From flames to forgiveness-Part II

Outwardly I spread out kindness, grace, even good-deeds, believing my actions would convert the pain of betrayal, blame and condemnation. Act yourself into a feeling, so to speak.

Outwardly I resisted, controlling and protecting through avoidance by positioning myself to not be in the offenders presence for a duration. Time heals all wounds, so to speak.

The above is an excerpt from last weeks post Journey from flames to forgiveness. This journey of forgiving started in the upside down way of the world–do and then I will be the forgiver and the forgiven; do and then I will be rewarded; do and then I will receive (worldly) blessing.

Strive to follow the rules and then I will please God and become complete in Christ.

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In our human world, it is natural to want to have rules to follow, laws to live up to, yet is that what God calls us to? Are His ways the ways of the world? Does He call us to follow the way of rules to become worthy of being complete in Him?

I tried to find my own words to answer these questions with what I think is truth but Paul’s words say it so much superior.

What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily. Galatians 2:20-21 The Message

I’m struggling friends, of what to write, as there is so much here to unpack! It is the foundation for understanding how much we are loved without needing to ‘impress God.’ It is through this love, our identity in Him, we no longer are  ruled  by our egos, others opinions of us, and our human vulnerabilities. And we are free to love ourselves and others as Jesus loves who keeps no records of wrong.

(Love) does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:5

When we grasp this understanding that we are already complete in Christ, loved wholly and unconditionally, we no longer need to be loved by anything else in this world. Often our hurts, offenses made against us are from expectations we have on others on how we think we should be treated. Our identity gets wrapped up in our attachment to how others satisfy our egos. So when others do not live up to our own expectations, our character feels attacked, and we take offense. We become afraid and build our walls of defense.

In other words we become a slave to others opinions and treatment of us.

But Jesus showed us a Way out of this entrapment to freedom. He showed us how to love.

 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:24

They do not know what they are doing. No judgement, no unmet conditions, just Perfect Love seeing the brokenness in his offenders, and keeping no record of the wrong. Instead, He rose and came back into a world that crucified Him because He loves us that much!

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When we grasp this understanding of this perfect love He has for us, where there is no condemnation, no-need to please or make-up for our transgressions, we begin to love ourselves as the Father loves us, freeing us to let-go of any need to be loved and treated a certain way to feel okay in this world. And in that way we free others too, from our own judgement and conditions. This leads us to take no offense and casts out our fears of being vulnerable because we are complete in Christ, and fully loved just as we are now.  We can then take that understanding of God’s love for us and return that same love out to the world.

Friends, I don’t pretend to know it all. Paul’s words again express this so much more superior than mine.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:12

Camp on these words for a moment-Christ Jesus took hold of me. He’s got you, looking out for you, because of who He is-Perfect Love.

letgo3-35-of-1And how can we understand His perfect Love that holds no record of wrong, that does not take offense and extends only grace? I believe only through the Holy Spirit, asking our eyes and heart to be opened to Our Good Father.

Open the Eyes of My Heart-Michael W Smith

 

 

Why not to offer doing the dishes

I’ve been reading a book on busyness, my friend tells me. I lean in to hear her words over a Johnny Cash song played loudly through the restaurant’s speakers. (Too loud in my opinion. Just moments before my girlfriend and I lamented how eating establishments and retail stores just seem to play music so much louder these days, however it could be our age too, admittedly. But I digress).

“God’s been working with me though.” She continues her story, her struggle so prevalent in our world where success can be defined by how much we do, rather than who we are. “I start to focus in on Him and then my mind wanders and I get distracted and anxious. And then focus back at Him but then become frustrated with myself that I was angry and anxious at myself for getting distracted and then loose focus again!”

Ah, the crazy cycle, I conclude with her. And the tough thing too, is that often those things, those activities that can draw us away from joining in our relationship with Him can be good things–like serving in our communities, or taking another study, or saying yes to that volunteer position even in a schedule already full.

Those things, those activities that are to show the world who Christ is, and for us to do to learn about Christ to become more like Christ.

But I wonder if sometimes in our doing we turn it all upside down, and turn away from fellowship with Him instead of toward? Continue reading “Why not to offer doing the dishes”

What story are you telling yourself?

