Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: forgiveness

What I’m Reading: Reclaimed: A Rock Creek Romance

Sometimes it’s hard to escape our pasts. My husband was no saint growing up. He, like all of us, made mistakes. He wasn’t a Christian, and while he was a decent guy, he didn’t have any qualms about living in all the ways the world told him he should live. It’s been 28 years since high school, but those decisions haunt him still.

Andy answered the call to preach early in our marriage. Living in small town Illinois, I would often run into people from his past. Upon hearing my last name, they would ask me who my husband was and, on finding out it was Andy, what he was doing now. The looks I received when I told them he was a pastor! I’ve had more than one actually say, “No. We must be talking about a different Andy.”

Of course, other times our past doesn’t haunt us as much as it traps us. Focusing our energies on mistakes that hindsight allows us to see but not fix can cause us to swim in sea of regret and sometimes depression. Focusing on our hurts can trap us in lies about who we are and what we need to do to survive.

When I was in junior high, I wore my hair pulled back in a ponytail. One of the boys in class compared my ears to those of a fictional elephant. Now, I didn’t particularly like this boy. He’d never been nice, and he wasn’t one I usually gave much attention to. But his statement, met with the hearty agreement of his pre-teen buddies, stuck with me.

To this day, I refuse to wear my hair up in public because of my sticking out ears. Do I really have elephant ears? A godly friend that I respect deeply tells me no. Does that mean the many years of believing it have melted away, freeing me to wear headbands, ponytails, and hats which I love? No. I’m working on it though.

It seems like a silly example, in light of the deeper hurts others, myself included, have allowed to attach to their spirits These lies can change how they view themselves and the actions of others towards them. In the grand scheme of things, it is minor. But it is one time the past impacted my present in an undeniable way.

Whether it’s our mistakes hounding us or events of the past shaping who we are and what we believe, our pasts don’t often stay there. And only God’s truth can put it back where it belongs.

When Suzanna Wilton and Paul Rustin, the main characters of Jennifer Rodewald’s Reclaimed, become neighbors in Rock Creek, Nebraska it puts them on the path to finding this out firsthand.

Suzanna has inherited her father’s land, but it’s far from the only thing he’s given her. Hurts and disappointments from the past have also left her with disdain for God and a chip on her shoulder. She’s out to prove herself on the land her father gave her, and those who would tell her she doesn’t belong better watch out. Suzanna carries so many wounds from her past that she can’t see truth through the pain they cause her.

When Paul Rustin, unintentionally joins the ranks of those she feels are out to see her fail, he faces a difficult path to show Suzanna otherwise. It takes his sister’s honesty to help him determine there may be more to his cantankerous neighbor than he first believed. Slowly, they build friendship and trust. Even more slowly, they realize there may be more than friendship growing between them.

When others in town conspire to make her leave, Suzanna’s wounds are aggravated. Her past colors her outlook in the present, and misunderstandings arise. Pair those with Paul’s less than savory past, and the relationship between them becomes less secure. When the truth about Suzanna’s own past and lack of faith come into the open, the lies she believes are reinforced. When Paul’s past comes knocking on his door one more time, it threatens to be the end of all they just started to build.

Truth, love, and forgiveness, both from God and people, are needed if Paul and Suzanna are going to make it beyond their pasts to find a future together.

What I’m Reading: Lane Steen

I admit I shed a few tears the first time I listened to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s rock opera, Beethoven’s Last Night. When Mephistopheles strikes a bargain with Beethoven to give up one piece of the music he’s created in exchange for his soul, Beethoven rants at Fate for having left him with this awful choice after the lifetime of hurts he’s already faced. She allows him to revisit scenes from his past and erase their pain from his life. But the hurts, disappointments, and losses sprinkled throughout his memories aren’t what moved me.

After reliving each painful experience, Beethoven makes his choice. As he sings “This is Who You Are”, it becomes clear. Beethoven can’t erase any of his past without erasing the beautiful music created from the things he experienced. One event changed in his past would change everything else about his life. He chose to keep the pain so the world would not lose the beauty drawn out of it. It’s a choice that probably hits close to home for many of us as we consider the mistakes and hurts of our own lives.

