Tag: forgiveness

Finding Forgiveness

“I need to forgive.” 

This simple sentence haunted me for years.

I was reminded of this last night as I attended a Casting Chttps://fscog.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/finding-forgiveness.jpgrowns concert.  I love their music.  It just cuts right to my heart.  Over the years, it has had a profound affect on me.  Their music has encouraged and challenged me to deal with things I was ignoring in my life.

I struggled with forgiveness for many years.

In my mind, I knew that I needed to but I just could bring myself to forgive those that I felt betrayed me… my heart needed more time to respond.  I learned the hard way that the heart takes more time to heal.

You may not be able to relate exactly to my story, but chances are by the time you’re reading this article, you know what it feels like to be lied to, betrayed, forgotten, rejected or in some other way wounded by someone you loved and trusted.

I have yet to meet a person who has made it through this life without facing one or more of these wounds. And because we understand what it feels like to be injured in this way, we also know how truly challenging it can be to offer forgiveness.

For years I thought I understood what it meant to forgive.

https://marriagemissions.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/Time-to-Forgive-AdobeStock_59582002-copy.jpgThen just about the time I thought I had a grasp on the whole process of understanding forgiveness, something would come straight out of nowhere and remind me that I had a long way to go.

The hurt and resentment we sought to leave behind would resurface from time to time. Maybe it was triggered by someone’s offhand remark or by an old song from back in the day.

That is how it would happen to me.  I would be driving back home from work, listening to songs as they randomly came up.

Then that song comes on… the one that took me back to another place and time.

Suddenly I am filled with all the anger, hurt, frustration and resentment that I feel towards people who betrayed or hurt me over the years of my life. 

It would be clearly evident that I still struggled with forgiveness.

On the outside, I would hide it, twist it and lie about it if I needed to, but I wasn’t going to forgive. On the inside I didn’t want anything to do with forgiveness.

I thought I would grow into it over time, I assumed, this burden and I would grow strong enough to carry it. 

As the years went by, I tried to forget. It worked, for the most part. When you carry a grudge long enough, it didn’t feel like a grudge anymore. It just felt like life. https://i.pinimg.com/736x/16/da/d6/16dad6f443ecaae385abba9b17912111--let-god-let-it-go.jpg

Like putting on clothes each morning, I would just get up every morning and strap on my bag full of anger, hurt, shame, bitterness, frustration and the lack of any desire to forgive those that you had an issue with.

As matter of fact, I thought about it rarely. When I did think about it, I prayed it would evaporate into thin air, and that maybe I would evaporate with it.

In some ways, it did evaporate. In many ways I did forget.

After all these years, I still have a lot to learn about the process of forgiving someone.

But I have learned this…

We forgive in response to wounds and betrayals. A part of ourselves is broken. A relationship has crumbled. The potential life we imagined for ourselves lies in ruins. I am learning that I am still broken.

Forgiveness is that healing that mends the broken part of us.

Mending takes time.

Forgiveness cannot take place without honesty, boundaries, space, distance and time.

Forgiveness is a process. I am learning that we forgive one day at a time.

It rarely comes as a single, discrete decision. We talk about forgiveness like it’s a single, one-time event, and in my experience, it’s just not.

Forgiveness isn’t an event any more than brushing your teeth is an event.  It is something you must do over and over and over again.

I am not sure it gets easier with time.

In fact, one of the few things that has helped me heal from my past is to stop saying, “I forgive you” and start saying, “I’m forgiving you.”

Jesus talked at length about forgiveness. Once, Peter asked him, “So, look, how often do I have to forgive? Seven times? Will that about cut it?” Imagine the look on Peter’s face when Jesus said, “Make that seventy-times seven.”

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/anger/files/2015/06/blame-e1433261975140.jpgStrictly speaking, Jesus wasn’t just telling Peter how many times he had to forgive a repeat offender. He was also telling him—telling us—how forgiveness works.

I need to get up each morning and instead of strapping on that backpack of hurt, I need to wake up with the intent of forgiving.

Many days it’s the same person I forgave yesterday.

What would happen if, just for today, you thought about the person who has hurt you most and said to yourself:

“I am forgiving you. By that I mean, I’m not going to blame you or hold you responsible for my life or my future any longer. The power to shape what is coming is mine now. I take it back for myself. I reclaim my power. And that grudge I’ve been carrying, well, it’s hurting me more than it’s hurting you, so for that reason, I’m going to set it down, move on and forgive you.”

Those of us that struggle with forgiveness, we don’t have to make any promises about the future. Except that if we have to, we may need to forgive again tomorrow.

Ultimately… it is how we find the way to forgive.

Sometimes the heart needs more time to accept what the mind already knows.

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Not Fooling Anyone (A Chronicle of Bad Conversations and Storefronts Past)

A few weeks ago, a co-worker popped his head in my office. He said “So, are you ready for next Wednesday?

I sat there going through my mental calendar and couldn’t come up with what the significance Wednesday had. I finally had to ask “What’s Wednesday?”

He then reminded me that Wednesday was the day on the calendar that I age one more year. He asked if I had any words to impart to impart the wisdom I’ve gained in my many years.

Nope.

To be honest, I was just happy that he reminded me what Wednesday was because I needed to renew my license tags.  That summed up the depth of the wisdom that was flowing through my brain. I mumbled that I would write a post about “all the wisdom I’ve gained over all my years”.  He laughed and said sarcastically that he “couldn’t wait” to read it and something about that it should be a short read.

