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Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

None of us want to have regrets in life. I want to live each day so when I look back, I can say I have no regrets. But I also realize that may not be totally reasonable. We all make mistakes. Maybe it’s as little as eating too much cake and cookies over these holidays (definitely) or sitting more than moving (maybe) or choosing my own comfort over someone else’s (probably). Maybe you’ve lived a life full of things you now regret. I hope you know it is not too late to change, to choose better moving forward, to ask and receive forgiveness, and to extend to yourself a wonderful gift: Grace.

My pastor reminded me today that our past (good or bad) does not define our future. God has a new thing for you – a path, adventure, purpose beyond anything you can imagine. Don’t allow regrets to keep you from saying “yes” to whatever God has for you. Don’t keep looking in your rear view mirror – you’re not going that way.

Milkweed seeds ready to fly

Monument to life

Reflection is necessary occasionally.

The colors of sunset – dramatic reminder of a full day

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Eating ice cream with Grandpa

All dads are major influences in the lives of their children, even the bad or absent ones. I was blessed with a wonderfully kind and gentle father, who loved me unconditionally and believed in my potential way more than I did. In honor of my dad, today’s blog is devoted to five tidbits of wisdom he handed down to his children.

  • Take care of the land.

My grandfather was a farmer, and my dad farmed with him until I was nine years old. We lived on a small acre plot of land adjacent to the main family farm, where my paternal grandparents lived. My dad loved farming, but when my grandpa passed away, my parents couldn’t afford to buy the farm, so Dad sold most of the farm equipment and started driving a semi-truck hauling grain and farm animals. But my dad always loved the land.

img_4309He spent hours in our wooded acres, cleaning up downed trees, and using the wood to heat our home. He loved those trees. My nephew recently found a video recording my dad made while walking through his beloved woods. To hear his voice again, poetically extolling the beauty and majesty of the massive oaks and elms…we were amazed at his eloquence. My dad was a quiet man, but his heart was huge. Listening to that recording revealed his passion for conservation.

  • Everyone needs some alone time.

This could easily be part 2 of the previous point. My dad was an introvert who loved people. And yes, that’s a thing. Dad enjoyed being around friends and family, but he needed to get outside or get alone for a while to re-charge. Dad drove tractors (alone), semis (alone), and lawnmowers (alone) so he could have his solitude. He told me often about having conversations with God, listening to the radio, observing nature, just soaking up the quiet without any competition for his attention. He could talk with anyone about many things, but he was most content when he could get outside, in his woods, alone.

  • Don’t cruise along in the left lane.

We just finished 12 hours of driving in the last two days. So many drivers have never learned this bit of wisdom that my dad drilled into me when I was learning to drive. People – the left lane is for passing.

  • Show up and work hard
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Though it looks as though Sean is miserable, this was a favorite activity: riding on the John Deere lawnmower with Grandpa.

My dad worked hard his whole life. He didn’t make much money, but when he left our house, he gave 100% to whatever needed to be done: field preparation, driving trucks, hauling grain or hogs or cattle, splitting and hauling wood, mowing lawn, planting and harvesting, etc. When he was an employee, his boss knew Bill would show up, no matter the weather or his health. My dad was more reliable than the U.S. Mail. And his kids learned that work ethic who have now passed it down to their kids.

  • Finish well

I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with my dad during the last few months of his life. He had been diagnosed with leukemia and I would travel to his house to sit with him to give my mom a little break from care giving. I loved listening to my dad tell stories about his young adult life. About how he first met my mom. How he thought she was the most amazing and beautiful girl he’d ever seen. He was a shy, quiet young man, but my mom flirted and joked with him and he was a goner. At least, that’s what he said. He also told stories of mistakes, regrets, errors in judgment. He was so sad about those things. My dad was not perfect. He made mistakes in his life and lived with some measure of guilt. If he were here, he would tell you the same thing. But the greatest decision he ever made was to ask Jesus to forgive him, to cleanse him and clear him of that shame and condemnation. From then on, my dad was a different man. Before his God-encounter, Dad had high expectations (for himself and his family) that were seldom met, but after he met Jesus, spent time allowing God to transform him, my dad became less judgmental, and more grace-filled. He experienced being set free from guilt. And those last few months of his life were marked with a love more profound that I had ever seen before. His love for my mom was deeper and richer. He took time to meet with the men he wanted as his pallbearers so they would know how much he loved and appreciated them during his life. He talked with me for hours about heaven, what he wanted us to do for my mom when he was gone, how much he loved me and my siblings…and how much he loved His Savior, Jesus. Those were precious times with my dad, priceless conversations I can still hear in my head. He taught me one final lesson – finish well.

