Forgive

I find my voice better through writing instead of speaking. Forgiveness and loving others is currently something I am working through. It’s not been easy. Just when I think I’ve got it, I find myself stumbling again.  Here’s my random thoughts on what I’ve been working on this past year. I hope it makes some sort of sense.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love is not rude,  it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…”

“Forgive.”

Keeping no records of wrongs means to forgive. To give a clean slate. To start over. Okay, I can do that. I can start over. But I can’t seem to get past verse 5 in 1 Cor 13: 4-8.

It’s the forgetting that is difficult. The reminders, the wounds not yet closed, past pains still fresh. Echos of past offenses rearing their ugly heads no matter how much I shout them down.  I rebuke the reminders that the Devil loves to dig back up and telling Him it is all on the Cross. Sometimes the shouting works. But there are times I find myself on my knees, his shouting louder than mine, crippled by past pain.

When the storm seems too rough, and the pain is too great, I want to run. I want to put on my running shoes, pack my bags, buy my ticket and bounce.  I want to rip up the roots that God has so carefully planted and take off. Vanish. Instead, I run to God, chaining myself to the Cross because if I don’t…I’ll run elsewhere.

Instead I let the waves hit and cling to the only hope I have in front of me, and remind myself :

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love is not rude,  it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…”

“Forgive.”

Forgive in spite of pain, disappointments, broken trust, wrongdoings. It seems like so much, difficult for my human heart to comprehend. I want to self protect so that no pain is ever experienced again. God calls me to put down my shield, to be open, to love. To forgive. He applies His healing salve to my wounds that I thought my shield was preventing.

In those moments, I turn to the Lord and say,

“God how can I open my heart to those who have caused so much pain? How can I let them in? How can I let them get close again?

God gently reminds me,

” Baby girl (His name for me), I do that with YOU. With everyone.”

He reminds me of the Israelites, Gomer, Peter, David, Judas, Jacob, Adam, Eve…the list is truly endless. All of our names are on that list. God gives us so much grace and mercy. He could treat us like we treat Him.

I’ve  hurt my Father. I’ve turned away. I’ve put others things above Him. Yet, he waits. He’s patient and waits and when I’m ready, when my striving and wandering are done…He’s there. His arms are open; He showers me with His mercy, grace and love. He forgives.

He’s calling me to do the same.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love is not rude,  it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…”

” Forgive.”

Forgive as God has forgiven me. Love like He loves me. Give clean slates to those who have hurt me.  God says that love covers a multitude of wrongs. I really hope it can. I need it to. I don’t want this to hold me back.

 

 

 

Grace

Grace
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

Grace
It’s a name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace, she’s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

This is probably one of my favorite songs by U2.

Grace. It is something we all have through Jesus. Everyday I am thankful for that. Grace overlooks my humaness. It means that I can fall ( and I do that QUITE often) and be forgiven. It keeps me clean, even when I feel like garbage. It means that I am saved and bound to spend an eternity with Christ.

I'm in it for the wings...and the sword. I've always wanted a sword.

Because I am a daughter of Christ, I am supposed to be like Him and offer that same grace that he offers me and forgive others. I’m struggling a bit with grace and forgiveness this week. So, I looked up a few verses on these so I would know how the bible says to handle it. Here’s what I found:

I am not to fight sin with sin. When others slap one cheek, I am to offer my other (Matt 5:39).

Since God has forgiven us, we must offer the same to others (Matt 18:35) (Eph 4:32), (Matt 6: 14-15)

Once I have forgiven someone, I am supposed to release them from their fault (Mark 11:25-16)

If someone continues to screw up, I am to forgive them again and again. (Luke 17:4)

So after looking at all this, it’s pretty clear…I have to have grace and forgive. It’s mandated that I do so. God won’t forgive me if I can’t offer that same grace to others. So, I try to model this in my relationships with people. But, I am human and that often gets in the way of me giving grace.

In my brief prayer time, I had a few questions for God on this subject:

1) We only have two cheeks.

What do we do when the other has been slapped? Can we start slapping them back? There are times that I encounter people that make me  want go on a slapping spree. Or give them a high five…in their face.

