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The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Lessons from Cherith

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Matthew 18:21

He’d been a drug addict and alcoholic for at least the 35 years I knew him.  In fact, this lost uncle was my husband’s main reason for why he never touched drugs in his college days.  My husband saw the path of destruction his uncle created throughout their family.  This uncle, my mother-in-law’s youngest sibling, took the road so many addicts follow.  They demand help, make others feel guilty for not rescuing them, promise to do better then start the cycle over and over again.

In my visits to my husband’s hometown, we’d have infrequent contact with his uncle.  But we would hear of his begging his own mother for money and complaining of how “lucky” and “privileged” everyone else in the family were because they weren’t always so down on their luck.  To be fair, this man bore the brunt of being the youngest child of an alcoholic philanderer.  As for my in-laws, they gave money, moral support, food, and more for much of his life.  But after a number of run-ins with the law and intolerable behavior toward my husband’s grandmother, the uncle found himself eventually with backs turned.  Enough was enough.

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:22

Let’s face it, we are only human.  We get our feelings hurt.  We often seek to protect ourselves from harmful relationships.  We don’t want to be taken advantage of and have our kindness thrown back at us with vitriol.  Like many of Jesus’ expectations of us the concept of forgiveness is not so easy for us sinful humans.  We get to the end of our rope.  We have no more tears to shed.  

I remember when my loving, caring mother-in-law said to me one day a few years ago, “I’m done.  I’m tired of being blamed for his problems.  I’m tired of being taken for granted that we will always help.  I’m angry how he treats our mother.”  And really, could anyone fault her?  But the thing is, I knew deep down she didn’t mean any of it.  I knew if her brother came again with hat in hand she would help.  Because she knew that Jesus would do the same for her.

25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:28

We can be thankful we haven’t been assigned the task of God’s prophets to administer final judgements like Elijah had to (although one day two of us will be called to do just that). In the Old Testament, we see time after time the people turning their backs on God after so many warnings. And he sent his prophets to speak truth and judgement. His final truth-speaker was His Son, Jesus. But this prophet came to tell us when we seek forgiveness and to forgive we receive eternal forgiveness from God, even when we mess up over and over. You see, Jesus doesn’t just want the one who needs forgiveness healed, he wants us, the forgiver to be healed.  Because when we place our own lives under God’s microscope, we each have a heck of a lot that needs forgiving.  We each are blessed with the incredible gift of coming with our own hat in hand to the Lord and asking, “One more time, please Lord.  Forgive me.” And He does.  

I’ve been fortunate to witness the healing power of forgiveness in a few people’s lives.  My friend Andrea will forever be changed simply by forgiving a family member for past hurts and asking for forgiveness for how she has hurt others.  My own relationship with my parents has required me to forgive them.  And although the situation can still be painful, I now have the healing strength which forgiveness affords to help me pray for them each day.

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

I started this message about a man so broken from addiction.  A man who most would say was without hope, without the peace from God.  But God is a miracle worker as we all know.  So, after another stint in prison about a year ago, my husband’s uncle finally said, “Enough is enough.”  He turned to God for forgiveness and healing.  When he got the news that his oldest sister was now riddled with cancer he came immediately to be by her side.

I don’t know if I’ll ever have the same opportunity to watch such a beautiful miracle unfold before my eyes.  To see God’s hands work like no other.  To experience the full promise of God’s grace and love descend upon a room.  We met in the lobby of the hospital, just the uncle and I.  His mind and eyes were clear. He looked so healthy!  His demeanor was clearly different.  I took him up to his sister’s room and we sat and chatted.  I felt like I should leave the room and give them some alone time when suddenly he took her by the hand and with tears streaming down his face he asked for forgiveness.  He asked to be forgiven for the destruction he caused, the pain, and for all the lost years that could’ve been different.

