Lenten Reflections: Refusing Shame-Christ Died For This

If you’ve ever woken in the night only to have every thing you’ve left undone or done poorly or done selfishly line up like pointing fingers across your eyelids then you know the power of shame.

If you, like me, have buried a child, you know the long hours between when you hear the news and can once again touch the earthly shell of your loved one drag on and are fertile ground for what ifs, should haves and could haves.

Shame is a powerful emotion. It declares me unworthy of love, affection and even consideration.

Shame is undoubtedly what drove Peter back to his old fishing habits having denied the Master he swore to love unto death.

And shame can keep me prisoner behind walls of self-protection that aren’t really effective at all.

But I don’t have to accept those feelings, I don’t have to listen to those voices and I don’t have to live behind a stone rolled in front of my past.

Christ died for this…He not only bore my sin but also my shame. He not only died to bear my punishment, He rose to declare the debt has been paid in full!

Jesus did not merely dust me off and iron out a few of the more stubborn wrinkles in my life. He saved me because I was in desperate need of saving. I am alive only because He lives.

Alicia Britt Chole

When the women went to the tomb only to find the stone rolled away and an angel declaring the Good News, their lives were changed in an instant. There was no longer any need to live in the despair of death and fear.

And when I receive the new life God offers me in Christ, I am changed in precisely the same way. It certainly isn’t as earth shattering (literally-there was an earthquake!) nor as dramatic (no angelic visitor here) but it is just as real.

The women didn’t feel like they needed to keep visiting that tomb repeatedly to prove to themselves Jesus had risen. It was fact and they lived in light of what they knew to be true from that moment forward.

I don’t need to keep revisiting my dead sins and past mistakes either.

Jesus has carried them away.

I am free to live in the resurrected life I share with Him.

Is shame standing watch over any dead things in your life? Jesus died to forgive you-follow His example and forgive yourself. Fast guarding that tomb. Let an earthquake or an angel roll away the stone so that you can see that nothing is there anymore. It is empty. Jesus conquered it. Jesus removed it. All that is there now is light and hope.

Alicia Britt Chole

Lenten Reflections: Letting Go of Bitterness, Embracing Servanthood

I’ll be honest-it’s not that often that after three plus decades of in-depth Bible study that I hear or read a unique insight into familiar passages.

But today’s devotion and reflection helped me think of Jesus’ service to His disciples in a new way.

Jesus washed the feet of a betrayer, a denier, and ten deserters….Think of someone who has betrayed you, denied your love, or run away in your time of need. What would it take, what would it mean, for you to wash their feet?

Alicia Britt Chole

Chole’s words made me think back to moments where I’ve made an intentional choice to serve someone who had wounded or disappointed me.

Inevitably, loving action led to loving feelings.

One of the things that has become abundantly evident to me in the years since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven is this: carrying unforgiveness and bitterness is simply too hard a task.

If Jesus could (and did!) forgive His betrayer, His disciples for abandoning Him and even those who ultimately crucified Him, then I can (and should!) forgive those who have disappointed, abandoned or somehow been “less than” I needed them to be.

So for today, let’s fast “Armchair Jesus”-the Jesus who is all God and not very human. Jesus felt it all.

He experienced it all.

And He is more than capable and willing to strengthen me to stand up under any temptation, assault of the evil one or tendency of my flesh.

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Today Is The Second Best Time to Make Amends (or Plant a Tree).

Life is really rather unforgiving, isn’t it?

I can only live forward and there are no do-overs.

No amount of regret can roll back the clock and give me another chance to do it right, do it better or just do it at all.

Read the rest here: The Best Time To Plant A Tree

Today Is The Second Best Time To Plant a Tree (Or Make Amends)

Life is really rather unforgiving, isn’t it?

I can only live forward and there are no do-overs.

No amount of regret can roll back the clock and give me another chance to do it right, do it better or just do it at all.