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2) You say that if someone offends us seven times a day, we are to forgive them seven more times.

But, what if they are on their eighth offense? Are we allowed to bonk them?  Just one good whack? Can I tell them what I’m really thinking no matter how mean it would be? It would make me feel better.

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It's therapeutic...really.

3) How do I give someone more grace when I feel I don’t have anything left to give? 

Of course I did not expect God to approve of my solutions for questions 1 and 2; I was just venting my frustrations. But as for question # 3, I really want to know:  How do I give more grace when I feel there is none left to give? How do I find the ability to forgive when there are people out there who are continually hurtful? Am I weak because I keep forgiving?

I ask myself “What would Jesus do?” and I know he would forgive again and again, just as he has done for me. But I am not Jesus. I am human. When I am fed up,  I want to invoke “Shaccola” (my friend Claudia’s name for my inner black girl) and just let the claws come out. I want to spew every angry, hurtful thought that crosses my mind when I am angry. I want to bonk people in the head. In my anger, I can almost be ugly and animalistic.

I'd advise you to run...

When it’s all said and done, I know that being ugly won’t make me feel any better. I know acting outside of grace will just make things worse.  Nothing good comes out of things said or done in anger.

Well...except this.

Somehow, I have to find it in me to have more grace. To be loving,  even when I really just want to whack someone upside their head. God has extended so much grace to me, I owe him my life to do so with others. So, when I am angry and feel like I rather push someone into a pool than offer any more grace, I will refer back to the verses listed above and remember the last lines my favorite U2 song:

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

That’s all from me folks. Off to enjoy the start of my weekend.

Yay!

I am really happy. I think this is my year of conquering fears and actually accomplishing the goals I set out for myself. I am down 20 lbs, running is getting easier and I just feel so much better about myself. It feels good to look at yourself in the mirror and like who you are becoming.

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I'm buying this shirt...seriously.

So I did a difficult thing this weekend…I set a boundary with a friend. It was hard. I didn’t want to do it. I don’t really like the way I went about it, but I got to the point where I had to say or do something before I blew up.

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Yeah, it ain't pretty. No one wants hulk smash.

When I was confronted, I really wanted to lie.  I wanted to keep my mouth shut and just let what was going on roll off my back. Lying seemed to be so much easier. I figured I could spare their feelings and just ignore my own. Who wants to tell another that they continue to hurt you?

However I knew that I could no longer do that, and the time to start respecting myself was now. Also, I knew was an injustice to my friend and things could only change if I told the truth. Not to mention it’s just bad to lie in general.  I was honest, and being honest about someone hurting you, especially when it is a friend, was the hardest thing I’ve done in a long time. It was risky, I knew it could end a good friendship, but it was a risk I had to take.

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So true!

Man I am glad I took that risk! My friends were right; being honest with how I felt really lifted a weight off my shoulders. I didn’t have to pretend anymore. Doing this, I put myself first…something I rarely do, if ever. It was scary, but I am happy I did it. Am I sorry things got kinda ugly with this friend? Definitely.  Do I still want a friendship? Of course. I just need it to be one that does not affect my self esteem and sanity.

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It really is important. I don't want to lose it.

I know things probably won’t go back to the way they were (and that’s not exactly a terrible thing), but I am hopeful they will get better. I learned a lot from this situation and the biggest thing was forgiveness.  I didn’t realize how angry I was after all of this. I was really, really angry and mostly at myself. Why didn’t I respect myself enough to do this sooner? Why was I so afraid to stand up for myself? And lastly, why didn’t I respect the friendship enough that I was afraid to be honest? I’ve been sitting on months of anger and resentment. MONTHS. I’ve basically allowed a ton of negativity to take up  residence in my head for months on end. That’s not healthy.

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Seriously, why do I think this EVER works?!

So, in a sense I guess finally I blew up. I found something that would say exactly what I’ve wanted to say for MONTHS , say it in the nicest way I could possibly think of and I blogged it. It felt good. REALLY good. Yay, it’s out there now! I finally said (sort of) everything I’ve wanted to say. Now, I’ll finally feel better!

Wrong.

