Category Archives: Forgiveness

The Walk Of Grace

How sweet and wondrous is God’s love that pours out grace on us;
That even when we fail Him, His mercy covers us.
Instead of judging each mistake we make along the way,
He offers us His mercy, though we struggle in our faith.

It’s stunning that He sees beyond our pride and all our failure;
He loves His broken children, our Lord; our Great Redeemer
He knows when we are ready, to give up our own way;
And like a potter, molds the clay; He turns our loss to gain.

He loves us when our hearts are hard and full of selfish gain;
He loves us in rebellion; when pride controls our way;
He loves us when our hearts are blind and His way we forget;
He loves us straight into His arms, when we realize our mess.

So why is it so easy, to judge another’s heart?
To point our index finger like we’re a judge in court?
If truth be told, we do not know the pain that others bear,
Or stresses that they’re facing, that are getting in God’s way.

But if we stop and think about our own humanity;
And look at our own pain and stress that affects us drastically;
We too will find that we do wrong and we fail every day,
And that it’s only by God’s grace that we can lift our face.

If every day we stood in awe at God’s amazing grace,
Then we would see another’s faults with grace in judgment’s place;
If we could fathom just how deep and wide is His great love;
Our lives would be surrendered, and grace would fill our hearts.

I can’t believe that God above has saved a wretch like me.
That His amazing grace and love, each day washes me clean.
I offer You this broken heart; please mend it God my Savior,
And use me Lord to share Your love with lavish grace and favor!

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

 

The Baggage Handler

A friend of mine recently shared about the baggage she had hauled around for years. She wished that she’d understood the truth earlier in life that we simply aren’t meant to carry the hurts and the pain from the past.  When we refuse to let them go, the sheer weight of it holds us back and keeps us down. Her story, inspired me to write this poem.

The baggage that I haul around
Is cumbersome and heavy
It’s bursting with pain I hide
That part of life that’s messy
I know that you can’t see my bags
So I try to pretend
That my life has been perfect
When it’s been kind of grim.

Sometimes when I am all alone
I open up the bags
I look inside and cry about
The wounded child within
The little one that needed love
When hurt and pain occurred
The child longing just to hear
One encouraging word
That teenager that struggled
From a terrible event
The young adult who made mistakes
And then felt guilt and shame
My troubles and my trials
That I work hard to manage
Each have their place; hidden away
Deep within my baggage.

If I let go of all these bags
My load would be so light
But I can’t leave that wounded child
How could that be right
It would be an injustice
To set the contents free
For I still want to make things right
For then I will have peace
So I just keep on struggling
Beneath the weight I carry
Feeling like I can’t go on
Though I keep on trying
I tell myself “Keep pushing on”
“Keep holding it together”
But all the weight is pressing in
I’m breaking from the pressure.

A friend told me, I wasn’t meant
To struggle with this load
That Jesus died to bear my yoke
Though it’s dark and heavy
He doesn’t care about my past
He only sees the future
So I looked up and gave my heart
To my Lord and Savior
Then in my deep exhaustion
I laid down all my bags
To let the contents come out
To expose those filthy rags
I took a breath, undid the latch
I let my Savior see…
And as He took my baggage…
I cried… for I was free

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

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

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The Baggage Handler

I recently heard a friend talk about the baggage she had hauled around for years.  She wished that she understood the truth earlier in life that we simply aren’t  meant to carry the hurts and the pain from the past, because they hold us back and keep us down.  Her story, inspired me to write this poem.

The baggage that I haul around
Is cumbersome and heavy
It’s bursting with pain I hide
That part of life that’s messy
I know that you can’t see my bags
So I try to pretend
That my life has been perfect
When it’s been kind of grim.

Sometimes when I am all alone
I open up the bags
I look inside and cry about
The wounded child within
The little one that needed love
When hurt and pain occurred
The child longing just to hear
One encouraging word
That teenager that struggled
From a terrible event
The young adult who made mistakes
And then felt guilt and shame
My troubles and my trials
That I work hard to manage
Each have their place; hidden away
Deep within my baggage.

If I let go of all these bags
My load would be so light
But I can’t leave that wounded child
How could that be right
It would be an injustice
To set the contents free
For I still want to make things right
For then I will have peace
So I just keep on struggling
Beneath the weight I carry
Feeling like I can’t go on
Though I keep on trying
I tell myself “Keep pushing on”
“Keep holding it together”
But all the weight is pressing in
I’m breaking from the pressure.

A friend told me, I wasn’t meant
To struggle with this load
That Jesus died to bear my yoke
Though it’s dark and heavy
He doesn’t care about my past
He only sees the future
So I looked up and gave my heart
To my Lord and Savior
Then in my deep exhaustion
I laid down all my bags
To let the contents come out
To expose those filthy rags
I took a breath, undid the latch
I let my Savior see…
And as He took my baggage…
I cried… for I was free

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

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

God’s Healing Hand On a Wounded Heart

Lord God, I kneel at your feet

Head resting in my hands

Tears of pain flowing without restraint

 

My soul, battered, is without hope

My dreams of love and acceptance gone

Success, I’m unable to define

 

You let me cry, uninterrupted

Knowing I must taste the bitterness of pain

And acknowledge its vise like grip on my heart

 

Slowly I sit,  lifting my head and hands up to you

an honest prayer is uttered, no more pretense,

pride and self-righteousness are gone.

 

“take my battered heart, oh Lord

It feels constricted and small

Like a piece of paper, crumpled into a ball.

 

It’s beat is irregular,

emphasizing the deep wounds

and my desperate state of mind.”

 

Your strong hands encompass mine

Comforting and warm

Applying pressure without pain

 

My wounded heart beats a little faster

A  rhythm I’m unfamiliar with

Steady, strong, sure, secure

 

You, oh Lord, massage the healing balm

Of forgiveness and acceptance into my heart

A spark of hope glows deep within.

 

The Holy Spirit breathes the breath of life

Into my heart, mind and body

Smoothing out the crumpled edges of my life

 

Lord God Almighty, you are the great healer

Of wounded hearts

Restoring hope and purpose to those who love you

 

To God be all glory and praise.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Below are the lines from a chore in Jeremy Camp’s Healing Hand of God and a link to his video. Enjoy this beautiful song.

