Sunday, March 27, 2011

"NOOOO!!! I don't wanna!!!"

My last blog post was about the hurt that comes into our life and how we're invited to climb to the top of the painful hill and leave our hurt at the foot of the cross. I mentioned a situation where I'd felt persecuted and attacked lately, but I’ve also been facing some other circumstances where forgiveness has been really difficult.

This morning, God yelled at me, in church! "Serena, you need to practice forgiveness over these situations!!!" It was as if He was telling me, "I've tried to gently guide you in this direction for weeks and you've not been listening to me."

I was reminded of a song I’ve heard on the radio nearly every time I turn it on for the past several weeks…"7x70" by Chris August. I was reminded of several things I've read lately on forgiveness and several radio programs I've heard on the topic. 

As the Pastor gave the message, I read the following verses along with him…Matthew 6:14-15 and Matthew 18:35.

Forgiveness was being shoved down my throat and I didn't like it.

So many thoughts ran through my mind.  "WHAT?!?!?!? Are you kidding me, God? How am I ever supposed to forgive this kind of attack? Why should I forgive people who have acted like I’ve done something wrong or who blame me? I have forgiven so many people in my life, why can't I just be angry about these issues? Can't you just let me have my feelings, this time?"

"Nope." He whispered to me, more gently this time, "I have forgiven you every day. I forgive you because I love you. Are you bigger than me that you can decide when and who to forgive?"


That's exactly what I've done. I've acted like I'm bigger than God and I've pretended that it's my place to decide when and who to forgive? I've tried to be "judge and jury" and have even considered ways to get even with those who have come against me. In other moments, I've handed over my power and control to the circumstances and allowed it to completely overtake my every thought. I've allowed situations to make me fearful. I've been downright angry!!!

The reality is I'm not God. I'm not the judge or the jury. I don't get to take revenge. I don't get to give-up. I don't get to roll-over. I don’t get to fight and claw my way through life like an angry lion.

Instead, I need to recognize that God will take care of the judgement and whatever lessons need to be learned – and that He’ll start with me, every time. I need to appreciate His willingness to take care of these circumstances and believe in His power and strength over my own. It is not my will…but His.

Being God's daughter doesn't mean that I am above experiencing the circumstance.

Forgiveness. The mere idea of it, honestly, makes me want to throw a massive toddler style temper tantrum, but I have to bow down in obedience. 

If God can send his only son to die for me, I can surely let these things go. I can move forward knowing that God will pull me through the difficulty and that I have no real reason to be angry. It'll all work out. It'll only go so far as God will allow it. It'll be okay.  Surely these things aren't bigger than the sins against me during my childhood, and I've forgiven those several times over.  There's no way these issues are bigger than the sins I've committed against my Heavenly Father and Savior!

Forgiveness isn’t easy and it doesn’t mean that I have to continue to put myself in these situations. It means that I will truly harbor no ill feelings. I will let it go.I will not allow my circumstances turn my focus from God, or the tasks and relationships at hand.  I will offer people forgiveness, over and over and over again, 70x7 times, because that’s exactly what Christ does for me every single day!  Pastor made a good point when he said "By the time you've forgiven them 490 times, the chances are very good you'll be over it." 

It’s really the least I can do, as a Christ-follower.  I will strive to be an example of His sacrifice! I will pray for the strength to forgive and move on, as many times as it takes. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Hill


Think about it for a moment. 

What does it mean to you?  Does the word bring to mind a physical injury, a painful body ache? Does the word make you think of an emotional experience? Something you've faced, in your world, that seemed almost unbearable? 


It's a hard concept.  It can sneak up on you and get you from behind.  Other times, it can smack you square in the face! Hurt can be superficial, fleeting, and last only for a moment or it can be a lifelong struggle, something thrust upon you by the actions of another, or the realization that you've caused someone else to hurt.  Hurt can be intense and it can bring you to your knees.  Hurt can also make you angry and resentful...sometimes, even vengeful, though we don't like to admit those urges.

Hurt is what makes you remember that you're human...because only humans can feel that sort of pain.  Animals don't get their feelings hurt and carry it with them until they die.  Animals don't hear the cutting words of another and take it to heart.  Animals don't take things personally. Animals let it go.  Have you ever seen two animals fight over a meal, a mate, or territory, and hold onto a grudge? I haven't.

Hurt reminds us where to turn.  If you cut your finger and bleed, you get a band-aid. If you burn your arm, you run for the aloe.  If you fall and break a bone, you see a doc and get the break set and a cast.  If your feelings are hurt, you turn to the comfort of a friend, the encouraging words of another.  If you feel a heavy burden and your buckling under the weight, you turn to support of those who care about you, to help you carry the load. 

Hurt helps us to remember what not to ever do again.  Burning your hand on the stove teaches you to not touch the stove. Breaking a bone reminds you to not jump off your roof.  Losing a friendship reminds you to not treat someone you love that way ever again. 

Opportunity to learn and change is the hidden gift from the hurt.

Recently, I have been faced with a hurtful situation. I've felt attacked and persecuted.  I've felt wrongly accused and I've wondered why this hurt is hitting me at a time when I'd been feeling pretty good.  I've struggled to look for the reason and opportunity and I've tried to stay positive. I've tried to own those things that are mine to own and to let go of those things that aren't.  I've accepted responsibilty where I needed to and I've tried to trust along the way.

