Word of Forgiveness #2

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

 Sometimes we need to forgive each other and sometimes we just need to bear with one another. There are things that even the people we love do that can irritate or annoy us. Personality differences can produce a rub that chafes. Those are the kinds of things we need to patiently overlook and gracefully accept. In other words, sometimes we need to put up with each other.

 The word “grievances” is not found anywhere else in scripture. It means little complaints or faults. It seems God is calling us to forgive people who simply rub us the wrong way or people who we just don’t “get” — not because they are intentionally sinning against us, but because they seem to bring out the worst in us. We need to forgive people for being creatures with quirks and faults and aggravating habits. That’s all of us!

 As a way of putting this into perspective, the Apostle Paul added a zinger. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” The Lord’s forgiveness for us is in past tense. It has been signed, sealed and delivered by the blood of Christ on the cross of Calvary. The charge Paul gave to believers was to forgive — in the present tense. The word means to forgive and keep on forgiving as a continual practice.

 How does the Lord forgive us? Completely. We need have no fear of God bringing up past sins or pointing out our old failures and mistakes. He doesn’t “rub it in” when we struggle with recurring sins. There is no guilt-inducing raised eyebrow directed at us. In the same way, we are to imitate the Father as we deal with people.

 Is there anyone in your life who needs your patient grace?

 

Lord, You know I have a hard time with some people. Help me to remember that they are also Your sons and daughters. Give me strength to extend the same grace to others that You continuously offer me. Thank You for putting up with me and loving me completely.

Word of Forgiveness #1

Today is the beginning of Lent. I invite you to come along with the good people of my church and spend the next six weeks at the cross. We are going to listen to Jesus’ last words and let them sink down deep. Every day until Easter there will be a verse and short reflection, based on the seven last words of Christ. I pray they are a blessing to you during this special time of year.

Week 1
Word of Forgiveness:

“Father, forgive them
for they do not know
what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

Forgive: to grant a pardon, to cancel a debt, to cease to feel resentment against

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sin, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:12-15

   A four year old girl who was learning to recite the Lord’s Prayer was heard saying, “Forgive us our trash baskets, as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.” That’s actually a very wise interpretation. We all have trash in our baskets, both our self-made trash and garbage that’s been tossed in there by others. God is always willing to “take out our trash” and forgive. Can we do the same?

   Jesus didn’t sugarcoat the importance of forgiveness. In fact, the pardon we receive from Christ is inseparably linked to our willingness to forgive others. It’s a package deal. Thankfully, His example teaches us that forgiving others and receiving God’s pardon are matters of prayer. God will help us with this when we go to Him.

  Let’s begin this Lenten season by letting our gracious Father empty out our trash baskets. Is there someone you need to forgive? Is there an offense you need to confess to the Father? Don’t delay!

Lord, today at the start of this Lenten journey, I want to come clean and confess some things to You. And also, I ask You to lift the burden of my unforgiveness toward others. Help me to release them into Your hands, even as I take hold of Your gracious pardon.

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10 Things I Learned This Winter

1. Snow days aren’t as much fun when there are no kids at home. One of my supreme joys in life was going into my teenagers’ bedrooms and whispering, “No school today!” It’s wonderful to be the bearer of such good tidings. We all loved an excuse to spend the day in pjs and bask in the unexpected day off. No more. Snow days and school cancellations don’t make my heart sing anymore. I have to get dressed and go to work anyway.

2. Speaking of snow days, we’ve had 9 so far this winter. And counting.

3. “Channel 3000 Call for Action” are magic words. After three months without a refrigerator, seven service calls, four new compressors and one new motherboard, we played the ultimate trump card and called the consumer advocate. When the bigwigs at the big box store caught wind of that, we got a big check in the mail. The refrigerator saga is finally over.

4. Somebody had a brilliant marketing idea. On Valentine’s Day, there was a mysterious pink envelope in the mailbox with my name on it. PB and I had agreed to not get each other anything this year. Flowers just end up dying. Candy just gets eaten. Cards are fine, but somebody else wrote those schmaltzy words. I must admit, my eyes lit up a little bit when I saw the card in the mystery envelope.

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The small print reveals the ulterior motive. But, hey, Lorenzo Caine wants me back!

5. Looking for a swimming suit in February is like trying to find snow boots in July. Supply is limited. Even if you live near the “Waterpark Capital of the World”, surprisingly enough. There was not one bathing suit in the outlet mall. Thankfully, one other store had three models to choose from, one of which was in my size — which made my decision easy.