My mother-in-law thanked him immediately.  She said, “I needed to hear this.  It hurt so much when you blamed me for your troubles.”  And they wept.  For the next two weeks I witnessed this man stand guard outside her room, praying and participating in her last days.  I listened as he asked the rest of the family for forgiveness.  And saw them weep from the healing love of God.  I watched as he helped lift his sister’s lifeless body onto the gurney for her final road toward home.  He was in pain but was healed.  He was washed in sorrow but cleansed from forgiveness.  And he knew he was loved.

Who do you need to forgive right now?

Who do you need to ask for forgiveness?  

It’s time for healing.

PS: Happy Birthday to my amazing, handsome, loving, forgiving husband 🙂

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He Will Provide

Lessons from Cherith

The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down.  Psalm 145:14

We had come to Colorado after receiving the news – my mother-in-law’s constant bowel pain was the result of peritoneal cancer, a rare and deadly disease.  She had never fully recovered from her bout with uterine cancer diagnosed just 18 months prior.  Her markers were clear but this painful and never-ending pain in her stomach kept her sidelined.  We will never know why it wasn’t discovered sooner but there are blessings even in that.

And so, after setting her up on hospice and determining that additional in-home care wouldn’t be sufficient and was well beyond what my father-in-law could afford, I offered to stay longer.  As I said goodbye to my husband who needed to get back to San Diego for work, I was faced with my usual self-doubt.  “I’m not good at this kind of thing” I said to myself.  “I’m not a sweet, kind, compassionate person” I lamented.  “I never know what to say in difficult times” I fretted.  

I was scared to face day-to-day the woman I love as my own mother as she lay living out her last days.  I was worried about how to be around my quiet father-in-law.  I definitely was concerned how to handle all her friends who wanted to visit and needed a shoulder to cry on. And then I finally remembered God.

He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
    the Lord is gracious and compassionate.
He provides food for those who fear him;
    he remembers his covenant forever. Psalm 111: 4-5

I went for a walk and soaked in the beauty of the Colorado mountains and realized I didn’t need to have all those gifts.  He has blessed me with so many other gifts that were needed – organizing, communication, and more.  And what I now needed was to lean on Him for the rest of what was required.  

My BSGs had just finished Shirley Giles Davis’ study book, God. Gifts. You. Which takes a deep dive into the list of the gifts given by the Holy Spirit.  Coincidently she lives and works in Boulder, Colorado, just a few miles from where I now found myself needing the strength of God’s gifts.  She reminded us that our gifts can be used for good and have their own pitfalls if used incorrectly.  She showed us how God’s beautiful world can only function properly when we appreciate and honor the intricate ways all people’s gifts are used in harmony.  

As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me.  Psalms 55:16

And so, I called on God in humility.  I thanked Him for the blessings of financial security that helped me be there.  I listed in thankfulness the gifts of the Holy Spirit which have been endowed to me.  And I prayerfully spoke the following:

“Lord, I cannot do this without you.  I don’t have the right words for the right moments so I need the Holy Spirit to speak for me.  I don’t have the strength for this gracious Father.  I need you to keep me strong and lifted or I will fail.  Only through your loving grace, using my gifts that I have been blessed with and you filling in the rest will I be able to glorify you and help Bev and all those around her. Please Lord speak in place of my words and be my strength.” Amen

His intervention was immediate as He surrounded me with His love and peace.  All those worries and fears dissipated.  And for the next three weeks the Holy Spirit held me up and spoke for me.  He spoke to the friends who left Bev’s room crying in despair.  He spoke to family members who handle grief differently than me.  He spoke to Bev while I read her Psalms each day to comfort her.  And He kept me from being tired and weak.  I could wake at any hour with ease to administer medication, keep the house clean, and make meals for the ever changing number of people at the house.  He provided, just as He promises, just as He always has.

You are my strength, I sing praises to you; you, God are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.  Psalms 59:17

My BSGs recently completed Priscilla Shirer’s study on Elijah.  In her week 6 video she mentions the definition of faith as aligning our entire life with God’s 8,000 promises found in His Word.  Our faith doesn’t need to be some mysterious feeling that is undefinable.  It’s simple, when we believe God’s promises and live like we do then that is faith.  That’s what Elijah did when he went, as directed by God, to Cherith — a lonely, dry, desolate place. God provided in ways only He can with food delivered by ravens and just enough water to get by for about two years. Elijah knew he couldn’t make it on his own. He needed God to survive. All his knowledge and gifts weren’t going to help him. God would need to fill in where he was lacking.