That Saturday, as I sat at the DMV, I was reminded of this conversation I had the previous day. I thought about what wisdom or perspective I could have actually shared.  What gold nuggets of wisdom have I gained? What words can I put in a post?

I had nothing.

But I valiantly tried to post something. I spent the next few days writing a post that I published a week or so ago. I called it “Thinking Back, Looking Forward”  Click here to read

I’ve spent the days since that posting going round and round about this subject.  While I liked the article I posted, something just told me that I needed to share something more. 

What could I write that would show what I truly have learned over the years? What I have learned in these years on this big rock that I can pass on to my kids and grandkids, not to mention, anyone else that might read this? 

Then it hit me… while staring at a picture that sits on my desk.  I had actually wrote about him in my post that is linked above.  My closest childhood friend, Bryan Blakley died the day after my birthday in 2009.  I have written about him a number of times and I have always felt a part of me is missing since his passing.  We lost him all too soon. I could never deny the influence that Bryan had in my life.  I can’t say that all of the “influence” was good either.  I got in trouble with Bryan on many occasions and there are secrets of things that we did that I will take to my grave. 

But the one thing that I could always say about Bryan is that he was true to himself.  He lived what he believed.  Even if he was wrong.  He never tried to hide who he really was.  I always tried to hide and fool people into thinking I was some kind of innocent kid. 

I wasn’t innocent.

Bryan was a person that really did not care what people thought of him.  He was who he was 24 hours a day. The good, the bad and the ugly.

I always looked up to that because he was true to his convictions and to what he believed.  He never tried to fool anyone.  I thought back to the words I spoke at his funeral. A simple sentence that I still believe summed up Bryan’s life and in it a truth that sticks with me to this very day…

You can say what you think but you’ll live what you believe.

That’s it. 

That basically is the foundation of all wisdom.  In other words,  to quote Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true”.  Under all that we think, lives a life that really shows what we truly believe.

I’ve said multiple times that it is really easy to sit behind the keyboard and act like you’ve got the world on a string. For 9 years, I have posted personal thoughts and hopefully, https://itsyet2bt0ld.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/img_3064.pngshared the struggles too. Life has knocked me down a few times. Those events have shown me things about myself I never wanted to see.  I believe that in those events, I caught the glimpse of who I truly was. 

It’s like really seeing yourself in a mirror.  What if we honestly just saw our character instead of our image in a mirror? In reality, that is how God sees us all the time.  Because He sees through the fake image we try to show the world. What God sees in those moments is the character that sums up who we are.  It scares me to consider what God thinks when He sees and hears the lies we tell Him and others.

I have often thought about what a book about my life would look like.  How would it read? How would it be perceived?  I have even gone as far as coming up with the title.

 “Not Fooling Anybody (A Chronicle of Bad Conversations and Storefronts Past)

What I have learned about life is that I haven’t really fooled anybody.  More importantly, I know I haven’t fooled God.  I don’t think many people understand that.  I think there are many people who think they are fooling others, they in turn fool themselves into thhttps://i1.wp.com/notfoolinganybody.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/logo.pnginking that they have fooled God.  It is not possible to fool God.  I have learned the hard way this great truth.

Sometimes, late at night, when I am trying to go to sleep. I am reminded of the conversations that I had with people over the years.  Those conversations when I tried to defend my sin. Those conversations when I tried to fool people that I had my act together and I was living the kind of life that God would be proud of.  Those conversations when I tried to fool myself that I was something that I knew in my heart I wasn’t. I have memory of more of these conversations than I care to remember.

My life has always been either honored or betrayed by the “storefronts” that I have built over the years.  The people who have known me over the years can stroll down the main street of my life and see the evidence of my life that is seen in the storefront windows that line the street.  Like in times of old, before the malls, when people would shop local and go window shopping.  The product that each store sold was placed in that window for all to see.  I have many “storefronts.” Most of them are good.  However, there are a few that I wish I could make go away.  Now before you think I dwell on these “bad storefronts,” I don’t.  I know that God has dealt with me about the content of those storefronts and He has forgiven me and has allowed me to live a great life. But I would be lying if I said that in the quiet times that I am alone, that these storefronts don’t flash in front of my eyes and I am reminded of them. They do.  Some bring me happiness and others embarrassment. 

Such is life.

At the end of the day, I hope that whenever my number is called, those that knew me personally or from afar will all be able to say the same thing. I hope they will say that I said what I thought and it matched the way that I lived and what I believed.  I know that this was not true in my younger years.  I have had to be shaped, molded, poked and prodded by God to fix many areas of my life. 

Even at 55, I am a work in progress. 

We all are.

I hope, before I die,  I can point others to Jesus Christ and the salvation that is found in Him.

I hope that I can encourage others to create a life that feels good on the inside and not just one that looks good on the outside.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t just speak highly of my wife, I honestly treasure and honor her above all others.

I hope you’ll see that I love my kids. Even if I disagree with some of the choices they have made. I made it my goal to treasure each moment and never leave a doubt in their mind as to how I felt about them.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t throw around the word “friend” like it’s something you accept on a social media site. I believed that relationships are important and that people – no matter who they are – matter.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t just talk about faith to be high and mighty. I live a life filled with questions, doubts, struggles, fears and wrestled through the journey to be not high and mighty, but second and humble.

