Tag Archives: forgiveness

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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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

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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 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

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