Tag Archives: forgiveness

Simons

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Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them. Luke 17:4

Luke the Evangelist records a special piece of Jesus’ story in chapter 7 of his gospel.  Jesus, a blue-collar itinerant preacher, attended a refined dinner party in the elegant home of a Pharisee named Simon.  These cultured men surely believed that a rough carpenter must have been overwhelmed by the grandeur of their important world.

A scandal ruptured the glittering event.

A woman in that town who had lived a sinful life (Luke 7:37) flagrantly interrupted the dignified meal.  She rushed into the formal affair, threw herself at Jesus’ feet, and broke open a vase of expensive perfume (surely the wages of her harlotry). She bathed his simple feet in the liquid fragrance.  She wept so profusely that her tears mingled with the perfume, and then she wiped the mess with her undone hair.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Then Jesus, who was more than a prophet and knew every detail of her sordid story, answered the hissing implication of Simon’s legalistic heart.

“Simon, I have something to tell you.”

   “Tell me, teacher,” he said.

   “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred coins, and the other fifty.  Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

   “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 

You gave me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet.

You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with perfume. 

For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven…Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace.”

This is my very-super-extra-forever-favorite gospel story.  I can scarcely read it without welling up with my own tears of scarred surrender.

So, why, O why, do I who have been forgiven so much struggle with all of my weak heart to forgive so little?

I am this sinful woman.  I have sinned as deep as the ocean.  Shame has torn me apart.  I have absorbed the ache of rejection. I have known the sweet and shaking power of a grace so abundant that it toppled strongholds with soft yet shattering whispers. I live at His feet with trembling hands, hiding behind a battering ram of mercy that sets me free.  I love Him much because He has forgiven me much.  Yes.

Yet, to my shame, I have not forgiven my Simons.

I write this out of exposed confession, not justification.  I grieve my own self-righteousness.

I forgive weakly, palely.  I forgive like a bloodless ghost who comes back to haunt my own pocked past with deathly whispers.  Remember when she said that….What did he mean by that?…..How can she justify that….?  

Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.  George MacDonald.

Forgiveness raises the dead.  It pumps life into corpses of fallenness.  It puts meat on the bones of forgotten spectres.  Forgiveness redeems and resurrects lifeless relationships and empty characters.

So I memorized these verses and I will repeat them every day this year as I pray to be a Forgiver, like Jesus.  Lord, make me a Forgiver, a Grace-giver.  May I look at my Simons with the same merciful release with which You look at me.  I choose to forgive seven times seventy times, forever, because forgiveness is the life-giving Way of the Cross.

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Hebrews 12:14-15

This is the Year of Forgiveness

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Towers

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When I was in (Christian liberal arts) college , I was the angst-y sort.  I listened to Counting Crows and Ani DiFranco. I dated a guy who wrote a play about an intelligent but melancholy chick who questioned everything.  Her name was Sarah, and she was (TA-DA!) me.  In the play, titled The Bridge, Sarah (played by moi) stood on a rickety old wooden bridge with different people in her life and discussed deep issues like how-far-is-too-far and did-my-parents-screw-me-up.  The play was a huge success.

I made a friend who was a kindred restless spirit.  He and I would sit around on the (for real) old railroad bridge near our school, smoke cigarettes, and contemplate weighty topics with the earnest duality of angst mingled with idealism.  We decided that there are two types of people – blinking lights and steady lights.  We based this insightful metaphor on the radio towers that peppered the endless Indiana horizon.  These radio towers gleamed blinking lights on their pinnacles and steady lights on their lower rungs.

Blinking lights were on top, we mused, but they paid the price by switching off half of the time.

Steady lights were, well, steady. They were unfailing, dependable; but lower.

(D to the RAMA…….)

I lived like a blinking light.  After all, I had a well-developed metaphor to justify, right?

Throughout my twenties, I danced a long, broken rhythm of failure and salvage. Through both extremes, I learned that I am the beloved object of divine pursuit.  I began to recognize the steel underpinnings of mercy in an inconsistent life.  Slowly, I understood the cost and the glory of holiness.  The Holy Spirit transformed me deliberately, excruciatingly, through a lifeline of grace in the murky waters of regret and loss.  The joys of those years far outweigh the pain. I finished college and graduate school, moved to breathtaking Colorado, met and married my best friend, gave birth to two miracle babies, experienced indescribable healing, settled into a beautiful life.  The theme of my twenties was REDEMPTION.

though i have closed myself as fingers, 
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens 
(touching skillfully,mysteriously)her first rose. (e.e.cummings)

As I approached my thirties, to be blunt, I wanted to get off the crazy train.  No more aching crashes and burns, no more falls from earthly grace.  I began to hunger for my long redemption to produce the quiet solidity of righteousness. The theme of my thirties is PURITY.  I ask God to transform me from a wrecking ball into a rebuilder as He purifies me.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach and it will be given to him. James 1:5.