I hope that you see that I didn’t intend fool anybody.  I was what I claimed to be… a sinner, saved by grace.

That sums up the wisdom in this small brain of mine. 

Maybe this was too long to convey a simple point of wisdom but that’s the best I’ve got.

The calendar turned on another year older.

It’s another chance to say what I think and more importantly….

Live what I believe.

The Evidence

There is nothing like ripe, fresh fruit.

To be able to pick a piece of fruit from the tree and eat it is one of the great experiences of life.  

I remember, years ago, when I lived in Oak Harbor, Ohio and experiencing the thrill of picking cherries from our trees in our back yard.  I still remember climbing those trees and sitting high up on one of the branches and picking and eating fresh cherries by the hand full.  I still reflect in amazement that was part of my childhood.  I surely did not appreciate the experience at the time.

I am not sure that I can ever remember eating cherries in my adult life that were as fresh and sweet as those I picked back in those days.

Fresh fruit is the ultimate sign of life from a fruit tree. It tells you, without any doubt, this tree is alive!  And because of that life we enjoy the fruit.

There is one more thing I think about when my thoughts wander to this topic of fruit-  fresh fruit has a sweetness to it.  It’s as if one of the great evidences of fresh fruit is a sweet subtle taste that makes you want more.

So what is the evidence of life for the Christian?

What tells the world, as they walk by, that you are alive in Christ?

It’s the fruit!

Here’s how Paul describes the fruit that comes from us when we are alive in Christ,

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

The thing about this kind of fruit is that others should be drawn to it, there’s a https://syntheticgospel.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/good-tree.jpgsweetness about our lives that should make them want to be around us.  The fruit of the Spirit coming out of our lives should draw others to us and ultimately to Christ.

It’s the same thing that happened when Jesus was here… people loved being with Him.

The fruit of his life was sweet and refreshing.

So this is what I am pondering today. In clear self-evaluation, I am wondering if the fruit that I produce is pointing others to see Christ in me?  I want to be recognized by the fruit of the Spirit.  However, I am reminded of the times that no one could see Christ in me because I was too full of myself. 

There was no room for fruit to grow.

Too often, I was caught up in the throes of the dogma of religion and not in living in the freedom that being alive in Christ brings. 

As I reflect, my challenge to you, is for you to evaluate what is the evidence of the life of Christ in you?

Does the fruit of your life have the sweet taste of God’s presence or the bitter taste of self and religion?

Is there evidence that you are alive in Christ?  How does it taste to those around you?

Mr. Lee Died A Long Time Ago

The other day, a co-worker asked me some questions about my career in Education and my time of being a principal back in the day. When I began talking about it, I suddenly felt myself getting stressed.  I unconsciously began fidgeting with my hands, my voice changed slightly, and my breathing became shallow.  

It was like I was back in my old office again.

I quickly answered his basic question and laughed it off with a line I have used for some time now,

“That was 25 years ago, and Mr. Lee died a long time ago.”

I get different reactions when I say that.  Some get it… they realize that that was a long time ago.  I am no longer that person.

I have often told my wife that I have blocked out most of the memories of that period of my life when I was a teacher and principal of a Christian School in Fremont, Ohio.  Although she doesn’t really believe it, I hold to the fact that the statement is true.  I have watched videos that were taken during that period of me speaking and I don’t recognize the person that they say is me. I don’t know who that person is.  It surely is not me. It bears a resemblance of me, but I struggle to remember being a tca1part of any of the events.

For me, the years I spent there are much like watching a documentary on the History Channel.  I remember being taught that the events took place but I am not part of it. I vivid memories of the time I was in college.  My days at Liberty University are clear and I have wonderful memories of college life and being part of a missions team that traveled across America and around the world.  I can remember specific events and even conversations I had with people. I remember and think of these memories often, but memories of the school not so much.

In truth, I know that the memories are there.  I choose to block them from being in my daily thought process.  It is better to leave them where they are.  When I run into former students of mine, my memories of them are still stuck in the 80’s and 90’s.  They have not moved on in life and in my mind they are still in 8th grade and not the 40-year-old that stands before me.  When they address me as Mr. Lee, I quietly ask them to call me David.  Again… Mr. Lee died a long time ago.

When my co-worker asked me those questions, I was shocked at how easily I plunged back into that old reality.   It has been over twenty-five years since I was Mr. Lee.

I post that as a simple statement of the fact. If you think I make that statement as a reflection of something I view as negative, let me make something very clear… I don’t. 

I don’t view it as a negative time in my life at all.

No offense to any former student or staff member during my tenure there.  It is just some of those memories I’d really just rather not remember. That includes both good and bad memories.

I hold that time in my life as very precious and it took years for me to be able to move on.  It took me years to come to grips with the loss of my ministry.  When these memories are dredged up in my heart and mind I am reminded of the times I was in my office working or in the classroom teaching.  Those were the times I cherished and when I had clarity that I was doing what I was intended to do at that time. I was confident that I was doing what God wanted me to do.  

That was and is a wonderful place to be.  Being confident that you were doing exactly what you were supposed to do.  Not many people ever get to really experience that in their life. I am grateful for the 12 years I spent there. I cannot deny that there is a part of me where that office still resides deep inside of me.  Even after all these years, I still have a space in my soul that defined who I once was.