I have seen, The healing hand of God, Reaching out and mending broken hearts. Taste and see the fullness of His peace, And hold on to what’s being held out. The healing hand of God.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-aE7zQTeEg

 

 

Forgiving, Again

I’m sitting at my desk with the computer on, iPod playing with an inviting, warm mug of coffee sitting next to me.  They are waiting patiently for me to start work, but I don’t.  My feet are resting on the edge of my desk while I hold our big, fat cat in my lap.  She contentedly purrs and occasionally nuzzled me on the chin.  Absently, I notice how her soft, heavy, weight in my lap feels comforting.  I continue to stare out the window lost in thought.

My chest feels heavy like an invisible brick is pushing down hard between my breasts, my head aches, but it’s the heavy sensation on my chest that’s troubling me.  The weight isn’t the beginning of a heart attack; it’s the result of years of hurt.  This brick has been carefully constructed by the fibrous tissue of judgment, verbal abuse, bitterness, unjust behavior, self-protection, and un-forgiveness.  And it’s heavy, pressing down on my sternum making it hard to breathe.

The unusual thing about this brick is that it’s frequently weightless, as if gone from my life.  During this time my heart is hopeful and I want to spend time considering and praying about my relationships.  With a hopeful spirit I choose to forgive; I choose to lay my hurts down before God. I desire to draw closer to Him and see others through His eyes.

Then something happens to set off old patterns of abuse and hurtful words are hurled through the air and I feel the impact of them.   I feel them working their way into the brick, finding a comfortable resting place next to the other festering pain.  The brick is back, heavier than before, pressing mercilessly down on my sternum and I wonder how all those negative, hurtful emotions from the past can come back with such force after I have chosen to forgive and let them go. 

So, here I sit at my desk with every necessary tool for a productive day.  But instead of working, I watch the tree branches move to the rhythm of the wind while pondering the uncomfortable pressure of the emotional brick on my chest.  I want to know how to truly lay down the hurt from yesterday.  I want to forgive so deeply that past pain will not have the power to mix with and amplify the hurts of today.  But, I’m human and for some unknown reason God made us emotionally complex beings that feel passionately, struggle mightily, and desperately need His guidance.

With this knowledge I ask God for his forgiveness and help.  I acknowledge my pain is real, but so is theirs.  I admit my part in the situation, because I’m not innocent.  Then I thank God for the good within my loved one and within myself; we are both God’s children.  And the brick gets lighter; for now.  Each time I practice seeking God’s truth in the midst of emotional pain they strengthen me and give me courage to forgive, again.

I’m grateful that God’s forgiveness is not like that of humans, Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions (sins) from us.”  This verse is comforting and humbling; how can God forgive so completely?  I long to be able to forgive like God, but as of today, I don’t fully understand how to forgive the transgressions of others.  Maybe that’s the point. Maybe our seriously limited ability to forgive keeps us humble before God.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

 

The Bitterness Weed

The Bitterness Weed

Bitterness:    Strong and sharp in taste: having a sharp strong unpleasant taste.  Angry and resentful Difficult to accept: mentally painful, or very hard to accept Synonyms: sour, acid, acidic, tart, astringent, vinegary, pungent, harsh, acrid

I’ve been thinking about the act of being bitter and how bitterness, if not dealt with, can affect every aspect of our lives.  Bitterness can blind a person to the love that is around them.  Bitterness has the power to turn a person inward, making them selfish and self-consumed.  A bitter heart becomes brittle and intolerant.  A bitter person will find the bad in every situation, unable to see the good.  Bitterness can strangle our creative energy.  And a bitter heart is unable to open up to God’s love, it is unable to trust in God’s love because it is always in a state of self-protection.

Bitterness is like a weed, it is a living organism that need sustenance to survive and when it’s thriving it has the power to weaken our emotional, physical, and spiritual health.  The Bitterness Weed is nourished by our judgmental, negative, self-righteous, and unforgiving thoughts.  Because bitterness is living, it will either grow or wither depending on our ability to starve it with forgiveness or feed it with judgment.  Starving bitterness is not for the weak of spirit.  It requires surrendering our right to justifiable anger and judgment.  It demands that we not seek retribution ourselves for our pain, but allow God’s justice, which is a mystery to most of us, to have control.

All of us at one time or another have thought, “They don’t deserve forgiveness” or “It’s not fair, they feel no pain and are suffering no consequence for their destructive behavior” and we’re right, it’s not fair from a human point of view.  So, in an effort to bring justice to the situation, we self-righteously judge the individual deeming them unworthy of forgiveness.  And then we move on, right?  Nope.

The problem is we’re not capable of judging others harshly and moving on.  We continue to judge them in our thoughts and before we know it, we’re feeding the weed of bitterness.  Each time we ruminate over their bad actions and reassure ourselves of our righteous judgment, the bitterness weed grows stronger. Before long our outlook on life becomes more negative and our prayer time less frequent, and the Bible sits unopened for longer stretches of time on our night stand.

Before long we become bitter, leaving a sharp and unpleasant taste in the mouths of our friends and family.  Unbeknown to ourselves we’ve become acrid in our attitudes and relationships.  We have officially become bitter because of our self-righteous right to judge and not forgive.  We now have a healthy, bitter-weed garden within our spirit that only God can eradicate.

It’s true that starving bitterness is not for the weak of spirit.  It takes unmeasurable amounts of faith, humility, and forgiveness to starve bitterness from our spirit.  But if we choose to do so, God will help us, He will give us strength when we have none, and the courage to continue to forgive even when it seems like justice is not being served.  God’s ways can be a mystery to us, but when we follow them they always replace bitterness with beauty.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

Colossians 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Ephesians 4:31-32 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.

 

 

 

The Meaning of Christmas

Merry Christmas friends. May God’s blessings be on you and your family; may God’s peace fill your soul.

O Holy Night is one of my favorite Christmas carols because of the deep truths within its lyrics. Every time I hear them my spirit is reminded of the magnificence of God’s love for humanity. The lyrics are poetic yet clearly convey the message of Jesus’s birth; “when He appeared the soul felt its worth.” I stand in awe at the beauty of this truth; only God’s love reveals to us our souls worth, this is amazing.

