourselves no longer a failure, but a child of God’s who holds the very key to His heart.  We no longer have to measure up… we belonged the minute that Christ died.  The verdict is in, and that verdict is life. And even when we mess up, and fall apart..we will still belong to Him.  Because He thankfully saw you and fought for you.  He ran to you to save you.

And “all the fitness He requires is to feel your need for Him.”
-Joseph Hart

Faith, Family, Forgiveness, God, Identity, Relationships, Spiritual Life

Who’s Your Daddy?

November 19, 2013

If someone were to ask of you what your definition of a father was, would you have an answer? Would your answer change if the perspective altered from an earthly father to a heavenly father?

I want to share a story with you.

Over the last several months I have had the privilege of mentoring a young woman from my church. Within the context of what we have been working on, the lead topic by far has been the rationale of what a father truly is. This young woman has grown up in the church, leads worship, and her grandfather is the head pastor. This young woman fits the typical church family. When we walk into a church we all (myself included) tend to judge without hesitation when it comes to perfection. There are those times we have all said “I wish I had a family like that” or “What makes that family so different, how they seem so perfect.” This young woman fit into that category. It was not until she reached out for help that I knew anything to be different. You see, little did anybody else know that the life she lived at home was far different from the life in which she was daily being judged for.

Through her heavy heart I learned that what was being portrayed on the outside, was far different than what she was feeling on the inside. As we sat leading an all-night worship and prayer set I closely watched as this young woman’s heart began to shatter into a million pieces. What I was oblivious to was that on the inside she was desperate for a fathers love. Little did I know, her entire life was consumed with negative comments, feedback, condescending lies and overall disgust by her father. She was never good enough, never smart enough, and never well off enough to live up to his PERFECT perception of what a daughter should be.

As I began to pray with her and for her; spirit led, I began to ask her some very tough questions. I realized that through every answer she gave me, she was responding through a lens. What lens might you ask? Allow me to elaborate. Despite having a loving God who accepts her as his own and calls her by name as his daughter, this young woman’s perception of God has been dramatically altered due to the hurt she has seen and experienced by her earthly father. As I began to ask her questions regarding God has her ABBA FATHER, she began to answer with a lens. Her entire life she has viewed God not as her heavenly father but as her earthly father. This lens she has placed over her eyes has caused her to see God as everything but good. Her judgments, reactions, feelings, emotions and thoughts towards God have all been viewed as if God was in the same category as her earthly father.

Fast forward now to a few weeks ago. This young woman through prayer and time spent in the word has had her world drastically changed by a living God. I asked something of her (and she has given me permission to share such knowledge with you wonderful ladies) and the results astounded me. I asked her three questions. Question one was “what are your defining characteristics of a good earthly father?” question two was “what are your defining characteristics of a bad earthly father?” and question three was “what are your defining characteristics of God as father?”

Her responses were as follows:

Good earthly father- A man who is secure in who he is; this would be due to the fact that he has a good self-esteem. This also includes a man who builds up his children, encourages them in their walk with God. A man who is supportive. A man who is not looking for his child to make himself look good, but rather simply looking out for his children’s well-being. A man that forgives easily and is quick to ask for forgiveness. A man that acknowledges his imperfections and prays to God for wisdom. Finally, a man who gives his children a home of peace.

Bad earthly father- A man who is so insecure in who he is and so hurting inside that he hurts his children. A man whose hurt spills out upon his children. A man who is selfish and just wants his children to make him good. A man that may tell his children that he loves them, but his actions don’t ever seem to back up his words. A man that doesn’t see when he is in the wrong, and if he does he would never admit it. A man who creates chaos, tension, and anxiety. A man that is not emotionally available, but rather is cold and stoic. Finally, a man that does not show emotions other than anger.

God as a father- A father that tells me I am worthy of the best. A father that is proud to have me as his child. A father who is always love. A father who is not looking for me to perform. A father who is not looking for me to be good enough, for he says I am enough. A father who gives peace. A father who is tender and compassionate. Finally, a father who is a lot of FUN.

After realizing the growth that she has gained in the last few months, I asked her one final question. I asked of her “where did you perception of God as a father arise from?” Her answer was so beautiful.

She simply stated God is a Luke 15 type of Father. In Luke 15:11-31 it talks about the parable of the lost son. She began to explain to me, Heather I am the lost son. I have sinned against my Father in heaven. I have been angry with him, I have hurt him, and I have run in every which direction solely to avoid him. She continued with saying, despite my disobedience he calls me his beloved, despite my ignorance he calls me his daughter. He runs to me with open arms waiting to treasure me for my worth.

