Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a word I have heard a lot in the past 3 years.  I’ve also had to apply it…even though there were times I really didn’t think I could, but by God’s grace I was able to.

You see, true forgiveness comes from the heart.   It’s not just saying “I forgive you” when someone says they are sorry.  In fact, we need to forgive even if people don’t ask for our forgiveness.  Right about now you are probably thinking “No way!  I wouldn’t forgive anyone unless they apologized first.  I have a right to be angry and hurt!” 

The Bible says…

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Matt 6:14-15

Notice it doesn’t say anything about the other person asking your forgiveness before you can forgive them?  It just says to forgive.   Not only that, but it also says that if we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us.  

So let’s see what we get if we don’t forgive someone….we are angry, bitter, hurt and, like the Bible says, God won’t forgive our sins.   Seems like a pretty heavy price to pay!

Now let’s look at what we have if we do forgive…we have peace, love and healing, and God forgives us our sins.  Now I don’t know about you, but I think this sure sounds like a lot better deal!

I personally know the struggle of forgiving people without them asking for it, and I know it’s not easy, but it is SO worth it! Prayer is a HUGE part of being able to forgive.  Ask God to help you.  And it isn’t always just a one-time-and-it’s-over kinda deal…there may (and most likely will) come times when Satan brings that old hurt and anger back to your mind and you need to pray and ask God for help and also remind yourself that it’s forgiven and you are not going to dwell on it…I’m speaking from experience on this one.

I want to just leave you with this to think about…bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for other person to die.  The only one you are hurting by not forgiving, is yourself. 


Our Practice Field

I was going to post this in my last blog post, but I didn’t want to make it any longer than it already was!  This is the last little bit that I wanted to share from “When God Writes Your Love Story”    Once again I’ve underlined what really stuck out to me.

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Our Practice Field

When I was nineteen, God got ahold of my life.  All the excitement I had for the Denver Broncos went directly into my love relationship with Jesus Christ.  Everywhere I went, I would tell people about Jesus, and everyone who knew me before “the change” thought I had just taken a dip in the loony pond.  I was a new Eric!  I was loving people, serving people, and even hugging people.  I was a changed man, throwing a great big love party!  I was a great big bundle of angelic compassion everywhere I went, except when it came time for me to go…home.  The problem was my family never received the invitation.

I’ll never forget the day the tall, lanky stranger muttered the words.  I have heard many words in my life.  Most of them have traveled down my ear canal at the speed of light, never even slowing down for as much as an hors d’oeuvre before exiting out the other side.  But these words stuck.  They sat their gigantic derriere down, made themselves comfortable in my cranium, and let it be known that they were there to stay.  “Did you know that you are only as holy,” the skinny man said, “as you are in your home?”

I was a good Christian.  I had given Jesus Christ my entire ship.  I was learning to love, to guard the treasure of my purity, and to be faithful to my future spouse.  I didn’t know anyone else who was doing that!  But God was showing me, Eric, if you’re not able to act like Jesus now with those most close and familiar, then what makes you think when you get married that you are going to be an example of Jesus to your wife?  Eric, you are only as Christlike as you are Christlike around your family.  If you start there, where it is most difficult to love, then it will be easy to display Christ everywhere else!

Family is our practice field.  We take into our future marriage what we learn in our life with “them” in the here and now.  If we learn to snub and disown those closest to us now, we’re setting habit patterns for broken trust and emotional heartache in the future.  If we train ourselves in the here and now to verbally abuse our family members, we will be conditioning ourselves to bite rather than bless in the future.

When I was eight, my mom signed me up for piano lessons.  I loved to tinker but I hated the practice.  Practice is the most grueling aspect of success.  But when the day of the recital came, I was always very glad my mom had forced me to practice.  Because I was prepared, I was a whole lot less likely to make a fool of myself in front of the crowd.

“Them”…

As I finished reading  “When God Writes Your Love Story” by Eric and Leslie Ludy, last night,  I came across some more things that I would like to share.  The parts I’ve underlined are what really stuck out to me.   I know this is kind of long, but please, take the time and read it! 

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Them

There are four people on the planet earth who can irritate me quicker than any others.  I have tremendous patience, boundless grace, and bottomless mercy for seemingly everyone but these four people

I really do desire to be an example of Jesus to everyone I meet.  I want people to walk away after spending time with me thinking, That must be what Jesus acts like. There are moments when I really think I’m getting there, then…I get around one of them.

Each of us has our “them.”  Maybe you don’t have four; maybe you have two, or maybe you have twenty.  But we all have them.  A good formula for finding the “them” in your life is to look for all those who share the same last name with you, always get a slice of your birthday cake, and have an exact replica of your nose stuck on their funny-looking faces.  “Them” in your life just as in mine, are familiar.  Awfully familiar!  You know everything from the bad jokes they always try to crack to their personal body fragrance.

Really, the only requirement for a “them” in our lives is familiarity. Or, if familiarity is too vague a word, how about this one: family?  Yes, it’s true!  Everyone else in the world may be bamboozled into thinking we are perfect angels, but our family will always know the truth.

