Tag Archives: Forgiveness

Awakening

Sunrise

Have you ever had something bad happen to you but in the end, became a blessing in disguise?  We may all have had such occurrences that we just chock up to a “happy accident” or perhaps a strange coincidence.  Such was the case in a rather recent adventure I’ve been on.

Somehow, sometime around two months ago, I injured my lower back.  Who knows how I did it but my lower back suddenly screamed for attention and was relentless in getting its’ own way.  I made an appointment with the doctor and he said basically to “take it easy” and if it got worse, he would prescribe something for the pain.  I went home wishing I could put the doctor in a little pain.  Finding my medical professional to be less than helpful, I thought I would try a different approach and asked my daughter if she knew a good chiropractor in the area.  After polling her friends, she gave me a couple of suggestions and I landed on one that seemed to be pretty reputable.  Having no prior experience with a chiropractor, I knew this would be a memorable experience.

I went for my first appointment where they poked, prodded, measured and x-rayed this not so perfect specimen of a body and announced they could help me with the pain along with my out of alignment situation and a few other “since you are getter older” scenarios.  The next appointment, the chiropractor began the vertebrae manipulations along with electrical stimulation for the back.  After about a week, the lower back started to feel better; after two weeks, something else started going on.

One of the areas he was working on was the C2 vertebra that was a little kinked.  During every visit as a course of treatment, he would have me lie on my back while he maneuvered my neck followed by a quick pause and a subsequent cracking sound as he jerked my neck this way or that.  (I still subconsciously check my extremities for paralysis after that manipulation).

I have been totally deaf on my right side for the past fifteen years due to Meniere’s disease which I mentioned in my blog post, “Sshhh…Listen”.  A couple of weeks after the neck manipulations began, I noticed when I used a cotton swab in my right ear there was a slight sensory response.  I didn’t think anything about it until it became more pronounced the next time and I also thought I could hear a little something from time to time.  It got to the point where I was convinced I could actually start hearing a little from my right ear and made an appointment for a hearing test.  Sure enough, I was at fifty-two percent or better and eligible for a hearing aid to make up the difference.  You see, my auditory nerves were in a dormant state until the vertebrae manipulations began to stimulate the nerves and made them active once again!  WOW, talk about a two-fer!  I had a sound back AND my hearing restored?!  All it took was the right stimulation to awaken what I thought was permanently dead!

This experience made me think about our spiritual lives.  So many people today are walking around either spiritually dead or sleep walking while wasting the time God has given them to be the best for Him.  And instead of Meniere’s disease causing their deafness, it is sin in their lives that deadens the sound of His “still small voice”.  We get so caught up in our own wants that we block out anything or anyone else that goes against our wishes.  So what do we do?  What kind of stimulus do we need to wake us up from this ungodly slumber we seem to be in?  I have an idea; open your eyes and look all around you!  We are living in the last days folks and all you have to do is turn on the news to see what’s going on.  This world and our country are in a complete political and social upheaval. Recently, there was even news of an after school program called “Satan Club” aimed at elementary aged children and teaches freedom and fun as an alternative to Christian superstition and paranoia.  Does this sound any alarms to you?

Isn’t it time we stop playing church and be the church, set apart to be God’s people not entertainers?  Shouldn’t we be used by God as tools to proclaim the gospel as it actually is reflected in the bible instead of dictating to what people think they want to hear?  Yep, I’m sounding kind of preachy but I think we will be held accountable for taking the non-offensive approach to the gospel instead of doing what is right. By the way, on August 17th I get my hearing aid so I can once again hear life in the full and in stereo!  Isn’t it time to awaken from your slumber so YOU can fully hear what God has in store for you?

Mark 4:9 (NASB) — And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Revelation 3:1-3 (NIV) — To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Mirror, Mirror

mirrorSometimes when I’m driving around our neighborhood, it seems like everyone has disappeared even though I know someone has to be home because their cars are in the driveway and the lights are on.  We seem to be an antisocial society anymore; “won’t you be my neighbor” appears to have been replaced by “I’m busy, what do you want?”  We truly seem to be living in a “ME” driven world and have equipped our cocoons with everything to entertain and tantalize.  We have everything from cable to the internet to our very precious cell phones to keep us occupied.  It even seems like we have replaced the window glass in our homes with mirrors so we can concentrate on all of “OUR” wants and needs; forget anyone else including, at times, other family members.