Hope. We all need hope. To me it feels like the world is in chaos, seldom does the nightly news leave me feeling hopeful for the future. In fact, it feels like the world is plunging into darkness. Even though the world appears to be heading in the wrong direction, there is hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise at the birth of Jesus. Rejoice in this truth and find hope in the fact that God does keep His promises. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.”

A good friend; we all need a good friend. Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you. He was born in a manger and lived as a man; he understands first hand our earthly struggles. “The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend.” Jesus will stay by our side and walk with us through difficult times, offering hope and purpose through His Word.

We all desire to be accepted faults and all and to have our deepest needs understood by another. God knows our needs and our weaknesses, yet loves us; accepting us completely. “He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger” Isn’t it wonderful to be accepted and valued by God!

Christianity is a religion of love and forgiveness because of Jesus’s birth. His birth gave humanity a new and radicle code of conduct that said put other’s needs above your own; all of humanity are children of God; forgive as you have been forgiven, and love God with your whole heart. “Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.”

The beauty of these lyrics lies in how accurately they reflect God’s love through the birth of Jesus. We are blessed beyond measure to have such a loving God and savior. A savior who loves us even though we constantly mess up in our Christian walk. We are blessed to have a God who knows the value of our souls, even when we don’t. This Christmas, let’s stand in awe at the magnificence of God’s love.

A blessing for you this Christmas season and the new year.

May your soul know its worth through Jesus Christ. May you know hope. May you have a faithful friend that will never leave you nor forsake you. One who loves you even though they know your weaknesses. May you know peace, the peace that passes all understanding.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

O Holy Night The stars are brightly shining It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth Long lay the world in sin and e’er pining ‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees O hear the angels voices. O night divine O night when Christ was born O night divine, O night, O night divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming, With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand. So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming, Here came the wise men from Orient land. The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger, Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend! Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever, His power and glory evermore proclaim. O night divine, O night, O night divine.

Adolphe Charles Adam

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Healing Hand On a Wounded Heart

healing-hand-of-god

I kneel at your feet

Head resting in my hands

Tears of pain flowing without restraint

 

My soul, battered, is without hope

My dreams of love and acceptance gone

Success, I’m unable to define

 

You let me cry, uninterrupted

Knowing I must taste the bitterness of pain

And acknowledge its vise like grip on my heart

 

Slowly I sit and lift my hands up to you

“Take my battered heart, oh Lord

It feels constricted and small from the wounds

 

Like a piece of paper, crumpled into a ball

No longer resembling its original purpose

Rendered of little value or use.”

 

Your strong hands encompass mine

Comforting and warm

Applying pressure without pain

 

My wounded heart beats a little faster

With a rhythm I’m unfamiliar with

Steady, strong, sure, secure

 

A healing balm of forgiveness and acceptance

Is  massaged into my heart

A spark of hope glows deep within

 

The Holy Spirit breathes the breath of life

Into my heart, mind and body

Smoothing out the crumpled edges of my life

 

Lord God Almighty, you are the great healer

Of wounded hearts and messed up lives

Restoring hope and purpose to those who love you

 

To God be all glory and praise.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

Below are the lines from a chorus in Jeremy Camp’s Healing Hand of God and a link to his video. Enjoy this beautiful song.

I have seen, The healing hand of God, Reaching out and mending broken hearts. Taste and see the fullness of His peace, And hold on to what’s being held out. The healing hand of God.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-aE7zQTeEg

Hold On To God’s Promises

                       Victory

My desire is for God to use me. My heart longs to make the right decisions that honor Him. I want to love humanity like Jesus does and to forgive easily. That is my aspiration. However, I keep getting in the way of God’s work. I keep messing up. Sometimes my mess-ups are just between God and I, other times they’re visible to many. Either way, my heart is saddened by my failure. Have you ever felt this way?

Have you ever wondered, “how can God use a screw-up like me?” I have. After all, we know our flaws; the nasty thoughts, careless words, selfish demands that reflect how imperfect we are. How many times have we ignored the Spirit’s nudging to reach out and be vulnerable to someone in need? Or allowed our insecurities to hold us back from opportunities placed before us. Oh, the guilt and self-doubt that grows in our minds because we know the truth about ourselves; we are imperfect, deeply flawed creatures.

This leads us back to the question, “how can God use a flawed person like me?” The answer is found in the lives of our biblical heroes whom God loved, used, and blessed. When feeling unworthy remember that Moses had a short fuse, was insecure, and murdered a man. David was too young, killed a man and had an affair. Sarah could be impatient, temperamental, conniving, pouty, jealous, and a complainer. Yet, God used them to do amazing work and He will use you too.

Does this make you feel better? It should. God loves you and has work for you to do just like Moses, David and Sarah. The work He has for you may not end up in history books, but it is important. We may never know the ripples that spread from encouraging one person; or from making a difficult but right decision. Each day we leave a mark on the world constructed from our choices and behaviors and when we follow God’s precepts the mark we leave will be a positive one.

The other part of being used by God is walking in victory. We know there’s victory in the lord, the Bible makes this clear in both the Old and New Testaments.  Yet, many of us struggle to live in victory because we focus on our failures and short comings instead of God’s grace and forgiveness. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Each new day He offers us forgiveness and hope even when we’ve blown it the day before. He also promises to strengthen us and make us victorious. 1 John 5:4 says, “For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world; our faith.” And 1 Corinthians 15:57 reminds us,  “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Embrace this victory! When self-doubt and defeated, negative thoughts dominate your day and prevent you from moving forward in Christ; claim victory in the name of Jesus and recite these verses over and over until you know in your heart Christ is with you, giving you victory in all situations. Isaiah 41:10So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Debora Shelford Hobbs

The Interesting Thing about Grace

grateful heart

Grace: Unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.  A virtue coming from God.  A state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace.  Approval, favor, mercy, pardon, disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.

