Some Relationship Basics-

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift- Matthew 5:23-24

 Relationships.

 The blessing and curse of human existence.

 When our closest relationships are healthy and thriving, there is nothing more rewarding.  When a close relationship goes bad there is literally nothing more miserable and angst-inducing.  

 In our chaotic, sin-sick world fragmented relationships are pretty much a given. Almost half of marriages end in divorce, friendships end as quickly as they begin, business associations rarely stand the test of time and churches routinely split over the stupidest stuff imaginable. We live in a culture that has trained us to believe that life is “all about me”. This creates an environment where it feels natural to treat relationships like disposable commodities. We have basically forgotten the principle found in Proverbs that reminds us never to forsake a friend or the friend of a family member- (Proverbs 27:10a)

 The Bible clearly teaches Christians bear an extra measure of responsibility when it comes to the care, keeping and healing of relationships. We are reminded over and over again in Scripture that human relationships are not always easy but the difficulties involved in maintaining healthy relationships will make us better people (Proverbs 27:6, Proverbs 27:17).  Christians are directed to treat others the way they want to be treated and encouraged to take the initiative when it comes to reconciling broken relationships (Matthew 7:12, Ephesians 4:32, Matthew 5:23-24, Luke 12:58). Repairing damaged relationships and helping others to do the same is probably the most basic task Christians are called to in this life (2nd Corinthians 5:12-18) The process begins with understanding and choosing to live out the following six principles:

 If something feels wrong assume something is wrong-

 Never trivialize or ignore the niggling sense you may have caused offense or alienated another person (Proverbs 18:19). When in doubt ask how the other person is feeling and/or modify your behavior. The earlier a damaged relationship is attended to the simpler it is to repair.

 Do not short-circuit the recovery process-

 Anytime we jump to simply restoring a broken relationship without working through the issues that fractured the relationship in the first place we set in motion a series of events that will inevitably lead to even more brokenness and hurt. Problems need to be talked out, not glossed over if we want to see permanent recovery in the relationship and personal growth in ourselves. 

 Be willing to assume at least partial responsibility for any relationship fracture-  

 I truly loathe the adage: “perception is reality”. Mostly because if you really break it down it sounds like something a really crazy person would say. However, when it comes to hurt in relationships perception really is reality. It is critical we remember ALL human beings tend to be self-absorbed and blind to their own faults. For that reason, it is possible to hurt another person without knowing how we hurt them. Healthy, mature believers are always open to the idea that they may not understand how their words or actions have affected another person

 Accept the other person’s opinions regarding the situation-

 If someone lets you know the relationship has been broken or feels they were wronged by you it is not wise, kind or emotionally intelligent to write that person off as stupid, incorrect, easily hurt or just plain clueless. As Christians we owe it to God and people to find out why others feel the way they feel about situations that involve us—even when we truly believe we have done nothing wrong.  Not caring about the other persons side of things is both narcissistic and grossly sinful.  The only time we are free from the obligation of exploring the other person’s perspective is if the individual flatly refuses to communicate with us.

 Be willing to let some things go-

 Our personal relationships matter to God partly because relationship health is a measure of our spiritual health and maturity level. It is also reasonable to say that from God’s perspective relationships are nearly always worth preserving (Proverbs 17:9). The key to achieving relationship health is a willingness to let some things go. Cruelty, gas lighting, unfaithfulness in marriage or flagrant disrespect for the other person is never okay. That said, most other issues can be worked through if both parties are willing to listen, change and forgive.

Choose to view relationship troubles as opportunities for growth- 

 No normal, healthy or sane human being likes to have problems in their personal relationships. That said, truly mature people view all problems including relationship problems as an opportunity for growth rather than a hassle or a personal attack.

 The health of our relationships is a measure of our maturity. It is also a reflection of the power of our God in the eyes of unbelievers. A God who has the power to impact our relationships is a God worth following. For that reason Christians should do everything they can do to ensure their relationships are healthy and God honoring. 