6. It’s possible to read the Bible from cover to cover in 60 days. I started on December 20th and crossed the finish line on February 17th. I felt a bit out of breath and wondered if speed reading the Good Book had been a good idea after all. Now I’m so glad I did it. Like flying over the Grand Canyon, it was a majestic view of God’s grand story. What hit me most was the stark difference between the Old and New Testament. When Jesus came on the scene, I fell in love with Him. He was so drastically different from the God of the Old Testament with all the fire and smoke and thunder and lightning. Jesus was such a surprise and I wanted to clap and cheer for Him. He is the best part.

7. Desperate times call for desperate measures. During that week long sub-zero cold snap in January, four grands were staying at our house. It was too cold to send them out to play in the snow, so I brought the snow in. It was a hit. Bonus: I got the kitchen floor washed. (Double bonus: There is a stockpile of snowballs in the freezer, waiting for a summer snowball fight.)

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8. A day of rest is still a good idea. Our physical bodies and our souls need regular periods of rest. Thank goodness we don’t have to follow the “39 Categories of Sabbath Rules” anymore. No carrying (not even a needle), no burning (don’t turn on the lights), no tearing paper (including toilet paper), no writing, erasing, or tying knots. No eyebrow plucking and no slaughtering of any living creatures (mosquitoes included). No opening umbrellas and no makeup allowed. And that’s just a smidgen of the five pages of rules. Sabbath was a lot of work. Jesus set things straight — “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

9. Christmas should be in January. My daughter made a good case for this on her recent Instagram post. October has Halloween and November has Thanksgiving. Then we should all take a break and get cozy during December. Instead of losing our minds because of winter in January, let’s do Christmas! Then carry on with the rest of the year. Credit for this brilliant idea goes to Anna. Who’s with her?

10. I heard birds singing this morning. Actual birds. Actually singing. They are starting to feel it in their tiny bones — spring is closer than we think. May we all have the faith of birds and be sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not yet see.

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The Long Winter

My oldest grandson just turned 7 and he’s starting the magical journey through the “Little House” series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Seeing those books on my shelf bring back memories of long afternoons, reading aloud while the kids colored or played with Legos. Now I read aloud to PB, until I hear soft snores from his side of the bed. Reading aloud is still one of my favorite things to do, especially on days like today.

The 2019 version of “The Long Winter” doesn’t quite measure up to Laura Ingalls’ prairie blizzards that started in October and continued until April. Day after day of forty below temps and snow that piled up to the rooftops created real hardship in the late 1800’s.

If we run out of milk, I can go a few blocks to Kwik-Trip and pick up a gallon.
I don’t worry about getting lost in a whiteout blizzard on my way to the barn.

If the north wind howls, I can flip a switch and turn on the fireplace.
I don’t sit for hours and twist hay into sticks to feed the cookstove.

If the snow piles up, I can start up the snowblower.
(Well, PB can start up the snowblower.)
I don’t have to shovel a path to the outhouse.

If all the businesses in town close, I can survive on what’s in my pantry.
I don’t worry about the supply train and my dwindling tin of flour.

Really, people.
We have it so good.
Snow is an inconvenience, not a threat to our existence.
Look out the window and say a prayer of thanks
that you’re not twisting hay into sticks for cookstove fuel.
Go read chapter 19 of “The Long Winter” this afternoon,
and rejoice.

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Exhaling Worry

I’m not a chronic worrier, but from time to time I can sink down into that dark hole of anxious rumination, usually between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. By morning, those fretful thoughts don’t seem like such a big deal. By mid-afternoon, however, I feel the full effect of wasting two hours of prime slumber.

You can imagine my joy and relief when I stumbled upon the solution to worry! It was right there, at the entrance to the grocery store — a simple three step process to wipe away worry for good.

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1. Pull.
Pull that anxious thought from your mind.
2. Wipe.
Wipe it away with the antiseptic power of God’s Word.
3. Discard.
Throw. And don’t go back to dig it out of the garbage.

He cares.
“Throw all your anxiety onto Him because He cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7

His peace of mind is our peace of mind.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.”
Isaiah 26:3

Inhale peace — exhale worry.
Repeat as needed.
You’re welcome.

Exhale

Take a deep breath.
I mean, waaaaaay down deep.
Until your tummy puffs out and your lungs are about to burst.

Hold it.

Hold it.

Okay, now let it go.

There now, didn’t that feel good?

Our cells do a happy dance when we take in all that lovely oxygen.
Our over-loaded brains get a turbo-boost,
our tight muscles sing for joy,
our frazzled nerves fire down.