Read the rest here: The Best Time To Plant A Tree

The Best Time To Plant A Tree

Life is really rather unforgiving, isn’t it?

I can only live forward and there are no do-overs.

No amount of regret can roll back the clock and give me another chance to do it right, do it better or just do it at all.

I can’t undo or redo my past.

If I’ve made blunders, hurt hearts, missed opportunities or just plain screwed up, I have to live with that. And other people might have to live with the damage I’ve inflicted.

I need to own that.

But it is not helpful to let regret stop me working NOW to repair, restore and rebuild relationships.

Sometimes my best efforts may be rebuffed.

If I’ve hurt someone’s heart they have every single right to tell me, “No. I won’t let you back in.” I don’t get to establish a timeline for their healing. But if I don’t try to make amends I can be sure the rift won’t be mended.

If someone has hurt me I can choose to look beyond that pain, forgive the offense and commit to begin now, leaving the past in the past, and start fresh.

If so much time has passed that it feels awkward-so what? Embarrassment is a small price to pay for restoration.

So write a letter.

Send a card.

Make a phone call.

Offer peace.

There’s a proverb that’s been spoken by my family for years. It goes like this. A young man asks an old farmer, “When’s the best time to plant a tree?”

The old man answers, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. But the next best time is now.”

Image result for best time to plant a tree image

I can’t go back and sow seed or plant trees when I wish I had.

But I can start now and plant for the future.

Who knows what kind of fruit it might bear?

Suicide and Child Loss: Christ’s Blood is Sufficient

I try hard not to imply that MY child loss experience is representative of EVERY child loss experience.  

Because, as we all know, every parent’s journey (even parents of the same child) is utterly, incontrovertibly unique. 

My son was killed suddenly in an accident.  Other parents I know have stories of prolonged illness.  Some feared it coming as his or her child struggled with addiction and dangerous choices.  And still others bear the added burden of suicide in child loss.

I have always, always felt a special duty to tread lightly with respect to those parents in particular.  I want to honor them and never suggest I speak for them.  I’ve started and discarded at least a dozen posts on child loss and suicide.

So when a mom who lost a child to suicide shared this in one of our closed groups, I messaged her and asked permission to publish her comment here. 

Sheri Yancy Brown graciously agreed.  

So here are HER words, precisely as she shared them:  

“The Lord showed me this on Friday [Good Friday, 2019].  I hope it is a comfort to those of you who have lost a child to suicide.

“Two of the hardest things to come to terms with regarding Tyrel’s suicide for me (a Christian) have been:

  1. I don’t know why he did it and
  2. The religious stigma from other Christians regarding his salvation.

“There’s a very common scripture in the book of Isaiah that has been on my mind this morning because it is Good Friday.  It was written long before Christ died on the cross.

“The scripture is:

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:5‬ ‭KJV‬‬

“The main questions I ask myself after reading numerous books, attending many support groups, and meeting many people with this type of loss are:

“Was Tyrel’s suicide:

  1. An intentional sin?
  2. a premeditated personal choice?
  3. an impulsive act due to short term mental anguish?
  4. an act due to long term chemically based mental illness?

“Look how this scripture literally covers all four situations!

  1.  To transgress is to choose to intentionally disobey (Is suicide an intentional sin?)
  2. Iniquity refers to a premeditated choice (Is suicide a premeditated personal choice?)
  3. Chastisement of our peace means He took the punishment so that we may have peace  (Is suicide an impulsive act due to short term mental anguish?)
  4. With his stripes we are healed (Is suicide the result of some long term chemically based mental illness)

“According to this scripture, the whys don’t really matter and Tyrel’s salvation is not in question.  As a believer for all of his short life, he is covered no matter which way you look at it.  Tyrel’s unimaginable actions are exactly why Jesus went to the cross.

“The Bible says so.”

coffee and journal morning

Forgiveness and Healthy Boundaries

I do not believe that in offering genuine forgiveness I am required to again submit myself to another person’s hurtful or sinful behavior.  

