3 Steps towards Forgiveness

Festering like a hidden sliver in my thumb, it’s a pain I prefer not to touch. No matter how much I try to ignore it, the swelling ache continues to annoy me. A broken relationship that refuses to mend. My offender chose to part ways without reconciliation and now the thought of contacting this person fills me with anxiety.  Fearing what they might say or what the Holy Spirit might ask of me. I have spent much of the passing years frustrated at the person, reliving the painful acts and words that spewed from their mouth.

I realized that my constant focus on what this person did wrong, was my way of deferring blame, telling myself “It’s their fault!”. Deferring blame became my veneer to an underlying issue of unforgiveness. As long as I focused on what the person did, my eyes looked beyond my own faults and only looked at their wrongs.

I am astonished at the lack of awareness of my sinful nature. As a pastor’s wife, I’ve spent years, giving counsel, comforting and praying with others, while all the time quietly carrying my own overweight baggage of offense.

Somehow I need to get a firm grip on a pair of tweezers. pulling out this festering sliver of unforgiveness. To become vulnerable and willing to seek reconciliation with my offender. According to R.T. Kendall, our biggest tool to remove unforgiveness from our lives is prayer,

“The ultimate proof of total forgiveness takes place when we sincerely petition the Father to let those who have hurt us off the hook”                                               Total Forgivingness by R.T. Kendall

When we ask God to forgive and let the offender off the hook, we are asking God to bless, prosper that person.

Instead of deferring blame onto the person that wounded me, I should use my energy to daily pray for God to bless them, prosper them, completely forgive them and treat them as if they did nothing wrong. As I type I realize that the above prayer might be a bit mechanical for me at first, but in time it will be sincere.

I’ve wondered why all these thoughts are stirred up in my heart? For the past few years I’ve had a longing for more of God, and more of His power working in my life. Ephesians 4:30-32 gives the answer, making a connection between forgiveness and the work of the Holy Spirit.

“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 4:30-32 NIV

The Holy Spirit has been proactive pinpointing areas where I need to forgive others, so that I am not grieving the work He longs to do in me. Here are three steps that I am taking to walk on the path of forgiveness.

  1. Pray God’s blessing upon the offender. Refrain from praying that they would see the errors of their way, but rather pray for God to bless them and their children personally. When I pray for their personal benefits, it helps steer my attitude in the right direction.
  2. Give thanks for their positive qualities. I force myself to think of their positive qualities, verbalizing them during my prayer time as words of praise to God. “Lord, I thank you for the heart of _________ for their desire to be used by You.” “Lord, I thank you that _________ is a good mother.” “Lord, I thank you for the creative mind that you have given _________.
  3. I surrender my offense to God, the true Judge. Forgiveness is an act of surrendering I turn the grudge, anger, bitterness, pain and power over to God.

Edited by Lydia King

 

Compassion

After a decade of squeezing onto the subway, standing in the cold hailing cabs, we purchased a Buick van. After three months of study, I received my license making me an official member of the insanity club called “Beijing Motorist.” With full control of my 6-foot wide interior, I enjoyed praise music flowing out the speakers and sips of hot coffee as I dodged pedestrians and electric bikes. Despite the traffic, it felt good to have privacy on my daily 45-minute commute.

It dawned on me one day, that my response to the beggars had shifted somewhat after becoming a Beijing motorist. Now, instead of walking towards them on the sidewalk, I sped by them in my van. Instead of checking my coat pocket for loose change, I had my window rolled up tight. The needy became easy to ignore, as I would say to myself—

“They shouldn’t be in the middle of the road! Don’t they know they’re going to cause an accident!”

Shielding myself from the needs of others seemed to lock in a hardness that was changing me. At my lowest point, while driving into the church office on a weekday, I started listening to a podcast sermon about compassion for the homeless.

As I stopped at a busy intersection I heard tapping on my window. There stood a young mom holding an infant. One of my beggar rules was to not give to adults using children to beg. So I raised my hand up gesturing a firm “No!” The lady stepped back. The light changed. I hit the gas. As I glanced at the fuel gauge I realized I was just about out of gas. This forced me to make a U-turn to the nearest gas station in order to ensure I would make it to the office.

Sitting at the gas pump I thought about the homeless sermon. So many of our cities are filled with people in need. I was feeling like the religious person in the story of the Good Samaritan who quickly rushed by the one in need. Only I was even a step lower, I was listening to a message compassion while ignoring the knock at my window. I asked the Lord to forgive me. “God, could you give me a second chance?”

