Before I Can Forgive

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isa. 55:8-9

Before I can forgive, I must know what it is I’m forgiving. I must see another’s offense as God sees it. But one of three things will play out. 1.) I think what happened is no big deal but God disagrees. 2.) I think what happened to me is a huge deal but God says I’ve overreacted. 3.) I see what happened as God sees it and am ready to take the leap of faith called forgiveness. I take people ‘off my hook and put them on God’s hook’.

Where are you, usually, among the three options? If you’re an angry and suspicious person, you most likely overreact. You over-inflate the meaning of others’ actions or just read into them what isn’t there. If you’re a person who absorbs guilt and shame by default, whether deserved or undeserved, then you don’t see the offenses as big as God sees them. You’ll be bent to minimize them and say that, somehow, it must be your fault. Only a person who has spent time with God and with His Word can have the mind of Christ and see events as He sees them.

After relating a difficult period in my past, someone asked me. “How in the world did you get through that?” My nature caused me to answer, “It wasn’t all that bad!” and shrug my shoulders. Only as I saw their reaction to my story was I able to view the events more clearly.

Forgiving some re-fashioned, minimized offense is pretty safe but it’s not true forgiveness. This is what we usually do when called to an altar to forgive but go prematurely. Forgiving the real thing is excruciating, very messy, and takes time. It takes a season for God to reveal to us how the offense affected us. Until we know that, forgiveness isn’t complete.

Who will lead us through the minefield of anger, loss, and grief? The Holy Spirit, our Counselor. God said, “I will lead the blind in a way they do not know. In unknown paths and unchartered territory I will guide them.” Never is there more frightening ground to cover than that of forgiveness.

It’s good to look at the most painful parts of our stories, to wonder if we’ve truly forgiven the real offenses as God sees them. If we want the mind of Christ, He promises to give it, and deliver us safely to the other side.

Seal, by the power of Your Spirit, the journey of forgiveness for the one who reads this. Protect them. Give them Your wisdom and guidance. Lead them through unchartered territory. Amen

Minimizing My Light

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before others around you that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven.”      Matthew 5:15

I’ve noticed that really good lighting costs money. How many times have I purchased a cheap desk lamp only to lament, “I still can’t see!” There’s nothing like a quality light fixture. It reduces eyestrain and makes work a joy.

Why would we, as light-bearers, want to give off ineffective light? The world has eyestrain as it tries to look for our influence against the backdrop of their darkness. It isn’t to be found or it’s so faint that the light makes God appear to be a weakling.

Each of us was given a gift and the gifts, used correctly, radiate perfectly. There are three ways I can handle my gifts.

  1. I deny I have any. Maybe no one has ever helped me discover them because I grew up in a home where children weren’t defined. Perhaps I was told that I was inept at a certain thing when I was really gifted. Parents give skewed messages all the time. I can often think it’s humility to deny my giftedness but it’s really denial. The world suffers from my self-imposed darkness based on self-deception.
  2. I recognize my gifts and see them as catalysts for my own glory. I gain attention because of them. I assume places of leadership and leave quite a stunning legacy because of them. While I may believe they burn brightly, the light is really a false light.  God does not bless selfish uses of my gifts and therefore gets no glory.
  3. I recognize my gifts and I humbly offer them to God for His service. I know what I’m good at but also understand that any eternal value will be absent without the wind of His Spirit fueling each gift. I have no clever plans to use them for myself. My dream is to make God great and my spiritual gifts are means to that end. Oh, when that is in place – how it illumines my world.

Light draws and light also repels. The correct use of my gifts will give glory to God and appear beautiful to those who are looking for Him. But the proper use of my gifts will also shine so brightly that the glory of God will not be attractive. I never know which reaction it will incite. But this I know ~ when the Spirit of God shines through us, we know that we were created for such a time as this.

I was born to showcase Your glory.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

Tampering With The Original

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8

I’m excited. My brother in law, one of my producers and orchestral arrangers from a ways back, found the original score to one of my favorite songs I’ve ever recorded. It’s called Living Water. (See the lyrics at the end.)

