Tag Archive | forgiveness

Staying in the Yard

“Remember, a dogs behavior is a reflection of your own.”

Those were the words of Caesar Milan this morning as I was watching The Dog Whisperer. I always joke that God gave me this dog to teach me patience. The more I interact with Cooper, I do think that God is showing me just how patient He was and continues to be with me.

Why can’t he just stay in the yard?

We have over an acre of land and half of that is fenced. The first dog we had (Muddy) was a rescue dog who had been badly abused before he came to us. He required a lot of TLC and after a few months he relaxed and was 100% at ease in our home with our family. He was so at ease that he had no desire to leave the yard. We could open up the double gate to drive the mower into the front yard and leave it open. He would just lay in the grass and enjoy the sun. He had absolutely no desire to roam or run.

Cooper, on the other hand, is a very different dog. He was a rescue as well- but, he joined our family at a young age. He grew up here and doesn’t know how good he has it. He loves to hunt rabbits …but, for some reason the rabbits in our fenced in yard are not good enough. A half acre of chain-link fencing is a lot! We tried to put bottom rails on the sections where he was escaping, but he would just find a new place so that wasn’t working. He is part beagle, so a shock collar and invisible fencing would not work. (We watched our neighbor and his beagle struggle with that for a few years. He would “yip” when he was shocked and then walk down the road…free as a bird.) It’s frustrating! Our yard is great. There are rabbits, lots of room to run and it’s safe.

I have come to view this on a personal level…from the perspective of a kid who grew up going to church and hearing about Jesus from a young age. Personally, growing up in God’s house, I didn’t really appreciate forgiveness in Christ. That’s hard to say out loud. I appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice infinitely more now and I am extremely uncomfortable when I an drifting. I am much more at peace when I am leaning into the Lord than when I am trying to do things on my own. It’s a daily course correction, but I love to rest in the protective area the Lord has laid out for me. But, in hindsight I can acknowledge that I had a shallow relationship with the Lord when I was young.

A relationship with God is not restrictive. He has laid out some hedges…fencing if you will….for protection. That’s where the Ten Commandments come in as well as any scripture that tells me to not be anxious, forgive as you’re forgiven, put on HIS armor and fight with spiritual weapons and not weapons of my own. God’s word is full of promises that I can claim and enjoy when I “stay in the yard”. When I stray and get outside of God’s will for me…that’s when I get myself into trouble. Don’t get me wrong-there can be trouble inside that fencing. We live in a fallen world, but the Lord gives me peace when I am with Him.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

As far as the dogs go…there have been times when possum or raccoon have entered the yard and scuffled with the dogs. Both times, the dog came in and stood next to my husband…growled…and pointed at the door until he went to investigate. Trouble came into the yard, but both dogs came to their authority right away because they knew where their protection came from.

 

Why couldn’t I just stay in the yard?

Sin will take you farther than you wanted to go, keep you longer that you wanted to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. – Unknown

Every time I hear that quote, my only response is to shake my head and say “Amen”. It’s true. Don’t leave the yard.  Please, please -young Christian- don’t leave the yard.

On the flip side- our sweet little abused Muddy dog KNEW how good he had it. He had been rescued and given a new life. He had been chained up and beaten, but  when he came to us he was fed and loved. The gate was open and he was free to choose, but he knew what life outside of our home looked like and he never wanted to go anywhere else. If I am to draw anything positive from my life as a prodigal…it’s that. I don’t ever want to leave God’s presence and I pray that I don’t become apathetic or lackadaisical ever again.

Yes, God brought Cooper to our home to remind me how patient he was with me.

Lord, thank you for examples and pictures you place in my path to remind me of your presence and care for me. Thank you for patience, protection and forgiveness.

In Jesus’ precious name- Amen!

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Not Perfect, but Pure

This morning, as I walked down the hall carrying our youngest from our bed to the breakfast table, I heard him chatting with hubby. He said, “Dad, I need you to listen to this…”, and he began to read.

“…be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Then he paused and said, “Dad, I think I have really messed that up.”

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:48

I quietly chuckled, but then said, “Me too, son -me to.”

Hubby went on to read “The Beatitudes” with him and explain that as each measure is added  and we surrender to Christ, His perfection is made evident through us. Just then, my daughter’s brain woke up. From her chair, curled up in a ball and wrapped in a sweater, she whispered, “A. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

Hubby asked her to repeat it louder…it was the verse she had learned in school which was associated with the letter “A” in the alphabet.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23

On a day when my head is swimming and I feel like I am drowning in illness, defeat, confusion and frustration, I needed that exchange.

Simple.

Not perfect, but pure.

I am thankful for the days when my kids “get it”…even when I don’t.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I am waiting on that strength today.