What’s reflected below was primarily written for all of us as a wake up call, to heed the warning and change the priorities of our lives; God first, others second, and finally ourselves on the tail end.  Who knows; we may just get a different perspective on life standing in the back of the line looking forward…

2 Timothy 3:1-4 (NLT)  You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times.  For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred.  They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good.  They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God.

Mirror, Mirror

By Stephen R. Wilson

One more selfie, one last tweet

A glance at Facebook before I leave,

I’m dressed to impress with a killer smile

It’s all about me and my impeccable style.

I’m off to my career, I’m highly degreed

They are lucky to have me and my pedigree,

Even though I’m just starting, I demand a high pay

Entitlement is my game and I know how to play.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Who’s the fairest of them all,

I would think it must be me

For my face is the only one I see.

My parents call but have no time for such stuff

I may call them next week if they have any luck,

They said they were concerned and would pray for me

I would rather they leave me alone and let me be.

I don’t have time for Jesus or make believe

I’m doing just fine, just being me,

What would my friends think if I changed my view?

They love me the way I am and I do too.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Who’s the smartest of them all,

I used to be backward and so naïve

I proved them all wrong just look at me!

My new apartment is something to see

It has every amenity, fits me to a T,

All of this room and it’s only just me

Until I find that someone and give them a key.

Suddenly a shout and a trumpet sounds

My whole world shakes and comes crashing down,

I cry Lord, Lord save me please

“I never knew you” was the response I received.

Mirror, mirror smashed on the ground

Fragments of myself just lying around,

 I feel so lost and so very afraid

I traded my soul for a selfish charade.

Unexpected Expressions of Love

rainbow cross

We have a rather strange anomaly at our house.  You see, written out on our expansive driveway are the words, “I LOVE YOU”.  Normally you can’t see the affectionate message because it is virtually invisible to the naked eye…unless it rains.  After a downpour, the hidden message comes to life.  I can only conjecture that the desperate scribe was in an adequately sized “dog house” at the time, the size of which would sufficiently house a Saint Bernard.  In his hurried act of desperation, he scribbled these words with the only thing he had at the time…I’m going to guess perhaps a chrome wheel cleaner.

I chuckle to myself every time I see it because it reminds me how unexpected expressions of love are displayed in our everyday lives and many times we are just too busy to see it…or may be express it?  (Of course, I could also be chuckling to myself because I wasn’t the one in the doghouse…)

A second, much more recent example occurred on Mother’s Day.  I like to get my wife a little something for Mother’s Day and strive to make it a little special.  Let’s face it guys, where would we be on Father’s Day if we didn’t have our wives as mothers…right?  And if we didn’t honor them with a little something, we would probably be writing “I LOVE YOU” on our own driveways, anything to get out of that proverbial doghouse.  Anyway, I had picked up a gift and had planned to make her breakfast.  I had also noticed the daisies dotting the horse pasture, blowing in the breeze.  I schemed to get up early on Sunday morning, sneak out the door and cut some of the daisies and put them in a vase just as something special.

What I didn’t expect was her reaction when she saw the flowers.  Jenny exclaimed “You picked me daisies!!” with an excited look and misty eyes.  My expression was one of surprise and confusion; I couldn’t figure out the response I received.  I later asked her about it and she explained that I went out of my way for a simple expression of love and it meant much more to her than going to the local Walmart for a bunch of flowers.  (Hhhmmmm…I wonder what will be growing out there in August for her birthday?)

You see, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a large material item to express “I love you!” or  “ I really appreciate you!!”…sometimes it only takes you being present in the moment.

God also showed His love for us in different unexpected ways.  One of those expressions can be seen after a thunderstorm; a beautiful rainbow.  And before the symbol of the rainbow was used and abused as a symbol for sexual immorality, it was THE symbol from God as a covenant between Himself and man.  Genesis 9:12-17 (NIV) says–And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

Even though God had destroyed the earth by water because there was so much evil on this earth, He still loved us enough to make a covenant between himself and all life on earth.  To this day, that is exactly what I think about when I have the privilege to see a rainbow in the sky; a promise kept and a really cool expression of love.