I do believe that forgiveness releases that person from past offenses against me but it does not release them to continue to wound my heart.

And I will stand up any time, anywhere and defend my. right to create healthy boundaries between my heart and someone who has proven, time and again, that they intend to do just that.

daring to set boundaries brene brown

What does this look like in real life?

It means that I can call, write or tell someone that I truly forgive them for whatever pain they have caused me in the past.  That frees MY heart.  

But if that person refuses to change his or her behavior, I am not obligated to allow them close enough to hurt me again.

It is NOT proof of an unforgiving heart to set up healthy boundaries.

It is wisdom.

So I don’t have to invite them to every event.  I don’t have to allow them to corner me at gatherings where we both may attend.  I don’t have to tell them all the news in my life or include them in my circle of closest comrades.

I can be polite.  I will refuse to spread malicious gossip about them and not continue to talk about the old wounds for which I’ve forgiven them.

When my heart tries to resurrect the forgiven offenses, I will remind it that those are no longer relevant.  I will not let bitterness overtake me.

There’s a compelling and beautiful anecdote about Corrie Ten Boom and forgiveness: 

After WW II, Corrie traveled Europe speaking on the grace of God found even in Ravensbruck, the concentration camp where she was imprisoned and in which her sister died.

After one such talk, a German man came up to her and mentioned that he had been a guard at that camp.  Corrie recognized him though he, of course, did not recognize her.

He thanked her for what she shared and put out his hand to shake hers.  At that moment, she knew what she SHOULD do, but she did not want to do it.  She did not want to touch this man’s hand and offer forgiveness for what many felt was utterly unforgivable.

But God convicted her heart and in obedience she extended her hand.  She speaks of how she felt the Lord’s love and forgiveness wash over her and flow through her when she acted in obedience.

She never saw him again. 

But for many of us, we continue to see and rub shoulders with the ones who have wounded us. 

And if Corrie had again been forced into a concentration camp, she would not have been wrong to go kicking and screaming. 

Forgiving that German guard did not excuse what he had done nor did it mean that if he was intent on repeating it that she (or anyone else) had to simply go along.

You do not have to allow another person to use you as a punching bag.  You do not have to subject your heart to verbal or emotional abuse.  You do not have to prove the sincerity of your forgiveness by enabling continued bad behavior.

forgiveness is not forgetting

That’s neither wise nor helpful.

Boundaries are OK.

They are necessary.

And they do not mean you haven’t forgiven someone. 

Keeping Short Accounts: What I’m Learning From My Son’s Sudden Death

This Sunday morning I had to extend and ask for forgiveness all within fifteen minutes.  

One person said something that unintentionally hurt my heart (he had no idea that what he said plunged a knife in it) and then I overstepped in making an event public before making sure it was definitely on the calendar.

It could have meant I walked away offended and upset. 

But I didn’t.  

Instead I was honest with the person who upset me about what he said and why it hurt.  He apologized immediately and I was quick to accept it.  And when I realized I had offended the other person, I asked for her forgiveness and she granted it too.

I find it’s easier for me to do both- ask for and extend forgiveness-this side of child loss for lots of reasons.  

First, I’m learning that I just don’t have the energy to maintain an offense. 

Offenses are like very fragile hot house plants-they need lots of tending, protection from the elements and so much time.  I used to be good at keeping an offense healthy and vibrant.  I would feed it often and refuse to subject it to the harsh winds of real life where it could be shown for what it was-not worth the energy or effort!

It’s so much easier to wipe the slate clean and begin again.  

Second, I’m learning that since grief wears me down in so many ways, I don’t have the resources to maintain my own mask, keep up my own pretense of always being in a good mood, smiling and having the right words to say.  So I make mistakes, step on toes and feelings with a fair degree of regularity and NEED forgiveness often myself.

I can hardly expect others to extend to me what I withhold from them!