Redeemed: another layer of the onion

I have to tell you, that God never ceases to amaze me. I have been experiencing quite a revival over the past four years and He is still showing me areas where I have not let go.

I am currently in a Bible study with a small group of women that I was initially not going to attend. Through a series of events, promptings and such…I said yes to “Seeking Him: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival”. This week I went down a rabbit hole and found hidden treasure so valuable. I lacked faith and found that I was not embracing one of God’s many promises. This one was a doozie! Wait. Did I just say that out loud? Yes. I did.

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

I have shared with you in past posts that I was living in backslidden state for years. I found myself there as a result of a lack of Christian growth, an anemic personal relationship with God and a series of compromises. After many years, the Lord called me to repentance and four years ago He began a revival in me…a process of confession, reaping, repentance and seeking the Lord’s face. This current study is one that helps a person to identify areas that may hinder revival with the Lord; strongholds, un-confessed sin, and pride. As I have been walking through this study, it has been awesome to reflect on where I was just a few years ago and evaluate areas where I still need to seek the Lord to change me. During my study time on Wednesday I got off track. (Well, it depends on how you look at that. I got off track in the book, but was following God’s lead.) There are certain portions of scripture that have hung me up from time to time over the past four years. These passages incite fear and doubt into my heart.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.

Hebrews 6:4-6

Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:62

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!

Matthew 7:21-23

A few years back, a pastor asked for my testimony. I shared with him that I became a Christian at age 11, but didn’t grow and started the slow fade in college. He didn’t let me finish- stopped me there and said something like,”That is just awful, I am so sorry for you.” But, what I heard was, “Sorry about your luck.” That stuck with me and caused me to doubt. Yikes. That coupled with the scriptures above have kept me captive even more than I was consciously aware of.

I know that God has forgiven me of all of my confessed sin during that dark time, but will he ever forgive me of my backsliding?

It’s something I really wrestle with from time to time…until today.

God brought to my attention that I needed to deal with this fear and doubt now. For the last 24 hours that is where I have been dwelling. I have read through 2 Samuel, Kings, Hosea, Psalm. There are enough instances in the scriptures where God is seen forgiving repentant backsliders. The nation of Israel wandered and repented time and time again and then there’s David…King David! It may have taken him some time to see, confess and repent from his sin…he still had to reap the consequences of his sin…and yet while his flesh and will was weak- it was his heart that followed God. While he had regret, he was forgiven. Why do I think I am so different that any of these people? Am I not special enough? That is what Satan would have me believe.

So last night I was chatting with my hubby. I asked him if it’s possible that I have not forgiven myself…could that be the problem? He shared with me a sermon he had heard. He didn’t know who the speaker was or on what radio station, but what he said was the truth (ugly as it was) that I needed to hear.

Forgiving yourself if a crock. You don’t have to forgive yourself…you have to believe that you ARE FORGIVEN. 

When he said that the lights went on. All of the sins I had confessed over the past several years had all melted away except the “adultery” I had committed in my relationship with the Lord. That one I doubted that God would forgive. Therefore, I was not taking God at His word when he said…

… he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

I didn’t believe. I had been harboring such guilt over walking away from God for so long that I had not given Him that piece of me. I still had Jesus hanging on that cross for that sin and ignored the victory that followed. Jesus CONQUERED death and sin…yes, that one, too…therefore, my sin- my backsliding is no more!

Victory in Jesus!

let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:22-23

Today I have a song in my heart! I am REDEEMED by Big Daddy Weave.

Seems like all I could see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last
Then You look at this prisoner and say to me “son
Stop fighting a fight it’s already been won”

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I’ll shake off these heavy chains
Wipe away every stain, now I’m not who I used to be
I am redeemed, I’m redeemed

All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret
But when I hear You whisper, “Child lift up your head”
I remember, oh God, You’re not done with me yet

 

Friendly fire

The definition according to Wikipedia is as follows…

Friendly fire is an attack by a military  force on friendly forces

while attempting to attack the enemy,

either misidentifying the target as hostile, or due to errors or inaccuracy.

Such attacks often cause injury or death.

I have been a victim of friendly fire, but it was not an error or miscalculation. I was the target and I have no idea where she got her ammo…no idea why she discharged her weapon…and no idea why it was directed at me. Fortunately for me, she was firing blanks. BUT, the fact that she fired at all – and I was the target- has damaged a relationship beyond repair.

Last week, in my anger, I wrote a post that unleashed all of my anger (albeit in a “nice” way…I withheld most of my wrath because the Bible reminds me to not sin in my anger.) This post included a clip of Jules from Pulp Fiction and his angry narrative of the Hollywierd version of Ezekiel  25:17. I was infuriated and ready to unleash my own “vengeance and fuuuuurious anger” upon her.