I imagine it’s a theme that played throughout Lane’s life in Lane Steen by Candace West.  Before she was out of her teenage years, Lane Steen’s life held enough hurts to fill ten people with the ache to erase the past. Raised in a shack on the outskirts of town was enough to make Lane feel like an outcast without adding in her tattered clothes and father’s bad reputation. Even those paled in comparison to the horror of living with an alcoholic father who didn’t need the addition of alcohol to make him physically and verbally abusive to his wife and daughter. With her own mother being emotionally disconnected from her, the only bright spots in her life are school and her friendships with Tabitha, Guy, and the new teacher who encourages Lane to find what she’s good at and pursue it.

Even these gifts in her life don’t lessen the hurt she feels or take away the hate Lane has for her father. Her only thoughts are to escape the town and her family and never look back. As opportunities open up small windows of hope into Lane’s life, Lane begins to wrestle with the possibility that God is there and, despite her awful circumstances, He may care about her.  

Lane takes a journey of self and faith discovery through the story. Each secret revealed about herself and her family’s past gives her more understanding. Lane learns what brings her joy and purpose. She finds out how healing God’s forgiveness and love can be to receive, and she is confronted with the need to extend that forgiveness and love to others. Lane’s eyes and heart are opened to what it really means to love someone and let them love in return. And she struggles to define what forgiveness should look like on a daily basis as she tries to move forward from the damage caused by others in her life. Lane had to learn how to let the past shape her without allowing it to trap her in a world of hate and retribution.

Whether it’s in the fictional world of Lane Steen or in our sometimes all too real lives, the past plays its part in who people become. Good and bad circumstances influence our outlooks, decisions, and emotions. Left on our own, we often turn to unhealthy ways of dealing with the past. We, like Lane, attach ourselves to ideas of retribution, hate, or despair.

It doesn’t have to be this way. God’s word offers hope that as we’ve been forgiven, we can forgive others whether they deserve it or not.  They don’t even have to accept it. We find freedom in ourselves to move into a better place when we choose forgiveness.

Scripture promises us that while the hurts may not fall away, God can grow good things in us despite and even through the pain. God assures us He will never leave us. When we feel we are all alone, we can cling to this promise and know that feeling is not from Him. He’s there to provide strength, encouragement, and direction in the middle of our hurts.

Navigating our pasts to become God’s best for us in the present and future isn’t an easy path. And it’s relevance in our lives is what makes Lane Steen’s fictional story resonate even if your pains are very different from hers. But coming to the places of acceptance of our pasts, forgiveness for those who hurt us, and allowing God to work in us will bring us to the place where we can be everything we were created to be.

What I'm Reading: Red Rose Bouquet

Tall. Apparently it’s how people describe me. Don’t worry if you’ve mentioned my height in conversation. I’m used to it, and it doesn’t offend me. At a hair below six feet without shoes on, I know I’m tall for a woman.
So when I met a couple fellow Mantle Rock Publishing authors at a conference recently and I learned they were told to look for “the really tall one”, I understood completely. It probably is the trait you would lead with because it’s the one that people will see first.
My height used to bother me. I was taller than a lot of guys, and it was one in a long list of things I was self-conscious about. I’ve grown out of that. When I’m told people of my height shouldn’t wear heels, I shrug and do it anyway. I like wedge sandals, boots, and other wedge heeled shoes. If they’re cute, I don’t care that they make me even taller. I own the “tall one” label.
Not all labels are as easily accepted. Often we allow the mistakes of the past to become our label. When we do, we let those events or traits or mistakes dictate our futures. Just ask Cheryl Thompson from Red Rose Bouquet by Jennifer Rodewald. Cheryl’s been going through life with one fling after another. She’s a successful in her profession, but her personal life is a wreck.
When her brother calls her back home, Cheryl is not prepared for the memories she has to face there. And she definitely isn’t ready for Brock Kelly, her brother’s best friend. He doesn’t fall easily into the love him and leave him place Cheryl has reserved for the men in her life. He challenges her and awakens hope for something better in her life. But he doesn’t know about the one big secret, the huge regret in her life that Cheryl has used to label herself for more than ten years. If Brock knew who she really was, he would never look at her the same way again and he definitely wouldn’t be offering hope.
When the truth comes out, the relationship between Cheryl and Brock is stretched to the limit. It becomes obvious that Brock’s love and acceptance is never going to be enough. Cheryl needs to understand the way God sees her and the decision from her past if she’s ever going to heal.
Some labels are pretty painless, like being “the tall one”. Ones like Cheryl’s are devastating. Cheryl made a sinful decision, and it haunted her for years. Whether it’s sinful or simply a horrible choice one regrets, we tattoo the labels they create onto our hearts. Failure, loser, worthless, or worse names than these become the thing we see when we look in the mirror each day. But they don’t have to be.
When we give our sins and failures over to God, we allow Him to bring something beautiful out of the mess we’ve created. God promises if we confess our sinful choices to Him, if we turn from them, He will forgive us. We may still face physical consequences of our choices, but we are forgiven. He’s not keeping tally in heaven to hold over us later.
And more than forgiven (and that’s a huge thing), we’re wanted. We’re loved. We’re children of God. We’re redeemed. We belong. We have purpose. We are chosen by the Creator of the universe. We are His. Forever.
When we allow God’s forgiveness it’s work in our lives and turn away from our sins, our old labels are erased. We may face the pain from our choices in the future, but we don’t have to let it define us and tell us we are less than. We don’t have to be trapped by regret. We are forgiven. When the past tries to close in on us and move us into a cycle of continuing bad choices, we can say no. We can remind ourselves of our new labels. These are labels given to us by God and found in His word. They are for all who have accepted God’s gift of redemption for themselves. They are labels that allow us to move forward in confidence and peace. They are labels that help us move beyond our past failures and hurts. And they are labels that no man can ever erase.