Why it’s Critical We Get Free of the Past-

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland~ Isaiah 43:18-20 NIV

 Recently I heard a powerful and thought-provoking quote that left me feeling more than a bit navel gaze-y: 

 Always look forward. Remember there are no birds in last year’s nests~ Don Quixote  

  I am not opposed to looking backward as long as it is done for the right reasons. We should remember the events of the past because we’re incapable of learning anything from anything we willfully forget. I also believe the heroic acts of the past ought to be honored in the present; and it pretty much goes without saying that Christians should be mindful of the good things God has done for us in the past (Deuteronomy 32:6-8, 1stChronicles 16:11-13).

 All that being said.

Far too many of us get stuck in the past in all the wrong ways. In doing so we give the past more power than it deserves which inevitably prevents us from accomplishing the tasks God intends for us to do today (Ephesians 2:10). Most of the time there is profound wisdom in leaving the past where it’s at and choosing to get on board with what God is doing right now. There are seven reasons to let go of the old so God can do whatever new things He’s looking to do in our lives:  

 Getting stuck in the past creates bitterness-

Oftentimes we get stuck in the past because we are hurt or angry about something unpleasant that happened there. The sense we were cheated or wronged can lead to bitterness in the present. It’s critical Christians keep the sin of bitterness from taking root in their lives (Ephesians 4:31). This is because bitterness makes Christians utterly and profoundly useless (Hebrews 12:15, Acts 8:23) and no genuine believer in Jesus ever wants to be useless.  The key to getting free from bitterness is to the take time to prayerfully process painful events from the past and then make the choice everyday to live life with our hearts and minds firmly rooted in the present.

 An unhealthy perspective on the past stops spiritual growth in the present-

 Whenever we develop an unhealthy perspective on the past we naturally become neurotically focused on our own personal junk. We become obsessed with our feelings and when we focus heavily on feelings we become blind to our own faults. This leads to blaming others for the things we choose to do. Transformation occurs when we see our faults clearly and ask God to give us the power to change the things that need changing in our lives.

 Living in the past makes us sentimental in all the wrong ways-

 Sentimentality is certainly not a sin. However, it can easily cross the line into sinful territory if we make the object of our sentimentality into an idol we worship. The classic worldly example is the former high school football star who cannot move forward in life because he simply cannot stop pining for his glory days. The timeless church example is the Christian who cannot enjoy church or serve effectively today because he or she cannot stop pining for the way church was once done.   

 Getting stuck in the past makes it impossible to effectively lead others-

 Christians are called to be leaders. Leaders look to the future and take people to places (physically and spiritually) they have never been before. Christians are called to lead others into biblical thinking, righteous living, healthy relationships and most importantly, relationship with Jesus (Colossians 3:16, 2nd Timothy 2:24, Titus 2:7, Hebrews 5:12). Everyone leads someone. Profession, gender and age are irrelevant to the call to lead others into spiritual health and relationship with Jesus. No one in history has ever led anyone forward while looking behind them.   

 Focusing on the past keeps us from being grateful in the present –

 Gratitude is all about noticing things (Colossians 4:2).  Grateful people don’t typically have more than ungrateful people they are just more aware of God and what He is doing for them than ungrateful people are. We are the most grateful when we are living in the moment and choosing to see what God is doing for us right now.   

 We lose our ability to forgive when focus heavily on the past-

 We will never be free do what God is calling us to do in the here and now while we are living in bondage to past hurt (Matthew 6:14-15). Forgiveness is hard because it always involves letting go of anger and hurt that in a very real sense we have a “right” to hold on to. Forgiveness rarely happens quickly and without some processing. In order to forgive we need to walk through the hurt and then ask God (sometimes repeatedly) to empower us to let go of the feelings of anger and resentment that are keeping us stuck in past.

 

Breaking Free From Regret


Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death~ 2nd 7:10

 Regret is a tough topic.