As I got back on my original route, who should be there at the intersection, but the same mother with her small child. The light was red. I stopped and she approached my window. She didn’t have time to tap my window. I rolled it down as soon as I saw her coming. The Lord was giving me my second chance and I put some Chinese dollars in her hand.

In my comfort and safety, God had sent a reminder of just how needy His world really is.

“ Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.” Acts 3:2

A good friend Greg Smith was preaching on this passage, and I wrote in the margins of my Bible;

“Just when we want Beautiful, God places a beggar in the path.”

The scriptures go on to describe what Peter and John did. They saw beauty in the beggar as being more grand than the beauty of the gate. Their eyes made contact, they had a conversation, and they offered the lame man healing in Jesus name. God always seems to be present when we focus on the needs of others. The weak are made strong. Sadness turns to joy. Despair gives way to hope.

“ Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God” Acts 10:4

White Space Living

“White space is important,” The lecturer emphasized.   I thought the goal of a good newsletter was to fill the page full? Yet, the lecturer was telling us that having empty, white space was the key to getting your letter read. He explained that white space gives your eyes some rest and helps them focus better on what you are trying to communicate. It’s a principle that works not only in newsletters but also in life. It’s in the white, empty space of our day that we are free to have solitude with God and allow our dreams a little space to grow.

My husband and I have a tendency to fill our daily pages clear to the edge. Much of what I fill my daily page with are commitments and programs that were never my idea in the first place, yet they are things of value that strengthen the church as a whole. Sometimes I say, “Yes” more than I should. I do want to be the pastor’s wife that thinks “Yes” instead of “No” when asked a favor, especially a favor from my husband. And if there is anyone I want to get alongside and help in life, it’s my husband. There are times that I am so swamped in helping others that my own dreams are being put on hold.

I am married to a guy that seems to get excited about multitudes of ministry opportunities. And I am quick to jump on board with him in his endeavors. Here are a few keys to being an active ministry partner, yet finding enough white space for your individual dreams to grow.

Communicate
Firstly, share with your husband your true emotional state. If you’re chewing your nails off and pulling your hair out, because of busyness, no one wants to know about it more than your husband. Don’t assume that he notices your thinning hair and bloody nails; he probably doesn’t. It’s your responsibility to be open and share with him how you are doing.

Secondly, share with your husband about your own dreams and goals. Your dreams are something that you are excited about, so talk about them. If you don’t talk about your dreams they will never come to be. Give your husband a chance to be excited with you, and help you attain your dreams. Good communication is foundational to white space living.

“What gets talked about, gets done!” John Maxwell

Block out time
Pull out the calendar and set aside time each week for yourself. Blocking out designated time will empower you to say “No” to some things and “Yes” to other things. Getting it written down on a calendar allows you to tell others that you are not available “hmmm…let me check my schedule, so sorry I have another commitment at that time, would Tuesday work instead?” When I can get a little “Me” time each day, I end up happily giving time away for other people and projects.

Match your gifts
Try to volunteer to ministries that match your natural strengths. If you are being stretched in areas of strength, then you will feel that the ministry is actually honing your skills, moving you closer to your dreams.

Let it Fail
There are times that our husbands and the church congregation need to see a ministry fail. When leading children’s ministry, there was a rare occasion that I posted a sign on the preschool class door, “Sorry, we cannot have class today, due to a shortage of volunteers.” I don’t recommend this being a habit, but the few times that I did it, caught the attention of the Parents and let that we were short handed.

The reality of church work is that some ministry need to be allowed to fail. There will be seasons when you have a volunteer that is excited about a certain ministry, and it flourishes. When that same volunteer moves away the ministry can be left limping along.

Don’t be the solution
My husband once asked a Chinese pastor, “What is the one thing you would want to tell a missionary?” His answer surprised us “That there is only one Savior”. It was his way of saying, don’t come to the field with an attitude that you are the key, Jesus is our solution. It’s a good word for all of us to remember. We are not the answer, Jesus is.

Ladies, we are so much happier with white space, time for rest, for God and our dreams.

“God will teach us to do His will and His good Spirit will lead each of us on level ground.” Psalms 143:10

Edited by Lydia King

Putting on Truth

After years of outfitting my preschoolers, and preparing them for their day, I have returned to the daily habit of dressing them. Despite them living hundreds of miles away and now being in their thirties, I am still suiting them up in the morning. I take my children into the prayer closet to dress outfit them with the Armor of God.