After I resigned my ministry, like a prodigal son… I ran.  theprodigal

I ran from God for a long time. As a matter of fact, I ran from Him for almost as long as I was in the ministry.  Twelve long years.  I avoided anything that had to do with my life as Mr. Lee.   I worked real hard to kill him.  I could not find any peace with God.  I could not forgive others and more importantly I could not forgive myself for what I allowed to happen.  I made sure that Mr. Lee was buried before I stopped running.

A prodigal son.  We all know one, have been one, or are waiting for one to come home.

Then a miracle happened.  No… I did not walk on water and no water was turned into wine.  But it was a miracle in my life and it’s significance could not be any less than of those.  I found a place where I could heal and I did not have to carry the baggage that I carried for all of those years.  I think of it in terms of being spiritually rescued. I had lost hope and a life line was thrown to me when I was about to go under for the last time.  Grace Community Church of Fremont, Ohio was that refuge that I needed and when I felt there was no place for me to turn to, I felt the warm embrace of fellow believer’s allowing me to sit in church without the  judgement and disdain I had felt in other places. 

I needed to sit. I needed to heal. I had felt so betrayed by the pastor’s I had worked with in the past that I had sworn that I would never be “pastored” again.  After running so long on my own, I realized that I needed to be under a pastor’s teaching and leadership once again.  I found that in Pastor Kevin Pinkerton.Grace-Logo-Color-011

So I sat.  I took the time to sit and be still, heal and be forgiven. Slowly God began working in my heart and I started to have forgiveness towards those I had felt had done me wrong.  I started to write this blog in 2008, and there is no doubt that for the past seven years it has almost filled the hole in my heart.

Finding a place to heal and recover from failure was a miracle to me.  We’re foolish to assume that miracles don’t happen anymore. I have learned that miracles come out of a gut-wrenching need and your last flashes of hope. If were not this way, we would not think of it as a miracle but as something common and not from God.  All things would then just be taken for granted. Finding a place to sit and heal, finding a place to forgive and be forgiven is nothing short of a miracle and I will never take it for granted. Still it took years to forgive myself.

Walking on the water means burning doubt and the terror of roaring seas, it’s not an option you choose for fun. It’s what you pick when you have to know that Jesus is big enough, and that He can come through when it’s devastating. Believing in miracles is one of life’s hard lessons I have learned.

I choose to still believe.

It is with that aspect that I still wonder what the future holds for me. What is next for me? As I wrote a few weeks ago in my post, The Next Big Thing  I am no longer looking for something “BIG” to happen for me. But I can say that I am open to whatever God would have me do.  I am looking for open doors of opportunity. 

Mr. Lee died a long time ago.  I want to leave him buried where he is.  I have no desire to bring him back. In so many ways…  I am a much better person than he was all those years ago.

The next stage of my life will not completely take the old memories away, but it will continue to redefine them and I can always pray the prayer from Psalm 139:22-23,

Search me, O God, and know my heart.
Try me and know my thoughts.
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

The Broken Parts of Us

One night last week I was using super glue to fix and re-attach the handle to an antique porcelain tea-pot.  As hard as I tried, I cophoto-1uld not press the parts together hard enough to make the cracked lines disappear from the handle.  It frustrated me because this was such a nice collectors piece and I was disappointed in the results of my work.  I knew that it was broken and that I would never be able to get the true value of the piece because it was flawed but I wanted it to look better than it ended up looking. The handle was re-attached with all the skill and effort I could muster but it was forever flawed and it never would be as perfect as it once was.  It will forever carry the scars of the broken handle until one day when it will be thrown away and discarded with the trash.  I guess that should be expected because the once perfect little tea-pot had been damaged and whenever something is damaged it never really is “as good as new”.  Yes, it was functional and could be used again but it never again would be defined as in “mint condition”.

I placed the tea-pot on a shelf to dry for the night and I never gave it another thought.

The next morning, I was driving to the BMV to renew my license and I had the radio on.  Some preacher was talking but I was not listening to it at all.  The radio was just blaring but it was just background noise as I was thinking about what I had to accomplish for the day.    As this man finished his message, he closed in prayer… and while I was not really paying attention something made me clear my thoughts and I focused on the words of his closing prayer.  I heard him say these fateful words…

Lord, don’t allow me to hide the broken parts of me that I need to see.

Uh oh… I just got spiritually slapped up along the side of the head. 

What did he just say? What in the world does, Lord, don’t allow me to hide the broken parts of me that I need to see” mean anyway?  Flashes of my broken parts suddenly flood my thoughts.  Many of my broken parts are still lying right where I left them years ago… never fixed or cleaned up.  Just lying there, dormant in the recesses of my memory.  Some of my broken parts have been safely locked up in the corners of my mind.  Protected… safe and secure from further damage.  Some of the memories of my broken parts are like a puzzle… missing pieces that create empty spaces where something once belonged. 

Yes, many of my broken parts have been glued back together.  Some of these broken pieces you hardly see the crack but like the tea-pot, the scars of the damage will forever be there.

Broken parts of me that I have been hiding for years.

At least that is what I thought.

Then I realized that besides God there is one person in my life that knows all of my broken parts.  I mean ALL of my broken parts.

Yikes. 

