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Praying for…

But if you will listen, I say to you, love your enemies and do something wonderful for them in return for their hatred. When someone curses you, bless that person in return. When you are mistreated and harassed by others, accept it as your mission to pray for them.” Luke 6:27-28

Jesus isn’t saying this because he agrees with what that person has done to you. It’s not about the other person, it’s about you and your reactions. It’s okay to feel your feelings…hurt, betrayal, anger…but deal with them. Don’t let them seep into your heart.

If you’re not careful with your heart, you’ll become negative and unforgiving. Then bitter and resentful, and even revengeful. Don’t poison yourself. Take your feelings and turn them into prayer.

Point to ponder while you wander….Praying for your enemies and those who’ve hurt you directs your negative feelings into a positive. It changes you for the better, and invites God into the situation. Wisdom, peace, hope, and love enter when God does.

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Musical Monday: Because of You

I had intentions of a completly different (and fun) song today, but I felt like I needed to post Because of You by Kelly Clarkson. The video is powerful, please watch it before reading on.

I have 2 words of encouragement today; one for the kids who feel this way and one for the parents. Both are encouraging so please keep reading, and remember there’s always hope.

Message 1: For the Kids
I understand the feelings behind this song. As kids, we suffered from our parents bad choices. Those choices may still be affecting you now. If that’s you today, I’m praying for you to forgive your parents and any other care giver who hurt you.

This forgiveness releases you from the bondage of the past. This forgiveness is so you can move forward and be whole. This forgiveness is the very thing Jesus was talking about in Matthew 6.

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

If you hold on to this anger and hurt it becomes bitterness! That’s why Jesus demanded you to forgive others. Not as a law…but as a freedom for YOU from bondage.

Unforgiveness hurts you. Poisons you. NOT the person you’re holding a grudge against.

Please hear my heart here!

I watched someone I love dearly eaten alive by bitterness towards his father. And I’ll be honest, his hatred was justified. His father was a cruel man that came far too close to beating his mother to death. This is horrendous. No child should have to see that!

I also watched bitterness taint the most joyful, hilarious, and downright blast of a woman I ever knew. I watched this amazing woman age rapidly after she lost her joy. She became sullen, negative, and bitter. People began to avoid her, which multiplied the bitterness into cancer. And I lost her.

A joyful cheerful heart brings healing to both body and soul. But the one whose heart is crushed struggles with sickness and depression.” Proverbs 17:27 TPT

Don’t let yourself be tainted. Don’t let yourself grow bitterness. Confess your anger and bitterness to God. Speak out loud that you forgive whomever your bitter towards, whether they are still alive or not. Whetherthey deserve it or not. And anytime that hurt/anger/resentment/disgust/sadness begins to rise…you say it again. And you keep saying it until it stops rising up.

Eyes that focus on what is beautiful bring joy to the heart, and hearing a good report refreshes and strengthens the inner being.” Proverbs 15:30 TPT

God NEVER wanted you to be hurt or have a rough childhood. But people make choices that affect others. He DOES want to heal you. He wants you to be whole.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 NKJV

Please forgive so you can be free!

On an a personal note about my parental units…I love my parents, but they are flawed. They made mistakes and bad choices that handicapped me in some ways. But I have forgiven them for that crap, and moved forward into adulthood. I yearn to see them become all they were designed to be. When I forgave them, it felt like a million pounds was lifted from my shoulders. I felt free. And for the first time I was able to love my parents right where they were at. I was able to see them clearly, with God’s eyes.

Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise:  If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”” Ephesians 6:2-3 NLT

Message 2: For the Parents

So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven.” Matthew 12:31 (See also Mark 3:28)

You made mistakes as a parent. No one parents without making mistakes. You need to forgive yourself. I’m praying for you to come to the place where you choose to forgive yourself, even if you don’t deserve it.

If you are caught in a web of unforgiveness/bitterness for what happened to you as a child and guilt for repeating the cycle, please please please, forgive your parents and forgive yourself.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” Romans 8:1-2

The man I mentioned above who hated his father became an alcoholic who beat his wife. He repeated the cycle. Years later, he refused to receive the forgiveness of his ex-wife and children. He refused to forgive himself. The guilt he felt about repeating the cycle became self-hatred and he died at a mere 60 years old. I lost him. It was a devastating loss of a man with the kindest softest heart, a generous people person, and a jokester who made me belly laugh more times than I can count. My heart broke that he couldn’t forgive himself, and couldn’t receive healing before he died.

If you’re reading this it’s not too late for you! Come to Jesus and confess your mistakes and receive His forgiveness and forgive yourself. You getting help and becoming whole is the best way to show your kids it’s possible. Healing is possible. Restoration is possible. Breaking the cycle is possible!

If there is a chance for reconciliation and restoration of relationship, you should offer an apology, without expctation. This could help THEM heal. But understand that they may not be ready or able to forgive you. That’s okay. You should still forgive yourself.