This young woman explained to me that all too often we as children of a Godly father feel as if we need to prepare what we are going to say, practice how we are going to present the information, and essentially have everything perfect before we come to God for forgiveness. She states that we feel we are already in the wrong, therefor when we come for redemption, we must come in with perfection. When in fact God calls quite the opposite. He calls the broken of heart so that in him, he is perfection is made piece.

I share this story with you wonderful ladies for no other reason than to say often times we are so hurt by the people around us that we often times look at God through this imperfect lens.

I want to bring back my original question for you ladies. “If someone were to ask of you what your definition of a father was, would you have an answer? Would your answer change if the perspective altered from an earthly father to a heavenly father?”

I ladies am just like you, I am just like this young women. I have been deeply wounded by people in my life. These people have caused my perception of God to be altered. I too have looked through a lens of something other than God. I am here to tell you ladies that it does not matter what has been done to you, WE serve a PERFECT GOD. WE serve a PERFECT FATHER.

I have not a clue writing this who has hurt you in your past or present, or who will hurt you in the future. I am here to tell you however that you are a treasure in the kingdom of heaven. You are never too far gone for a PERFECT GOD to pick up the pieces that have wounded you. I encourage each one of you to look at how you view God, are your views altered because of the wounds that you still carry? Drop them at the foot of the cross and allow a perfect FATHER to hold you tight, and say “YOU ARE WORTHY, YOU ARE MY DAUGHTER, and I LOVE YOU UNCONDITIONALLY.”

HeatherHeather lives in a teeny town in North Dakota where she works with women who have been victims of domestic violence and rape. She loves softball, dogs, music and working with youth. Heather is a general, all around, amazing gal & a special friend to the girls of AGLM.

Faith, Forgiveness, God, Relationships, Spiritual Life

Fleeting Feelings

September 27, 2013

I love my feelings. Too much.

I love watching Nicholas Sparks movies and feeling when the guy tells the girl exactly what you would want him to say and it makes your heart melt.

I love the feeling I get when I have a free afternoon to go to my favorite coffee shop for some glorious alone time and a vanilla almond milk latte.

I love spending time with my friends who encourage me and after I leave, I feel so fulfilled and loved from the time with them.

I like good feelings, of course. Bad feelings are a different story, but good feelings make you FEEL alive and that whatever you’re doing in the moment is right. Feelings motivate us.

This is the hard thing about forgiving… a lot of the times when we need to forgive, we don’t feel like forgiving. It’s probably a really rare time that someone offends us and we then feel good about forgiving them.

Feelings are fleeting. God’s Word is true and will never be disappear. So we can’t depend on our feelings, but we can always depend on God’s Word.

If we had good feelings about forgiving someone, then it would be so easy, so we wouldn’t need Jesus because we could do it on our own.

We either feel negatively when we think about having to forgive someone or we don’t feel anything at all.

So you don’t FEEL like forgiving the person? Here is what Jesus says about forgiving.

In Luke 17:3 he says to PAY ATTENTION, if your brother (or sister) repents, forgive him. Jesus knew that forgiving would be hard for us because we aren’t perfect; we are all sinners. That’s why he says to pay attention or be careful to this command.

Jesus doesn’t say, forgive him once you feel like forgiving him.

Jesus says “if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” Luke 17:4

So even if your brother or sister keeps offending you that day, and maybe it’s the same sin, Jesus says you forgive as many times as he says he repents (repenting means he wants to turn from his offense and do the right thing).

Right after Jesus tells them this, the disciples say to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” because they know this command he is asking of them is going to be hard.

So Jesus tells the disciples that if they believe, he will give them faith they need to do greater things than they could imagine!

In the scriptures, God doesn’t call us to feel his commands and then obey. He just tells us to obey.

This is what is so awesome about Christianity. Jesus lived the perfect, sinless life for us because he knew that we could never live the life God calls us to live on our own. We need a Savior. We don’t have to try to earn goodness or salvation. He FREELY gives it to us! (thank you, Jesus!)

Jesus knows that we can’t forgive others on our own. We won’t feel like forgiving others because it’s hard and naturally we are selfish and love ourselves more than we love others.

We just need to believe and ask him to help us forgive! (even though we probably don’t feel like forgiving)

He helps us in our weaknesses! (Romans 8:26)

And this is the confidence we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will (forgiving our neighbor) he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15)

We can’t wait for a feeling; we just need to forgive! Rest in the promises God has given us in His Word and believe that He will give you the power to forgive because he has already completely forgiven you!