 Mostly because there are so many different levels of regret. Some regrets are minor in the grand scheme of things. Missed opportunities to do good or an occasional overindulgence (AKA taco night at my house) are lamentable for entirely different reasons. However, none of those scenarios leads to the kind of grief that steals our joy and keeps us stuck in destructive emotional and spiritual patterns.

 Other regrets are tougher to reconcile because some regrets are by their very nature trickier to overcome. A missed opportunity to do good can typically be made-up at another time and the consequences of most indulgences can be remedied with a little extra exercise. Other choices are less easily overcome. We might deeply regret getting married and/or divorced, our chosen career path, the choice to have (or not have) children, or a great big sinful decision that simply cannot be undone.

 Whatever the cause, regret can quickly become psychologically and spiritually debilitating. This is especially true if we allow ourselves to get stuck in the quagmire of “what if” and “if only” thinking. When this happens, we spend an inordinate amount of time wondering what life would look like if only we had made another decision or wishing we had taken another route in life.

 “What if” and “if only” thinking is a pointless waste of energy because it keeps us stuck in the past and focuses our energy in an introspective, navel gaze-y kind of way that will never actually change anything. To the best of my (admittedly limited) knowledge even God cannot change the past. Consequently, there is nothing to be gained by wishing we could do something that even the Omnipotent Maker of the Universe cannot (or chooses not) do.

 That said.

 Dealing with regret is about more than simply “getting over it” or “moving on”. I am convinced that God wants us to do more than just “get over” stuff. He wants to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ and sometimes God uses our deepest and most profound regrets in life to shape us into the people He wants us to be (Romans 8:28).

 There are four things we need to do anytime we are struggling with regret.

 The first is…

 Own what you need to own-

 Wise people own their mistakes because they know they will never grow past anything they refuse to take responsibility for (Psalm 32:5). If you have regrets concerning your marriage or how your kids turned out, do enough soul searching to figure out your part in the mess and own it. Don’t blame God, your parents, your spouse, society, or the church for the choices you made. No one can change what they refuse to acknowledge. Taking ownership is the first step to solving problems and living at peace with the past.

 Change what you can change-

 Taking responsibility frees us up to see what can and cannot be changed in any given situation. Sometimes even small changes in how we deal with people or circumstances can dramatically affect the outcome of the situation or the health of the relationship. If you don’t know what to do, read some Christian books, seek the advice of someone who has their life together or spend some time with a Christian counselor or pastor. Whatever you do, don’t give-up.  

Make right what needs to be made right-

 This means seeking forgiveness (Psalm 38:18, Hebrews 8:12). Every sin is ultimately a sin against God, so go to Him first and ask him to forgive you (He will). Then talk to the people you have hurt or wronged. If you were a crummy parent, spouse or friend be honest about your shortcomings and don’t blame others for your failures (Psalm 37:37, Hebrews 12:14). Seeking forgiveness from the people we hurt may or may not change how they feel about us but it does create an environment where God can bless and heal us.    

 Trust in the resurrection power of Jesus to do what we cannot do-

 Sadly, there are times in life when situations or relationships are simply broken beyond our ability to fix them. Once we’ve done what we can do, we need to trust God to do the impossible. The Bible is clear; if you are a believer in Jesus then the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is living in you and working on your behalf (Romans 8:11). The resurrection power of Jesus is not only about salvation. Over time (if we let it) God’s power infiltrates our lives and that power allows Him to do the impossible and fix the things that broken beyond fixing.

 

 

 

 

Why We Cannot Do the Christian Life Solo

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing~ 1st Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

 When I was in the third grade I missed winning the classroom spelling bee by one word. I remember the stupid word as if it was yesterday.

 Banana.

 It was the n’s that messed me up. They still do. More often than not, I still spell banana with three n’s. For some reason banana with two n’s still feels a bit sad and inadequate to me.