Ezekiel 25:17  has less Hollywood. It reads:

I will carry out great vengeance on them and punish them in my wrath. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I take vengeance on them.

Man, I was boiling. I sat on that post and never published it… I am so glad that has passed.

I only have a very small band of brothers/sisters behind me, because I choose to keep my circle small. In battle, you expect to be fired upon…just not from within your own outfit. With fire from the front and the rear, a girl can become disoriented and questioning…alone. Today I find myself with an even smaller circle.

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.

Proverbs 29:11

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21

We are in a battle every day. Every day, THE enemy wages war upon us and fighting can become exhausting. Especially when you just came through a string of skirmishes that have sapped your energy and stamina.  Fortunately, God is in command  and while I may be bruised and battered during battle- the ultimate war has already been won.

So I have decided that this matter is not worth addressing. She fired upon me and the “why” doesn’t matter. I have to reel this in…I have to forgive. I have to be silent. In battle, it is not wise to linger. One must advance and continue to fight the fight.

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 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 4:25-32

This matter almost distracted me from something wonderful and exciting that God has in store for me. A new horizon, a new opportunity to serve. If I had not shifted my focus, I would have missed that blessing all together. I am so thankful that I didn’t miss it! I am restless and looking for more…seeking my purpose under God’s command and eager to follow His orders.

Today, I must refuse to let Satan get a foothold in my anger. I must refuse to let him steal the joy and the miracles God has already gifted me.  And the lies? He can keep them. There is no room for them here and I refuse to address them any further. NOW ONWARD!!!!  Or as our Pastor exclaims…”Now therefore GO!”

 

Life Under the Cloud: 1 Corinthians 10

You know those days when you read something you have read time and time again and it hits you in a totally different way? That’s today.

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.

1 Corinthians 10:1

That’s it…it was staggering. I had read those words before, but never heard them that way. It’s usually verse 13 that folks focus in on, but this was profound. They were ALL under the cloud…they ALL passed through the sea. Not different seas…the same sea. You might say “DUH! It was the Red Sea, lady!” Yes, it was- but it’s so much bigger than that.

If you read on, Paul reminded the people that the Israelites all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink…and that drink came from the same rock -Christ (v3). Regardless, they still messed up! In verses 6-10 Paul gives examples of various temptations they fell to and how they were punished as a result. “Do not be idolaters…do not commit sexual immorality…do not test the Lord…do not grumble.” They were all under the same cloud…passing through the same waters- but SOME of them fell to these temptations and some didn’t. The ones who did were punished. There were consequences.

It’s usually verse 13 that people commit to memory:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

It’s one that I have committed to memory, too. To me, it means that we are all exposed to the same stimulus (sorry, Psych minor) yet we don’t all respond the same way to the same stimulus. For instance, we are all exposed to sexually explicit images in marketing these days. Some are deeply affected by it and have to make a conscious effort to guard their eyes and some can just walk past and not think twice. Some can smell alcohol and it’s a sweet nectar that they cannot refuse…to others, it’s a disgusting smell that rivals the urine of a horse. It’s all the same stuff…the same temptations. Some are seemingly unaffected and some find it hard to resist.

We are all passing through the same sea; Under the same cloud.

When I read this today, it was in the context of being a Christian. We are all under the same cloud…that column of smoke that led these people through the desert…the Holy Spirit. We all sit under His authority and are led by the Spirit. Even as Christians, some fall to certain temptations that others don’t. But, it is not without consequence.

In verse 12 there is a warning.

So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

Just because you are a Christian…just because you have given your heart and soul to the Lord…just because you go to church and sit under an excellent Pastor…just because you follow the Word closely and pray daily…just because you attend a few Bible studies in the course of the week…doesn’t mean that you are exempt from temptation. (If anything, Satan will turn up the heat a notch or two.) If you think that your Christian walk is strong, believe that you are exempt from temptation and your guard is down- you are in danger. All Christians have an Egypt that we have been delivered from. On the journey, some are tempted by old habits and strongholds that have not yet been surrendered.  We are being refined…we are becoming…we all are tempted. Temptations come in all forms…a knee length dress, a scrumptious piece of chocolate cake, a scent, a song, an unnecessary purchase when the money is tight because “it will make me feel better”, a chance encounter with a friend who is still knee deep in old habits,  a drink, a magazine, a male friend who will lend you an ear when your hubby is not available, a friend who whispers in your ear that “you deserve better”,  a juicy piece of gossip or a flashing icon on the sidebar of a computer monitor. The scripture says “When you ARE tempted”-and you will be- you will have the opportunity to take the bait or flee from it.