When I look back on it now, I wish I would have done it another way and in the end I was still angry.

I tried several ways to surpress it all as I usually do when I am upset- running, music, shopping, hanging out with friends and exploring the bird sanctuary behind my house. None of those really helped; and all I managed to find were giant killer bunnies,  and a cool study spot.

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Ok, these look huge when they are running at you...

After two days of still feeling really crappy about the situation, I finally prayed about it. I poured out everything. I poured out my frustrations about my friend, other similar situations and finally my frustration with myself. After a two hour rant/ prayer/ cry session…I felt better. I also had my answer as to what to do to get rid of the anger:

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Really the last thing I wanted to do...

I’ve been reading up on forgiveness and I realize that although I kept saying that everything was okay…in my heart it wasn’t. True forgiveness means giving someone a clean slate. I was still holding on to the pain and still keeping tabs in a sense. I also read that forgiveness is not just for the person who has hurt you, it’s mostly for yourself. I realized that holding on to all this anger and resentment was blocking me from receiving something greater and from being blessed. Also, not really forgiving this person was actually keeping me unhappy!

One of my goals this year was to be a better Christian; how can I do that if I am unable to truly forgive? I realized that it is time to swallow my pride, and chose to stop being angry. Today, I let everything go. I decided to forgive my friend. Have I told them this yet? No. I plan on it.

Then I forgave myself.

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Everything is better with bacon 🙂

I feel tons better. It’s amazing what happens when you just let go. Now to work on that letter; how the heck do you tell someone you forgive them so they know you mean it?

For the love of God…STOP IT!!!

I walked out of church today.

My friend and I got fed up, collected our belongings and left in the middle of a sermon. At the time, I was completely terrified. Everyone was staring, questioning looks on their faces as to why we would just get up and leave.  As we were walking out, my mind was racing. “Will I ever be able to show my face at this church again? What is everyone thinking? What are WE thinking? Is this wrong? Is God angry?

Yup, never want to experience this...

So, as I’ve mentioned before, my friend and I found an awesome church in Tempe that we have attended for about four weeks. The pastor is amazing. His approach to us is that our church is like a hospital; we are all sick and we are at church to get better. We are all sinners and we all fall short, so our church is a church of grace. He’s been teaching us about Jesus’s last days, the history behind it and how we can apply Jesus’s life and teachings to our lives. I love it and I leave each week feeling pretty spiritually fed.

Best feeling ever...

Our pastor was sent to our church because it’s struggling spiritually. He is mentoring the current pastoral staff so that they can be better leaders. Well…he was out today. We got a taste of why he was called there in the first place.

I got a slow start this morning, so my friend and I ended up being ten minutes late to service. Usually we love being late because after our two worship songs, we are instructed to greet our neighbors before we sit. If we time it just right, we can avoid this awkward exchange. Yes, I know it’s terrible, and yes, I am working on it.

So after the awkward meet and greet, we sat in our seats eagerly awaiting our pastor to approach the pulpit and continue with John 19. I was really excited for this Sundays teaching because we would be going over Jesus’s crucifixion. I knew our pastor would cover it well and we would learn a lot. To our disapointment, another pastor approached the pulpit.

When I realized that our regular pastor was out, my first instinct was to get up and leave. But, I knew that I had to be fair and at least give this unknown pastor a chance to teach before completely writing him off. He started off kinda shaky and I could tell that he was nervous, which was totally fine. I can’t imagine how nerve-wracking it must be to be a shepherd of God and lead his flock each week. But as he continued, I began to feel…sick. Each word that he spoke was filled with guilt and condemnation. There was no hope, humility or love in his words. There was no grace. He told us that we weren’t christian enough. He told us that we weren’t doing enough for Jesus. We weren’t deserving of Jesus’s love.  He painted being a liberal as being a sin ( yes I know this is a stupid thing to get mad about…but that was a stupid thing to say). He basically painted Christianity as a burden and that there was no hope of ever getting better.

Gee...thanks.