Picking an index card with Ephesians 6 jotted down, I pray each element of the armor onto my children while getting them ready for their day.

“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:11-17 NIV

Praying this scripture has stirred up a curiosity within me:

Why is truth being illustrated as a belt in the scripture?
Why is righteousness being described as a breastplate?
How does faith bring an end to the arrows that are continually being shot at us?
What are these flaming arrows?

The passage from Ephesians has put me on a treasure hunt. With a pick and shovel in hand, I’ve decided to dig deep for some precious gems to come to a clearer understanding on what God is trying to teach us.

Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit exhorts the Ephesus, to be fighters, strong and mighty. This does not refer to wimpy Christians that wish to live a smooth, lazy life. The words are for those of us that want to make a difference the ones who choose to be empowered and live with the anointing God placed on them. This strategy is for coming against the plans of the devil, and believe me he has a plan. A plan to tear apart your family, to tear down your future and rip your faith to shreds.

God is telling us to put on all the armor, the full armor. We are not given the choice of putting on our favorite parts and leaving the rest hanging in the bedroom closets. So whether you are a woman that leans towards scripture memory or black and white righteous living or ready to share the gospel of peace with others don’t just lean towards your areas of strength. You need the full armor to overcome both.

The verb “to stand” is written twice for us. I take comfort in knowing that when the enemy is in full assault on my life, God’s command is to stand. He’s not asking me to use Karate or pull out my shotgun on the enemy. He’s not requesting us to take high ground and climb into the enemy’s territory. He says to “Stand” when I am under spiritual attack, I feel discouraged, defeated and weak. Our Compassionate Commander and Chief orders are to where the full armor and to stand.

The belt of truth has been a mystery to me, I did not really understand its purpose and value. The belt that Paul is writing about is not the cute, skinny belt that matches your polka dotted dress. This belt is designed for a soldier. It’s the first thing that he would put on, the material is sturdy and gives support to the warrior. From his belt the warrior hung his weapons and decorated leather strips. These strips of leather made a clanging sound as he approached the enemy, intimating them. A foundational part of the soldier’s uniform. Some describe it as a girdle or an apron from which the soldier’s weapons hang.

Truth is a foundational garment to our lives as Christians. Upon the discovery of truth, we build our belief system upon. It’s no wonder that the opening line of the Bible is:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” Genesis 1:1

Acknowledging God as Creator is the foundational layer of our Belief system. It shouldn’t surprise us that the opening line of gospel of John point to the truth of Jesus:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him, all things were made without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life and that life was the light of me.” John 1:1-4

Our Lord knows that truth has to be put on first. Understanding that we have one Creator God and then His son that died for us is foundational in building our faith.

We are living in a world that continually picks away at the reality of truth. For the sake of Peace, many would prefer to ignore the truth and swallow the modern day Kool-aid of “If it’s truth to you, than it is truth”. Yet the same people who accept this as their belief system would never try to apply it to their emotional or physical world. If they headed off to work and noticed that their car was out of gas, they would not walk to the kitchen sink and fill up the gas can with water. Then head back to the car chanting to themselves “I believe this is gasoline, I believe this is gasoline” and pour it into their car. Each of us would think that person is crazy; you don’t put water into your car engine. It will never run. Yet many of our friends and loved ones, take this position with their spiritual life, if it’s truth to you, then it is truth. Just keep saying it to yourself.

Finding truth is foundational not only to our belief system but also to our Identity in Christ. At the beginning of the year when I am drawing up my prayer strategy, in the center of my prayer board I drew a circle in the center of the board. Inside I wrote down a phrase that reminds me of my identity in Christ. Knowing and believing in the truth of who I am in Christ is central to being an effective prayer warrior.

“I am the Way, The Truth and the Life” John 14:6

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak with his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak. John 16:13

“And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth: 1 John 5:6

edited by Lydia King

Sabotaging your ministry

“I don’t care what anyone thinks about me!”

or

“I just need to be myself!”

Quick quips that came spilling out of my unhappy heart. We had been in Hong Kong for a year or two; the excitement had worn off, and most of my ministry was towards the two little ones clinging to my legs. It seemed that everything I was doing was for my children or for my husband. Time and Energy spent on the family mixed together with feelings of not measuring up made for a deadly cocktail that I regularly sipped on.