GOD IS FAITHFUL! Praise the Lord that we always have a way out when we are tempted. We just have to choose it.

Romans 3:23 reminds us ” for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God“. Please remember this…On Sunday, you may be sitting in a row with ten other people- each with a different thorn in their side. If temptation turns to sin, God deals with each of us and there are consequences. Be careful not to judge a person because their sin has a different name than yours. We are all under the same cloud: brothers and sisters in Christ. We all walk through the same sea. If your friend’s foot should happen to turn and slip while walking through that sea- grab their hand and lead them on. I would hope to receive the same grace and mercy; the same helping hand from my friend should it happen to me. Regardless of the temptation that caused me to stumble.wpid-20130624_140640.jpg

This is a picture I took as a storm was moving in. The dark cloud and the brilliant white cloud are so close in proximity…and there’s only a thin strip of blue sky in the middle. There is not a lot of “wiggle room” on the straight and narrow. One step in either direction makes a big difference.

Flag on the play! Life with Interference

Twelve years ago, hubby and I rescued a mutt. He had been beaten by his prior owner and abandoned when the guy was evicted. A friend had taken him in, but couldn’t keep him because they were already at capacity with pets. He quickly stole my heart. He came with a lot of baggage though. He was afraid of hubby, would flinch at the sight of a belt, was afraid to go outside, and cried constantly as he walked around the house. With some basic training, consistent expectations and LOTS of love…he is what I would consider the most perfect dog ever! I can count on him to listen and obey…I can count on him to lay down away from the dinner table when we eat…I can count on him to stop in his tracks if I drop the leash…I can count on a snuggle and a kiss and he knows with all confidence that he will be fed and treated well in our home.

A few weeks ago, we completed the process of adopting another mutt from a rescue. Hubby and I have done this before…it’s a cake walk. Right? There is one thing that we didn’t count on…KIDS. We didn’t have kids yet when we trained our older dog so there was no interference.

When I say, “Don’t approach his crate when he is in there.”

They hear, “Stick your fingers in and make goo-goo noises while squealing ‘he’s so cuuuute!”

When I say, “Don’t talk to him when we enter the house until after he is let out to potty.”

They hear, “Rush right in and say hello…get him all excited so he pees himself before he goes outside.”

He has had a number of accidents inside while they’re chasing him…they leave their stuff out and he’s a chewer…when they get up in the middle of the night- so does he (howling!)…they don’t respect his space. Let’s just say that I have experienced regret a time or two already during this experience.

I could go on…but, the flag has been thrown.

Interference!!

It was much easier to train a dog in a controlled/closed environment without all of this interference.

Unfortunately, our Christian walk can be the same way. It’s super easy to have faith and walk closely with the Lord in a “controlled environment” with Christian friends…during easy times…when all is well…and health is good…when you’re not challenged with interference. We salt our salt and light our light and then, BOOM! Trouble strikes and our knees buckle. (The truth is- buckled knees can be a good thing as long as you end up kneeling to pray.) Oh sure, it’s easy to forgive the man who cuts you off in traffic or the sales person who is rude. God calls us to be a reflection of Him…we are to mirror Jesus in our walk. So why is it that when there’s a flag on the play at home in our marriages or with our close friends- we find it so hard to forgive and forbear?  Bitterness, rage and slander creep in even though we know that the Bible tells us to get rid of that stuff and forgive as Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:29-32).

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.

Luke 3:27-33

I know we are supposed for forgive…but, I can’t forgive THAT!

I know we are supposed to share…but, I don’t have enough right now!

I know we are supposed to love…but, that girl is testing my nerves and I’ve got no love for her right now.

We tend to “if” and “but”. God just hears excuses…excuses.

Faith in action…living God’s word.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently in to the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it- he will be blessed in what he does.

James 1:22-25

Challenges strengthen us and draw us closer to the Lord.

Consider it a pure joy, by brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

The going get’s tough and with hands in the air -we stop the play…flags flying…Interference! Instead, when these yellow flags are launched into the air signaling “interference” we should use them as markers to highlight the moment. I can think to myself, “Ok, this is the moment to put God’s word into practice. This is the moment that stands out as an opportunity for growth, blessing and a closer walk with God. This interference is an opportunity!” Welcome challenges and advance during trials- instead of sounding a retreat. Press forward.

I can tell you that our home has experienced some serious interference in the past and it resulted in more growth than I could ever express in a blog post. And it was NOT easy…it was very hard. Because it was very hard, the blessings and growth associated with those challenges were bountiful and beautiful.

As for the dog training? The kids are here to stay and so is the dog. We have to put into practice all of those training tools we used for the first dog, while taking into account the new challenges in life. We just have to learn to adapt and overcome…practice and persevere.

muddyCooper