Even if you don’t deserve it, forgive yourself anyway. Even if the situation is bad enough that your children can’t or won’t forgive you, forgive yourself anyway. Even if they are repeating your mistakes, forgive yourself anyway. Then pray for them to repeat your good choices, to seek help and to forgive themselves as well.

Point to ponder while you wander…”Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from deathand crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!” Psalm 103:1-5 NLT

Better or Bitter

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Hardship and troubles happen to everyone, that’s just life. But how you choose to see those times either creates a bitter and angry you or changes you into a better and stronger you.  Better or bitter, the choice is yours!

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5.

Forgiveness is a Choice

I don’t know what I dreamt about but I woke up feeling deep. Deep as in I want to analyze everything deep. Then I heard a song this morning on my drive to work about the freedom found in forgiveness and dealing with things instead of blaming someone else. And my mind headed straight for Matthew.

Matthew was my first love and long-term relationship. I dated people before and after him that I cared about, but no one has remained in my heart the way he has. I think that when you really truly love someone a piece of you will always care what happens to them. I freely admit that the love is still there.

Our break up was THE hardest one of my life. (Truthfully, it was harder and hurt far more than when I ended an engagement at 26 years old). But it needed to happen. It needed to happen because we were growing and changing in separate directions. It needed to happen because we had the same 3 fights on repeat. It needed to happen because we were trapped in between genuine love and completely different priorities. It needed to happen because we were wounding each other deeper every day.

When we did break up I blamed him for the majority of it. If he would do this and not do that then we wouldn’t have fought so much. If he’d just do this instead of that! Why doesn’t he do this instead of that? You see where I’m going with this. He readily took the blame I handed him, so I thought I was totally justified.

When I started dealing with my own issues and insecurities a few years later, I saw our break up in a totally different light. I realized that I was basically expecting a kid, (we dated from 18 to almost 21) who didn’t even really know who he was or what he wanted out of life, to fill every need in my life. Including the needs only God can fill. Can you say UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS?

The guilt of what a horrible person I was to him plagued me for months and months and months. I realized how demanding I was. I realized that I never appreciated the good things he DID do. I didn’t appreciate how far he would drive to come see me or when he did choose to do nice things for me. I swung from the blaming him for everything to blaming myself for everything. I forgave him, but at the cost of condemning myself completely. Can you say JERK? Or better yet, can you say MARTYR?

The true cause fell somewhere in the middle. There were some things that I legitimately needed to take responsibility for, as they were clearly my issues. But there were some things that he needed to do to and take responsibility for. We were both at fault and we were both hurt. And in the end it didn’t really matter what we did or didn’t do, what mattered was that we were both deeply hurt.

What about you? Are you holding a grudge against someone for things long past? Are you still blaming everything wrong in your life on someone else? Do you realize that not forgiving them is actually hurting you, not them? You’re actually holding your own self hostage!

Or are you at the other end of the spectrum holding yourself hostage with guilt, shame or blame? Do you need to forgive yourself?

Either way, choose today to let it go. Go to God and tell Him you don’t want to carry whatever it is you’re carrying anymore. You can be free of guilt, shame, regret, unforgiveness, and condemnation. When those feelings rise up and you feel yourself sliding into that bitter pit, take it back to the Lord and forgive yourself/the other person again. Do it every day if you have to. Do it until unforgiveness no longer plagues you.

The freedom is worth the work to get there. Freedom is better than bitterness any day. Trust me.

Forgiveness Facts
*God requires forgiveness. “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13. See also Matthew 6:15 and Luke 6:37.

*God has forgiven you, so you should forgive yourself. “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:11-12

*When you forgive yourself and others, you need really to let it go. Don’t meditate on it. Don’t rehearse it over and over in your mind. Don’t even remember it. God doesn’t. “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 8:12. It’s repeated again in Hebrews 10:17.

*You don’t have to reconcile or have a relationship with someone to forgive them. Stephen forgave the men as they were literally stoning him. “Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” Acts 7:60

*You don’t have to tell someone you forgive them, to forgive them and move on. Whether you see them every day, you don’t talk to the person anymore, or even if they have passed away, you can forgive them just the same. This is between you and God. Jesus took it to God directly, immediately. “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

*Forgiving someone does not excuse their behavior, nor does it exempt them from legal prosecution in rape, abuse or other situations where the person has broken the law.

*Forgiveness releases YOU to move forward and not be plagued by what happened.

I’ll be honest; it actually took longer and was harder for me to forgive myself than it was to forgive Matthew. Years ago I was fortunate enough to able to apologize to him face to face. We had a very good conversation that day about many different things. It was the most freeing conversation I think I’ve ever had. I let go of the guilt I was carrying for my part completely for the first time.

Forgiveness is truly a beautiful thing.

Musical Monday: I Will Not Be Moved

‘I Will Not Be Moved’ by Natalie Grant has been my theme song on and off since it was released.  Take a gander:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTeQdLKiRg8

Wayward child acting out….

I was a good kid for the most part.  I was a tad mouthy and such but I generally did as I was told.  I got good grades.  I only got one detention in all of high school.  I went to and liked church and youth group.  I officially got saved at 16.  Pretty good track record, huh?  Yep.  But then…I turned 17.