If you were to take a peek inside the windows of my home while I was growing up, you would have wonderful blackmail material on me now.  I was a “Christian,” but strangely, you wouldn’t have ever confused me with St. Francis of Assisi.  I was anything but Christlike as I roamed the hallways of my home.

In a matter of three seconds I could scream, “What are you doing?  This is my room, you big Stink!  Get outta here!  Hey! Turn it back! I was watching the game!  Meatloaf for dinner?  I hate meatloaf!”  We for some reason feel very comfortable venting all of our pent-up frustrations on those who make the mistake of being related to us.

We demand that our family be perfect, and we don’t allow room for error.  Let me make a case in point.  If one of you accidentally stepped on my big toe – and I mean you really smooshed it – my response to you as compared to the way I would respond to my brother, if he did it, is strangely different.

To you I would gasp, “That’s all right!”  And even if my face was fire-red and my cheeks were bloated from containing my yelp, I would say, “Those things happen!  I’ll survive!”

You see, to you I would offer grace.  I would excuse your mistake.  Now, my brother, on the other hand…he should know better than to smoosh the big toe of his older brother.  My response to him would be a little more animated.

“Hey!” I would scream.  “What do you think you’re doing?  Watch where you’re walking!”  Then, as is appropriate for all good and healthy brotherly encounters, I would give him a hard shove.

It’s difficult for us to extend grace to the “them” in our lives.  We often expect them to live at a higher standard of perfection than anyone else on the planet.

But it doesn’t stop here.  Not only do those closest to us get under our skin and irritate us, but they can also wound us in a way no one else can.

If you came up to me and said, “Eric, you stink, you’re ugly, and I hate you!”  I would probably step back, blink a couple of times, and then say, “Well, ah, thanks for being so blunt!”  I would go home and tell Leslie about what you said and probably even feel rejected as I recalled the episode.  Then Leslie would tenderly wrap her arm around my shoulder and say, “Eric, that’s ridiculous!  They are probably on drugs or something.”

Your words might sting for a little while and might cause me to put on an extra puddle of cologne before I head out into public, but I would get over your words.  Why?  Because you’re not my family!

If my dad came up to me and said, “Eric, you stink, you’re ugly, and I hate you!”  I would be absolutely devastated.  Any number of comforting words from Leslie wouldn’t be able to bandage up the wound that my dad’s words would make in my heart and mind.  Your words would hurt, but my dad’s words would cripple.  Because yours would be just an opinion; my dad’s are my “definition of reality.”

Our generation is lying crippled on the side of life’s road because of the words of those most “familiar” with us.  There are many of you reading this book who think of yourselves as stupid because those who knew you best when growing up always said you were “stupid.”  Many of you are convinced that you are fat.  Why?  Because your family always told you that you were “fat”.  Then there are those of you who, in your mind, are ugly simply because the word “ugly” has been used by your little brother to describe your face since you were in kindergarten.  It is family who defines our reality.  Even if they are lying, we can’t help but believe family – because if anyone should know, it’s them!

 It’s no wonder many of us abandon the family ship as soon as we get the chance.  We want to escape the irritants, the bosses, the nitpickers, the know-it-alls.  We head out into this great big world in search of a different family.  You see, we all desire to belong.  God designed us for companionship and for teammates.  We just don’t do well alone.  Some of us try to find it in friends, some of us look for it in sports, and some of us even attempt to find it in our shaggy dog named Waldo.  But when we run from “them” and try and patch up our need with “our choice” of fill-ins instead of God’s choice, we will never cover the ache.  We need family!  We need our “them”!  And not just as the solution to loneliness, but as the secret ingredient to successful romance. 

When we condition ourselves to run away and disown those who are most familiar with us, we’re preparing ourselves for a disastrous future.  Our lives consist of relationships.  God designed us for family.  Intimate family relationships are among the most difficult things we must deal with as humans, because closeness leads to the exposure of who we really are, inside and outside.  We young people have a very short period in our life that God seems to give us for practice.

The Denver Broncos have a preseason in which they hone their football skills, study the plays, and scrimmage.  In the same way, we all have our premarriage season in which we need to hone our family skills, study the relationships playbook, and to learn how to be like Christ to the “them” in our life.

Family isn’t just in our past; it’s very much in our future, too.  And I guarantee you that if you train yourself to model Christ now to those most familiar and close, you will be superb at it when you get married.

For Single Young Women :)

Now I know I have quite a range of people who read my blog, but this post is aimed at all you single young women desiring marriage (although anyone is welcome to read it 🙂 )

This is a letter that was written to my friend by one of the married ladies that used to attend our church group, during a Secret Sister thing we did earlier this year.  My friend was greatly encouraged by it so she shared it with me and I was so encouraged by it that I want to share it with you 🙂

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 “Dear _________,

Oh my…I have been in your shoes and I truly know how difficult it can be.  You feel torn by conflicting emotions.  On one hand, you know God to be completely sufficient. More than sufficient, even – you know Him to be abundantly able to fulfill the deepest longings of your soul.