What I’m Reading: Red Rose Bouquet

Tall. Apparently it’s how people describe me. Don’t worry if you’ve mentioned my height in conversation. I’m used to it, and it doesn’t offend me. At a hair below six feet without shoes on, I know I’m tall for a woman.

So when I met a couple fellow Mantle Rock Publishing authors at a conference recently and I learned they were told to look for “the really tall one”, I understood completely. It probably is the trait you would lead with because it’s the one that people will see first.

My height used to bother me. I was taller than a lot of guys, and it was one in a long list of things I was self-conscious about. I’ve grown out of that. When I’m told people of my height shouldn’t wear heels, I shrug and do it anyway. I like wedge sandals, boots, and other wedge heeled shoes. If they’re cute, I don’t care that they make me even taller. I own the “tall one” label.

Not all labels are as easily accepted. Often we allow the mistakes of the past to become our label. When we do, we let those events or traits or mistakes dictate our futures. Just ask Cheryl Thompson from Red Rose Bouquet by Jennifer Rodewald. Cheryl’s been going through life with one fling after another. She’s a successful in her profession, but her personal life is a wreck.

When her brother calls her back home, Cheryl is not prepared for the memories she has to face there. And she definitely isn’t ready for Brock Kelly, her brother’s best friend. He doesn’t fall easily into the love him and leave him place Cheryl has reserved for the men in her life. He challenges her and awakens hope for something better in her life. But he doesn’t know about the one big secret, the huge regret in her life that Cheryl has used to label herself for more than ten years. If Brock knew who she really was, he would never look at her the same way again and he definitely wouldn’t be offering hope.

When the truth comes out, the relationship between Cheryl and Brock is stretched to the limit. It becomes obvious that Brock’s love and acceptance is never going to be enough. Cheryl needs to understand the way God sees her and the decision from her past if she’s ever going to heal.

Some labels are pretty painless, like being “the tall one”. Ones like Cheryl’s are devastating. Cheryl made a sinful decision, and it haunted her for years. Whether it’s sinful or simply a horrible choice one regrets, we tattoo the labels they create onto our hearts. Failure, loser, worthless, or worse names than these become the thing we see when we look in the mirror each day. But they don’t have to be.

When we give our sins and failures over to God, we allow Him to bring something beautiful out of the mess we’ve created. God promises if we confess our sinful choices to Him, if we turn from them, He will forgive us. We may still face physical consequences of our choices, but we are forgiven. He’s not keeping tally in heaven to hold over us later.

And more than forgiven (and that’s a huge thing), we’re wanted. We’re loved. We’re children of God. We’re redeemed. We belong. We have purpose. We are chosen by the Creator of the universe. We are His. Forever.

When we allow God’s forgiveness it’s work in our lives and turn away from our sins, our old labels are erased. We may face the pain from our choices in the future, but we don’t have to let it define us and tell us we are less than. We don’t have to be trapped by regret. We are forgiven. When the past tries to close in on us and move us into a cycle of continuing bad choices, we can say no. We can remind ourselves of our new labels. These are labels given to us by God and found in His word. They are for all who have accepted God’s gift of redemption for themselves. They are labels that allow us to move forward in confidence and peace. They are labels that help us move beyond our past failures and hurts. And they are labels that no man can ever erase.