Hurt is scary, though.  Sometimes, there are consequences you can't foresee, for which you cannot prepare.  Sometimes, the hurt is bigger than you.   The load can feel unbearable.  The struggle can be intense. 

During this time of trial, my prayer is that I can leave my hurt at the Cross.  As unfair as it is for me to ask Christ to take this hurt from me, I am trying to find the strength and the faith to give it to Him, completely.  He can handle the hurt when I can't.  He is willing to take that on, and I only need to let Him do that for me, recognizing He loves me that much. 

Hurt doesn't have to be an insurmountable mountain.  We should view our hurt as a mere hill, over which we must climb, with perseverance and determination to reach the peak.  We always ask, though, "what's at the top of that hill?"

The Cross.

The Savior.

The Rescuer.

The Strength.

The Comforter.

I need to turn my eyes toward the top of this hill, and remember that He is waiting for me, at the top, waiting to take my load, so I can slide down the other side with ease.  I will approach this situation as only a hill.  It is not a mountain!

Thank you, Lord, for waiting for me. Thank you, Father, for taking my hurt, my load.  Thank you for your unwavering faithfulness and your willingess to always carry me through.  You are my rock and my strength.  Help me to remember this moment...the moment when I leave my hurt at your feet and can walk on with my head and my heart held high. Take this hurt and show me the opportunity in it.  Remind me where I need to learn and grow.  I will trust in you because I know that you will never fail me.  Amen.

Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Monday, March 14, 2011


Last weekend I attended an Extraordinary Women ( conference with my best friend, Staci.  It's become somewhat a tradition for us to attend this conference and to get a full day and a half of spiritual refreshing and renewal.  I truly love worshiping my Father with several thousand women.  It's an amazing experience!

This year, however, was the first year I planned to attend when I wasn't struggling with something.  I thought "I can just go and get renewed in my current way of life and not really be hit in the face with anything." I was really excited about where my life and my heart were at and was just ready for a weekend away with my gal pal, enjoying worship, good teaching and shopping.

Just then - WHAMO!!! Right smack dab in the face! God must have laughed when I had that thought because he decided to give me a true "Right in the Kisser" Honeymooners-style wake-up call.  I really don't like it when He does that.

The theme for the conference was "Everlasting Hope" and it was all about putting hope in things that cannot bring us fulfillment in the way God does.  I read the theme and thought "Yeah, that's so true...we totally do that."  I was only thinking about the really big things, like our finances, our marriage, our children, our careers, our salvation, our relationships, our know, those things that really matter.

What I realized at the conference is that I need to put my hope in Christ in every aspect of my world.  Luke 1:37 says "For NOTHING is impossible, with God."  For months (okay, years) I've struggled with my weight, my motivation and committment to exercise, struggled in my relationships with my mother, brother, and other relatives, struggled through my day to day parenting, struggled to get all the things on my to-do list checked off, struggled to keep the house clean and the laundry done, struggled to be a more enthusiastic and creative cook for my family, struggled with financial decisions, struggled through various situations with my husband, struggled to feel good about my life, and the list goes on.  I've struggled to prove myself to myself and to this world.  I've struggled to show the world "You can't keep me down!" and have lost sight of the real be an example of God's faithfulness, holiness, and perfect good-ness.  There's no need for me to struggle because nothing is impossible with God!! 

How foolish I've been.  Why have I fallen into Satan's trap of leaning on myself and those people around me instead of falling at the foot of the cross and depending on God to carry me through this life?

I think we all do.  I think Satan is pretty darn good at getting us to believe his lies.  I think Satan doesn't even have to try very hard. It's just that easy to get us to take our eyes off of God.

Like Peter, in Matthew 14:22-33, we must stay focused on God. We must have faith in Him and realize that nothing is impossible with God - even walking on water.  We must put our hope in Him and leave it at the foot of the cross.  We must take our focus off of the things of this world - the media, the money, the numbers on the scale, the image in the mirror, the friendships of this world, the to-do lists - and realize that only God can pull us through our struggles.

When I felt the smack of God at the conference, I felt like a fish flopping around on dry ground, searching for water and gasping for life, weak and tired and losing the fight. 

At the Cross, however, I get all that I need.  I get to breath and to drink all I need.  I get to relax in my Father's arms.  I get drink in the peacefulness that only He can provide. I get the strength to fight because God is in me.  Lamentations 3:25 says "The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks him".  At the Cross, I get to rest.  When Christ hung on that cross, He was taking on my burden.  Its pretty pathetic and disgraceful for me to throw that back in His face and not realize His ability to bear that weight.  Noone of this world would do that for me. Nothing of this world would take that burden.  Only Christ.

My prayer for today and forever:

Lord, I confess that I've allowed Satan to turn my focus from You and I've put my hope in the things of self and of this world.  I've lost sight of what You did for me, on the cross.  I have tried to trust in my own abilities.  I've tried to glorify myself in the eyes of others.  I seek the praises and validation of others to build me up. I realize I really need to have faith in the love You have for me.  You will not let me fall.  You will help me to accomplish exactly the plan You've laid out for me. I know nothing is impossible and You are good to those who put their hope in You.  Today, I put my hope at Your feet.  I ask that You will show me the areas of my life where I've allowed my focus to shift and I pray You will, in those moments, remind me that You are there, taking care of everything.  I pray that everything I do will glorify You, not myself.  Thank you, God, for being so good to me and for always patiently waiting on me to get it.  In Jesus' name, Amen.