I would think to myself,

“I can get more accomplished for God back home in America than I can here in Asia.“

Instead of trusting God with my circumstances I began feeding on negative thoughts. What spilled out was sarcasm.

The sarcasm went on for a couple of years, delighting in the shock or laughter that it brought to the listeners. Then one morning the Lord revealed to me,

“I was sabotaging my ministry.”

My attitude was an attempt to escape my circumstances. During the first couple of years living overseas, I would have been perfectly happy if my husband walked into the apartment to announce that we would be packing up and heading back to the homeland. My private discontentment had soured and was spilling out on others.

“But the things that come out of a person’s month, come from the heart, and these defile them” Matthew 15:18 NIV

The negative comments that came out of my mouth revealed something more serious within my heart. Reflecting back on this time a few things fed my unhappiness,

  • Lack of personal prayer life. The stage of life, when I was the first one up in the morning flipping pancakes and packing lunches instead of praying on my knees.
  • Lies of the Enemy. The lie went like this,

“I am not qualified for the ministry, I snuck into the ministry while God wasn’t looking, and my job is to support my husband and watch God use his life.” (see the blog “Meeting Ministry”)

  • Task-Oriented. I have a tendency to be task-oriented. I like lists and if the items on the list have nice little boxes for me to check off during the day, all the better. My lists kept me from setting aside time to be alone with God.

Over the years the Holy Spirit has been faithful not to give up on me. He has given me a deep love for the people of our calling. That love changed my heart from sour to sweet. From dissatisfaction to an appreciation of the calling that God has given us.

“And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 NIV

When our Lord makes his appeal through us to reconcile others to Christ, I am quite certain it’s not through sarcasm. When we think about the fruit of the Spirit, sarcasm can’t be squeezed into any of them.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

If you struggle with sarcasm as I did, would you quiet yourself before our wonderful counselor and allow Him the time to expose any hidden motives or hurts that may be the cause of your quick quips.

edited by Lydia King

Personal but not Private

During the heat of the day in the Cascade Mountains, I have the choice of jumping into a nearby pond or a small river that runs through the property. I skip the pond and dip my toe into the chilly river. The Little Deschutes River is very clear. I can easily see smooth stones and an occasional small trout by my feet. The pond that I skipped over, looks somewhat clear until you step in. If you do step in a cloud of muck will quickly envelops everything around you. What might be tempting on a hot day, what looks at first glance to be a refreshing pool, is no more than a pot of murky sludge.

Rivers flow. There is a natural cleansing that takes place as water flows over rocks. Ponds just sit still. Sludge, sediment, I just don’t care for it much. A Muslim friend has recently taught my husband how to make Turkish coffee. Turkish coffee is OK until you get to the bottom of the cup. But because no filter is used in the brewing, if you drink to the bottom of the cup, you will end up with a mouth full of grit. Some cups of coffee, like stagnant ponds, have this same problem of unwanted sediment.

When things aren’t flowing, sediment has a way of building up. And things can get mucky.

Early on in ministry, I had no idea how to be a pastor’s wife. I was one of these girls that fell in love with a guy that was called into ministry, so I was headed for the ministry too. I watched quietly as God used my husband to change lives, and did my best to support him. I kept my personal dealings with God private, just letting them settle in my heart, like grounds in Turkish coffee. I rationalized my privacy, my lack of public participation in ministry by telling myself,

“I’m a shy person.”

Or this one,

“My husband is the minister, not me.”

I lived my life more like a pond full of sediment than a free flowing river. With 10 years of sediment settling in my heart, I realized one morning while living in Hong Kong, that my habit of keeping things private was not helping anyone. I remember saying to myself, “No one will be ministered to if I don’t engage.” I was tired of being a pond full of sediment. I wanted to be a flowing river. I wanted God’s living water to flow through me and out to others. I don’t care much for sediment. Not in ponds, or in coffee, or in ministry.

When the temple guards attempted to prematurely arrest Jesus in John chapter 7, Jesus proclaims on the last day of the feast,

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said streams of living water will flow from with him, by this He meant the Spirit…” John 7:37-39

My faith is personal, but it’s no longer private. To avoid having a pile of sediment in your life, allow His living water to flow through you and out to others. I think they call that ministry. Our faith is personal, but it’s not private.