Write Stuff Wednesday: Max and the Prodigal

wild“’Now stop!’ Max said and sent the wild things off to bed without their supper. And Max the king of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.” – Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

My husband and daughter love this book. He read it to her when she was little. Surprisingly, I never read it as a child. We didn’t own it when our sons were small, and they never had the chance to read it as children. I couldn’t tell you if they’ve read it now or not. I kind of hope they have.

As I read this quote tonight, it made me think about the story in a new way. I’m sure Mr. Sendak didn’t mean it as such, but I see a lot of the prodigal in Max. Stick with me for a moment.

Max is a spirited young boy. He has a good home and a loving parent. But sometimes his strong will gets him into a little bit of trouble. He doesn’t always like his mother’s rules fails to exercise good judgement. This tendency lands him in his room without his supper.

But Max is an imaginative little boy. He’s not going to let a little thing like his parent’s rules stop him from having the life of fun and adventure he wants.  Not a chance. Max decides to run away, if only in his imagination. He leaves his parent’s home and sails for a faraway land full of creatures that should be scary to a small boy. These are creatures with wild ways that love to party. They are capable of ending Max’s life with a single swat of their giant claws. But they don’t. They make him their king. He leads them in their rumpus.

Eventually, the rumpus comes to an end. The monsters sleep, and Max is left to consider what he’s really accomplished by running away. He has the monsters. They may fear him, but they don’t have the one thing he wants more than playmates and freedom to do only what he desires. They don’t have unconditional love for Max. Knowing this leaves Max feeling completely alone. He always had love at his parent’s home. His mother always loved him, even when he was wild and rude. She loved him when he was unlovable. She loved him even when she had to give him consequences for his choices.

Realizing this, Max is left with one choice. He boards his boat and heads home with the wild things begging him to stay. That isn’t the life he wants. He wants a life of love. He wants a life with his mother. But will she have him? Yes. Max knows even after all he’s done, his mother loves him still. He knows because she left his dinner for him.

What an awesome picture of the biblical story of the prodigal son. What a great reminder for each of us. Sometimes we are Max. Sometimes we are the prodigal. We fight to go our own way.  We tire of God’s expectations and grow frustrated with situations that don’t work out the way we believe they should. We fool ourselves into thinking we can do better on our own. We storm off in our boats and join the wild things. But soon, reality hits and we realize we are alone. The things that we gained by joining the rumpus are empty. We are alone in our tent while the wild things sleep around us. Or if you prefer, we are in the pen with the pigs.

The joys we experienced with God come back to us. We’re reminded of the peace, strength, and direction He provided. Most of all, we remember His love. It draws us into the boat and across the waves. It brings us with a repentant heart back to Him. And we find He has already prepared for our return. His arms are open wide to receive us, and our supper is waiting.

By the Book: If you aren’t familiar with it (and even if you are) take a moment to read the story of the prodigal son. You can find it in Luke 15.