I’m pretty sure my wife shouldn’t have to deal with the broken parts alone.super glue  She’s amazing, but that just isn’t fair. There’s a lot of weight there for her to carry.  She deserves better than that.  Plus she cannot carry enough super glue to fix me.

Not good.  Not good at all.

I don’t know what the standard for amount-of-people-that- should-know-your-broken-parts is, but I am guessing that one isn’t anywhere close.  There should be a community of people, brothers, friends around me that know those broken parts and are okay with them. People that know those ugly things and love me anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I know folks that love me….they just don’t know the broken parts.

It’s not how we were meant or designed to live.  I know that God knows and He doesn’t want us to bury those broken parts in our hearts.  He wants to fix them.  Like the tea-pot He wants us to be functional again.

God knows our sadness and the brokenness we try to hide from Him.

I have spent the greater part of the week since these events thinking about what lesson can I take from these illustrations and I have come to this conclusion.  I think we all try to put out the “best” of what we are for others to see.  We try to convince people that all is ok with us and the truth is they have no idea of the burden and weight of the world we carry on our shoulders due to those things we hide.  We try to hide that part of us we consider broken.  Like a discarded toy in the bottom of the toy box, we think we have buried it but the truth is all of that “broken stuff” that we carry in our heart and in our mind keeps us from being who we are meant to be.

So how do we fix these broken parts of us?  As I thought about it this week I just wish that God would talk to me directly and say, ” David… these things need addressed and you have to do quit hiding these things I want to fix” .

Honestly? I never understood what people meant when they said “I heard God’s voice.”  Because I never have.

I guess I always imagined that it would be a booming, loud shout from the heavens above sort of thing. Or maybe a smooth, soft and gentle whisper, like an easy listening radio DJ.  Or I’d be walking down the street and a bush would blow up in flames and out would pop Jesus!

I don’t know, really.  I am not sure what I would ever imagine God talking to me would be like. But a definite, audible voice, right? Yes. I assumed I would hear a voice.  And well, sorry, but no. Can’t say that ever happened. 

But make no mistake God was talking to me all this time.  I believe He was talking to me through the people He put in my life.  I believe that over the years God has sent people in my life to help me fix the broken parts of who I am.  My wife is a prime example of someone who has come into my life that has healed many of my broken parts. The problem is that there is more of me that needs fixed.  As I look back of the road of this life, there have been other people who were sent to lo7 daysok for me. They were there for the broken parts. I just never shared them. They did their part, I didn’t do mine.

I have always been waiting for the right moment, the right time, the right day to deal with the things I need to fix in my life.  That “someday” isn’t coming.  Life has taught me this lesson well. ‘Someday’ is never coming. If I want to be happy and healthy – if I want to love the work I do – if I want great relationships with my family, my community, myself and God, I can’t wait for some magical event to make it so.  It’s not gonna happen. The life I want doesn’t happen by accident.  I need to allow God to work in my heart and expose those parts of me that need fixed.

So today as I sit here at my desk, I look at that broken handle on the tea-pot and suddenly my heart is over-whelmed with the these words…

IN THE BROKEN PARTS, I AM THERE.

I do not recall thinking that up on my own.  I do not recall ever writing those words.  But what I do know is the all-knowing and incredibly moving emotion that is washing over me.

Maybe God does talk to me. Maybe not in a booming way.  Maybe with no harps.  He is not popping out of burning bushes, or soothing me with his easy listening voice.

But He is here.

He talks to me through broken handles. He speaks to me through random radio programs.  He talks to me by the people He puts in my life.  He is everywhere and anywhere, and He is most present in those places I expected He had abandoned.  Hiding in my wounds, resting in my broken parts, fully and beautifully alive.

He is there for you as well.  Placing people in our life and speaking to us through the most random things.  He is waiting for us to respond.  He is waiting for us to allow Him to deal with those things we try to hide even from ourselves.

Today is the day… open up and allow Him to make into all we can be for Him.

Because make no mistake… IN ALL OF OUR BROKEN PARTS, HE IS THERE.

 

 

 

 

Finding Grace at the Foot of The Cross

Let me start off tonight’s posting on grace with a couple of thoughts.

First of all, I admit that I have issues with forgiveness which I’ll explain in a minute.

Second, I have issues with feet. I am not a fan of bare feet. I don’t like touching feet or feet touching me.  I can’t explain it, it’s just one of those things.

Forgiveness and feet are just two of the MANY things I have issues with.

I’m just being honest here. I know we’re supposed to forgive and I really do wrestle with situations where I should.  I’m working on it and God’s not done with me yet. 

Now what do these two issues have to do with grace?

In John 13:1-17 we see Jesus do the unthinkable.

He is just days away from dying on a cross for the sins of the entire world.  He’s with his closest frithe-last-supperends eating dinner. He knows them… He know what is going to happen.  He is with the very men that will soon scatter.  They won’t have His back.  One will betray Him outright.  Another will deny he even knew Him.

If these people were in my life and I knew that they were going to walk away, betray me and deny they even knew me, do you think I would want to share a meal with them? Would you?

As if the meal wasn’t enough, He goes far beyond the call of duty.  He takes the role of a servant and washes their feet.

He washed the feet of friends that would bail on him.  He washed the feet of the man that would betray Him.  He washed the feet of the man that would completely deny knowing Him.  He knew exactly how it would all happen.