Third,  I’m learning that the only thing worse than finding out someone I care about is beyond reach is hearing that news knowing I never made things right when it was within my power to do so.  

When you’re expecting your healthy, vibrant, youthful son to pop over on Saturday morning but instead get a knock on the door before sunrise, it changes everything.

Sometimes I don’t heed my own advice.

But when I’m paying attention, listening to my heart and really present, I work hard to keep short accounts with those I love and even those I don’t.  

Paul wrote: 

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

~Romans 13:8

I don’t want to leave this world owing anybody anything except love.  

Love is never satisfied because hearts always need more.

And I am glad to pay it.

If we really want to love must leran to forgive

Why You Might Have to “Forgive” God

I love this quote.  

It’s honest and exactly how I felt after Dominic was killed.

Like any healthy human relationship, forgiveness is a key component in allowing us to grow closer to those we care about.  Intellectually, I believed that God is perfect, and could do no wrong.  I could agree with all the scriptures I had read since I was a child that told me God cares for us with an everlasting love.  But what my heart felt was that God had done Cathy and my whole family an injustice.  As long as I held onto those feelings, I knew I could never move forward.

So one evening alone at home, I simply said these words out loud:  ‘God, I forgive you.’

When I was finally able to let go of my ‘justifications’ for feeling angry at God, something inside of me shifted.  There were no heavenly rays of light breaking through the clouds, but I could tell that much of the mental turmoil I had been struggling with was being replaced with a quiet peace.

The thing is, I knew deep down that God did not need to be forgiven.  The forgiveness was meant for my sake.  It opened my heart to begin to listen and allowed me to receive more of what God wanted to teach me about who He really is.

~Warren Ludwig, Jewels in the Junkyard

It may be an affront to our religious sensibilities to even suggest that we “forgive” God.

But it is a bold rendering of the betrayal my heart felt.  Why MY son?  Why ME?

It’s true-as long as I held onto the reasons God had “done me wrong”, I was unable to lean in and trust Him again.

Like Job, I thought I had Him figured out and could hold my own in a debate with the Almighty One.

But also like Job, when confronted with His holiness, perfection and majesty, found all I could do was cover my mouth.

And when I shut up long enough to hear Him, His voice brought comfort.

He [Christ] said not, ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be trevailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased,’ but He said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.’

~Julian of Norwich

I no longer feel betrayed.  

I still don’t like this life.

I would never have chosen this life.  

But I will trust the One Who made me to carry me through it. 

i made you and i will carry you

 

 

 

A Mother’s Love: Wisdom from Wendell Berry

There are many reasons I love Wendell Berry’s writings. 
He is committed to living gently among people he loves and caring for the earth that sustains our lives even if we won’t admit it. 
He is unafraid to speak uncomfortable truth.
But mostly I love his poetry. 
I could share dozens of pieces that have touched my heart and made me cry but today, in honor of mamas everywhere, I choose this one.
Read it slowly.  Savor it like fine wine or good chocolate. 
Let it sink in where it can do you good.  
To My Mother
by Wendell Berry
I was your rebellious son,
do you remember? Sometimes
I wonder if you do remember,
so complete has your forgiveness been.
So complete has your forgiveness been
I wonder sometimes if it did not
precede my wrong, and I erred,
safe found, within your love,
prepared ahead of me, the way home,
or my bed at night, so that almost
I should forgive you, who perhaps
foresaw the worst that I might do,
and forgave before I could act,
causing me to smile now, looking back,
to see how paltry was my worst,
compared to your forgiveness of it
already given. And this, then,
is the vision of that Heaven of which
we have heard, where those who love
each other have forgiven each other,
where, for that, the leaves are green,
the light a music in the air,
and all is unentangled,
and all is undismayed.
I believe that a child’s first taste of gospel freedom is found in a mother’s unconditional love.
“causing me to smile now, looking back, to see how paltry was my worst, compared to your forgiveness of it….”
as far as the east is from the west
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