I love God’s grace.  I like cuddling up to the knowledge that He loves me; accepts my sinful imperfect self while giving me undeserved forgiveness, unconditionally.  In God’s grace I find stability and security because there isn’t anything I can do that will separate me from the love of God.  If I disappoint Him, He won’t leave me, or hate me, or ignore me for a period of time.  God’s grace and love are merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

By God’s design, humans are grace seekers.  We spend tremendous energy looking for love and in that love we desire grace.  Grace that allows us to be ourselves quirks and all, and that will forgive us when we make a mistake.  How many songs have been written about searching for love; a love that will accept us for who we are and forgive our faults; a love undeserved? 

Of course, there are many people who believe they have found true love and are overcome by the knowledge that someone accepts them completely.  However, the honeymoon always ends and the unconditional lover becomes annoyed with our quirks and eventually finds it hard to forgive our misdoings.  Quickly, the notion of unconditional love fades away.  But God’s grace and love do not fade away; they are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

When we accept God’s grace and start to comprehend the spiritual depth of it, we become grateful, and grateful people are happy people.   As we grow in God’s grace we realize that it isn’t a one way street; those who receive God’s grace are compelled to humbly give grace to others.  Sometimes this means we must lay down our righteous judgment or individual rights.  This can be tough, but the reward is great.

Grace and Forgiveness are separate entities but it’s almost impossible to give one without the other.  To me, grace and forgiveness are related to each other much like inhaling and exhaling.  They are separate acts but one can’t be done without the other.  If you inhale without exhaling you will faint and the same is true if you try to exhale without inhaling.  And this is where God’s grace gets interesting.  Because God gives his grace freely to each one of us and we benefit greatly from the knowledge that we are set free from our sin it becomes incumbent on us to give grace freely to others. 

This is the part of God’s grace that doesn’t feel so cuddly.  My giving grace to others requires me to lay down my pride.  It requires that I not hold my family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors under the harsh umbrella of my self-righteous judgment.  I must give grace to others because I’ve received unmerited grace from God.

In his book Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller addresses God’s grace by writing, “All humans beings are equally unworthy of God’s love and that therefore all humans beings have equal access to God’s grace.”  He also addresses what happens when we lay down our pride and choose to forgive others. “But if you let it humble you rather than embitter you, and turn to God instead of living for your own glory, then the death of your pride can lead to a resurrection.  You can emerge with a tender heart instead of a hard heart.”

I hope that you will embrace God’s grace.  That you cuddle up to it; finding acceptance, stability, and security there.  Then with a new understanding of the spiritual depth of God’s grace, extend it to others whether you think they deserve it or not. 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Psalm 86:15    but, you Oh Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Romans 8:37-39 in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor  height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 4:7   but to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

James 4:6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Titus 2:11 for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

 

 

 

O Holy Night and the meaning of Christmas

 

birth-of-jesus

Merry Christmas friends. May God’s blessings be on you and your family; may God’s peace fill your soul.

O Holy Night is one of my favorite Christmas carols because of the deep truths within its lyrics. Every time I hear them my spirit is reminded of the magnificence of God’s love for humanity. The lyrics are poetic yet clearly convey the message of Jesus’s birth; “when He appeared the soul felt its worth.” I stand in awe at the beauty of this truth; only God’s love reveals to us our souls worth, this is amazing.

Hope. We all need hope. To me it feels like the world is in chaos, seldom does the nightly news leave me feeling hopeful for the future. In fact, it feels like the world is plunging into darkness. Even though the world appears to be heading in the wrong direction, there is hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise at the birth of Jesus. Rejoice in this truth and find hope in the fact that God does keep His promises. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.”

A good friend; we all need a good friend. Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you. He was born in a manger and lived as a man; he understands first hand our earthly struggles. “The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend.” Jesus will stay by our side and walk with us through difficult times, offering hope and purpose through His Word.

We all desire to be accepted faults and all and to have our deepest needs understood by another. God knows our needs and our weaknesses, yet loves us; accepting us completely. “He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger” Isn’t it wonderful to be accepted and valued by God!

Christianity is a religion of love and forgiveness because of Jesus’s birth. His birth gave humanity a new and radicle code of conduct that said put other’s needs above your own; all of humanity are children of God; forgive as you have been forgiven, and love God with your whole heart. “Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.”

The beauty of these lyrics lies in how accurately they reflect God’s love through the birth of Jesus. We are blessed beyond measure to have such a loving God and savior. A savior who loves us even though we constantly mess up in our Christian walk. We are blessed to have a God who knows the value of our souls, even when we don’t. This Christmas, let’s stand in awe at the magnificence of God’s love.

A blessing for you this Christmas season and the new year.

May your soul know its worth through Jesus Christ. May you know hope. May you have a faithful friend that will never leave you nor forsake you. One who loves you even though they know your weaknesses. May you know peace, the peace that passes all understanding.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

Here are the lyrics for O Holy Night.

O Holy Night The stars are brightly shining It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth Long lay the world in sin and e’er pining ‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees O hear the angels voices. O night divine O night when Christ was born O night divine, O night, O night divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming, With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand. So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming, Here came the wise men from Orient land. The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger, Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend! Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever, His power and glory evermore proclaim. O night divine, O night, O night divine.

Adolphe Charles Adam

God’s Amazing Grace

cross in sunset

  Grace: Unmerited divine assistance given

Humans for their regeneration or sanctification.

 A virtue coming from God.

 

Grace from above pours over me.

Spilling freely from God’s never ending cup.

Washing clean my darkened mind, bringing rest to my soul.

 

His healing ointment of grace soothes away

My guilt and shame, restoring peace to my spirit

Setting me free from the bondage of sin.

 

My arms open wide to receive His grace.

It envelops me inside and out.

I kneel and weep at His feet for a forgiveness underserved.

 

God’s abundant grace releases me

From the stifling power of fear

Freeing me from the whispering lies of insecurity.

 

His grace filled Word offers hope and strength

Replacing all condemnation from the past

Freeing me to be creative, loving, forgiving.

 

I’m loved by God, with all my flaws.

He values me as a precious jewel.

He has plans to prosper me and give me hope.

 

God’s grace has the power to change my life,

Heal relationships and mend my broken heart.