Family, Forgiveness, God, Relationships

Forgiving a Broken Soul

September 24, 2013

I’m going to be honest. I know that I am not the best person to write about forgiveness, so that’s why I want to introduce you to my friend Taylar. She has been and is walking through one of the most challenging stories on forgiveness I have ever heard. She is a college student and I am incredibly blessed to mentor her and live life with her. Taylar radiates Jesus’ love and joy to all around her and I think you will see why when you read her story.  So here it is:

Who has been the hardest person in your life to forgive?

My stepdad of 10 years. Over the past 10 years he has physically, emotionally, financially, and verbally abused my family. I was almost 10 years old when I first saw him beat my mom. That night, because he was drunk, he punched holes in our walls, kicked my bedroom door down, threw my mom in the bathtub, pinned her against the mirror, bit her on the back, threw glass at her, and continued to hit her. My baby sister woke up during all of this and I remember trying to sing Amazing Grace to help her fall back asleep but the screams were too loud. This was the first and not the last time I would have to experience nights like this.

How did you forgive him? What has led you to be able to forgive him?

Over the years, my bitterness and hatred for my stepdad grew. I would be angry that all he did at home was sit on the couch and watch TV while I helped my mom raise my 3 younger siblings who are now only 11, 9, and 7. I was angry that he would curse my mom out, beat her, and then yell at me about how worthless I am and how no one would ever love me. I was angry that he would act like a man of God at church and then come home and revert back to his old, abusive ways. I was angry with him for keeping my mom from money. One day my mom, siblings, and I were in line with two carts of groceries and the card decline, making us walk out of the store with no food because my stepdad cancelled the credit card. This man who caused so much anger in me made it seem impossible to even look at him.

Being through all of this has made forgiveness my biggest struggle in life. In fourth grade I sought Christian counseling on how to deal with abuse in my family but no one really wanted to help. In high school I was afraid to talk about my home situation to anyone because no one ever really believed me that my home situation was that bad. College came and I finally got out of the house. I assumed moving out would help my heart, but still that anger resided in my heart only keeping me further from God. When I was 19 years old, God really convicted me on the sinful feelings that I was choosing to have in my heart towards my stepdad. My pastor JD Greear said that when we don’t forgive someone then we are saying that their actions towards us are greater than our sin towards the Lord. That really put into perspective how I had been living my life. I never fully allowed the Lord to take control of the situation and really heal my heart.

I was 19 years old when I finally allowed God to fully heal my heart. I let go by surrendering to God all of the anger that was bottled up inside. I finally realized that I am loved by the Lord. When I hurt, He hurts. I was holding a small grudge towards a man for what he had done to me when God has loved me despite of what I do to Him every day. I quit holding up the walls in my life and finally allowed the Lord to break them down and consume every part of me.

How have you seen God work through your obedience to forgive him?

Once I made the decision to allow God to take control of my heart and pray that He helps me forgive my stepdad, a weight lifted off my shoulders and I no longer felt trapped. I can look at my stepdad with a compassionate heart rather than a heart of hatred. I see him as an empty soul who desperately needs to accept the love of Jesus Christ. Before I forgave him, I wanted him out of my life and didn’t care where he ended up for eternity. I was skeptical that anything could change and that we were far better off without him. The Lord has helped me to pray over his broken soul and his healing rather than just my own despite of his actions towards my family and me. I have hope that God will heal my family and I am willing to be used in any way by Him to help this happen.

What would you want other girls and women in a similar place to know about forgiveness from what you have learned?

Know that the Lord is greater than any circumstance we go through. We are loved despite what any man says or does to us. The Lord is in the midst of our suffering and wants to heal our heartache. He hears us when we cry out to Him. He never leaves our side. Continue to turn to scripture and consume your heart with the promises of God.

 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory that He will reveal to us later. Romans 8:18

Allow the love Jesus has given to flow out of you! The more you understand his unconditional love for you, the more you can love unconditionally! This is so hard and challenging to do but our love and obedience to Jesus allows others to see Him through us. When anger builds up it hardens your heart and you become miserable. Let the anger go because it’s not worth holding on to!  The Lord nailed that burden with Him on the cross. He carried that burden for us so we wouldn’t have to.

 Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you. Psalm 55:22

The Lord is good and perfect and pleasing. Lean on Him daily and let Him consume your heart. Forgiving others is then just a response to what He has done for us.