The Lord whispered the theme of PURITY for my thirties through my friend Tosha, who has a theme for every decade of her life.  To cultivate PURITY, I prayerfully decided to devote myself to developing a PURE character trait through every year of my thirties.  Last year, the character trait was truth.  This year, it is forgiveness.  

(Why do I choose forgiveness?  Click here to read why.)

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Heb.12:12-13.  I thought I was good at forgiving, but, to my shame, I have discovered recently that my arms are feeble and my knees weak. This year, I pray for strength deep and abiding to be a grace-giver.  I remember well my seasons of limping, falling forward into grace.  I want to shine a light of grace on those in darkness.  I want to build a towering monument to forgiveness in my life.  Blinking or steady, it does not matter; I want to shine forgiveness from a glowing countenance free from shame and strongholds.  This is the year of forgiveness.

Forgiver

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And I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way You love us. O how He loves us.

How He Loves. John Mark McMillan.

I was not expecting to blog about the night, so I only had my iPhone for pictures.

Last night Super Friend Kristen and I went to Glen Eyrie Castle for a worship event.  (Our husbands stayed home together with the little ones to, as Dreamy Scott says, watch Tim Tebow resurrect the Broncos franchise and bring hope to millions.)   Fike and Dana (friends, worship pastors, Integrity artists & songwriters) invited us to be a part of a special night in their ministry.  This event honored the union of Integrity Music with David C. Cook Ministries – a marriage of two luminous ministries. A sea of songwriters and worship leaders cleared a space for an intimate knot of God-seekers to invest 2 and a half hours in sacred praise.  Fike and Dana, Jon Egan, Glenn Packiam, Brad Parsley, Jared Anderson, Travis Ryan, Kathryn Scott, Jennie Lee Riddle, Paul Baloche, Leslie Morgan, and more and more and more.  We gathered in a small room. Every seat occupied by a soul raised in wholehearted worship.

Fike, Dana & Travis Ryan leading worship, while I snuck iPhone pictures from the back of the room.

I wept when Fike and Dana, alongside Travis Ryan, led us in worship. My heart brims over with sweet delight as I see God raise up my friends to a precious role that fulfills their anointing. We went to honor our soul knit friends. We experienced more than we came for. (Isn’t that what happens when we access Infinity?) We received bone deep renewal.

Glenn Packiam spoke a simple devotion in the midst of the night. A blind man, Bartimaeus, sat by the roadside, begging. Bartimaeus heard rumors about Jesus, rumors that whispered, Messiah?  Promised Son of David?  Can it be? Jesus, the heart-seer, acknowledged the blind beggar.  What do you want me to do for you? Jesus asked Bartimaeus (Mark 10:51).  Glenn made a profound point.  Bartimaeus had a choice. He could have responded with a practical request. Money. Food. A home.

Instead, he asked for a Miracle. He asked for something divine, a request that could only be fulfilled by the Messiah.

The blind man said, Rabbi, I want to see. (Mark 10:51).

Glenn challenged us. When was the last time we asked God for something only He can give? Something celestial. Something worthy of God.

I feel a shaking in my spirit.  A dividing line.  What do you want me to do for you?  He asks me.

I kneel as we fall into worship again.  Lord, for what shall I ask You?  You invite me to ask for a God-sized dream.  I could ask for a practical request.  The advancement of my calling, the resolution of professional troubles at Jaxon Engineering, a baby.  I am Bartimaeus, blind to so much of my world.  Lord, open my eyes to Your glory.  For what shall I ask?

It shoots across my mind like a bullet.  Forgiver.

Worship surrounds me, overcomes me.  I am on my knees.  Forgiver?  I ponder what it means.  And it slays me.  Child, if you will ask, I will answer.  

So, reeling, I pray.  Lord, make me a forgiver.  A releaser.  Give me this rare gift.  Make my heart slippery, so that it cannot hold onto regret and bitterness, so that all the fallout of fallenness against me slides away into the ocean of your grace.  Open my clenched fists.  Make me a grace-giver, like You.  