God’s amazing grace sets me free from the past.

 

Amazing grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now I’m found

Was blind but now I see.

 

Debora Shelford Hobbs

The Healing of a Wounded Soul

                Healing the wounded soul          

Amy let out a guttural growl followed by a loud “darn it!” Protectively, she wrapped her wounded finger tightly with the other hand, applying pressure hoping to alleviate the pain. Her frustration level was already high today. The kids were ornery and her husband Chuck appeared to be deliberately employing every last irritating quality he had.   Accidentally smacking her already injured finger on the counter’s edge was the end of her rope. She could feel the irritation boiling up inside; a full hissy-fit was about to erupt. “Family hide”, she thought, “I’m one unpleasant women right now.”

While running cold water over the offended finger hoping to minimize the pain,  Amy realized the house had grown strangely quiet. “Odd” she thought “they were just here deliberately bugging me.”  Putting some crushed ice in a zip-lock bag she headed to the family room for a little rest; the house was still quiet. Her mommy instincts said it would be wise to see where everyone went, but she didn’t want to, she wanted peace and quiet.

Lying down on the couch she propped up her right hand on a pillow. The pain was subsiding a bit however, her irritation was not. Lately, Chuck had been difficult, prickly like a Sea anemone, reacting to everything negatively. At first Amy had given him grace, after all his career had hit a difficult patch. But instead of receiving her grace with the minutest amount of gratefulness, he’d became more difficult. Amy’s feelings were hurt. She believed her reaction to his prickly mood would be different, maybe her patience greater, if they hadn’t been through so many difficult years already. Amy felt used up and tired. Why couldn’t Chuck just grow-up, mature, evolve, become a better man; and stay that way instead of lapsing back into old negative patterns?

Her finger began to throb even with ice on it and she wondered if it was broken; the house was still quiet. Laying there absorbed in her pain a thought wiggled its way into her considerations. Her wounded finger was much like her relational wounds with Chuck. Both wounds were easily injured and each time it seemed to take longer for them to heal. Truth is, sometimes the reinjured wound hurt more than the original one. “How many times do I have to forgive the same old bad behavior” she stewed. “God, I don’t want to forgive him again, please help me, I know it’s the right thing to do.”

An uncomfortable thought floated across Amy’s mind. “How many times has God forgiven you for the same sin?” “Is your intolerant reaction to Chuck’s bad behavior equally bad behavior?” Amy didn’t like this thought, it put way too much responsibility on her; after all Chuck was the one with issues. This self-righteous attitude didn’t last long, she could feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Again, “Is your reaction to Chuck’s bad behavior also sinful behavior?” She thought about all the self-righteous thoughts she’d had and the disrespectful words uttered in response to his prickly behavior. Painfully, it dawned on her that her own destructive behavior could be hindering both of their emotional and spiritual healing.

“Oh God please forgive me; forgive me for not forgiving as you forgave me. Forgive me for being such a hypocrite. Please help me to see Chuck as you see him. Please help me treat him in a way that honors you. I’m sorry God, I didn’t realize how out of line I was.” Amy knew she needed to ask Chuck’s forgiveness and that was going to be tough.

“Why aren’t you holding Chuck accountable for his bad behavior?” she complained to God, even though she knew the answer. Everyone is responsible for their own behavior, it’s the only behavior we can control. “Ok God, I’ll humble myself and ask for forgiveness.”

Suddenly the kids and Chuck appeared with a bouquet of flowers freshly picked from the yard and some homemade cards. Stunned, she asked, “What’s this?” “We’re sorry for being ornery today, will you forgive us?” Yes, of course I will. Thank you kids.” Now it was Chucks turn.  He approached her with one beautiful red rose, got down on his knees and said, “Honey, I’m sorry for being such a negative guy lately, please forgive me.” Amy stared at him for a few moments then did what she knew she must. “I forgive you honey, but will you also forgive me; I’ve been harsh and disrespectful toward you.” Chuck looked at her and said, “I’ve waited years to hear you say that. Yes, I forgive you.”

An uncomfortable sensation enveloped Amy. “He’s been waiting years to hear me say that? He thinks I’m the one with issues!” She started to laugh and the kids and Chuck looked confused at her reaction. “We’re all such nuts,” she said “perfectly imperfect nuts and blessed beyond measure to have each other and God’s unmerited grace.”

May you be humbled with God’s gentle hand of correction and may you know you’re blessed to have an imperfect family that loves you.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

A New Year Rebirth

recovery

 

On January first, each and every year, Carmen took down her Christmas tree and packed away all the brightly colored decorations that adorned her home. Typically, by the end of December she felt the decorations had overstayed their welcome and was eager to put them away, clean the house, and make way for a new year. However, this Christmas had been a particularly meaningful one; causing her to feel sentimental while working, not wanting the beauty of it to be packed away.

Carefully, Carmen removed a handmade ornament of the manger scene; created out of popsicle sticks, burlap, and cotton balls. Tenderly touching the scraggly remains of the cotton ball she smiled thinking about a time long ago. Cradling it like a precious object, she lovingly turned it over to see the name written in red crayon, across the back; it read Ian. “How many years had this simple ornament hung on their Christmas tree?”, she wondered.  Ticking off the years in her head she remembered Ian had been six when he made it.   “That was twenty-two years ago; so many unexpected and tragic things have happened in those twenty-two years” she thought. Tracing the name with her finger she remembered his cherub like face, crowned with blond hair, smiling up at her while showing off his masterpiece.

They’d lost that beautiful boy for years, but now he was back; Carmen smiled at this thought. Somehow, between work, their other three children, community involvement, and church, Ian had slipped away from them. At first he was quiet and methodical in his rebellion; careful not to step over well-defined family rules. He was smart, and spent tremendous energy blending in or looking like a “good kid” while walking on the edge of disaster. Finally, during his senior year in high school Ian was caught with drugs in his possession. After much heartache and legal fees he was given community service hours and was mandated to attend substance abuse classes. During the whole mess Ian never showed an ounce of remorse or a contrite spirit. In fact, he became more belligerent and arrogant; this was when Carmen and Jim knew he was in serious trouble. Although he attended the addiction classes he openly thought they were a joke and frequently made fun of the instructor’s ignorance. Thinking about Ian’s first encounter with the police drove the smile from Carmen’s face. She sat down on the couch, resting her head in her hands.