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My mom and dad soon after their engagement. Mom was 17, Dad was 21.

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Have you ever considered what you would do if you knew you only had one day to live? Would you celebrate all the blessings in your life with those you love? Would you call people to ask forgiveness for any offense or hurt from the past? Would you care what people thought of you? Would you eat your favorite meal? Would you take a hot air balloon ride or zip line adventure or sky dive? Would you sit peacefully waiting for the end to come?

One of my favorite songwriters is Ben Rector. He recorded a song called “Like the World is Going to End,” addressing some of these questions.

If we found out that the world 
was gonna end on Tuesday morning
What would everybody do
It’s funny how the thought of that 
can make something real important
And a lot of things pretty worthless too

The lyrics are poignant, the tune is catchy, but the thoughts I’ve had since first listening to it a few years ago have stayed with me. Read the lyrics of the final chorus:

‘Cause I’d be dancin’ like a fool
I’d eat ice cream every mornin’
I’d call up everyone I loved
And drive them out to California
And we’d say the things 
that we’ve been scared to death to say till then
Now that I think about it
Maybe we should always live like the world is gonna end

Today is Maundy Thursday. It signifies the last 24 hours of the life of Jesus. What did He do?  No big meal – just wine and bread.  No apologizing for wrongs done – He had no sin. No selfish adventures – he served and prayed and forgave. He ate one last meal – with those He loved but knew would abandon Him and the one person He knew would betray Him.

Bob_Goff_Maundy_Thursday

On Maundy Thursday Jesus knew He was headed to a painful, gruesome death. He knew He would be abandoned by friends and forsaken by His Father, yet He chose it anyway. He chose US anyway. Maundy Thursday – our opportunity to receive what Jesus offered on his last day. My friend Jennifer Dukes Lee provided this graphic to help visualize all that Jesus did for us BEFORE the cross. On his last night. At his last meal. With his betrayer.

On His Last Night

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Yesterday I gave a kids’ sermon to the children at our small town church. I usually try to come up with some sort of object lesson to help the teaching stick with them. Almost always I get good feedback from the adults in the congregation because, taking a page from “what would Jesus do”, I’ve found telling stories is the best way to communicate truth about God, no matter what age I’m teaching.

toothpasteIn yesterday’s sermon, I used a tube of toothpaste. I had one of the older children squeeze out as much toothpaste as they could onto a paper plate. Then I asked him to put it all back. Of course he told me he couldn’t. None of the other children volunteered to try either, except the one smarty who told me she could with some sort of vacuum. Kudos to the problem solver. She’ll probably be an engineer some day.

The purpose of the lesson was to illustrate that speaking out without thinking is much like squeezing out that toothpaste.  Once those words are spoken, it’s almost impossible to get them back. I encouraged the kids (and the listening adults) to choose their words carefully, and if they speak hurtful or angry words, to quickly apologize. Most of us don’t realize the power we have with our words. I even told the kids their words can sometimes hurt their moms’ feelings. Yes, moms have feelings. There were a few significant looks exchanged between daughters and moms at that gem of truth.

Left that little 5-minute lesson feeling pretty good. I’d passed on some truth, encouraged kids to be kind, laughed a little over squeezed out toothpaste and sat down. This morning I got a little frustrated over some circumstances beyond my control. How did I respond? Did I remember my own sermon? Did I get all spiritual and think, “O Lord – You have prepared me for this moment. I will respond in kindness and compassion, just as Your Word teaches. I will love and honor my fellow man.”? Nope. Not even close.