 Although I did not win the third grade spelling bee that year, the taste of a near-victory ignited within in me a fiery-hot passion to dominate at the next year’s spelling bee. I vividly imagined the sweet victory I would bask in as I sauntered into my house sporting the snappy blue ribbon the teacher awarded to the winner. I believed with all my heart that if I could win the classroom spelling bee I would surely go on to win the school spelling bee and then the regionals, perhaps even nationals. I would be the spelling-bee champion of the entire universe.

 Every human being on earth would bow to my spelling prowess.

 Unfortunately, I lacked commitment to the one component essential to any sort of academic success, studying. My intentions were noble, but I was kind of lazy and had yet to make the connection between short-term sacrifice (studying) and long-term payoff (spelling bee champion of the universe).

 Since then I have learned that there is more often than not a connection between commitment to one thing and success at something that feels completely unrelated. This is particularly true of spiritual growth.

 If you have been a Christian for longer than fifteen minutes you have likely heard the tried and true formula for Christian growth and maturity.

 Bible reading + prayer + church attendance = Mature believer in Jesus

 Bible reading, prayer and church attendance have long been thought to be the holy grail of Christian growth, and with good reason, all three are vital to spiritual growth. However, I am convinced it takes more than just those three things to grow into the people God has called us to be.

 We need people.

 Sadly, most of us have all but forgotten the fact that spiritual maturity is a complicated process that takes place most successfully in the company of other believers. Bible reading, prayer and church attendance absent of close relationships with other Christians can easily devolve into reading without understanding, prayer without power and the awful sensation of being utterly alone in a gathering of people.

 That is a recipe for hopelessness.

 Spiritual growth happens when we are exposed to people who have successfully walked through the junk we are currently walking through. This takes place most effectively in small groups or classes where we really get to know people, where we have our ideas about the Bible and life challenged by people who know more than we do and who have experienced things we have not. We grow when we learn to love people, and we cannot truly love people we do not know.

 Some things simply cannot be accomplished alone. It is almost impossible to encourage ones self without sounding like a crazy person. But without encouragement there is a very real danger our hearts will become hard towards God (Hebrews 3:13). We will never become wise without the ongoing influence of wise people in our lives (Proverbs 13:20) and it is only in the company of others that our faulty thinking is exposed and rough edges made smooth.

 Nothing worth having occurs without some sort of sacrifice, and relationships are no different. Building relationships with other Christians might mean giving up a night of television or having your kid cut back on sports so you can make time for a small group. Building relationships might mean dragging your weary butt out of bed an hour earlier on Sunday mornings so you can attend an adult Sunday school class. It might mean volunteering to lead a small group in your church or inviting a group of people over for dinner so you can get to know them better.

 Building relationships is time consuming and tricky but the payoff we receive is well worth the effort it takes. Because God has designed the universe in such a way that it is only within the context of Christian friendship where we find the support and encouragement we need to grow into the people God has called us to be (Acts 2:44-46).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s to Blame for the Blame Game?

 

I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want~ Romans 7:18-19 NASB

 I have concluded that our society has lost all connection to reason and common sense. Following is a small sampling of the evidence:

Any parent who has had a child who has been bullied will tell you that school counselors always tell the kid being bullied that they should feel compassion towards the one bullying them because the bully “has had a tough life”. A psychology professor at the University of Queensland made headlines with good news for cheaters. He asserts it is evolution and genetics, rather than morality or ethics that is ultimately responsible for a wandering eye.

 Last year ISIS recorded the brutal decapitations of twenty-one Coptic Christians. Secretary of State John Kerry cited lack of jobs and educational opportunities as the cause of the savagery. TLC has a show that follows the life of a teenage boy who wants to be, and is in the process of becoming, a girl. His parents blame fate for imprisoning their boy in the wrong body and say they support their son’s decision to pursue life as a female because they want their child to be “who ‘she’ really is” (what?).

 There’s more.