I cried with joy when he sent it to me because I no longer have the original track. I now have the challenge, and joy, of reproducing it on my equipment at home, on my flutes, piano, and sampled synthesized sounds. I will be able to play the instrumental parts right off his score. And, as importantly, I can lower the key a half step so that I can sing it easier. Aging voices get lower. Have you noticed?

But let’s say that I had the original track. With today’s technology, I could send it away to a production studio and ask them to lower it a half step. Would there be a difference between what they would do electronically and what I will do by playing it live in the right key? Yes. Artificially lowering the key messes with the harmonics of the original key. It will sound flat and lifeless. To have it sound beautiful, it must be original. The harmonic ring to an A on a piano can not be duplicated on a digital keyboard!

I got thinking about that today as I began to prepare to re-record the song. God made us in His image. We are each originals. We are wondrous and unique. When we try to re-fashion ourselves into someone else, we come across flat. Others can tell that we lack transparency —- the equivalent of musical harmonics. The reason we morph into someone we’re not is usually due to rejection by someone important to us. Feeling flawed and inappropriate, we become an imposter to make ourselves lovable. But others aren’t usually attracted to an inauthentic person. And how lonely is the one who feels they must hide their true self away behind a locked tower.

Stay tuned. It will take me several weeks to create, then sing, and then mix the new arrangement. There is a chorus of flutes, a French horn, strings, harp…just a lovely backdrop to the following lyrics. So today, be you. The original you that God created is breathtaking.

 

LIVING WATER

‘Oer mountains of man’s debris

There’s water for you and me

Living waters of love that freely flow

These waters refresh the soul

The troubled heart – they console

Let’s to these waters go.

 

CHORUS

Oh Living Water, where do you flow?

To man’s seas of emptiness, that he might know

That in this world of woe

Living water, here, can flow

There’s love for everyone who comes to Jesus.

 

Rule And Distrust ~ Marriage Bedfellows

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.  Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”  Genesis 3:16

The consequences of sin are so far reaching.  Because of the sentence God pronounced on the man and woman in the garden, their relationship with each other changed.  Where once there was respect and harmony and a complementary working relationship, now there would be a deep fracture of distrust.  Because of the fall, women would struggle to respect man’s role and men would be bent to abuse his authority and crush the woman.  The compulsion to do both would be in the very sinful DNA of both sexes.

We hear the fallout everyday.  “No man is going to tell me what to do!” a wife says.  And, “The old lady has me under her thumb!” says the husband.  The fracture can be understandable as, by nature, man wants to dominate and woman is afraid to trust.  The farther both are from Christ, the greater will be their sin patterns.

The only remedy to the battle of the sexes is for both to find peace with God.  The battle has no solution outside of that because at the center of the sex war is a greater battle between them and God.  A people without peace ~ can’t be peaceful.  A people without eternal rest ~ carry their angst into every relationship.

Is it really possible for a man and woman to live as the man and woman in the garden?  Prior to the fall?  The answer is ‘yes, for the most part.’  It will not happen without each one coming to Christ for the cleansing of their sin.  It will not happen without each one engaging in the work of sanctification.  It will not happen without each one putting to death the deeds of the flesh and submitting to God in all things.  It will not happen without the man and woman learning to submit and trust their Creator.  In doing that, they become like Christ.  Men become ones who can lead without ruling and women respond to become ones who can let down their guard to respect and trust.

I used to fear Your rule, Lord.  I was filled with distrust.  It has taken time for me to experience Your character and leadership.  Now, I’m putty in Your hands.  Amen

Logic Is Unbelief’s Friend

The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”  Genesis 18:10-12

Sarah’s cycle of womanhood was long over.  Logic.  Science.  These proved that it was humanly impossible to bear a child in old age.  Sarah laughed at the thought of something so out of reach.  She knew the physical impossibility.

Miracles aren’t miracles without the ‘impossibility’ factor.  Is this not why faith is so difficult?  We are surrounded by circumstantial physical evidence that disproves feasibility.  If I have a history of not having seen God’s power move on my behalf, then I will always lean toward logic and move away from what seems ludicrous to hope for.

What might I ask God for today if all reserve was moved out of the way?  Where does it seem risky to trust God?  Where would others laugh in my face and state the evidence against faith-filled prayer?  That points precisely, perhaps, to what God would, and can, do.