Something happened to me at 17 where I just LOATHED any sort of rule.  I may have still obeyed most of the rules I was given, but in my heart anger had begun to build.  I looked obedient but looks were deceiving.  I was rebellious and becoming more and more bitter every day.  While I still attended church and youth group and loved Jesus, I told God to take a hike.  (Please don’t ask me how the 17 year old me thought she could separate the Son from the Father…I have no idea how she thought this was possible, but she did.  She was weird and angry and borderline crazy.  Anyway…)  I saw God as the mean one just waiting for me to screw up, so he could cast me out.  I hated His rules more than any others because of this lie I believed.

I went off to college planning to leave parental rules, Biblical law and every other regulation in the dust.  I was FREE!  Right?  Wrong.  I was so wrong.  There were still rules and laws at the university level too.  Dorm and campus rules.  Michigan laws.  The laws of gravity and motion.  Oh and that God guy…He’s there too.  Great.

It took 7 years before I realized I actually needed God.  I missed church too.  I came back to Him very broken and fully expecting to be treated poorly.  I could go to heaven, but I’d be homeless there.  I would be permitted to attend to church, but on a probationary period only.  God wouldn’t actually like me, let alone love me.  At best I expected to be tolerated, at worst severely punished.  Maybe if I behaved perfectly I could earn my way back into His good graces.  Maybe.

It’s grace I’m standing on…

Then I actually spent time with God and began to get to know who He really is.  I learned that He was a creative genius who made the sky, trees and filled the earth with beauty.  I saw that He was love.  I learned that He was good and He doesn’t want a single person to perish.  I learned that He had a good plan for my life, even still.  Best of all, I learned that He never left me, not one time.  He was with me when I walked out of His will and chose to go the world’s way.  He was with me at the bar.  He saw me make MANY dumb choices.  He was with me when my first love and I broke each other’s hearts.  He saw me graduate from college.  He was with me when I got engaged to the wrong man.  He was with me when I got sick.  And through all of that, He loved me.

He what?

He loved me.  Every. Single. Second. Of. Every. Single. Day. (“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” Jeremiah 31:3)

Then when I called out to Him, He opened His arms to me and welcomed me back.  I didn’t have to beg or plead or beat myself up.  I didn’t have to burn sacrifices on the altar or volunteer to lick anyone’s boots.  I just had to call out.  That was it.  I wish I’d have understood about His grace before I spent nearly a decade trying to make up for all the crap I pulled.  Lesson learned.

I will make mistakes…

I’ve come a long way from 17, but I’m by no means perfect.  I will make mistakes.  But my mistakes remind me that I need Him.  My weaknesses are not a design flaw.  Where I’m weak, He’s strong.  We are a team, God and I.  And that’s exactly what He wants from you too.  Partnership.  Relationship.  He wants to love you and help you to succeed.

That’s why I will NOT be moved.  I need Him.  Every. Single. Second. Of. Every. Single. Day. I NEED HIM.

I’ll leave you with Psalm 107.  This Psalm shows that no matter what kind of trouble you’ve gotten yourself into, cry out to God.  He’s waiting for you to ask for His help.  He’s waiting for you to tell Him you need Him.  We all need Him because of Adam’s sin in the Garden.  We’ve all inherited it.  Jesus is the only cure.

Psalm 107

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies. For he has gathered the exiles from many lands, from east and west, from north and south.

Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless. Hungry and thirsty, they nearly died. “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he rescued them from their distress. He led them straight to safety, to a city where they could live. Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery. They rebelled against the words of God, scorning the counsel of the Most High. That is why he broke them with hard labor; they fell, and no one was there to help them. “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom; he snapped their chains. Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. For he broke down their prison gates of bronze; he cut apart their bars of iron.

Some were fools; they rebelled and suffered for their sins. They couldn’t stand the thought of food, and they were knocking on death’s door. Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, snatching them from the door of death. Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and sing joyfully about his glorious acts.

Some went off to sea in ships, plying the trade routes of the world. They, too, observed the Lord’s power in action, his impressive works on the deepest seas. He spoke, and the winds rose, stirring up the waves. Their ships were tossed to the heavens and plunged again to the depths; the sailors cringed in terror. They reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits’ end. “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. Let them exalt him publicly before the congregation and before the leaders of the nation.

He changes rivers into deserts, and springs of water into dry, thirsty land. He turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands, because of the wickedness of those who live there. But he also turns deserts into pools of water, the dry land into springs of water. He brings the hungry to settle there and to build their cities. They sow their fields, plant their vineyards, and harvest their bumper crops. How he blesses them! They raise large families there, and their herds of livestock increase.

When they decrease in number and become impoverished through oppression, trouble, and sorrow, the Lord pours contempt on their princes, causing them to wander in trackless wastelands. But he rescues the poor from trouble and increases their families like flocks of sheep. The godly will see these things and be glad, while the wicked are struck silent. Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.”