 It’s guns not the criminals who kill people blamed for gun violence. Schools and teachers- rather than parents and their children—are blamed for the poor academic performance of students. Fatty food and sugary soft drinks are often cited as the cause of health issues. Nobody blames the folks who eat the food and drink the sodas for the obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

 Video games, movies, television and rap music are routinely blamed for the degenerate conduct of millions of young people. No one ever talks about the parents who fork over their hard-earned cash so their kids can indulge themselves in sketchy entertainment choices or the kids who willingly and wantonly fill their minds with garbage.

 Every Christian with even a shred of rational thought left in their head ought to be concerned about how we got to this place as a society. This is a big deal. The tendency to blame is changing our society and the thinking has infiltrated Christian circles. We blame liberals for introducing worldly and heretical philosophies into the church. We blame the culture for normalizing abnormal sexual behaviors but little is said about the Christians who CHOOSE to believe the lies and embrace the behaviors.

 I am persuaded that our inclination to blame things rather than people is more of a spiritual issue than a societal one. At the root of this problem lies ignorance concerning the reality of human nature. Most churches have all but given-up on teaching the Christian doctrine that explains why people do the stuff they do. For those of you who are thinking about tuning me out (I know you’re out there) because I dropped the dreaded D-word (doctrine) hear me out. This is thought-provoking stuff.

 I promise.

 Years ago pastors and teachers in Evangelical churches became weary with teaching their congregations that human beings are inherently bad or born sinful, even though the teaching is found in many passages of Scripture, including: Psalm 51:5, Isaiah 64:6-7, Romans 5:12-14 and 1st Timothy 1:15-16. Understandably the teaching that people are born with a sinful nature made some folks feel bad and some Christian teachers concluded that making folks feel bad about themselves and their choices was keeping the church from reaching its full potential. So they dropped the doctrine of original sin like an ugly prom date and promptly moved on to cheerier topics.

 For decades many have accepted the deception that human beings are perfect little snowflakes. Buying into that deception means we also have to believe that any bad behavior on the part of our fellow humans or ourselves has to be the fault of outside forces rather than the fault of the person doing the sinning. So we blame mental illness, bad parenting, evolution, fate, food, the devil, coworkers, hormones, genetics or our spouse for our bad behavior. Nobody wants to face the unpleasant reality that we, rather than outside forces are usually the problem.

 It’s time for reformation of personal responsibility.

 The most successful societal reformations have all started with God’s people. It’s time for pastors to get back to the teaching of doctrine, including the doctrine of original sin, but it’s also time for individual Christians to become more aware of our own propensity to blame rather than take responsibility. Then we need to be an example and own up to our own issues.

 Change begins with us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God and the Election

Work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare~ Jeremiah 29:7 NLT

 Life is filled with disappointments.

 For most of us, our acquaintance with disappointment begins fairly early usually around the same time we discover the truth about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Hopefully, as we mature, the issues that cause us disappointment evolve at least a little. Nevertheless disappointment tends to remain an issue for most of us.

 This reality has been validated by the outcome of the 2016 election.

 As of this week, the fix is clearly in. We know with absolute certainty that barring a federal indictment or a third party miracle candidate either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump will serve as leader of the free world come January 20th, 2017.

 This was not the outcome I wanted or I prayed for. I have made a gloomy sort of peace with the fact that this election will be a choice between the lesser of two evils and I have to choose one or I am in effect choosing the other, and I have chosen my candidate.

 However, I don’t have to like it.

 In my opinion neither is fit for public office. I have never in all my life seen two candidates who are both so terrible in their own unique way. For me, having to choose between the two is almost like being forced to choose which incurable venereal disease I want to have. Both have a consistent track record of flip-flopping, personal corruption, shady deals and less-than-stellar judgment calls.

 Sigh.

 My initial inclination was to purchase a tract of land in a remote section of Wyoming and begin hoarding dehydrated food and drinking water. Eventually I calmed down and began a journey through the five stages of grief. I probably spent more time in denial and anger than is healthy before landing on acceptance, with acceptance came the acknowledgement that God is still firmly in control.

 Then I started thinking.