Friends, God promises over and over to provide for us.  The Bible is filled with endless stories of His provision.  Our own lives are testimonies to those provisions.  Sometimes we just need to remember to humbly ask for Him to provide where we are weak and not gifted.

The morning my beloved Bev went to our Father I was blessed again to have God show me how much He had answered my prayer.  I needed some alone time so I decided to take a shower.  As I stood in the bathroom waiting for the water to warm up, I suddenly felt a huge weight press on me – like an anvil was placed on each shoulder.  I cried out in surprise and then it was gone.  I knew He was showing me what He had sheltered me from for the last few weeks.  And although I am still experiencing the grief of Bev being gone from this earth, that heavy weight has never returned.  I can thank God and the Holy Spirit for being my weight bearers.  And I can thank God that He will provide in our weakest moments.

Where in your life to do you need to ask for God’s provision?  
Where do you feel insufficient and weak?  Ask Him today He will provide!

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Innovation & Creativity

…and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze,to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. Exodus 31:3-5

As I sit here writing this installment of 30 Days of Thanksgiving, I am reminded of a day over 30 years ago as I sat in front of a new Macintosh computer.  As a journalism major at San Diego State University, I was fortunate to be able to use the brand new, one of a kind Macintosh-only lab situated in my college.  Today, I use an incredibly fast and powerful laptop.  But back then that little box with a tiny gray screen and it’s smiling Mac face could barely allow me to save a single five page document on a single sided diskette.  Over the next three years I saw that little Macintosh evolve into a computer with an actual hard drive that could store quite a bit more data.  But compared to the mega computer that is now called my Iphone, it paled in comparison.

God’s gift of innovation and creativity has led to amazing advancements over our 1,000s of years.  The tiny spark of fire and the invention of the wheel were legendary, but history will probably record the last 30 years or so as ones where our unique ability to dream and create new solutions to heal, communicate, build, and more has been some of the most influential yet.  While I was tinkering around with that tiny Macintosh my parents were still trying to get used to their new answering machine and microwave oven!  And look at us now! 

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

A bird creates a perfect nest for her eggs.  But she won’t ever dream of how to make it better.  Her instinct tells her one way to create that nest – which might not withstand a storm.  With our gift of innovation, we learn why buildings collapse in earthquakes and seek new designs and materials and even the best sites upon which to build.  We are a creating people – in the image of God, the Great Creator.

I am not an inventor but I am the type of person always looking for ways to streamline or how to “do it better.”  From cooks who seek to adjust recipes to be healthier to the farmer who discovers new ways to increase crop yields and the doctor who discovers a pattern in a disease to the scientist who turns an Amazonian plant into a cure, we humans always seem to be seeking the best way, the new way, the different way. 

I thank God today for the innovative and creative spirit He placed in us.  Our lives have all been blessed with each leap we take forward into the future.

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Healers

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10:8

I sat in my car after having just left yet another doctor’s appointment and announced out loud, “I hate doctors!”  One more doctor who treated me with some level of impatience all the while acknowledging I needed surgery.  But then I took a step back from my prideful emotions and realized this person – a man of flesh and blood – was gifted by God the ability to heal me.  I didn’t need him as a friend, I need him as a healer.  And I gave thanks for his able hands and depth of knowledge concerning my medical issue.

Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”  John 5:8

I was reminded of the scene by the healing pool when Jesus encountered the invalid who had been laying by the pool for 38 years.  Jesus simply asked, “Do you want to be healed?”  And then told him to get moving.  And I realized how much I expect my doctors to be the tender, compassionate Jesus.  But even Jesus himself was a no nonsense healer.  