What I'm Reading – A Carol for Kent

Today as I scrolled through one of my social media accounts a post for A Carol for Kent by Hallee Bridgeman came up. On sale for less than a dollar, I couldn’t pass up the chance to get it. I read and reviewed A Melody for James, the first in her Song of Suspense series, a year ago. I’d enjoyed that one, and I was sure I’d like this one as well.
A Carol for Kent is the third in the series. I didn’t pay attention to that fact when I started the book. However, while there were events alluded to that I believe would have been made clear by reading books in the correct order, my lack of knowledge of the second book’s happenings in no way diminished this story. It left me, like every good story will, wanting to know what comes next and in this instance what came before. I don’t doubt books two and four will be added to my kindle account soon.
This story focuses on Carol Mabry, single mother and attorney. She is an expert at separating her home life and her work life which often takes her into gruesome crime scenes. It’s her job to help make sure those criminals end up behind bars for their crimes, but she knows taking home the residue of the cases she works would be detrimental to her daughter, Lisa. And considering Carol was told eight years ago Lisa’s father wanted nothing to do with her, she knows she can’t let her guard down for a minute. A mother’s love is all her daughter has.
That is until country music star Bobby Kent returns home unexpectedly to find he has a child he’s known nothing about. Lies have stolen the last eight years of parenthood from Bobby, and he’s ready to make things right for his little girl.
Carol and Bobby have a lot to overcome in their relationship. The lies that kept them apart, the lies that left Carol alone, ignite anger that runs deep. Distrust based on years of feeling abandoned are not easily overcome either. There is a lot to forgive, and both feel justified in a refusal to do so.  While they both want the best for their daughter, they don’t know if there can be a joined future for themselves.
If that isn’t enough drama for two lives, Carol’s current case is a race against a serial killer. It’s hard to leave this one at the office. The killer seems to obsess about one particular type and doesn’t make mistakes that could mean a break in the case. It’s a fascination that brings the danger right up to Carol’s front door.
I found the mystery element of the story intriguing. I honestly thought the perpetrator was a different character. The real killer surprised me. I’m happy for that. To me, good suspense will surprise  you in the end. Of course, it can’t be such a surprise that the reader feels it came completely out of left field.  Looking back there are subtle clues that gave hints into the killer’s identity, but my mind definitely went a different direction. And the reason for this particular killer’s actions is one that got my attention. I’ve always found the psychological aspects of life interesting, and this story tapped into that.
Just as important as the suspense of the story is the idea of anger and forgiveness. I may not know what it is to deal with serial killers in my life, and believe me, I’m more than grateful for that. But I can relate to anger and the struggle to forgive. When someone hurts you in a way that changes your life forever, letting go of that hurt and not giving in to the anger their actions bring is difficult. When their actions come from pure selfishness and sinfulness, forgiveness is even harder to achieve. It’s easy for the unchecked anger to spill over into other areas of life. And an unforgiving heart becomes bitter in a relatively short amount of time. Carol and Bobby’s story tap into those themes which I believe many of us can understand personally. It allows us to find ourselves in the story and gives us the desire to cheer them on in their growth if we’ve already been there. If we’re still there, it may serve as an encouragement to go through that growth with them.  Either way, these themes work together with the suspense element to create a story that will capture your attention and keep it until the last page.
Here’s where you can find A Carol for Kent.

What I’m Reading – A Carol for Kent

Today as I scrolled through one of my social media accounts a post for A Carol for Kent by Hallee Bridgeman came up. On sale for less than a dollar, I couldn’t pass up the chance to get it. I read and reviewed A Melody for James, the first in her Song of Suspense series, a year ago. I’d enjoyed that one, and I was sure I’d like this one as well.

A Carol for Kent is the third in the series. I didn’t pay attention to that fact when I started the book. However, while there were events alluded to that I believe would have been made clear by reading books in the correct order, my lack of knowledge of the second book’s happenings in no way diminished this story. It left me, like every good story will, wanting to know what comes next and in this instance what came before. I don’t doubt books two and four will be added to my kindle account soon.

This story focuses on Carol Mabry, single mother and attorney. She is an expert at separating her home life and her work life which often takes her into gruesome crime scenes. It’s her job to help make sure those criminals end up behind bars for their crimes, but she knows taking home the residue of the cases she works would be detrimental to her daughter, Lisa. And considering Carol was told eight years ago Lisa’s father wanted nothing to do with her, she knows she can’t let her guard down for a minute. A mother’s love is all her daughter has.

That is until country music star Bobby Kent returns home unexpectedly to find he has a child he’s known nothing about. Lies have stolen the last eight years of parenthood from Bobby, and he’s ready to make things right for his little girl.

Carol and Bobby have a lot to overcome in their relationship. The lies that kept them apart, the lies that left Carol alone, ignite anger that runs deep. Distrust based on years of feeling abandoned are not easily overcome either. There is a lot to forgive, and both feel justified in a refusal to do so.  While they both want the best for their daughter, they don’t know if there can be a joined future for themselves.

If that isn’t enough drama for two lives, Carol’s current case is a race against a serial killer. It’s hard to leave this one at the office. The killer seems to obsess about one particular type and doesn’t make mistakes that could mean a break in the case. It’s a fascination that brings the danger right up to Carol’s front door.

I found the mystery element of the story intriguing. I honestly thought the perpetrator was a different character. The real killer surprised me. I’m happy for that. To me, good suspense will surprise  you in the end. Of course, it can’t be such a surprise that the reader feels it came completely out of left field.  Looking back there are subtle clues that gave hints into the killer’s identity, but my mind definitely went a different direction. And the reason for this particular killer’s actions is one that got my attention. I’ve always found the psychological aspects of life interesting, and this story tapped into that.

