The One Thing You Need to Give Up For Lent

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What the Rhema?

They call it Rhema—those really bizarre tingles down your spine you get when you go to church and it’s like the pastor is speaking directly to you.

You look around, casually wiping the sweat from your brow and mildly freak out.  Seriously, did the dude read your journal?  Does everyone know this is your message?

No…they don’t.

But it’s a real thing—a God thing.

It’s Rhema.  When the spoken word of God penetrates into your soul and moves stuff around in you uncomfortably.

You get convicted.  Inspired.  Repentent,

Rhema.

And Rhema happened this week to me.

The sermon was on judgment and forgiveness.

Oh, wait my favorite topic. Not.

Un-forgive-ness

It coincides with an occurrence in my life where I’ve been asked to forgive something big–a debt incurred against me of a large magnitude.  

Did I say it was big?  Yeah.  BIG.

And I’m sorry I can’t be clearer.  I really hate it when people are vague, but to protect those I love, I’m asking for grace on this part.

Anyway, I alone can forgive this penalty.

Hot tears of sadness fell from my eyes when I was asked for mercy—because the truth is I want a little vengeance or at the very least control of the situation.

“Are you freaking kidding me?”  I thought.

Flashes of hurt washed over me.  I considered the fear, the uncertainty and the overwhelming burden I carried for years regarding this matter.

And a part of me revels in the fact that the consequence for this sin is too big to ever repay.

Too bad sucka… you messed with the wrong girl.

I sit in church on Sunday.  I’m not even at my church; I’m at a different one.  It’s like God is following me.

Forgiveness.  Judgement.  Hello Sam?

Na, na, na, na na…I can’t hear you Jesus.  Not listening.

And then God whispers, will you forgive this person like I forgive you?

More tears.

No God…it’s too much.

And then I think of MY too much.

How much I’ve been granted mercy.  Not once, not twice but seventy-times seven.

God promises to forgive my past, present and future sin.  I’m covered for the crummy stuff I will say tomorrow (which I inevitably will) and the hurt I will cause to others because I’m human and fantastically flawed.

What about my debt to God and others that is big to ever repay?

Letting Go

My husband shared a true story with me not too long ago about a guy he knows.

Let’s call him Todd—truthfully I don’t even remember his real name and Todd if I’ve jacked up your story, please forgive me.  It’s an analogy based on truth.  Don’t judge me buddy.

Todd was difficult at best.  He struggled to maintain relationships.  He had a harsh and brittle spirit, was generally demanding and rather unpleasant to be around.

Ever heard of that saying—hurt people hurt people?

Well, at some point, Todd got hurt and everyone else was going to pay for it.

Todd, like many of us, internalized his pain and unforgiveness and became a bitter hard shell of the person God created him to be.

One day Todd was struck down by a widow-maker heart attack.  For a short period of time Todd was clinically dead.

During the time of his non-responsiveness Todd recalls he was lifted up to heaven and then straight out of the pit of hell a chain came flying up and wrapped around his ankle pulling him down.  He heard a voice say, “You do not offer the forgiveness I’ve shared with you.” God identified individuals that he had not forgiven throughout his life.

And Todd cried and begged for a second chance.

Todd woke up from his unconscious state after a quadruple bypass surgery and turned his life into a radical testimony of grace and forgiveness.  He went to each person and exacted forgiveness to each one, releasing his bitterness. My husband says his personality is now radiant, like pure sunshine.  Todd has transformed into a loving, warm and caring person.  Todd chose to allow forgiveness to transform his life and he gives all the glory to God.

I imagine the next time Todd dies—the flight up will be easier.

I thought deeply about Todd’s story this week.

I want to be like Todd.  And hopefully, I won’t have to have a near-death experience to understand this radical type of forgiveness, but I do believe I will have to spiritually die to self—once again.

(Oh Whoop-de doo! Does this Christian thing ever get easier?)

I use the mental imagery I read about in a book on controlling anxiety.

I imagine myself walking up to a waterfall with a heavy bag of burdens.  They are like boulders I carry around.  I pry open the sack and pull out self-righteousness, then hold it out onto the streaming water and let it wash away.  I hold out vengeance, then anger and bitterness.  And I drop them one by one into the raging waters.

I leave it all in the waters of the spirit in a symbolic language of release and redemption.

And the hurt washes away in the waters as I am stretched…open…wide.  Ravaged by my own indebtedness to my Savior and convicted of my own sin.

How can I not let go of this debt?  How can I truly follow Christ if I am not willing to extend the mercy given to me?

It’s the Lenton season.  Will you join me in ridding your heart of unforgiveness? I can’t think of anything more important than this one thing  holding us back from living  abundant and joy filled lives.