 

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Have you seen that new facebook feature? The one where you can share a post from a year ago. I haven’t participated but smile or maybe even raise an eyebrow, and click the ‘thumbs up’ from time to time when I see friends posting their past memories.

And my analytical, pondering, and forever-curious mind asks the question: What’s different for them today than from a year ago?

Has anything changed?

Does anyone really change? 

Have I changed?

Continue reading “What story are you telling yourself?”

Being single in a coupled church

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It’s been about 5 years since I first entered what is now my home church, on a cold December Saturday evening. I’d been exploring my faith again after many, many years of being away from the Christian church. But still always searching with the restlessness of one knowing there is a pursuant that he/she senses, yet turns to things of this world to satisfy.

For some that have shared their stories with me, it has been addictions in forms such as alcohol, legal and illegal drugs, and food to satisfy.

For me those things, those worldly ways to fill my always unsatisfied ego included the attention of men, the temporary satisfaction of being desired.

I was the perfect example of the ol’ saying: Looking for love in all the wrong places. 

I look back to a moment, divorced 12 years , driving on a rural highway. Broken, tears flowing from another bad decision, another chosen path of satisfying in the wrong place, when I hear Him.  Continue reading “Being single in a coupled church”

In the transformation

 

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It’s 2 am and after repeating a nursery rhyme in my mind dozens of times, I finally resolve to just turn on the light. From my office I grab my laptop, and then settle once again in my bed but with screen and words, instead of darkness and thoughts.

There’s a restlessness in this transition. An unsettling.

There is no physical transition. No move from one residence to another. Or change of church or relationships.

I see this cocoon, a fuzzy creature inside, transforming, my fasting girlfriend tells me the other day.

A fuzzy creature. I smile at that image. But also feel the constriction of being wound up in a small place, with no where to go.

And it’s uncomfortable, this place of transforming.

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This place where no doing distracts and disturbs from the process.

I don’t like it. I want to return to the busyness, the constant buzz of people every evening, and the to-do lists of event plans.

Why am I not doing?

Continue reading “In the transformation”

Reversal Changes

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The other day I was witness to a story of young lady whose life has been transformed in the past two months since she came back to Christ. There’s a lightness, a spirit of giddiness even, emanating from her every posture.

And it took me back 5 years ago to when I submerged myself in baptism, feeling light, free, and full of an endless horizon of hope.

Then months later the first crisis hit and enveloped me in a season of confusion and darkness.

I think of the many circumstances the Jewish people endured, often exiled into lands unknown, facing terrors I cannot even fathom.

When Persian King Xerxes reigned over 127 provinces from the citadel of Susa, a decree was issued to slaughter all the Jewish people living within the borders of the Persian Empire. (473 B.C) Also the decree, obtained and executed by the Kings prime minister, Haman, included confiscation of the Jews property.

All the Jewish people to die. Not even the women and children excluded.

And all property to be taken.

Dead and left with nothing.

Can you imagine the terror?

In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes. Esther 4:3

We see daily now in our newspapers, our social media feeds, and televised current events of people, women and children included, persecuted, slaughtered, killed for their faith. And images of survivors fleeing in terror.

And we may wonder, ‘Is there hope in this? Can it be changed?’  Continue reading “Reversal Changes”

Processing life

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My heels clicked against the hardwood floor, the only sound in the hushed church. I climbed the three steps onto the alter and positioned myself behind the podium, the microphone on, waiting to expand my soft, low voice.

The words black against the bright screen of my Ipad, I began. Began a speech I never thought I’d be delivering.

It wasn’t in my daily planner, to be delivering the eulogy at my father’s funeral mass last week. That Wednesday.

Life changed in a blink of an eye.

The call came on just the previous Friday, from my eldest sister, provinces away.

And by Saturday morning he had passed at 88 years old. A day later, a four hour flight east with my middle sister takes us there, to where he lives, lived, to gather as a family of five children, spouses, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren.

Honoring a life.

“Boy, did he ever worry about you,” a long-time friend of my dad tells me at the visitation.

I smile. Nod. I know.

I know the dream he had for me.

And what would have made my dad be less fretful, worrisome over me.

And he didn’t get to see it come true.

And that for me is one of the saddest parts of being in the living, while a loved one has passed on. I know what he wanted for me, yet I wasn’t able to give it to him before he passed on. 

I think that is the turmoil I feel right now. But not sure.  Continue reading “Processing life”