Shaken by truth, God-thoughts invade me.  What if Forgiver becomes my name?  What if I just choose, today and forever, to be a Forgiver, a Releaser, a Grace-giver, like my Jesus.  What if I stop looking at the wrongs done against me and instead choose to see who I am?  What if I filter every interaction by my identity as a Forgiver?  What if I never look back?  I breathe it in.

Easier said than done, you think?  I no longer believe that.  I think it is a simple choice.  Perhaps I make that choice seventy times seven times.  I forgive you because it is who I am. Because of Who He Is. We are Forgivers, my Jesus and I.

So I knelt in the Presence of God and His worshippers and opened my hands, let so so so much slip away.  Not for the sake of my dreams, or even for the freedom it will surely produce, but as an offering to the One Who Sees Me, who invited me to ask for something only God can do.  That is my request, that I be a Forgiver.

Alignment

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The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Ps.27:1.

I offer an ugly confession.

I confess that I hide under the shelter of infinite grace, where I then trivialize that deep and priceless well of grace by entreating my God to hold others accountable for wrongs done against me.

I nurse select grudges for bloody gashes from those who have been careless or malicious with my heart.  I confess that I want God to repay them for wrongs done against me.  I want Him to intervene on my behalf.  I want Him to align Himself with my cause.  After all, I responded to attack with dignity and silence – I did not repay evil for evil.  Now (and here is the undefended outpost where the Enemy slithers in with insidious yet seductive malice) God owes me.  I did my part; it is time for Him to do His. Time for God to be a mighty champion for me, to fight for me while I stand back, smugly observing them receive my justice from the hands of an avenging Warrior.

The dark confessions of an unforgiving heart.  

I read Joshua 5:13-14  when I feel the poisonous appeal of bitterness rise up like black gall in my throat.

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”

Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

Resentment sneaks up on us, does it not?  We do not recognize it, because it is hard to greet the full capacity of protective self-righteousness that dwells in each heart.  We find ourselves fantasizing about how sweet it will be when God finally gets it together to fight our battles.  We nurse our bitterness with hunched shoulders, clutching the wrongs done against us like jewels that will someday bring us the precious satisfaction of revenge (disguised in spiritual words like accountability and church discipline).

Joshua asked the stranger, Are you for us or for our enemies?  I greet the Lord with that same question when I find myself in the dark waters of unforgiveness.  Lord, are you on their side or on mine?  I am much more right than they are, so I know You’ll pick me.  

Neither, he replied.

“Excuse me, Lord?” We reply, outraged.  Um, did you not HEAR what she said about me behind my back?  The promise he broke?  The affair she had?  The way that child defied me?  The lies she told?  The money he squandered?  The kind of people they hang out with?  The way they discipline their kids?  The debt he is in?  The way they raised me?  I could go on and on, right?  We nurse the wrongs done against us.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  Matt. 16:24-25.

The Way of the Cross.  The Via Dolorosa.  The Walk of Tears.  God is my defender, my fortress, my everlasting tower of strength, but His calling is hard.  He zealously defends our character, not our personal justice.  Our mission, not our grudges.  His reputation, not ours.

That is very hard.  But it is also the door to freedom.

I learn and re-learn this mystery: When I pray my eyes off of my story and onto His, my eyes open.  I see that He wraps His arms around me tightly and keeps me safe.  I confess, then re-align my perspective with His.

Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

Joshua was a wise man.  He recognized the rebuke and the mercy in that simple but dividing word – Neither.  Joshua responded with rapid submission, re-aligned mission.  A few verses later, the walls of Jericho fall in a heap of rubble and the Israelites take possession of their calling.  You see, the question is not whether God is on my side, but whether I am on His.  If I lock eyes with Him, walk in step with Him, deny myself and take up my cross with Him, then the outcome is certain – redemptive glory, mighty victory.

Lord, align me with You, always.  

Embrace

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Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; 
though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. Ps.27:3.

The Lord showed Himself mighty this week.

Have you ever experienced conflict?  Deep gashing conflict, conflict that carves grooves in a soul?  We have.

Have you ever betrayed someone?  Have you flung the full weight of your fallenness on another soul and then watched it crumble under the blow?  I have.

Have you ever felt the sword of another’s betrayal?  Have you ever trusted someone with your darkest stories and believed that they would truly SEE you underneath, only to watch them, (slow motion, over and over), turn the trust into a weapon to flatten you? I have.

Conflict is sometimes ugly and always hard.  We were made in the Image of God. Therefore, we were made for Love.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Cor.13:4-8. All of the conflict embedded in my lifetime has oozed from a failure to Love, on my part or others.