Forgiveness, Redemption, Relationships, Spiritual Life

Apologies Lost

September 20, 2013

Her name was Kim Seaman. She was poor, awkward, dirty, smelly, and a classmate of mine in the fourth grade. For some obvious and not so obvious reasons she was an easy target when it came to being picked on. I was ten and desperately in need of feeling apart of the cool kids, so I joined in on the teasing of Kim.

I was mean. Mean girls mean. I said things that were cruel and painfully hurtful. One day in class, I drew a picture of Kim in a trash can covered in poop and wrote something to the effect that it was her home and she deserved to live there. I passed it to another classmate who giggled and added to it. My teacher, seeing this, took the paper from us and asked us to stay after class let out to talk with her. I remember her disappointed look as she shared with us how mean-spirited we were-how the things we said and did could really hurt Kim if she found out. She made us both write apology letters to Kim, but only for our teacher to have and Kim never to receive.

The school year ended with the discovery that Kim was living in an abusive home and was being sent to live with a relative in another state. I never saw her again.

So often it’s easy to point the finger at those who wronged us and cry victim for the crimes committed against us. It’s easy because it makes us look good. We were the ones harmed, so we are the good ones. The one who hurt us, they’re bad. But if we were truly honest and took a moment to reflect, we’d all come to realize that each of us has someone we need to seek forgiveness from ourselves.

The things I said and did to Kim could have potentially altered the course of her life. The stereotypes and judgements I heaped upon her could have surely shaped how she viewed herself for years to come. The sad part is, I’ll never get the chance to tell her how truly sorry I am. For the rest of my life, I will carry the weight of my wrong doings with me, the apologies lost because I was too proud to seek forgiveness.

Maybe before we start demanding that others seek forgiveness from us, we must first go to others and ask for forgiveness from them. There is nothing more altering to your life than humbling yourself before another person, asking for grace and mercy that you don’t necessarily deserve to receive. I know I don’t deserve such kindness from Kim.

I know right now there is a Kim in your life. There is someone who you need to seek forgiveness from. Don’t be like me, letting decades pass and the weight of regret hold weighty in your heart over an apology you’ll never be able to offer. Go to that person. Ask to be forgiven. Maybe then, you’ll be able to see just how much that person who wronged you needs your forgiveness as well.

I’ll spend the rest of my life hoping I find Kimberly Seaman. Hoping I could get that chance to tell her I was wrong. I hope I can have the chance to speak words of life into her to replace the deadly ones I so cavalierly threw her way. But until then, if you’re reading this Kimberly Seaman, please know that I am so very sorry.

Forgiveness, God, Redemption, Relationships, Spiritual Life

Bitter Are The Roots

September 17, 2013

I love to drink tea. In fact, some might say I’m a bit of snob when it comes to tea. I know just how hot to make the water and how long to steep the leaves so it comes out just right and my drink tastes like perfection.

As of lately, my mornings have been a bit hectic and making my tea just right can be a bit of a chore. I find myself scrambling to make my morning cup only to be distracted by a stinky diaper or a tug on my shirt followed by a “More milk please mommy.” When the dust clears, I find myself clamoring for that fresh minty cup of morning tea. It smells wonderful, and looks too tempting to simply resist. I take a deep sniff and begin to sip. However, I’ve let it sit and steep too long, and find not minty sweetness, but harsh bitterness on my tongue. My beverage has deceived me and is ruined.

As I drank my cup of tea this morning, I am reminded of our talks about forgiveness. I’m struck by how many of you have shared that you have been wounded, you want to forgive, but you just can’t. You know, I’m not going to assume I know or understand the offense that was made against you. It might be silly, or it might have been life altering. But what I can tell you is this: The inability to forgive will destroy your life. 

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” Hebrews 12:14-15

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27 

 “And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:34-35

Bitterness is a tricky fellow, not easily detectable. It can mask itself in many forms, and so often goes unnoticed and unaddressed. For me, it took the form of pride. For others of you, anger. Maybe for some, it could even be shame or guilt. Either way, when bitterness burrows into the chasms of our hearts it allows satan to sneak in and begin blooming seeds in our lives that, according to Hebrews, can defile many.

Look at it this way: Author Margaret Stunt said, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” How many of you “I just can’t forgivers” have wasted countless hours stewing and dwelling over the wrong caused you? How many of you have defamed the name of that someone because of your bitter unwillingness to forgive? How many of you have lost friendships and loved ones over a lack of forgiveness? I’m betting we’re all raising our hands over here.