As he continued to tell us how sick and sinful we were, I kept waiting for him to to tie it back to the cross. I kept waiting for that grace. Doesn’t he know that we have grace? Doesn’t he know that we are washed clean by the blood? I waited and waited for him to discuss God’s grace. I waited for him to remind us that although Jesus knows the darkness of our hearts, he still loves us.  It never came.

Next to me, my friend was visibly upset. She leaned over to me and asked if we could leave. She wanted to stay out of the respect of the pastor, but his teaching was hurting her. If she were to stay, it would get ugly. I immediately began to freak out. The thought of leaving was terrifying, but I knew that what he was teaching was having the same effect on me. So, I agreed. We walked out. My friend said he got louder as we were walking out of the church, but I was so terrified that I didn’t really notice. The funniest part about this whole thing was that his sermon was about Christians missing the point of Christ. I don’t know about y’all, but I feel he TOTALLY missed the point.

DUH!!!!

Thirty minutes later I was angry and kicking (gently) display cases in Goodwill. I don’t know why it took me so long to react, but all I could feel was anger. Why, WHY must pastors use the guilt method?! Why, WHY do they think using guilt will make us effective as Christians?  Because this method infuriates me, I decided to look up the word guilt so that I can really understand what it means, why it makes me so angry and hopefully explain why I feel it is so harmful as a method of teaching.

According to Wikipedia, guilt is the state of being responsible for the commission of an offense. It is also a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has violated a moral standard, and bears significant responsibility for that violation. It is closely related to the concept of remorse.


So, guilt can be a good thing. It is our moral compass that leads us when we do something wrong and convicts us to remedy that situation. It causes us to apologize and ask for forgiveness when we’ve hurt another. It causes us to ask for repentance from God when we’ve sinned.

Guilt becomes dangerous when we dwell in it.  It immobilizes us and keeps us from moving forward. For example, I screwed up with a friend a while back…like several months back. I apologized, received forgiveness and we are totally fine now. But, because I feel guilty about what I did from time to time, I have a really hard time talking to this friend which hinders our friendship. It’s sad, because I need to remember I am forgiven and move forward.

Pretty sure this is not what our walk with Christ is meant to look like...

The same thing goes with our walk with Christ. Yes, we are sinners. Yes, we all fall short of the glory of God. We will never be perfect. But…we have grace. God’s grace erases guilt and sin. What did Jesus tell the woman caught in adultery once all the Pharisees left after not a one could throw a stone? Go, and sin no more. Did he continue to harp on her sin? No. Did he use freaking guilt to get her to follow him? NO!!!!  He showed her grace, compassion and forgiveness.

This story can be found in John 7:53- 8:11, btw

As Christians, Jesus extends the same love for us. When we forget that, and buy into this guilt crap once we have repented…it hinders our faith. We forget that we are forgiven. We walked around convicted and hopeless. What kind of relationship with God is that? I’ve been there and I can tell you that it sucks. I had three years of this teaching and didn’t know how harmful it was until it was almost too late. I nearly lost my life over it and it seriously damaged my walk for over three years. It’s a scary place to be and I promise to never go back.

This is not a fun place to be.


If you are a pastor, youth leader, parent, or Christian… please for the love of God…STOP USING THE GUILT METHOD!!!!  Seriously. It is so dangerous and harmful. It causes anxiety, depression and hopelessness. There is no love, grace or hope in the guilt method. Using this method erases all the things that Christ is about.

This is what it is about!!!

My rant is over. Please feel free to give me feedback on this; maybe I am overeacting over the guilt thing, but it really gets under my skin. It just feels so wrong to me.

Anyway, thanks for reading; I’m out.

The great church hunt…and other ramblings about trying to be a Christian.

So this new year has started off pretty awesome. New house, new job and renewed friendships makes life feel pretty awesome. In the past 5 weeks or so, I find myself disliking life here in Arizona  less and less and learning to appreciate what I have more. It’s nice to wake up and finally feel you have some idea that what you are doing is what you are supposed to be doing. It’s a pretty nice feeling actually.

Don't ask...