 I started thinking about God’s purpose in all this and how Christians (including myself) ought to respond to the chaos that has erupted in recent years. After some thought and a lot of prayer I concluded that there are at least three things Christians can do right now to prepare for the future and be light in the increasingly strange times we live in.

 First:

 Pray- Matthew 7:7, 1st Timothy 2:1-3, Matthew 18:18-19

 Pray that spiritual leaders will be discerning and sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Pray for truth to take root in our world. Pray for wisdom. Pray for world leaders. Pray for the next President. Pray for people to get saved. Pray our political leaders will become the people we desperately need them to be. Just pray.

 Speak boldly- Acts 4:31

 For too long most of us have equated spiritual boldness with rudeness or disrespect for the values of others. Since no rational human wants to be an impertinent jerk, Christians have become timid and even fearful when it comes to proclaiming truth. It’s time to find some balance and start speaking the truth about sin, life, death, heaven and hell. We should choose our words wisely when we speak (Colossians 4:6). That being said, we need to speak up. Our world is literally perishing due to a lack of spiritual knowledge.

 Get grounded in the word- Psalm 119:105, John 8:32

 We live in an age of deception. We are constantly bombarded with the message that right is wrong and wrong is right. Even some who know better have departed from the truth and begun to assert that all spiritual paths lead to the same place and some prominent teachers and preachers have begun to claim that the God of the Bible goes by many names. None of this is true. Not coincidently, these radical shifts in thinking have taken place as corporate Bible studies are being dropped in many churches. The truth found in the Bible is the only antidote to the deception out there. We should study it.

 God has reminded me over and over again these past weeks that my hope is not in the political process. My hope is in God who calls each one of us to fully face the challenges of our world with hearts full faith.

 The fact that God has ultimate control over the political process is in a sense all the hope we need in this world. We know that no matter what happens in the coming weeks and months, we can rest easy knowing that God, not the next president is ultimately in control of all things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Key to Dealing with Disappointment

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit~ Romans 15:13 NIV

 I will not lie. It’s been a chaotic couple of weeks around our house. We have been in the final throes of the moving process and experienced all the standard drama associated with moving ones worldly belongings across four states and over sixteen hundred miles.

Everything and I mean everything, has taken longer and cost more than we thought it would. The electric company called last week to let us know that our first bill was sent back (they were not amused). A few phone calls revealed that ALL our mail is being returned to sender and a trip to the post office has yet to remedy the situation.

 Our new neighborhood is a place where folks take lawn care seriously and we have not figured out how to make the sprinkler system work. As a result our lawn is turning an ominous shade of brown and the neighbors have begun to cast sideways glances at us. The dogs are troubled by the recent changes and cannot figure out on a consistent basis where they are supposed to “do their business”.

 Sadly, all that pales in comparison to the drama we have experienced with one of our kids. This kid has been what can only be described as a mammoth pain in the backside for weeks now. We have been losing our minds trying to find an explanation for this behavior.

 A long encouraging conversation resulted in no discernable change in behavior. We then attempted some coaching, when that failed we moved on to gentle correction, praying for wisdom, and finally punishing the bad behavior with increasing intensity: nothing worked. We wondered if the disobedience was perhaps a result of homesickness or missing the old school or perhaps even a weird side-effect of getting less sunshine.

 After a number of increasingly more intense discussions it was revealed that at the root of the angsty misbehavior was something more basic…

 Disappointment.

 I am not sure what the kid was hoping for, and neither do they. But it turns out that living in Washington is a lot like living in Arizona only with more rain and fewer swimming pools. They were expecting things to somehow be different, more exciting, and less humdrum. At one point in the conversation they did admit that at the very least were hoping that a change in location would result in a change of expectations. We discussed the issue at length and I am pleased to report that life in Price household has finally returned to something that more closely resembles normal.

 My immediate reaction was relief that the crisis was over; relief was followed quickly by amusement. My amusement faded when it hit me that even many grown-ups have been guilty of the same sort of wishful hoping at one time or another.