These men didn’t deserve the forgiveness of the Savior.  They didn’t deserve the act of humility given to them by having their feet washed by God’s Son.  No…  they did not deserve these things but that is what Jesus Christ gave them.

That is Grace.

When I thinkfeet-wash3 about this act of grace and the one which would soon follow, I am ashamed of my inability to forgive.  I am saddened by my lack of grace in situations.  Should I wash the feet of those I may have issues with?  Could I even do it?  Could I wash the feet of those I need to forgive? Is an email saying “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” a modern-day version of that?  Could a phone call be like filling that basin and kneeling before those I need to forgive?  I think so but I am not sure. 

This I do know… I am starting to see forgiveness much differently than I have in the past. In the past I would simply ask God to forgive my unforgiveness of others… the older I get I see that God wants me to ask forgiveness of those that I have something against. Like Jesus Christ who forgave those that betrayed Him, I need to forgive those that have done me wrong.  That needs to begin this week.

Jesus was placed on the Cross for our sin. This is a critical point that cannot be missed – Have you accepted His grace?  Have you accepted Him as your Savior? Maybe today is that day. Maybe this week is a week to finally accept the grace that is found at the foot of the Cross.

“…And we will never be able to wash the feet of those who have hurt us until we allow Jesus, the one we have hurt, to wash ours.” – Max Lucado

That is Grace.

Happy Thanksgiving

It snowed a little today.

The first true sign of winter and the perfect beginning to the holiday season.

I really enjoy the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Happy-ThanksgivingWhen I was a kid, I loved it because my Mom would make every single thing I loved to eat all at one time. But the older I get, the more I appreciate the exercise of deliberately slowing myself down enough to consider how truly incredible life is – and to give thanks for it all.

I have a great job.  I’m so grateful for it. My bills are paid and there’s a little left over…thank you.

My wife and I are healthy and so are our kids and our grandchildren. May we never take that for granted.

I find it easy to say thank you to my Savior Jesus Christ.  There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t thank Him for the salvation He provided on the Cross of Calvary. 

However, I sometimes lose focus on all the people who are part of my life. I think about work friends and people who have contributed to my life. At times, I find myself taking them all for granted.

So this Thanksgiving I want to turn my head and heart to the people who fill my life.  I want to thank those that have walked this road of life with me. I want to thank those that have shared these days with me.

Mentors and protégés. Old friends and new.

So, with a heart that’s full of thanks, I didn’t want to let the holiday pass by without thanking you, my friends, for all that you’ve contributed into my life.

If you’ve ever made me laugh so hard you made me forget for a moment that I’m an adult or the problems in this life…Thank you.

If you’ve held my feet to the fire, kept me accountable, reminding me that I am not perfect and sometimes I am wrong… Thank you.

If I’ve ever forgotten my problems in your presence because you have taken them on as your own in prayer… Thank you.

If you’ve trusted me with your secrets and made me feel safe enough to share mine… Thank you.

If you could make a list of my weaknesses and failures, but don’t… Thank you.

If you tell me the truth, even when I don’t want to hear it… Thank you.

If you encourage me even though I shouldn’t need it… Thank you.

If you’ve forgiven me at least once… Thank you.

If you’ve ever taught me what I didn’t know, given me a shot when I hadn’t earned it, or guided me when I felt lost… Thank you.

If you’ve shared with me the benefit of your hard work or challenged me to think beyond myself or this day… Thank you.

If you say nice things about me behind my back… Thank you.

If you see something good in me that I can’t quite make out for myself just yet…Thank you.

I’m grateful for you. Not just the regular “let’s hurry up and eat” kind of grateful. I’m profoundly thankful for you.

As I consider my many blessings, I count you all among the greatest of them all.

For old friends who’ve left an indelible mark that can’t be erased by time or distance, and new ones that carry a key to a door that’s been locked to me.

For friends who feel like family, and family I’d choose as friends, I’m grateful and keenly aware of how different life would be – and I would be – without you in it.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!!!

“Not Guilty”

I stand accused.   There is no place to hide. The truth is soon to be revealed for all to see because this is the day I am to give account for my life.  The list of all my sins and everything I’ve done wrong is a mile long. 

I am so ashamed.  I cannot hide behind my words any longer.  My fate is now in the hands of One who judges…

I wait for Him to render His verdict and I hang my head in shame…

But then He turns to me and says, “I know you… I love you… I gave my life to save you.  Love paid the price for Mercy… my verdict…”

“Not guilty.”

How can that be?  I cannot begin to comprehend the kind of Grace that would take the place for all of my sins.

“Not guilty.”

After years of scrutiny and judgment and public ridicule.

“Not guilty.”

Suddenly I see the Cross and the tears well up in my eyes because it should have been me to pay for my own sins.

“Not guilty.”

My fate was in the nail scarred hands.  The debt of my sin was paid when He was nailed there and He said,  “I know you… I love you… I gave my life to save you.  Love paid the price for Mercy… my verdict…”

“Not guilty.”

The song “Not Guilty”  has played in my head and in my heart all this week.  Written by Mandisa and Matthew West, the song has been challenging me to scrutinize my own life and my own indiscretions. How would I measure up with the knowledge that all my sins would be laid before me at seat of God’s judgment?  Would I still have a future and a hope?  I cling to the belief that I have an Intercessor who knows me , loves me and gave His life for me.  Paid the debt of sin for me and provided a way to heaven.