One area that I am still lacking in is the God area. I know I keep bring this up, but alas, it’s still an issue.  Now I’ve been told (and I know) that I was incredibly spoiled by my awesome church family back home in Fresno. I got amazing support in my faith and grew a ton while I was there. I made some awesome lifelong friendships and grew to love and trust other Christians because of my time at the Revival Center. Honestly, if it wasn’t for this place, my pastor and my friends at this church, I may have left Christianity. But that’s another story.

So, I’ve been in AZ a little over six months now and I still have struggled to find a church that is a good fit. Arizona has an interesting mix of churches. A lot of churches here are mega-churches, some are really tiny churches. Some churches have great teachings but the worship/ fellowship area is lacking. Some churches are great on fellowship, but the teachings have been downright bizarre or flat out wrong. Some churches have made me feel if I was in kindergarten for Christians. Others have used the guilt method.  I hate the guilt method by the way; how can we want to do anything for God from our hearts if we are guilted into it? How is that perfect love?

Who's bringing red vines?!

(Off my soap box and back to the post…)

Some churches  I’ve been to hardly talk about God at all, and focus on starting/ raising a family, money, being a good wife, etc.  Some talk about manipulating God and becoming the one to control Gods power. The sad part about the last church I mentioned, it was one of the ones I liked the most…and it turned out to be kind of a cult. Again, another story.

So, each church has varied greatly, but after each visit, I either leave feeling confused, awkward or irritated from my experience.  I know there is no such thing as a perfect church and I may be searching for a long time.  In the mean time I gotta find a way to feed my faith and fill that hole. It’s growing bigger and bigger and getting harder to ignore. I miss and long for the fellowship with other Christians and miss having a church home where I can grow and learn.

This is how I used to feel...

I know I need to feed myself spiritually. If I’m not getting it from the church, I have to provide for myself. I have to admit, it’s hard for me to do it alone. I need support in this area; it’s really hard for me without it.  I feel like I was taken out of a great supportive environment and left to fend for myself. Now I know this is not true because I choose to come here, but I am just having a really difficult time doing this alone.  He says we aren’t meant to be alone, but it’s kinda how I feel at the moment.

Kinda feeling like this...

In all fairness and not to completely whine about being here and not being comfortable, I have grown here quite a bit. I seem to have gotten a crash courses in trust, forgiveness and confrontation and am still in those courses. I hope to get an “A”  across the board when it’s all said and done. I really had forgiveness issues when I came here. I was the queen of cut-off. If you upset me, instead of dealing with it, I’d just cut that person out. Now, although its hard sometimes, I work harder at restoring and keeping friends when things go sour. On the flip side, I got to experience what it is like to experience unforgiveness and it SUCKED. It’s always a work in progress and there are times when I slip and regress back to my old ways, but I’ve gotten a lot better.  The end is result has been much stronger and deeper friendships so thats a plus.

As for confrontation, that’s still hard and I am constantly working to find my voice and stand up for myself. It’s funny, when do you have a weakness, God will find situations or friends to help you out in that area. I had previously had a job (no more, yay!) where I met that challenge every single day and towards the end, I found myself questioning my boss on decisions she made or defending a service denied to a client. I really didn’t stand up to the things she did to me personally which is my only regret, but what’s in the past is in the past. I am still meeting this challenge in certain friendships too, and there are times I want to give up but I’m hanging in there. As I said earlier, everything will be better for it.

I find that forgiveness and confrontation, although really hard things to do, really help build trust in others. Every person that I’ve had a difficult time with this past year and I stuck with my vow to confront them and forgive them our friendship/relationship has improved greatly. Of course I still continue to friendships/relationships where this rarely comes up and trust is already there with out it. I love that actually, but at least now through the difficult relationships/friendships I’ll know how to deal when conflict does arise.  Bottom line, conflict, forgiveness and trust are key in any relationship and without this element all you get is surface level friendships and relationships that really go no where.

Why even bother?

All in all, I’ve gone through quite a bit since being here, not all of it easy, but I believe it was necessary. I guess I got comfortable back home, heck I know I did and God saw that I needed to shake things up. I’m not too fond of the shaking right now, and I am hoping He’ll let up just a bit…a tiny bit maybe…so I can breathe.  In the end, I know its all to help me grow and become a better person, friend and Christian.