Another unexpected and ultimate expression of God’s love for us has to do with our redemption.  Romans 5:8 (NIV) states—“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  And while I still can’t quite grasp that kind of love, I have to accept it as a gift I can never repay.  John 3:16 explains—“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The cross, once a symbol of death, has become a beacon of life for ANYONE who believes in Jesus Christ as their lord and savior, who confesses their sins and becomes a new creation.  Simply speaking, this is the kind of love that sets the standard for all of us to follow.

So as you go on with your ordinary lives, take note of all of the unexpected expressions of love that surround you.  Participate in expressing that love as much as you can.  You definitely don’t want to be that guy (or gal) making a run to Walmart to purchase that chrome wheel cleaner so you can scribble a desperate message of love across your driveway.  If you need some help with expressions of love, try reading 1 Corinthians chapter 13 (NIV) reflected below; it is known as the LOVE chapter and for good reason.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Daisies

Living the Trashy Life

dumpster

There is an unofficial sport known worldwide but yet goes pretty much completely unnoticed. These pseudo athletes do not appear on cereal boxes nor do they get pricey endorsements. You can normally see these “thrill seekers” meandering around neighborhoods near college campuses in late summer to early fall but they can be found anywhere at any time. Who is this elite group of daring individuals you might ask? Dumpster divers…

For some of you, this term brings on a snicker and an involuntary head shake but for others, well, they are feeling their face grow warm as the emotion of embarrassment overtakes them. These “divers” cross over socioeconomic lines and you may be surprised who around you has taken “the plunge” one time or another.

Ok, and now for the true confession….been there, done that. It was circa 1980 and my wife and I were about as poor as our government leader’s morals. We were living in Franklin House apartments just around the building from our complex’ dumpster. One day coming home from work, I spied an exercise bike sitting beside of the grime laden dumpster. I debated for a while and decided to investigate further, eyeing the primitive pedaling apparatus up and down with a critical eye. Not finding anything wrong with the piece of equipment, I looked all around me for prying eyes, picked up the bike, and cantered off to our apartment like a dog with a new bone in its’ mouth.

I beamed with pride as I showed my new bride the find of the decade. She returned my look with a suspicious glare. I mounted my mechanical steed and started pedaling, my upper body lunging back and forth in rhythmic procession. Suddenly my rhythm was disrupted by a crack of metal and my body being hurled toward the now exposed post of the defunct exercise bike; I narrowly missed impaling my at the time, slight, terrified frame on the “pedals of death”. My thrill was replaced with humiliation as I sheepishly picked up the now evident piece of garbage and retraced my steps back to its’ rightful owner, the lowly dumpster.

There is another type of dumpster diving that is far more destructive which I dare say is one of an unforgiving heart.   I think at times, we all have been guilty of holding a grudge or carrying a hurt left by another. And how many times have we heard the name of the person who committed the offense only to trigger something inside that entices us to dive into the deepest recesses of our minds to the dumpster of unforgiveness. Once there, you plunge in to the deep bin of bitterness laden with the stench of resentment, scrambling to find that one rotting memory so you can once again experience the painful sting of the event. Once relived, you carefully place the decaying memory exactly where you found it so you can easily retrieve it later; feeling justified in your righteous indignation and condemnation of the offender, you once again snap back into reality. When will we realize that we cannot inflict harm upon the ghosts of the past; we are only hemorrhaging our souls. Only our forgiveness of others can neutralize the pain of those excruciating memories and only Jesus can sterilize our hearts and place our hurts in the proper perspective of being healed memories and lessons learned.

And unlike my botched attempt at turning trash to treasure, there are many who have successfully found the unwanted, underappreciated waste of humanity and have turned the items into something beautiful and useful again. Hhhmmm…sounds just like Jesus; He’s in the restoration business, turning our sinful lives into bright, beacons of hope and grace.