What kind of Grace says “Not Guilty” ?  Only God’s.

Do you know Him today?  Are your sins covered by His grace?  Jesus Christ came to seek and to save those that were lost… all you have to do is accept His gift of forgiveness.  If you would like more information on how you can know Christ as your Savior, please send a note to thelegacybuilder@aol.com and I will get back to you.  May God’s love find you today.

Thank you, Lord.

Lost and Found

Along with our kids, my wife and I worked for a company that held motivational and instructional conferences for small business owners.  We used to travel one weekend each month to Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.   While my wife was organizing and coordinating the event from the front office, I was responsible for what we called the “Tool Room”, which was basically the book store where we sold books, tapes, CD’s and other material to help the small business owner build their businesses.  Our kids worked the cash registers and computers as they filled out orders for the more than 10, 000 people who would attend these conferences.  It was a great time in our lives and we all have good memories of the time we worked and traveled together on these trips.

The only aspect that I really hated about the whole experience is that I had to drive the truck to each of these events. While my wife and kids were enjoying each trip in the cRyder Truckomfort of our family van, I was driving a rental truck from Ryder.  If you have never crossed the border in a rental truck after 9-11 then you have never really experienced anything in your life.  Entering into Canada was not the problem.  Getting back into the United States was the issue.  The paperwork was endless and difficult to get it just the way you needed it to cross the border.  About the time you had it down the rules would change.  More than once I did not know about these changes until I got to the gate.  Then the experience would get real… real fast.  

Now I understand that the Border Patrol and Homeland Security Department have a job to do.  I am thankful for the hard work and dedication it takes keeping the United States safe from those who would do us harm.  But as a rule of thumb, if you crossed back into the US, the inquiry and subsequent search made you a tad bit defensive.  You were always assumed guilty and you would have to prove your innocence.  It always seemed to me to be like the old Seinfeld episode of the “Soup Nazi”.  Stand here and don’t speak until spoken to, don’t smile and don’t lean on the counter.  


At any rate, this week I was thinking about the trips we took to Canada and the fun times I had working not only with my family but of working with the friends I made from Canada.  Even though I am friends with some of them on Facebook, I still miss them.  The  memories we made will always be favorites of mine.  I could tell story after story of all the crazy fun stuff we did all those years ago.  They were great times indeed.

I remember specifically one incident that I have carried with me all these years.

After being delayed at the border for a few hours, I was really late getting to Hamilton for our set up for the conference the next morning.  I finally get to Copps Coliseum and all the doors were locked at the loading docks where we would unload our “stuff”.

I finally found an unlocked door and made my way into the empty arena.  I knew where the Security Office was and I made my way down the hall to that office.  I pushed the buzzer on the outside of the office door and the Security Guard sees me and waves for me to open the door.  He tells me that before he can let me in the hall where we needed to set up for the conference, he had to finish doing the inventory of the “Lost and Found” that was delivered to them after the hockey game that was at the arena earlier that evening.

I walked with hilostm into the Lost and Found storage room and watched him as he took inventory off the cart full of items brought in that night.  The Lost and Found Storage Room  was huge.  There was no furniture, but there were rows and rows of shelving units.  There was barely a place to stand as I navigated my way through the  maze of shelves and carts full of coats , hats and gloves.   In hindsight, I guess I expected a walk-in closet. But the room was triple the size of what I’d have guessed it to be. And in it, from wall to wall and floor to ceiling were racks and racks filled with bags of all shapes and sizes.  I was shocked at what I saw.  Besides the standard coats, hats and gloves that you would expect to find, there were cameras, laptops, cell phones, suitcases, briefcases and bags and bags of what looked like clothes.  Just about anything you can imagine I saw in that room.  

 “Whoa!  What a mountain of stuff!”, I said.

 “You’re telling me!”, he chuckled.

“All this stuff is missing?”

 “Not missing…  They’re just waiting for their owners to pick them up.”

“How in the world do people just forget to get their stuff? Don’t they realize they don’t have their camera or laptop?”, I ask.

“That’s thL&Fe least of it! You’d be amazed to know what’s just sitting here, waiting to be claimed.”

I now think back to what I’d seen that night.  Mounds of forgotten, lost and abandoned things, sitting in a holding room, waiting for the right someone to show up and take them home.  How could people be so careless or so reckless?  Didn’t these people know that they “lost” something valuable?  Did they not care that their personal belongings were just waiting there for them to claim?

And in the last few days since I remembered this story,  the words of that Security Guard have lingered in my head and my heart.

“You’d be amazed to know what’s just sitting here, waiting to be claimed.”

I’ve caught myself wondering if that could be said of me. What else is lying up on a shelf, forgotten, lost or abandoned and waiting for me to claim it?

The more I live, the more I’m convinced that fulfilling our purpose in life isn’t automatic.  I sure wish I could believe we don’t miss anything important in this life, but I can’t honestly make that case. We don’t accomplish everything we’re meant to do just by being, or obtain everything meant to benefit us and others simply because we’re moving and breathing.  We have to want it.  We have to want to get what was meant for us.

 Our life is ours to claim. But far too many of us don’t reach for more because we find it hard to believe there could be more for us than what we see.