Just as important as the suspense of the story is the idea of anger and forgiveness. I may not know what it is to deal with serial killers in my life, and believe me, I’m more than grateful for that. But I can relate to anger and the struggle to forgive. When someone hurts you in a way that changes your life forever, letting go of that hurt and not giving in to the anger their actions bring is difficult. When their actions come from pure selfishness and sinfulness, forgiveness is even harder to achieve. It’s easy for the unchecked anger to spill over into other areas of life. And an unforgiving heart becomes bitter in a relatively short amount of time. Carol and Bobby’s story tap into those themes which I believe many of us can understand personally. It allows us to find ourselves in the story and gives us the desire to cheer them on in their growth if we’ve already been there. If we’re still there, it may serve as an encouragement to go through that growth with them.  Either way, these themes work together with the suspense element to create a story that will capture your attention and keep it until the last page.

Here’s where you can find A Carol for Kent.

Torn in Two

Tonight is our local writing group’s monthly night to meet. I decided halfway through my work day that I wasn’t sure I would make it. I was sick Monday night and yesterday. Today, I went back to work, but I still wasn’t feeling quite up to par. At the end of the day, I knew I didn’t have it in me to attend. I’ve not eaten much and I haven’t slept well the last two nights. My spirit wanted to go, but my body just didn’t allow it.

I can’t help wondering what they’re doing tonight. Are they reading the latest chapters on their works in progress? Maybe brainstorming ideas for turning the journal pages of one member’s mother into a fictional story? Or they could be participating in one of the great writing exercises Brenda, our host, comes up with to challenge us and get our creative juices flowing. I love those writing exercises.

It’s amazing to me how we can all take the same assignment and turn out completely different results. It gives a lot of insight into our writing styles and personalities. I have to admit a couple of us may tend to take a darker turn with our assignments. They tend toward the serious or mysterious. One writer is almost always rainbows and sunshine. I love sharing what we’ve come up with. It’s encouraging that we can all go different directions and all still be writing well.

Because of this camaraderie and sharpening of each other’s abilities, I find myself sitting here wishing I could be there. At the same time, my eyes are drooping and I can’t keep from yawning. I have no energy. The last remnants of being sick. I know I could not have made it through the evening. But I miss it nonetheless.

We all face those times at points in our lives. We’ve been sick or crazy busy or stressed by whatever happens to stress us out at that particular point in our lives. Whatever is going on, we just can’t do one more thing. The desire is there, but our bodies betray us.

It reminds me of a spiritual problem we too often face. Paul wrote in Romans 7, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” We find out why he battled if we look back to the words of Jesus in Matthew 26. “Watch and pray, let you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus was speaking to the disciples about their inability to stay awake and pray with him in his time of need, but it was a lesson much greater than that. Jesus was reminding them, reminding us, of the battle that rages between the natural, sinful man and the new creation that takes place when we accept His work on the cross for the redemption of our sins.

Scripture tells us as believers we are no longer slaves to our sinful nature. We have the power to resist because of the Holy Spirit living inside us. But Jesus’ message and Paul’s reiteration of the same message is a warning that it is not easy. We may be made new in Christ, but the world we live and operate in is still mired in the old sinful ways. We are hounded by them. We are tempted by them. And though no believer would start off the day thinking, “I think I’ll spit in the face of my Savior today by choosing sin over His sacrifice”, we find ourselves doing exactly that.

Our spirits want to do what is right, but in our humanness we find we are entirely weak. But even weak we are not without hope. Jesus reminds us to be watchful and prayerful to avoid the trap of temptation. Scripture tells us a way out is always provided if we will only take it. The armor of God is ours to pick up and use faithfully. And the more we exercise it, the better we get at using it for our spiritual protection. But more than these things, we have forgiveness for the times we fail. God is faithful to forgive the repentant heart. He wipes the spiritual slate clean and allows us to start again.

This isn’t a license to sin without thought. By definition a repentant heart desires to turn away from sin. But there is a battle between what our spirit wants to do and what our sinful nature tempts us to do. It’s a battle that even the “greats” of faith like Paul faced. Knowing these things can help us learn to accept the forgiveness God offers with grace when what we want to do and what we end up doing are two very different things.

Forgiving Isn’t Easy

“Say you’re sorry and give each other a hug.”

Growing up, it’s likely we all heard this phrase. After the heartfelt “sorry” mumbled under the offender’s breath, the adult would turn to the offended. The new mandate became, “Now tell him you forgive him.” The offended would then mutter an equally heartfelt “I forgive you”.