My own daughter is a doctor of physical therapy.  She’s a pretty no nonsense kind of person.  She’s also very good at her job.   When her patients are done with treatments, or during the holidays, they shower her with loving, thoughtful gifts.  It’s because, while she is good at listening to their needs, what they truly want is healing and she delivers.

I’ve had kind doctors, rude doctors, dismissive doctors, attentive ones.  I have to admit that just about all of them have done what I needed them for – healing.  Doing something for me that I could never do myself.  So, while I may not like every doctor’s bedside manner, I can say a prayer while sitting in the “big chair” thanking God for their skill and for the healing that is to come.  And I pray for me to have patience and kindness in between. 

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Salvation

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

It seems there’s a lot of talk these days about “end times.”  Since the world received the words of Christ about eternal salvation and His return, people of all centuries have determined “this is it.”  And although I do agree with Christian teacher Joyce Meyer that “we are closer to the return than we were yesterday,” we can never know when that day  will actually arrive.   We can only prepare.  

During the last year I’ve enjoyed digging deeper into what the gift of salvation really means for us and what it doesn’t.  It isn’t something we can earn but it is something we must take action on to receive.   It isn’t something we can lose but it is something we are expected to behave like we have received.  It was given in blood by Jesus yet He gives us forgiveness and grace for having to shed it.  

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.  Isaiah 12:2

When we recount the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion, we can easily imagine the dirt and grime and blood. The sweat and the tears.  The pain and sadness.  A perfect man, our God clothed in flesh without blemish torn apart by the sins of those past, present and future. And as God always likes to do, He suddenly flips the script.  At Jesus’ last breath the veil between earth and heaven is torn wide open.  We who actively seek out the Lord and place Him as king of our lives now have an intercessor to present our dirty souls cleansed.  Not just our hands but our hearts will be spit shined for when we meet the King.   Sparkling creations meeting the glorious Creator.  Thank you, Jesus.

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The God Spark

So God created mankind in his own image in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

Recently, an archeological site in Jordan was determined to be the site of the ancient city of Sodom – destroyed by a meteor of fire.  That fact is now added to the 1000s upon 1000s of texts and archeological finds supporting details found within the Holy Bible.  As author Eric Metaxas explains in his new book,  Is Atheism Dead? , science, rather than moving us farther away from proving God’s existence, is actually moving us closer.

The desire by scientists to prove or disprove God does prove something else – our human desire to be connected to something greater than ourselves.  In fact you could argue there is really no such thing as atheism.  If we haven’t submitted ourselves to the one and only God and savior then we have most likely submitted our lives to something else.  In our yearning for connection some turn their job into their worship.  While for others it is nature, money, self-improvement, the mystical, and all other manner of things the Creator has created.

Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble! For you, Judah, have as many gods as you have towns. Jeremiah. 2:28

Since the beginning of time we humans have sought not just the answers to the universe but a connection to it.  I’ve heard it called the “God spark.”  Something within us that seeks Him, not always knowing who or what we seek.  It’s the work of the Holy Spirit moving in and out and around us whispering to us to look heavenward.  Far too many turn a deaf ear and instead seek the world for this connection and are never fully satisfied.

I was recently asked why I started going to church.  About 25 years ago my oldest daughter, then around 4 years old, started drawing angels.  And singing about angels and asking about angels.  We didn’t attend any church or even talk about God.  It wasn’t during Christmas season.  Her questions were so innocent and yet deeply yearning for answers.  It sparked me to start asking those same questions.  Mind you, even though I came from an atheist household, I always believed God existed.  I just didn’t know anything about Him.  But with that innocent child’s questions our family began a journey.

I am so thankful that God put some of Himself in each and every one of us so that we would have that yearning to be re-connected with Him one day.  So many of us just need to be directed to the Creator instead of His creations.

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30 Days of Thankfulness

Join me starting November 1-30 as I go on a journey of lifting up thanks to God! I hope you will enjoy these short, daily thank you notes to our one and only Holy Creator who has blessed us all so richly forever and ever! You can also follow along on the Emboldened podcast! Find it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and more!