So what about you? Isn’t it time to shed those rags of self-pity and breathe in the pristine, life changing air of forgiveness? For life is too short to allow bitterness and unforgiveness to rob us of our joy and zest for life that God so freely gives…

 

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV

Trapped in an Antique Mall

My wife and I periodically enjoy strolling through an antique mall or antiquities shop. Neither of us are necessarily antique collectors but we enjoy the memories that come flooding back at us as we slowly walk down the aisles, admiring the collision of decades as if the memory makers were all thrown into an enormous bowl, vigorously stirred and tossed back on their shelves.
If history had an aroma, it would probably consist of the odorous mix of old wood, varnish, lacquer, fabric, mildew, and perhaps more than a little dust thrown in to create a musty grandma smell which excitedly greets you and embraces your olfactory system as you walk through the doors to the past.
Once inside, any little bauble or ancient treasure can transport you back in time. A fragile bell-shaped glass Christmas ornament with hand painted stripes pulled me back to when I was a child, anticipating the arrival of Santa and the special gifts he would leave. Sometimes before Christmas, I would lay on my back and scoot on top of the glitter laden cotton batting tree skirt, under the decorated tree, being ever mindful of the hot colored bulbs strung overhead and the pine needles that would dig into my skin and brush across my face if I was not careful. Once in place I would look up, totally fascinated at my own personal holiday paradise. The brightly colored lights played off the garland, ornaments and icicles that hung from the evergreen and the pungent smell of pine intensified the total intoxication of the moment. Today, the sight of a young, small lifeless body under the decorated conifer would provoke panic and probably induce a passing thought of child endangerment but at the time only brought about a total sense of awe and wonderment.
On another shelf, my wife spies an Elf on the Shelf, his mischievous face frozen in time, his once bright red, felt body now dark pink and showing its’ age. Nevertheless, Jenny is reduced to a child, her copper-haired ringlets bouncing about as she remembers searching high and low for the inanimate imp. Her freckled face lights up and her chestnut eyes grow wide as the ornery elf is discovered on the shelf above the pale blue scratchy sofa. The little six year old wonders if the elf saw her teasing her younger brothers and worse yet, whether the plastic dwarf had reported her misdeeds to Santa. A sense of guilt and dread filled her tiny body as she remembers confessing under her breathe and promising to be good.
These vignettes are just a small sampling of the memories that flood our minds as we wander about the musty aisles. We are grateful for the visual reminders or “triggers” that transport us to a particular place and time. However, as we walk out of the antique mall, we are once again made aware of the present with all its future memories to create and opportunities to explore.
However, for some, the cold reality of their lives have left them emotionally paralyzed, their eyes glazed over in grief, fear, pain or anger. The feeling of hopelessness heightens their sense of helplessness as they meander through their days. Often times, their only escape from their present misery is to look back, to reminisce of better times, to linger on “the good ole days”…unaware of their present despair, they willingly lose their grasp with reality; embracing instead the jealous mistress of their distorted past. They are essentially trapped in an antique mall.
Still others pitch their tent and camp out in the cemetery of self-pity. They slowly pass by each head stone and read the epitaphs as if they are long lost friends lying in state. However, each tombstone represents their own regrets…”I blamed my parents for all my mistakes”, “I should have treated my kids better but I chose the bottle over my family”, “I cheated my company out of thousands”, “I didn’t mean to hurt my wife; I need help!”. Wearing their black cloak of pride draped across their shoulders, they pass each grave of regret, pause and ponder, bending down only to lay their wreath of bitterness and shame, gradually moving on to the next.
So what makes the difference in humanity where one person is basking in the warmth of a treasured memory but in contrast, another is shivering in the presence of the man in the mirror? Forgiveness. Hope. And the first yields the latter. True forgiveness to God first. 1 John 1:8-10 NKJV says–8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. We’re not perfect, we make mistakes…and we sin. That doesn’t need to be the end of the story. We need to confess our wrong doings and maintain a healthy relationship with the only One who really knows us…God. But sometimes it is even harder to forgive ourselves than to seek God’s forgiveness. It’s at those times we must remind ourselves that there is no sin so great it cannot be pardoned through grace.
And let us not forget we must forgive others for their transgressions, regardless of whether they are real or imagined. Colossians 3:13 reads–Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Forgiveness begins the complete healing process: spiritually, emotionally, and at times, physically.
And once we have a spiritually healthy heart, we once again have the room to hope. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV states, For, I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Hope AND a future! How awesome is that! And even though we don’t know what the future will bring, it is our responsibility to make sure we are making the right decisions today to ensure a future full of hope and great memories for a lifetime.
So the next time you decide to browse through the local antique mall, ask yourself this question, “am I in here to visit for a while and enjoy some healthy memories or am I tempted to make it an extended stay”? I HOPE you will choose wisely and live life to the full!