Their hearts were broken, Carmen spent hours researching on the internet for answers; none were to be found. Jim agreed to attend counseling with her but left each appointment feeling like a terrible parent. Eventually, they stopped attending together; Jim shut her out, and Carmen fell into depression. After struggling through the first year Carmen plugged into a support group and began to find strength enough to take care of her family. Next she learned how to ask for help and began to freely ask for prayer; which helped her cope but Ian was still out of control.

He spent years lost in drug addiction, absorbed in a world of self-delusion, unable to connect with reality. Eventually he was living on the streets panhandling and stealing to survive. Carmen and Jim lived in fear for and of their son. Sometimes he would show up high, all glassy eyed and cloudy, saying things that made no sense. Other times he would wait until they were gone, slip in a window and steal items of value. They were devastated and spent years trying to help him, but nothing worked. Overcome with grief and discouragement, Carmen fell into depression again. Ian’s addiction years hurt everyone in the family, they all bore the scares of his manipulation and lies.

Then a year and a half ago Tom, from a local drug outreach program sponsored by a church, found Ian passed out on the sidewalk. After several months of diligently building a relationship with Ian, Tom convinced him to enroll in a six month rehab clinic sponsored by a local church. To the amazement and joy of all who knew him, Ian graduated from the program having successfully owned up to all his wrong doings. That was four months ago and he was still clean and sober.

Lifting her head, Carmen flipped the simple ornament over again examining the three figures; Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. She marveled at how the birth of Jesus had brought hope to the hopeless, giving them a rebirth or new life. Ian and his past were washed clean through Jesus’ blood, he’d been given hope while in despair. Ian had come home for Christmas and Carmen thought her heart would break from joy having her whole family home for the holidays. For the first time in years Ian sat at the table talking with the family. He laughed, played games, and enjoyed helping with the dishes.

Ian had been open and honest with his family and talked freely about his gratitude for God’s forgiveness. In fact, he was eager to share what God had done in his life. When sharing about God’s healing power over addiction he said several things that stayed with Carmen, “My escape had become my prison” And “True freedom is found in the hope of God.” Tears of gratefulness slid down Carmen’s cheeks as the thought of these words of truth being spoken from her son who’d been lost in lies for so many years. “Thank You god”, she said out loud, “Thank You!”

Tears streamed down Carmen’s face as she stared at the simple ornament. Jesus’ birth made Ian’s rebirth possible; her heart felt overcome with gratitude. Standing in front of her dead and mostly deconstructed Christmas tree, ready to put away the old and make way for the new; Carmen understood what it all meant. Ian had been reborn and separated from his past for a new life through the birth and death of Jesus. Thank you God for your faithful love, she prayed, I’d lost hope but you didn’t. Thank you for a New Year Rebirth.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

A Soul Offended

offended

When bitter strife replaces peace; offenses grow… and poison grace.          
When hurts flood in with dark deluge and pessimism guides our view.
When every path is blocked with battle; the heart turns cold and becomes fragile.
Our minds tell us to be on guard and we hear words through wounded hearts.
As we smolder in hurt and pain; where grace once grew, now judgment reigns.

With righteous heart we dish out blame, we feel like victims in life’s hard race.
We fix our focus on others’ faults, pointing our finger while blaming all.
We throw our shoulders back and say, “They’re the ones that need to change!”
We think we know the heart of man, when God alone knows their real plans.

O Lord show us our wayward hearts, expose our sin so pride departs.
Cast out that dark, offended spirit; give humble grace that knows no limit.
Help us see the offender’s way, through Your eyes and heart of grace.
Help us to pray before we speak… to know our understanding’s weak.
To know You’ve placed us where we are to test our faith, to try our hearts.
Help us to trust when life’s unjust …to see ourselves like others must.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

REDEEMED

 Mary Redemption

Her room was still like time had stopped, Her eyes at nothing, stared                             Until a beep from the machine, brought her back crystal clear.                                       She looked down at her arm and saw the IV in its place                                                       Just for a moment, she had gone back, to another time in space. 

Tears trickled down that old drawn face, her lips began to quiver                                     As she recalled the years gone by and pain that she’d delivered.                                         It all seemed clear, as she looked back; it wasn’t clear back then.                                   She wished to have a second chance, some way to make amends. 

The angry names her mother hurled still made her cringe in pain                                  And knowing that she did the same brought grief, regret, and shame.                            She didn’t end dysfunction, as she was sure she would                                                        And life went by, so very fast; it was too hard to change. 

She looked up at the ceiling, and yelled out “Are You there?                                               Do You care about me? Can You remove despair?                                                                 Does hope exist? Can change be known? If so, then show the way!                                  Hear my prayer, see my heart; I’m buried in mistakes!” 

Questions filled her weary mind as she lay there exhausted                                                  Is it true that God restores the hurt and broken hearted?                                                   She shut her eyes; her shoulders shook, as tears continued falling                                With humbled heart, and contrite spirit; she longed for a new calling. 

The hours trickled slowly by with no response from heaven.                                                But a strange rest had filled her heart and peace was like a fragrance.                           That restful state was broken with a stroke upon her hair                                                      A voice that she had longed to hear said “Mom, I’ve news to share.” 

“A year ago, at my ropes end, I gave my heart to Jesus                                                               Since that day I’ve changed and grown, more than I can measure.                                        I’m learning to submit my will and die to my own way                                                                   The chains that tightly bound us, He’s breaking more each day.” 

“I love you Mom, and know your plan was never one to hurt us                                      You too were hurt, and it’s been said; hurt people… will hurt people.                            But hope has come into my heart, revealing a new path.                                                      We cannot change the hurt-filled past, but hopes with us at last!”  

“For I can see a future paved, with a new legacy                                                                         It’s there for us if we will grow and seek God on our  knees.                                                     In God’s all knowing timing, He’ll heal each hurt and scar                                                          Submitting all and letting go; our lives will be restored.                 