The idea is good. Teach children to accept their wrongful actions or attitudes, while simultaneously giving them a lesson in forgiving wrongs done to them. Now, I’m not knocking the use of this tactic. I’m sure I even used it with my own children. Looking back, however, I can see some problems with the method.

Think about it. Was their ever a time when you followed your parent’s request with sincerity? Probably not. More than likely, you were still heated about whatever got you riled up enough to do whatever you did that you shouldn’t have done. Your apology, even asking them to forgive you, was empty of real feeling just like the hug that followed. The offended didn’t want your hug anyway. They definitely didn’t want to forgive you. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out from the glares and hateful mutterings that took place when parents weren’t watching.  The plea for forgiveness and the giving of it were meaningless, except to get you out of hot water with the adults. Besides, this method also teaches children that to extend forgiveness, forgiveness must be sought after by the offender. What happens when they run into people who hurt them without regret? Will they simply hold onto the wrong done to them?

I understand why adults try to instill the idea of seeking out and giving forgiveness. Children don’t realize how crucial these practices are to having healthy relationships, not just with others but with God. I’d wager a lot of adults don’t get it either. But harboring a grudge, not forgiving wrongs done to us, puts us in a dangerous place.

The residents of Hades, Mississippi found this out for themselves in Whitewashed, by Amy C. Blake. As she returns to her grandparents’ home to begin her journey into adulthood as a student at the local college, Patience believes everything is working out perfectly for her. It doesn’t take long for her path to become rocky. Verity College isn’t all she expects. Built out of an old plantation, the school is more run-down than she remembers. Add to that the sordid past of the plantation and undercurrents of distrust and dislike among the small town’s residents, and Patience soon finds herself tangled in a web of deceit and facing a mystery that could end up costing the lives of those she loves.

As the plantation’s past and Patience’s present are woven together, Patience has to work to find the truth before it’s too late. Patience’s quest for understanding is muddied by those who haven’t allowed themselves to forgive past wrongs. The grudges they carry make them all seem guilty, and Patience can’t see past that to find truth. In some, the hatred and lack of forgiveness has left them bitter and susceptible to rash actions. In one, it’s led to a broken mind and a sick plan to bring vengeance down on those who are seen as committing the wrongs. Finding truth would have been much easier for Patience if the people of Hades had practiced forgiveness.

While it takes a very broken person to let an unforgiving spirit lead them to a place of psychotic action, it doesn’t mean harboring an unforgiving spirit is safe for any of us. Forgiveness works to accomplish several things. For the one who offended, forgiveness can show the love of God. It can start the people involved on a path of healing for their relationship. It can help the offender more clearly relate his or her actions to the consequences of those actions for the one they hurt. Seeing first-hand the pain or hurt they caused can help keep them from practicing those behaviors again.

But what if the person doesn’t want or seek forgiveness? There are still benefits to forgiveness. First, scripture tells us that we are to forgive as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:31-32, Matthew 6:14-15, Colossians 3:13). That means we are to forgive freely, often, and before forgiveness is even sought. It’s not an option. When we withhold forgiveness, we sin. Our sin puts up walls between us and God. Forgiving others helps keep our relationship with God strong. Another positive effect of forgiving is that it frees our emotions from being controlled by what the other person has done. As long as we harbor a grudge against someone, we give them a measure of control in our lives. Because we are called to forgive as Christ forgives us, doing so helps us have a greater understanding of what Christ has done and continues to do for us.

Just because God asks us to forgive doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are some hurts so deep that giving up the right to hold those hurts against the offender is a definite struggle. Our temptation is to pick the pain back up each day, holding it close as a protective shield to keep from getting hurt again or fuel to keep our anger burning. This is especially true when the hurt comes from a betrayal or when the sin has hurt someone we love. In times like these, forgiveness may have to be a daily decision. But the good news is that forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a choice, and it is a choice that will make a huge difference in your life.

By the Book: Is there someone you are withholding forgiveness from? Consider how God has forgiven you. Ask Him to help you learn to extend that forgiveness to others.

Side note: It’s important to remember there is a difference between forgiving and putting yourself back into a bad situation. God requires forgiveness, but forgiveness does not always require a relationship to continue. Pray for God’s leading if you feel remaining in a situation may not be God’s best for you.