I lost it. I chose (yes – it was my choice) to pass on my frustration through angry words in a conversation with one of my favorite people on the planet. It took a long walk around my city (and a cold iPhone battery leaving me with no walking music) to allow the Holy Spirit to show me my failure. And I learned a lesson of my own.

I’m not a rock star. I’m not a superhero. I’m not a great Bible teacher. I’m a flawed human being who needs the grace of God to exist in relationship with others. My pride took a hit today…and I really hope I’ve learned this lesson so I don’t have to revisit it again tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day. But I know a few things about God and I know He wants me to pass this test so I can move on to something else. So – as I’m trying to cram toothpaste back into the tube, will you give grace to those who may lose it on you today? Most everyone has a story we don’t know. Face value is rarely accurate. And, if you can think fast enough in the face of frustrations, try to choose life-affirming words. Toothpaste is a real mess to clean up.

James 3:4-6 – “It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.”

P.S. – I apologized and thankfully, I was forgiven. I think the heart emoji helped.

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Do you have a favorite promise from God?

Maybe you are like me and have a new favorite every day.

Today, my go-to promise is:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deut 31:6

Tomorrow I may grab onto:

“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27:5

I could go on and on…

God promises to keep us secure and safe (Job 11:18) with unfailing love (Psalm 52:8). He promises to protect us (Psalm 12:7) and provide for us (Psalm 65:9)…and not just food and water.

God tells us not to worry because He provides everything we need.
If the flowers in the field are small_purple_flowersclothed in beauty, how much more He will do for us, His children. God says we only need to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) God also provides us a way out of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13) and strength when we are weak (1 Peter 4:11).

However, we can believe all of this because of Jesus. According to 2 Corinthians 1:20, “…no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.”

Because God sent Jesus as the Promised Messiah, we can believe every single one of His promises.

Jesus is our refuge in times of trouble…God will pour His Spirit upon our children…The Lord will fight for you and save you from your enemies…God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.

Help – I can’t stop. There are soooo many!

“You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
    abounding in love to all who call to you. Psalm 86:5

“ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Take a moment and find a promise from God to hang onto for whatever you are going through today.

He will not fail you – He promised!

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It random-act-of-kindnesswas a saying my mom used to tell me when I complained in junior high about people being mean to me. Looking back, I cannot remember anyone’s actual actions or words toward me that I would consider mean…but I certainly do remember my mom’s advice, “Just be nice to them, Kris. Kill them with kindness.”

Most of the time, I think I’m a kind person, but I also realize that plenty of times I’ve chosen what felt good to me over what may have been kindness extended toward someone else. The times I could have allowed someone in front of me at the WalMart check out lane, held a door open during a walk instead of hurrying on myself, or getting Don a cup of coffee while I was up getting my own…I could go on. So could you.

Today I’m grateful for kindness. I’m also grateful for the POWER of kindness, because I believe if we, all of us, make the intentional choice to be kind to others, we’ll help inch our society in the opposite direction of where it is currently heading.

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)

Here’s my intentional kindness action plan for this week:

Day 1 – Baby steps: smile at everyone I meet, even if they are grouchy or frowning. This includes while I’m driving (my biggest challenge) and when I answer the phone. I don’t know about you, but I can tell when the person on the other end of the phone says “hello” with a smile. I’m weird that way.

Day 2 – Everything from Day 1 PLUS…within the course of the day, choosing kindness in the little things. This could include holding doors, making coffee, running errands, doing a favor, extending grace, being generous, laughing at dumb jokes.

Day 3 – Day 1 + Day 2 + taking note of my body language and tone of voice so I exude kindness with more than just words. Walking the walk, not just talking the talk, as they say.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.” 1 Corinthians 13:4

Day 4 – Everything from the past three days PLUS adding in kindness to those who don’t like me.

NOOOO!