On the other hand, there is this relationship called marriage.  As God designed it to be, it is the most beautiful relationship on this earth.  To be a woman desired, sought after, and won as a bride…to be a Godly man’s confidante, cheerleader, and friend…to keep his home and bear his children…the longing can be so intense at times!

Often, then, the guilt comes, “if God is sufficient, then why this longing?”  “I must not love God as deeply – as passionate – as I ought to.”   Can I just say this?  The desire for marriage is given of God 🙂

There…no wonder it’s so consuming at times!   And yet that desire has the potential to become idolatrous.  See, there is a reason that the Lord created us with this longing.  It is all about His glory.  God’s glory.  His honor.  His reputation and the truth about His passionate, relentless pursuit and love for His bride → the church.

Marriage is a picture of this relationship.  It’s easy for us to lose sight of that, both before and after we marry.  The purpose is not our own happiness.  The purpose of marriage is the glorification of God by the portrayal of His relationship with His bride!  So then this desire is holy.  But recognize it for what it truly is: the opportunity to represent the Church to the world in your role as a wife.  It is a noble calling and not something to suppress.

But what do you do in the meantime?  Prepare yourself.  I know you are already familiar with the physical aspects of keeping a home.  Prepare yourself spiritually and emotionally.  Learn what God says a Godly wife looks like.  Learn about men and how they think.  Talk to your brothers and gain an understanding of why they act the way they do.  Not all men are the same but often they share strengths and weaknesses that we women do not have. 🙂

Appreciate their strengths and learn how you can be a support and an encouragement in their weaknesses.  Seek to honor and strengthen marriage as a whole – not only your future marriage, but those of the couples around you.

Above all, continually remind yourself that the desire for a husband, in its deepest sense, is actually a desire for God, for a husband is but an earthly picture of our relationship to Jesus Christ.  There a couple of books I’d highly recommend.  OK…more than a couple.  But if you’ve not yet read them, they are excellent!

Desiring God by John Piper

The Pursuit of God and The Pursuit of Man by A.W. Tozer

Hinds Feet on High Places and Mountains of Spices by Hannah Hurnard

And lastly, be willing to be patient. 🙂 God’s timing is not only good; it is perfect.  If He intends for you to marry, then He will bring the two of you together at the proper time.  Not too soon…not too late 🙂  But if He has designed for you to be single, then know that you are not doomed to a life of unfulfilled longing and regret.  You will always have the potential you have right now:  fullness of joy.  Abiding Peace.  The key?  Learning to walk in the presence of God. (“in thy presence is fullness of joy…” – Psalm 16)

Learn to love the voice of God.  Take joy in walking the path He has set before you.  Step by step, “Day by Day” do what He asks of you.  In this way, you can never miss His will for your life.  Believe it or not, marriage and motherhood have even greater opportunities for self-pity and discontent than does singleness…but also very great potential for unsurpassed joy.

Learn the skill of finding joy, contentment, and fulfillment now.  Christ is your only guarantee of those traits later as well.  No man can bear that expectation.  If you learn to find complete satisfaction in Christ, you can release your husband from a great deal of stress and allow him to be a man. 🙂 This will prove very helpful and your husband will be very grateful.

I will pray for you!

Blessings. 🙂

Your Secret Sister

Something a bit lighter :)

It seems like the past several posts I have done have been a little discouraging – or maybe it’s just from my point of view 🙂   So I decided this one will be a bit lighter, and I’ll just share what I did this past weekend 🙂

Anyhow, I went to my friends house Friday morning to help them do some work, and ended up staying the whole weekend – they were very gracious to put up with me that long 😉 .  I had an awesome time!  It’s amazing how, when you are with friends, even work can be fun 🙂 

One of the things that I got to do that I’ve never done before, was help shingle a roof.  Now, I’m not scared of heights, but being at the peak of the roof was just a tad nerve wracking, but I survived.

They even let me use the nail gun a couple of times…yes, can you believe it? But I did it, and, thankfully, there are no injuries to report 🙂 

From here the roof doesn’t look that steep…from the peak, however, it’s a completely different story…trust me 🙂

4 years ago…

4 years ago today, I was sitting in a church…watching my friend, Erin, get married.  She was 23 and I can remember ‘praying’, “God, please don’t make me wait till I’m 23 to get married!  That’s another 5 years!  I don’t want to wait that long!”   Apparently God has a different time schedule than I do, since that 5 years has quickly become 356 days!  Where did that time go?!

As hard as it’s been at times to wait, I am so glad that God did not allow me to get married back then…I was so not ready for it!  Over the past 3 years, He has worked so much in my life…changing me into who He wants me to be.  There are times where I read back over letters I have written to my future husband, and think “wow…did I ever have a lot to learn!!”

With each passing day, God is teaching me more and more…drawing me closer to Him…desiring that the only relationship I have right now is with Him; trusting Him with the pen of my life story.

And, in closing, I’d like to wish Jesse & Erin a Happy 4th Wedding Anniversary!!!

(you can read Erin’s courtship story here: https://iluvgod.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/%e2%80%9cnot-just-watering-camels%e2%80%9d-by-erin-walter-brumbaugh/)