Forgiving Isn't Easy

“Say you’re sorry and give each other a hug.”
Growing up, it’s likely we all heard this phrase. After the heartfelt “sorry” mumbled under the offender’s breath, the adult would turn to the offended. The new mandate became, “Now tell him you forgive him.” The offended would then mutter an equally heartfelt “I forgive you”.
The idea is good. Teach children to accept their wrongful actions or attitudes, while simultaneously giving them a lesson in forgiving wrongs done to them. Now, I’m not knocking the use of this tactic. I’m sure I even used it with my own children. Looking back, however, I can see some problems with the method.
Think about it. Was their ever a time when you followed your parent’s request with sincerity? Probably not. More than likely, you were still heated about whatever got you riled up enough to do whatever you did that you shouldn’t have done. Your apology, even asking them to forgive you, was empty of real feeling just like the hug that followed. The offended didn’t want your hug anyway. They definitely didn’t want to forgive you. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out from the glares and hateful mutterings that took place when parents weren’t watching.  The plea for forgiveness and the giving of it were meaningless, except to get you out of hot water with the adults. Besides, this method also teaches children that to extend forgiveness, forgiveness must be sought after by the offender. What happens when they run into people who hurt them without regret? Will they simply hold onto the wrong done to them?
I understand why adults try to instill the idea of seeking out and giving forgiveness. Children don’t realize how crucial these practices are to having healthy relationships, not just with others but with God. I’d wager a lot of adults don’t get it either. But harboring a grudge, not forgiving wrongs done to us, puts us in a dangerous place.
The residents of Hades, Mississippi found this out for themselves in Whitewashed, by Amy C. Blake. As she returns to her grandparents’ home to begin her journey into adulthood as a student at the local college, Patience believes everything is working out perfectly for her. It doesn’t take long for her path to become rocky. Verity College isn’t all she expects. Built out of an old plantation, the school is more run-down than she remembers. Add to that the sordid past of the plantation and undercurrents of distrust and dislike among the small town’s residents, and Patience soon finds herself tangled in a web of deceit and facing a mystery that could end up costing the lives of those she loves.
As the plantation’s past and Patience’s present are woven together, Patience has to work to find the truth before it’s too late. Patience’s quest for understanding is muddied by those who haven’t allowed themselves to forgive past wrongs. The grudges they carry make them all seem guilty, and Patience can’t see past that to find truth. In some, the hatred and lack of forgiveness has left them bitter and susceptible to rash actions. In one, it’s led to a broken mind and a sick plan to bring vengeance down on those who are seen as committing the wrongs. Finding truth would have been much easier for Patience if the people of Hades had practiced forgiveness.
While it takes a very broken person to let an unforgiving spirit lead them to a place of psychotic action, it doesn’t mean harboring an unforgiving spirit is safe for any of us. Forgiveness works to accomplish several things. For the one who offended, forgiveness can show the love of God. It can start the people involved on a path of healing for their relationship. It can help the offender more clearly relate his or her actions to the consequences of those actions for the one they hurt. Seeing first-hand the pain or hurt they caused can help keep them from practicing those behaviors again.
But what if the person doesn’t want or seek forgiveness? There are still benefits to forgiveness. First, scripture tells us that we are to forgive as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:31-32, Matthew 6:14-15, Colossians 3:13). That means we are to forgive freely, often, and before forgiveness is even sought. It’s not an option. When we withhold forgiveness, we sin. Our sin puts up walls between us and God. Forgiving others helps keep our relationship with God strong. Another positive effect of forgiving is that it frees our emotions from being controlled by what the other person has done. As long as we harbor a grudge against someone, we give them a measure of control in our lives. Because we are called to forgive as Christ forgives us, doing so helps us have a greater understanding of what Christ has done and continues to do for us.
Just because God asks us to forgive doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are some hurts so deep that giving up the right to hold those hurts against the offender is a definite struggle. Our temptation is to pick the pain back up each day, holding it close as a protective shield to keep from getting hurt again or fuel to keep our anger burning. This is especially true when the hurt comes from a betrayal or when the sin has hurt someone we love. In times like these, forgiveness may have to be a daily decision. But the good news is that forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a choice, and it is a choice that will make a huge difference in your life.
By the Book: Is there someone you are withholding forgiveness from? Consider how God has forgiven you. Ask Him to help you learn to extend that forgiveness to others.
Side note: It’s important to remember there is a difference between forgiving and putting yourself back into a bad situation. God requires forgiveness, but forgiveness does not always require a relationship to continue. Pray for God’s leading if you feel remaining in a situation may not be God’s best for you.

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