This one is the hardest, of course. Who likes doing nice things, being nice, showing kindness to people who do not deserve it? Not me.

But…

That’s what God has asked us to do…and in fact, it is what He did (and keeps doing) for us. We don’t deserve God’s love…we never deserved Jesus’ sacrifice for us, but He did it anyway. Because He loves us more than we can imagine. And if we really want to show the world a better way…the BEST way…we must demonstrate God’s love through our actions. Kill them with kindness.

“Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” Romans 12:20-21 (The Message)

I once heard a message from a guest speaker about kindness. A person sitting near to me scoffed about it afterwards – “What a stupid topic for a sermon!” I guess they thought it wasn’t spiritual enough. But in actuality, showing kindness is one of the most spiritual disciplines you can aspire to reach. By showing kindness, you are showing an unbelieving world the unconditional love of our Father God. We are proving His love for them, and using us as instruments of that love. What is more spiritual than being a tool in the hands of the Master?

“We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us,[a] and by our sincere love.” 2 Corinthians 6:6

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One of my favorite singer/songwriters is lesser-known, but brilliant in my humble estimation. He has a pleasant voice and very engaging personality. I’ve seen him once in concert (as part of my favorite band’s tour last year) and I’m looking forward to seeing him as the headliner in about 10 days in Des Moines. But his brilliance isn’t his voice (sorry) or his personality or his choice of friends – I love that he writes songs that every man (or woman) can relate to. He writes songs like a regular guy – love songs, songs with catchy tunes & lyrics, songs to his family members, songs in celebration, songs about life, and songs about choices. His name is Ben Rector and his newest album is called “Brand New.” The album includes what I believe is one of his best songs about choices, relationships, and life.

Brand_New

Instead of writing on and on about what he’s talking about, here are the lyrics and you can see for yourself…it isn’t rocket science or difficult theological concepts…it’s just an honest man’s assessment of what he’d do if he knew the world would end on Tuesday morning.

“Like The World Is Going To End”

If we found out that the world
was gonna end on Tuesday morning
What would everybody do
It’s funny how the thought of that
can make something real important
And a lot of things pretty worthless too

But I’d be dancin’ like a fool
I’d be laughin’, I’d be cryin’
Callin’ everbody I’d ever hurt and reconcilin’
I’d call everyone I loved
Say what I was scared to say till then
Now that I think about it
Maybe I should always live like the world is gonna end

I’d hit all my favorite resturants
They’d be open for business
Would not care what people thought, yeah

And I’d speak love to everbody
Who came close enough to listen
And if someone done be wrong
I’d call and tell em’ I forgot

And then I’d be dancin’ like a fool
I’d be laughin’, I’d be cryin’
Callin’ everbody I’d ever hurt and reconcilin’
I’d call everyone I loved
Say what I was scared to say till then
Now that I think about it
Maybe I should always live like the world is gonna end

We spend most our lives
And almost all our time
One what we don’t care about
What we could do without

Every tragedy
Is that we can’t see it
We can’t see until time is running out

‘Cause I’d be dancin’ like a fool
I’d eat ice cream every mornin’
I’d call up everyone I loved
And drive them out to California
And we’d say the things
that we’ve been scared to death to say till then
Now that I think about it
Maybe we should always live like the world is gonna end

Live like the world is gonna end
I find myself singing this song at periodic times throughout the day. It makes me think. Hopefully it makes me act and make better choices too. Hopefully it’ll do the same for you. Because it’s only Friday – you’ve got about four days to eat ice cream every morning.

If you want the album, you can go to his website, or iTunes, or Amazon…wherever you buy your music. If you want tickets to his Des Moines concert (which is on March 28th – a Monday night fortunately), go to ticketmaster.

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Spring always means I start thinking about my dream of a perfect lawn, flowering plants and bushes, and an abundant garden with luscious vegetables. But it’s really only a dream. I don’t have enough determination and know-how to make it actually happen. Besides the lack of knowledge and willingness to work, I’ve got an insidious enemy in my lawn. His name is Charlie. Creeping Charlie.