“The devil brought destruction, to our heart and soul                                                              But God is here to lift us up and take back all control.                                                             We can forgive each other, as Christ’s forgiven us                                                                     He’ll wash us clean and make us new as we give Him our trust.”  

“Dear Mother, I invite you, to join us in this path.                                                                        To know that you’re forgiven and all that’s past… is passed.”                                          That withered hand reached out to hers, as tears rolled down their faces.            With breaking voice the elder said, “OH…the years I wasted.”  

“I’m sorry for the things I’ve done, and for the words of pain                                                   I wish that I could turn back time and wash it all away.                                                              But know dear, that I love you, and I’m sorry for the hurt                                                           I need the hope that you have found to mend my broken heart.” 

Just before the morning broke with no bells or alarms                                                        With peaceful heart, she breathed her last, and went to Jesus’ arms.                             Her children knew that she was free from bitterness and shame                                  And they rejoiced, with hands upraised, to hope in Jesus’ name. 

God used her children’s hurt-filled past; took beauty from the ashes                                 As they reached out to hurting souls and others who had suffered.                               No troubled path, no chains that bind, no mountain sized life problems,                   Are greater than the power of God who brings good from our losses.                         But stubborn hearts we must lay down; to change, we must be willing                       And as we do, we shall fulfill, God’s awesome, glorious, calling.                           

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

The Interesting Thing About Grace

 

 Grace: Unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.  A virtue coming from God.  A state of  sanctification enjoyed through divine grace.  Approval, favor, mercy, pardon, disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.

I love God’s grace.  I like cuddling up to the knowledge that He loves me, accepts me sins and all, and gives me undeserved forgiveness, unconditionally.  In God’s grace I find stability and security because there isn’t anything I can do that will separate me from the love of God.  If I disappoint Him, He will not leave me, or hate me, or ignore me for a period of time.  God’s grace and love are merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

By God’s design, humans are grace seekers.  We spend tremendous energy looking for love and in that love we desire grace.  Grace that allows us to be ourselves quirks and all, and that will forgive us when we make a mistake.  How many songs have been written about searching for unconditional love, a love that will accept us for who we are, and forgive our faults, a love undeserved? 

Of course, there are many people who believe they have found true love and are overcome by the knowledge that someone accepts them completely.  However, the honeymoon always ends and our unconditional lover becomes annoyed with our quirks and finds it hard to forgive our misdoings.  Quickly, the notion of unconditional love fades away.  But God’s grace and love do not fade away; they are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

 When we accept God’s grace and start to comprehend the spiritual depth of it, we become grateful and grateful people are happier people.   As we grow in God’s grace we realize that it isn’t a one way street; those who receive God’s grace are compelled to humbly give grace to others.  Sometimes this means we must lay down our righteous judgment or individual rights.  This can be tough, but the reward is great.

 Grace and Forgiveness are separate entities but it’s almost impossible to give one without the other.  To me grace and forgiveness are related to each other like inhaling and exhaling are.  They are separate acts but one can’t be done without the other.  If you inhale without exhaling you will faint and the same is true if you try to exhale without inhaling.  And this is where God’s Grace gets interesting.  Because God gives his grace freely to each one of us and we benefit greatly from the knowledge that we are set free from our sin, it becomes incumbent on us to give grace freely to others. 

 This is the part of God’s grace that doesn’t feel so cuddly.  My giving grace to others requires me to lay down my pride.  It requires that I not hold my family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors under the harsh umbrella of my self-righteous judgment.  I must give grace to others because I’ve received unmerited grace from God.

 In his book Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller addresses God’s grace by writing, “All humans beings are equally unworthy of God’s love and that therefore all humans beings have equal access to God’s grace.”  He also addresses what happens when we lay down our pride and choose to forgive others. “But if you let it humble you rather than embitter you, and turn to God instead of living for your own glory, then the death of your pride can lead to a resurrection.  You can emerge with a tender heart instead of a hard heart.”

 I hope that you will embrace God’s grace.  That you cuddle up to it finding acceptance, stability, and security there.  Then with a new understanding of the spiritual depth of God’s grace extend it to others, whether you think they deserve it or not. 

 Psalm 86:15    But, you Oh Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Romans 8:37-39  In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor  height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 4:7   but to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

James 4:6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Titus 2:11 for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

Debora Shelford Hobbs

 

The Rest of the Story

A few years ago I wrote a post called Overcoming Resentment.  It is a story that covers a three year period in my life that taught me a hard lesson about pride, resentment, and forgiveness.  Since writing that post, the story came full circle and now I must share the rest of that saga because it is one that shows how the ashes of our lives really can be turned to beauty.

For background purposes, here’s a quick summary of Overcoming Resentment:  When my two youngest children were preschoolers an older couple living next door didn’t like the noise and chaos that radiates out of little kids.  The couple regularly called the police with complaints against my children for side walk chalk, wading pool noise, and laughing and yelling from childish play.  They tape recorded the kid’s noise and played it back at distortion levels into the street.  There were many other terrible events during that three year period and our neighborhood became a hostile place and I became bitter and resentful toward my neighbors.

I had been convicted for months to go and talk to the lady of the house but I always made the excuse that I wasn’t to blame for the problems;  I shouldn’t be the one to apologize…she should. But the Lord persisted with the conviction and the end finally came when I was flipping through my bible and landed on Job 36:13 – The godless in heart harbor resentment; even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help.
After reading that passage, I realized that the Godless person full of resentment was me and I could no longer wait to apologize to my neighbor.  I had to take responsibility for my part.  I told God that I was too chicken to phone, but would go outside and work in the yard and if they came out, I would apologize.  As I walked out my door, their garage door went up and out stepped the lady.  With a pounding heart, I called her name and walked over to her yard and apologized.  After that conversation, they never called the police on my kids again. 

As the years moved forward, our previous enemies became our friends.  That in itself was an amazing shift but even more incredible was when she was diagnosed with lung cancer six years ago; I became an active part of her life.  This woman who once hated me, called me frequently for help and when she passed away a year ago, I held her hand as she lay dying.  But the biggest blessing of all was praying with her for salvation before she died.