My word for 2019 is EXHALE.

We were created to have a natural rhythm:
inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.
I’m afraid our way of life has developed an unnatural cycle:
inhale, inhale, inhale, inhale, inhale, get sick, exhale.

I’m going to try to step into the Creator’s cadence,
listen for the heartbeat of the Master,
watch for His ebb and flow.

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I’m going to learn to exhale.

In the book of Exodus, we read, “In six days God made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day God rested and was refreshed.” Here, the word “refreshed” literally means, and God exhaled. All creation moves with the rhythm of the inhale and the exhale. Without the Sabbath exhale, the life-giving inhale is impossible. ~ “Sabbath” by Wayne Muller

My Top 5 Books of 2018

At the end of the year, I like to go back and look over the list of books I read in the past twelve months. Since 2004, I’ve been keeping a list of the titles of every book I’ve read, reread, or ditched. Here are the five books that meant the most to me in 2018.

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1. The Adventures of Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens
I’ve seen the movie “Oliver” and can sing “Consider Yourself” with a British cockney accent, but I hadn’t read Dickens until this past year. The old classics make you work hard, but, oh, the reward. The language is deep and rich and weighty. As usual, the book is better than the movie. (Although I did stop to hum “Food, Glorious Food” on page nine.) Dickens’ style is so unique; the chapter titles were sometimes almost as long as the chapters.

Chapter XXXVI: Is a Very Short One, and May Appear of No Great Importance In its Place, But it Should Be Read Notwithstanding, as a Sequel to the Last, and a Key to One That Will Follow When its Time Arrives

I’m glad I didn’t live in Victorian England, but it was a lovely visit and I’ll definitely return to Dickens in 2019.

2. Recapturing the Wonder, by Mike Cosper
I received this book as a birthday gift in 2017, but didn’t get beyond the first few pages before putting it on the shelf. In December of 2018, I picked it up and wondered what was wrong with me before. This is a gem of a book. I learned a valuable lesson — sometimes a book isn’t ready for me and sometimes I’m not ready for it. Books are patient and don’t mind waiting for the right time.

“Life with God is an invitation into a world where most of what makes sense to you crumbles. It’s far richer than you imagined, far less orderly and sensible, and far more mysterious. Like Job, once you begin to see the wonder of it, you find yourself awestruck and, somehow, satisfied.”

3. Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End, by David Gibson
I read this book in preparation for a Bible study on Solomon. I needed help with Ecclesiastes which is fairly dark and pessimistic. Gibson changed my whole perspective on Solomon’s reflection of his wayward life. This book shakes up the current culture’s view of what it means to live “the good life.” Thinking about death is actually supposed to help us pay attention to our limitations as human beings and embrace life as the wondrous gift it is.

“Life is not about the meaning that you can create for your own life, or the meaning that you can find in the universe by all your work and ambitions. You do not find meaning in life simply by finding a partner or having kids or being rich. You find meaning when you realize that God has given you life in his world and any one of those things as a gift to enjoy.”

4. 24/6, by Matthew Sleeth, MD
I read this book a couple years ago, but revisited it while doing research on the Sabbath. Dr. Sleeth makes a strong case for something called rest and literally prescribes a 24 hour break every week in order to maintain physical, mental and spiritual health.

“In the 24/7 world, we ‘pencil’ friends in on the calendar. These loose commitments frequently fail to materialize. We have the best of intentions, but intentions don’t build relationships. Filling in every Sunday on our calendar with ‘FOR THE LORD’ in permanent ink changes our perspective. Honoring a Sabbath every week makes us more committed and serious about our relationship with the Lord. This is even more crucial today, when things travel as fast as the speed of light. God designed us to spend one day a week at the speed of stop.”

5. Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus, by John Eldredge
This is my gold medal book of the year. I read it in April and I’m still thinking about it. In exploring the personality of Jesus, Eldredge uses words like “fierce”, “scandalous” and “beautiful”. This book helped me step beyond the Sunday-school Jesus that is meek, mild and melancholy. I love the descriptions of Jesus laughing, turning over tables, and grilling fish on the beach for the boys.

“We actually come to think that service for Jesus is friendship with him. That’s like a friend who washes your car and cleans your house but never goes anywhere with you — never comes to dinner, never wants to take a walk. We are meant to love the man himself, know him intimately. First things first. Love Jesus.”

May your reading life in 2019 be especially rich and satisfying!

“There is more treasure in books
than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”
Walt Disney