“But you can’t ask God for that!” Satan whispers.  His taunts, like arrows, come at me in thoughts but also through the mouths of friends and family.  He is not above using faithless believers to parrot faithless words.  So few walk by faith and I should remember that the next time a brother or sister in Christ comes with their ‘prudent’ warnings.

God has placed me in hundreds of impossible situations throughout my life.  There were times I had to pray for a miracle or there would be some horrible consequence.  So for survival’s sake, I hung onto faith, stood in the Word, and prayed for a miracle.  I have seen so many that faith is becoming my default response rather than unbelief that points to hard physical data.

God defies the odds.  He cares nothing about physics, past evidence, and present obstacles.  He who spoke to the earth, a planet that was once dark and lifeless, to transform it into a stunning environment full of limitless possibilities, is the same God who can do anything miraculous in my world.

Lord, show me where I can exercise faith today.  For what can I trust You that would defy all odds?  I’ll go there.  Amen

How We Get Home Again

Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths.  Lead me in Your truth and teach me.  Psalm 25:4-5

                I love variety.  I rarely take the same route across town twice in a row.  I’ll see a street I’ve never traveled and say, “Hmm, I wonder where this goes.”  My husband laughs at me and calls me the ‘queen of back roads’.  But one thing I’ve discovered ~ It’s pretty easy to end up in unfamiliar territory.  It starts with a small detour and a belief that I can figure it out on my own.  Lost, I have to re-trace my turns but that is often difficult.  Before GPS, I had to stop and ask for directions back to the main road.

               Spiritual wandering works the same way.  I take a detour by substituting my need for God with other things.  I don’t make a course correction because the idols satisfy me for a while.  I feel good and I sense no impending crisis.  There are few clues that spiritual prostitution leads to a dead-end street.  I’m on a journey to no-where and end up  lost and far from home.

            My circuitous path is not hidden from God.  Though I am off course and disoriented, He has memorized my wayward excursion.  He remembers each fork in the road and each choice I made.  Though I’m feeling like a rat in a maze who can’t seem to find its way back, God knows the map. He takes me, in reverse, to each intersection in the road; allowing me to review my choices.  Wisdom is birthed as I understand where I went astray.  Choosing the right way the second time opens my eyes to the meaning of redemption for there is joy as the lights of home slowly come into view.

            Don’t you find that we often think we have strayed too far?  Making things right with God seems out of reach and the memory of our first-love feels like a distant dream.  We have forgotten that God’s arm is long and His mercy is deep.  He calls us home and offers a second chance no matter how far from our roots we have traveled.  The way back starts with humility and an admission that we’re lost.  The author, Brennan Manning says, “I cannot receive what the crucified Rabbi has to give until I stretch out my arms till they ache.”   

I’m so glad that You have consistently led me home when I’ve strayed, Lord.  I reached for You. On the journey back, You gave me wisdom in exchange for my foolishness.  Thank you.  In Jesus name, Amen

You’re Not Alone

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Matthew 6:13

We are engaged in a battle with the enemy of our souls.  Temptations abound.  Condemning thoughts threaten our peace.  Doubts erode our confidence in Abba.  Fear cripples our faith.  Anger undermines our belief in God’s justice.

This is a global war, not a solitary one.  Forgetting that, I can fail to disclose my struggles to my spiritual sisters. I can begin to think that something is wrong with me if I battle temptation, fear, anger, and doubt.  I can easily view myself as someone who disappoints God.  I can assume others are more advanced spiritually.  I can be inclined to feel a sense of shame over the things that plague me.

This perception is untrue.  We are all in the same predicament.  Spiritual power to resist our enemy and achieve victory is collectively ours if we bare our burdens to one another with discretion.  We’re family.  The same royal blood courses through our spiritual veins.  War has been declared on us simply because of Whom we belong to.  We need to be vulnerable with each other.  We can stand firm as long as we stand together.

You will come against arrows of opposition today.  They may be numerous, causing you to believe that the power behind them is formidable.  But you do not fight alone.  I link my arm with yours.  We sing a song of deliverance.  The song is contagious, for as our voices are heard, more daughters begin to learn this song of hope.  There is strength in numbers.  The battle is transformed from a senseless massacre to an overwhelming victory.

Together with my sisters, Lord, we create a daunting line of defense.  Amen