After her death, I kept an eye out for her husband as he was in his late 80’s and alone as his children live out of state.   Two weeks ago, I pulled into my driveway late one afternoon and noticed that his outside lights were still on and the newspaper still lay in the driveway.  Dread overwhelmed me as he is like clockwork in his actions and his lights are out and newspaper always picked up by 10:00 AM.  I called him several times and went over to his house to ring the door bell.  There was no answer.  I peeked in his windows to see if I could see him on the floor but all I saw was the coat he always wore, hanging on the back of a chair.  I grabbed the spare set of house keys they had given me, timidly went into his house, and found him passed away in his bed.

So why do I tell this story?  Because it reminds me that God is a God of reconciliation.  It reminds me that my pride and self righteousness never work for good, but humility, when I allow it to grow in my heart, births something I would never known as possible.   At the time, it seemed unfair that God required me to apologize when I had never said a rude word to the couple…but God saw the evil in my heart…the evil I had try to hide away.  When God finally got my attention, He took what the devil meant for destruction and turned it into good.

The enemy (me) became a daughter, when God totally turned the tables on a very ugly situation.  And that’s what God does….if we let Him. 

Sometimes God requires us to do things that don’t make since or that seem unfair; things that hurt a lot or cost us our pride.  But rest assured God cares more about our heart and its spiritual state than one ounce of our pride.  As we get better at humbling ourselves in the sight of the Lord, we will get better at getting out of His way and giving Him room to really move in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  That is when we will see with our own eyes that God really makes beauty from the ashes of our lives.

 

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

 

 

Fighting to Forgive

Forgiveness is a higher call
It challenges the heart of all.
It often goes against all reason
It seems like granting grace for treason.
But in this misconception lies
A home for bitter roots to hide.

God tells us that we must forgive
But we ask “Why?” as pain’s relived.
“They don’t deserve it… don’t You see?”
“Why am I the one You’re punishing?”
“They must pay an honest price!”
“Only justice will suffice!”

The hurt keeps circling in our heart.
Replayed by memories that won’t depart.
And as we pound the golden gavel
God weeps and sees our lives unravel.

For unforgiveness chains our heart.
And bitterness blooms… while joy departs.
A once soft heart turns to a stone
And bitterness rots once healthy bones.

And that’s why God says to Forgive
For bitterness dies as grace we give.
Its not to set the criminal free
But to heal and restore and set OUR souls free.
Forgiveness sets us free from shackles
Reminding us, God fights our battles.

Confront the one that brought offense
With love and grace… seeking to mend.
Leaving the heart of our offender
To our God… our true defender.
For there’s no heart that we can read
And if we try… our peace will leave.

Know that we are not our hurt.
That we are more than pain asserts.
Let go of bitterness, judgment, and wrath
Let them all go, let grace take their spot.
Knowing that God moves mountains for us
As we humbly submit and in His wisdom, trust.

It may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do.
But trust in the Lord… He’ll walk it with you.
Get out of God’s way… He knows what He’s doing.
Pray for the offender and for their renewing.

And blessings will fall, more than we can count
And love, joy, and peace will grow like a fount.
Out of the hurt new life will grow and rather than bitterness,
God’s love we’ll sew.

Rhonda Shelford Jansen

Ephesians 4:31-32
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.

Job 42:10  (NIV) After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored
his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.

The Bitterness Weed

 

                           

Bitterness:
Strong and sharp in taste: having a sharp strong unpleasant taste.
Angry and resentful. Difficult to accept: mentally painful, or very hard to accept
Synonyms: sour, acid, acidic, tart, astringent, vinegary, pungent, harsh, acrid

I’ve been thinking about the act of being bitter and how bitterness, if not dealt with, can affect every aspect of our lives.  Bitterness can blind a person to the love that is around them.  Bitterness has the power to turn a person inwards, making them selfish and self-consumed.  A bitter heart becomes brittle and intolerant.  A bitter person will find the bad in every situation unable to see the good.  Bitterness can strangle our creative energy.  And a bitter heart is unable to open up to God’s love, it is unable to trust in God’s love because it is always in a state of self-protection.

Bitterness is like a weed, it is a living organism that need sustenance to survive and when it’s thriving it has the power to weaken our emotional, physical, and spiritual health.  The Bitterness Weed is fed and nourished by our judgmental, negative, self-righteous, and unforgiving thoughts.  Because bitterness is living, it will either grow or wither depending on our ability to starve it with forgiveness or feed it with judgment.  Starving bitterness is not for the weak of spirit.  It requires surrendering our right to justifiable anger and judgment.  It demands that we not seek retribution ourselves for our pain, but allow God’s justice, which is a mystery to most of us, to have control. 

All of us at one time or another have thought, “They don’t deserve forgiveness” or “It’s not fair, they feel no pain and are suffering no consequence for their destructive behavior” and we’re right, it’s not fair from a human point of view.  So, in an effort to bring justice to the situation, we self-righteously judge the individual deeming them unworthy of forgiveness.  And then we move on, right?  Nope.

The problem is we’re not capable of judging others harshly and moving on.  We continue to judge them in our thoughts and before we know it we’re feeding the weed of bitterness.  Each time we ruminate over their bad actions and reassure ourselves of our righteous judgment, the bitterness weed grows stronger. Before long our outlook on life becomes a little more negative and our prayer time a little less frequent, and the Bible sits unopened for longer stretches of time on our night stand.

Before long we become bitter leaving a sharp and unpleasant taste in the mouths of our friends and family.  Unbeknown to ourselves we become sour, tart, vinegary, pungent, harsh, and acrid in our attitudes and relationships.  We have officially become bitter because of our self-righteous right to judge and not forgive.  We now have a healthy, bitter-weed garden within our spirit that only God’s love, wisdom, and forgiveness can eradicate.

It’s true that starving bitterness is not for the weak of spirit.  It takes unmeasurable amounts of faith, humbleness, and forgiveness to starve bitterness from our spirit.  But if we choose to do so, God will help us, He will give us strength when we have none, and the courage to continue to forgive even when it seem like justice is not being served.  God’s ways can be a mystery to us but when we follow them they always replace bitterness with beauty.

Debora Shelford Hobbs