 Most of us have irrationally hoped that making an outward alteration in education level, tax bracket, marital status or zip code would somehow alter more than just our education level, marital status, zip code or tax bracket. We believe deep down inside that getting married will fix our relationship problems, moving will transform us into a more interesting person or that getting a degree will give us the sense of belonging or prestige we have always longed for. When we wake-up the day after making the big change as the same person we’ve always been, reality results in…

 Disappointment.

 Disappointment is unavoidable in a fallen world. Few things in life work out exactly as we hoped or even planned they would. If disappointment is not handled properly it can transform into anger towards God. If anger is allowed to fester it will eventually grow into a cancer that always results in either a nasty case of depression or a grown-up version of acting out. We act-out (sin) because deep down inside we feel that our disappointment has earned us the right to take pleasure where we can find it. Acting-out is an ugly thing that never ends well for anyone, regardless of age.

 For Christians the key to coping with the inevitable disappointments of life begins with a willingness to surrender our dreams and desires to God. When we let go of our dreams and desires, we are freed up to embrace the dreams God has for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

Are Christians Flawless?

Behind the wheel of a motor vehicle is the one place on Earth where I tend to forget all about Jesus and being a Christ follower. It’s fair to say that a Christian song playing just the right thing at just the right moment has averted more than a few occurrences of road rage and perhaps even saved some lives in our greater metropolitan area.

When You’re Ready For It to be Over Already

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength~ Isaiah 40:29-31a

For the most part my son was a sweet and obedient little boy. However, there was one area he struggled throughout his childhood. Alex was (and is now) a kid who routinely spoke his mind, irrespective of the appropriateness of the situation.

 When Alex was six my husband took him to a local home improvement store where he saw a man dressed as a woman for the first time. Alex stared at the man for just a second or two, gave a slight nod, as if he had made his mind up about something significant and loudly declared that if men were going to wear dresses they ought to at least shave their legs. Alex charmed everyone within earshot with his thoroughly naïve but straightforward appraisal of the situation, except of course, the man wearing the dress.

 My son’s inclination to boldly speak his mind was not limited to the questionable wardrobe choices of others. Nor did it start when he was six. It started in early toddlerhood. To my utter horror, He would routinely ask total strangers the most personal questions imaginable. He also made a regular habit of informing the parents of other children when he felt their kids were misbehaving. He was notorious for correcting or contradicting any opinion he believed to be based on misinformation. Regardless of the age or person giving the opinion.

 As awkward, embarrassing and downright irritating all that was, nothing matched the level of humiliation I felt when my son would decide was ready to leave a gathering or a play date. Once he made-up his mind that he had enough fun for the day, he would approach me (he never once did this privately) and announce loudly that he was “done” and “ready for it to be over”. Once my initial inclination to hide under the furniture passed, I was typically overwhelmed with a very un-motherly yearning to murder my own offspring. For nearly a year of his childhood most of our outings ended with a lengthy lecture on the importance of not actually saying everything we think or feel.

 Alex’s desire to be done with any situation he wasn’t enjoying anymore was maddening. However, I do understand his feelings. Sometimes even grown-ups are done with a situation or trial long before God has decided it’s time for us to move on.

Lately, I have found myself saying some things to God that sound remarkably like the things my toddler used to say to me.

 It is not as if the trial we’ve experienced has been the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone. We have a great deal to be thankful for. We have a steady income, our kids are healthy, none of them are currently using drugs or openly rebelling against God, we have a roof over our heads and food on the table. My husband and I are healthy and our marriage is solid. In other words all the stuff that really matters in this life is still okay in our world.

 All that said, having a house that has sat on a stagnant market for the better part of a year has been hard. Our lives are currently on hold. The youngest is struggling emotionally. Living apart has been tough (to say the least) and our checking account needs CPR. However none of those issues compare to the spiritual bewilderment we have experienced as we waited for God to act on our behalf.