This week, four people (who broke each other) sat in a living room with apple cider (or decaf) and pumpkin bars, looked each other’s depravity full in the face, and…

forgave.

A time to embrace.  Ecc.3:5.

The gates of hell shudder under the holy weight of Forgiveness, which is the most unnatural and therefore most divine of sacred offerings.  There is nothing on heaven or on earth that shines God’s favor like the full extent of true forgiveness.  To unshackle someone who is bound to you by a debt they can never repay?  To be released from the manacles of guilt and condemnation?  To finally shed the chains? Sweetness unlike any other.

Forgiveness is the final form of love. Reinhold Niebuhr.

A few months ago I told someone, We are in a conflict with (Names) and we are not going to be able to work it out.  The relationship is over, likely forever.  

God in His mercy and power showed us a better way. Four people who love the Lord more than our own pain and our own self-justification chose to walk in it.

Have you given up on a relationship lately? Have you refused to offer grace?  Have you lived condemned and afraid?

Me too.

And there I would remain still, if not for the kindness and severity of a deeper mercy.

As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Col.3:12-14.

Do not grow weary in doing good.  For in due time you will reap if you do not grow weary. Gal.6:9.

Alabaster

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There is an appointed time for everything.  And there is a time for every event under heaven – a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing, a time to search and a time to give up as lost.  from Eccl.3.

We have been asking questions about broken relationship.  How do we know when to throw open our arms to a hard-fought embrace and when to drop them in acceptance? When to hold on to a lost treasure and when to let it go with a benediction?  It is easier for one of us to search, and for one of us to give up as lost. Which is the way of the Cross?

Definition:  Forgive:  to give before or ahead of.

Wounds heal or fester.  When my children cry from their little bodily injuries, I pour oil on their hurts and tell them, Be brave.  It will get better.  God made our bodies to heal. When we break and are broken, I hear Him whisper over me:  Be brave.  Give before and ahead of.  I made your heart to heal.

Resentment is like a glass of poison that a man drinks; then he sits down and waits for his enemy to die.  Nelson Mandela.

Fear is the enemy of forgiveness.  Fooled me once, shame on you.  Fooled me twice, shame on me.  Right?  To let go quietly, behind closed doors, in a cocoon of self-protection, that is one thing. But to reconcile in the Light, to joyfully restore, that is something else entirely.  It is a breathtaking risk, because there is always the possibility that wounds will lacerate us again.  Trust, forgiveness, fear, danger, restoration.

Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time—just like it does for you and me. Sara Paddison.

I have taken my wounds and sealed them in a jar.  Perhaps we all have.  Now what do we do with the jar?  Some broken treasures cannot be salvaged this side of eternity, and that is the deep sadness of this fallen space.  Sometimes we need to greet and acknowledge that reality.  Sometimes moving on is the greater grace.  A time to give up as lost.  Other times we are called to put the full weight of trust on restoration. We may choose, each of us, to give before and ahead of, to gamble our hearts in order to gain them back.  A time to embrace.

Which time is this?

Forgiveness is giving up the possibility of a better past.  Unknown.

There once was another woman who held a sealed jar.  A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.  Luke 7:37-18.  This broken woman offered the wages of her sin to the One who considered her alabaster offering a precious gift instead of a symbol of her wicked life.  She broke open her pain at His feet, gave it to the One who forgave her, who gave before.  

I am that woman.  I have broken others and been broken in return.  I deserve rejection but desire grace.

I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little. Luke 7:47.

What happens before and after forgiveness?

Love.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Cor. 13:4-8.

With her broken offering, she reflected His Divine Love. It is not trite to proclaim that Love is always the answer.  Love is the banner He has hung over us.  Love is the triumph of the strong saints.

Love is also the dividing line of wisdom.  As we all circle our important questions, we should ask, Is it more loving to embrace or to shun embracing? To search or to give up as lost?  To do this or to do that?  That is very hard. The way of the Cross is sparsely populated because it is a bloodbath of Self. 

But that is not the end of the story. Love cannot stay buried.  Many waters cannot quench love, nor will rivers overflow it; if a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, it would be utterly despised.  Song of Solomon 8:7.

I do not know the resolution of your story, and I am still seeking mine.  But I have learned that if I seek a resurrection of something I have lost, I must first seek Love.  Love will either redeem it or give us something better.  Love will lift up our faces as we break open our alabaster offerings, and declare, your many sins are forgiven because I gave before and ahead of your story, because you desire and receive my Love, because you love me more than your flawed treasures. Now go in peace and continue to Love and Forgive Much.