I know it’s hard.  And I am in this with you.  We get hurt and we hold onto the pain tightly like a prize to validate our identity—but God has a better way.

The truth is forgiveness sets me (and you) free—not the one who hurt us.

–Sam

Will you pray for me this week?  My darling husband Tim is having spine surgery on Wed the 25th of Feb.  Please lift him up!  

And please let me know how I can pray for you?

 

Matthew 6:14-15New International Version (NIV)

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

 

Twice Lost

lost: Unable to find one’s way: a lost child.

I was twenty-two years old the first time I lost my brother. Eighteen years later I have lost him again.

The first time he disappeared my parents left me in charge of the twelve-year-old squirt while they vacationed in Europe. I came home from college one Spring break to care for him and failed miserably in my first attempt at pseudo-parenting.

One afternoon he took off a skateboard to play with the neighbor kids and didn’t return for dinner. After searching door to door and calling all his friends, I finally contacted the police in desperation. Close to midnight, I stood in the darkness outside of my parent’s home and with tears and sobs and groans of utter despair -I begged for God’s mercy.

Something overtook me then–something holy and mystical –a presence of sweet and utter peace. And I knew God heard me.

Two hours later, after the police combed the neighborhood with dogs and helicopters, my brother was found. He had fallen asleep on the floor of the next door neighbor’s house in their third floor playroom. Somehow in the panic of the search and managing their own five children, my brother had slipped by unnoticed by the neighbor’s and only woke with the roar of helicopters.

I took my bargain with God seriously. The next day was Good Friday and I stood up at the altar call and officially sealed the deal with my Savior.

It’s almost twenty years later and in a weird twist of irony it’s Easter weekend again.

And once again my brother is lost.

It happened in the blink of an eye. He started using drugs. He lost his job and girlfriend. The highs became higher and the lows became lower.

On Palm Sunday my father called me from the hospital and choked out the horrific details.

In a violent and vicious drug rage, my brother attacked our parents and almost killed my step-mom. He was arrested for felony assault to elders and incarcerated.

My father, suffering from dementia tried to protect his wife and call 911 as he was forced to defend himself against his own son throwing blows at him.

I’ve never felt more helpless, shocked and honestly –ashamed. I wanted to hide and tell no one.

Good Friday came. And once again I stood and lifted my arms to God. When it came time to write out my sins, I sat there in my chair and scribbled one word –UNFORGIVENESS.

If my heart ever felt hardened to a human this was it. Love and hate intermingled with betrayal.

I dragged my feet up to the cross and slowly lifted the hammer to nail it in. And I forced myself to remember how much God has forgiven me through each thump of the hammer.

It’s been a long week of picking up the pieces of a family blown to bits by evil. My step-mom has multiple fractures in her shoulder and arm. She is bruised from her chest to the tips of her fingers. My father is dissalusioned, sad and scared. And even though the physical wounds are painful, the bruises to their spirit are far deeper.

To make matters worse, my brother was let out of jail on Thursday by an accidental clerical error. The charges had to be re-submitted. Once the warrant goes out he will have to be re-arrested. He was defiant upon release and showed no remorse. Although there is a restraining order, his instability doesn’t leave my family feeling secure.

In the meantime, he was spotted wandering through a trailer park high and incoherent.

Easter hit me like a ton of bricks.

The resurrection we celebrate on Easter morning means everything to the followers of Christ. We base our lives and hopes and beliefs on it.

But the resurrection means EVEN MORE to the wandering souls who reject him although they may not know or care; because in the worst of times there is always the possibility of hope and a return to the father.

Our God died for us while we were still sinners and he continues to pursue the lost until they are found. And even in trailer parks and prisons and to the ends of the earth, I believe God will pursue his lost son.

It’s not easy to share this story. It’s still raw and prickly, but I believe there are many families out there just like ours battling for their sons and daughters (and brother’s) hearts. The one thing I have learned by tentatively sharing and asking for prayer is that I am not alone in this. Please don’t isolate –reach out to your community and church for support. These tragedies are too big for you to handle alone. If your family member is suffering from an addiction and has turned abusive or violent, please find help.

–Samantha

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ Luke 15:22-24

 

Photo Source: google.com via Ashleigh on Pinterest

Resurrection

"Crux simplex", a simple wooden tort...

Image via Wikipedia

I passed on to you what was most important…Christ died for our sins, just as the scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the scriptures said. 1 Cor 15:3-5

And on the third day…

the illusion shattered.
torment, horror, defeat;
a man crucified.

I stagger under the weight of your sacrifice, my sin for your blood.

Red drops of shame pour out of my eyes.

I hear a whisper,
sshh…
it is finished.

O death, where is your sting?

Can you hear the dawn weeping in joy?
The light is dancing
creation speaks…

He is risen…

Resurrection

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