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Creeping Charlie is a ground ivy but that doesn’t really cover all you need to know. According to www.gardeningknowhow.com “the creeping Charlie plant is rivaled only by dandelions in terms of difficulty to get rid of and control.” But they’ve given me hope. It seems all I need to know are a few tips and tricks to “beat this annoying lawn invader.” First I have to identify it by studying its appearance. Then I can stop it from thriving by working to create a healthy lawn. Most recommend using a dicamba-based herbicide. When creeping Charlie hits your flowerbeds, you’ll need to actually use your hands to pull it out or try a smothering technique. Some sources recommend using Borax, but that can kill your other plants too, so be cautious.

If you’ve made it this far in the blog, you’ll be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with giving up something for Lent?” I’m glad you asked. Today’s “giving up” involves bitterness and there is no better analogy than my little plant friend Charlie. Like that ground ivy, bitterness often takes root in an unhealthy situation and grows alone untouched until it has taken over your life. Bitterness is tough to get rid. Determination alone won’t do it. You’ve got to get your life healthy, like I must get my lawn healthy, to truly stop bitterness from growing. The bitterness seed is often planted by an action done against you, something that hurt or offended you. But then you watered it with constantly thinking about, or talking about it with others. Now that bitterness ivy grows and grows, often unchecked until it has taken over the lawn of your life.

Want to get rid of Creeping Bitterness? Use the same techniques as ridding your lawn of Charlie. First you need to identify the condition in your life. Recognize you have this little bugger and then decide to work hard to stop it from spreading. Get your life healthy in other ways – feeding it with the Word of God, watering it with consistent prayer, fertilizing it by spending time in the presence of God. The very best method of killing bitterness is applying a healthy dose of forgiveness periodically. Forgiveness will kill a lot of nasty plants which want to attach themselves to your life. And the great news, forgiveness won’t kill anything good in your life…actually forgiveness works to only kill the crud and causes the good things to thrive. Maybe bitterness has invaded your family relationships already. Like getting rid of Charlie in your flowerbeds, you may actually have to get your hands dirty pulling out each bitterness plant, one by one. It’s worth it. Nothing flourishes like weed-free flower beds or bitterness-free family relationships

It’s spring so let’s get down to business and create a beautiful life by ridding yourself of Creeping Bitterness.

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My siblings may not know this but I have three secret stepsisters…really, really ugly stepsisters. I don’t often acknowledge them but I keep them pretty close at hand. Once in a while I get brave or inspired and kick them out but then in a weak moment, one or all will creep back in to live with me again. Maybe you know them. Their names are Guilt, Shame and Condemnation.

Day 9 – The Guilt Has to Go!

I’m not perfect. I never have been. I have a few things in my past that I regret. Maybe you do too. I don’t have any problem allowing the guilt from those mistakes to live with me. I know God loves me. I trust God’s Word. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross and my acceptance of Him as my Lord and Savior, I have been forgiven of all my past mistakes (Eph. 1:7). Because of God’s love, grace and mercy I can live my life free of guilt. But that doesn’t mean I do. And it is my own choices which bring old ugly Guilt back to live within my head over and over again.

Have you ever done something you thought was so bad or so hurtful, that no one could forgive you? You know God has, right? Just ask Him and He will. That’s the really easy part. But this sin, this error in judgment, this stupid mistake, occupies your mind and soul. Maybe even to the point of making you physically ill. That’s your ugly stepsister Guilt at work once again.

Guilt

What does it take to remove the old gal?
Forgiveness. You and I forgiving ourselves.
You see, until I decide to let the past live in the past, that shadow of guilt will hover and drown out whatever good God could bring from that old mistake.

Today I’m booting my ugly Guilt to the curb and replacing her with the sweet aroma of forgiveness – basking in God’s forgiveness of me and sprinkling it with a lot of forgiveness of myself (Heb. 10:22).

Be Gone Guilt! I’m giving your living space a new name – Forgiveness.

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