 There have been many times over the course of the last eight months when I have felt as if we were being tested (and failing badly). I now know I was wrong, at least about the testing part. We have been reading the situation all-wrong. It’s not a test.

 It’s an opportunity.

 Like any trial the last eight months has been an opportunity to learn to love and trust God even when life is a lot less than easy and the answers are hard to find. It’s been an opportunity to trust and to proclaim the goodness of God even when He has felt far away. It’s been opportunity to show the world what faith really looks like (Hebrews 11:1).

 I know this likely won’t be last time I will be given an opportunity that feels like a test. I am hoping and praying that the next time an opportunity disguised, as a misfortune comes around I will have the wisdom to recognize it for what it is sooner.

The Hard Truth Concerning Forgiveness

I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept~ Genesis 50:17

 They have become ubiquitous on Facebook.

Photos of a man standing at sunset, back to the camera arms spread wide in an expression of complete and glorious freedom. Or sometimes the photo is of a young woman dressed in white strolling serenely down a long tree-lined path, suggesting a future filled with joy and endless possibilities.

 The quotes accompanying these images are sometimes spiritually questionable. Others are far too syrupy and sentimental for my taste. However, the vast majority of quotes on the subject are thought provoking and more than a little convicting…

 We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies~ Martin Luther King Jr.

 The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong~ Gandhi

 Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness~ Corrie Ten Boom

 Over the course of the last few years I have had the “opportunity” to work through two unrelated and dissimilar situations, both requiring me to forgive some massive and very personal hurts. I concluded after working through those situations that none of the quotes I have seen tell the complete story of forgiveness. Sappy sentimentalities and inspiring quips extolling the virtues and benefits of forgiveness inevitably miss a core truth.

 Forgiveness is hard.

 Sometimes it hurts almost as much as the offense that necessitated the forgiving. If the offense was particularly personal or the person who did the hurting was someone we trusted. The act of forgiving that person can hurt to the point of physical agony. Forgiveness is tough because involves a release of the right to seek revenge on someone who doubtless has earned some sort of retaliation. The letting go of what is logically a right can feel overwhelmingly unjust.

 Forgiveness is a foundational (albeit sometimes unpopular) doctrine of the Christian faith. God forgives without hesitation, and He clearly expects His people to forgive in the same spirit. Forgiving is so important to God that it’s a prerequisite for obtaining His forgiveness (Matthew 6:15).

 God knows enough about people to know that when we refuse to forgive, unforgiveness transforms us in a profoundly ugly way. We eventually become incapable of focusing on anything but our wounds and resentment. The relentless emphasis on the negative causes our patience to shrivel and our irritation with everyone to increase. Over time we inevitably twist into a hostile, unsympathetic and nasty version of ourselves. 

 Regrettably, knowing all this does not make forgiving any easier.

 It is considerably more difficult (if not impossible) to forgive without God’s assistance and power. Some offenses are simply too great to forgive on our own; we acquire the help we need to forgive through persistent and sometimes prolonged prayer. Prayer keeps us connected to God, prevents bitterness from taking root in our hearts and empowers us to forgive the unforgivable. We pray until our feelings towards the person who did the hurting change.

 Prayer also prevents people from blaming God for situations He had nothing to do with. Oftentimes, when Christians have suffered a serious offense they struggle as much with anger towards God, for allowing the hurt to happen as they do with the person who hurt them. It’s important to understand that God is not a puppet master who controls the choices of people.

 Sometimes people hurt others because they are egotistical, callous or even evil. Most of the time people hurt others because they are stupid, insensitive or lack awareness of how their actions affect others. Either way, it’s profoundly unjust to hold God accountable for the actions of free people.

 Forgiving would be easier if people were capable of simply forgetting offenses. We cannot do that. However, over time, with God’s assistance, we can reach a point where we are no longer held prisoner by the anger we feel towards those who have betrayed us. Forgiveness is freedom that will empower us to live a happy, useful and God-honoring life.