Ladies, at the crux of it all, it comes down to choice. If you wait until you feel like you can forgive that person, you’ll be waiting forever. Forgiveness always has been a choice. Do you think Jesus wanted to die for all the wrongs you did against him? I mean, he even prayed in the garden that God the Father would allow the cup to pass over him. He CHOSE forgiveness. He chose to free you from the burden of yourself and your shortcomings and in return….he gets you.

Forgiveness really comes down to life or death. To not forgive only breeds bitter discontent that leaves you, not the person who wronged you, imprisoned to your own self-centered prideful heart and incapable of bearing profitable fruit for the Lord. OR, you can forgive. You can CHOSE to release yourself from the weight of feeling like it is your job to dole out judgement on the wrong doer. Christ is already taking care of that (Hebrews 10:30) Never have I known a person who has truly forgiven someone say that they regretted their choice. Because with forgiveness comes freedom.

If you’re sitting there reading this and saying to yourself “But Heather, I just can’t..” I’d like you to say back to yourself…”Is it worth it, then?” Is the anger and the worry and harsh words and loneliness and loss and fear and failure and pride and pain..is it all worth it to you? Because that is all that you will have near as long as you keep your hands tightly clenched around whatever this is. 

You don’t have to be this wrong-doers best friend. But you do need to be willing to give them the chance to experience the grace that was so greatly and undeservingly bestowed upon you. Put the poison down. Pick up the honey instead. 

Forgiveness, Relationships

NOT 5 Steps on How to Forgive

September 13, 2013

If I wrote this post on “Five steps on how you can forgive someone who has wronged you”, then it would be about you and not about Jesus. It would take the focus off Jesus and make it about how YOU can forgive someone.

Well, I am very thankful that I don’t have to write about that because WE WOULD ALL FAIL. We would all fail at the “steps on how to forgive” because we are all sinful and broken. I am a mess. Forgiving someone is hard because I am selfish and I want to be right all the time. I know that I cannot forgive someone who has hurt me on my own strength because I am broken and need help. I think others of you could relate with me on that too. :)

A few years ago someone I was close to treated me wrongly. They said and did hurtful things towards me that broke my trust as their friend and my heart grew with bitterness. God purposefully put this friend in my life for me to learn to love because God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. He also calls us to forgive.

Put that story on hold real quick as we look at the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35. This story is amazing and scary all at the same time. Read it real quick if you have time.

Jesus tells Peter a story on how often he should forgive. There was a servant who was brought to the king because he owed a huge debt — much more than he could ever repay. The servant begged the master for more time to pay him back, and the master had pity on him and forgave him the debt! The servant left and then ran into a fellow servant who owed him MUCH less than he had just been forgiven of. He showed no grace and no forgiveness to this man who owed him the equivalent of 100 days wages! What he was just forgiven of barely compared to the little amount that he would not forgive his fellow servant. When the master heard of this wouldn’t offer forgiveness to his fellow servant for one small offense, he threw him in prison for his unforgiving heart. Jesus said that God will do the same thing with us if we do not learn how to forgive those who sin against us.

Like I said, scary, right? It’s scary because I know we all have trouble forgiving those who have wronged us. I struggled and struggled with forgiving that friend. It took a very long time, lots of frustration, and lots of tears. I just couldn’t grasp how I was going to forgive because I felt so wronged.

Here is what Jesus is teaching us about forgiveness through this parable. When we see and understand how much Jesus has forgiven us, we can forgive others. He knows we can’t forgive on our own. He knows we can’t forgive without his help. That is why he died for us so that we could be completely forgiven. He died for us so we could live without owing God anything and freely live the life he has given us. We can freely forgive others because we have been freely forgiven.

That’s why we don’t need “5 steps on how to forgive” because Jesus already went through the punishment we deserve since we could never forgive or live the life God has called us to live on our own.

That’s what I mean when I say that we can’t forgive if we are focused on ourselves. It has to be about Jesus because he is the only source that we will find strength and desire to forgive others.

I know it’s hard and it is a struggle. Forgiving someone usually doesn’t happen just overnight. But let’s praise Jesus for the punishment he took from us on the cross so that 1. We don’t have to forgive on our own and 2. Since God has poured out his entire wrath for us on Jesus, he can pour out never-ending grace on us, so that it’s ok to struggle with forgiving someone. God loves us the same no matter our struggles. But God wants us to experience the freedom from our sin that he is offering when we believe and look to Jesus!

Oh praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!