Jesus Christ has prepared a way of  forgiveness of our sin and a way to eternal Salvation.  It is ours to have.  It is just sitting there waiting for us to “claim” it from a loving God, who provided this by offering up His only Son to die on the Cross for our sins.

Besides the Salvation and Forgiveness that is found in Jesus Christ, there are many other blessings that come from God that are there for us to claim. This week, I’ve spent some time imagining a room filled from floor to ceiling with all the good things meant for us.  Things meant for us to be.  Things meant for us to have. Things for us to do and to give in this life. 

Have you considered and wondered if  there’s more waiting for you?

  • Maybe a deeper love for your family and friends?
  • A greater purpose and fulfillment in your work?
  • Blessings beyond your hopes and needs?
  • More for you to contribute to the world around you?
  • Maybe a legacy that would shape generations to come?
  • What if your life was meant for more than you’ve ever hoped or imagined?

 With open hands and an open heart… ask for it.

 You’d be amazed to know what’s just sitting here, waiting to be claimed.

Sweet Words of Healing

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

This week I had the honor and privilege to attend the funeral of Nancy Schueren.

Nancy SchurerenI was saddened by the loss of someone who for the greater part of my elementary years and a good portion of my adult years treated me like a son.  Her son Steve and I had bonded as friends in early 1971 and she immediately took me in and thus started her influence on my life that has lasted over 40 years.

I could no more deny the influence of the Schueren family in my life than I could deny the influence of my own family.  I have written about my friendship with Steve in my post called,  “Save Me a Seat – A Tribute to Steve Schueren” (Click to Read)   This was my tribute to honor Steve and his life.  I wrote it because I had been carrying a lot of guilt and shame because I had let him down in our friendship.  I wrote it because I could not bring myself to go to Steve’s funeral, but I had to in some way give honor to him.  I just could not go and face the Schueren family with my guilt, shame and embarrassment of my failure in my Spiritual walk, not to mention my failure to be the friend that I should have been to Steve and to his family.

I did not write it to get a response from anyone.  It was a just an attempt to clear a burden and weight on my soul.  To my surprise, my tribute to Steve has been read over 7,000 times since I posted it.  I am thankful for that because hopefully people will see what a good man he truly was.

Now to the rest of the story…

For most of the last eighteen years I have spent a lot of time and effort avoiding situations where I would feel uncomfortable and most assuredly I would avoid those situations where  I would make people feel uncomfortable with my presence.  Mostly it was spent in avoiding those who knew me from my former life.  When someone in the ministry fails in their walk with Christ there is a very high price that is paid.  Forgiveness is not something that is offered from other believers easily.  I would avoid as much as I could so as to not cause offense.  When I would be in situations where I would be around someone from my past I would try my best to avoid any direct interaction and most assuredly I would avoid eye contact at all cost.

One Sunday morning, just after Steve passed away I was walking to my car after the morning church service.  I was doing my usual head down and walk in a straight line out to my car.  No eye contact.  No conversation with anyone.  That is when she stopped me.  One of those 7,000 views of my post was read by Nancy Schueren. There was no avoiding the contact.  There was no avoiding the conversation.  I had no idea what to say and I surely had no idea of what she was going to say to me.

Nancy had indeed rforgiveness-2009ead my post about Steve and she grabbed my hand and pulled me in close and looked me in the eye and her first words were, “Thank you for your kind words about Steve and know that I have forgiven you.”    I cannot tell you the  weight that was lifted from my heart.  I have to be honest with you… this was the first time a fellow believer had ever looked me in the eye and told me they have forgiven me since my divorce which at that time was 16 years earlier. 

Those words spoken by a woman broken by the loss of her son were sweet words of healing to my soul.

It was the beginning of the healing of some of the wounds to my heart and while I still struggle with the lack of forgiveness and acceptance from other believers I will always savor the reconciliation and forgiveness from a woman I have looked up to for all of my life.

This week, as I dealt with her death, I remembered  as I listened to her son John and her grandson Jared speak at her funeral, although wounded and hurting from their loss, they were using words of love, healing, and encouragement as they honored a mother and grandmother that was now in arms of Jesus Christ.  These spoken words were sweet, healing, like a warm blanket to the hearer.  I longed to hear more.  I was amazed as I listened.

Our words make a difference.  They can  heal and comfort or hurt and cut to the heart.  We are most Sweet Wordscreative AND most destructive when we speak.  We choose which we will do…build up, encourage, love and comfort or hurt, destroy, and wound.  Our words are powerful!!! Our words are a reflection of our heart.

The Schueren family,  hurting from the loss of their mother and grandmother, was encouraging and comforting others!  Sweet and healing only begin to describe what the kindness of the lips can do in the lives of others.  We all need to know we are loved, to know it from those we care about and when the words of another are encouraging, healing, and loving it changes everything.  It changes us.

I’ve been thinking about these things since I left the funeral.  I am embarrassed at the thought of what may be said about me when the time of my passing is announced.  The footprints of the legacy I left behind will speak for itself.  I cannot change the legacy that I have left behind nor can anyone else that reads this post.  The only option is to live today with the hope that people will find the last years of our life will be found to have been lived in faithfulness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and that we spoke words of forgiveness and love for our family and to those who we met along the way.

What I saw in the Schueren family this week were sweet words, kind words, encouraging words.  I wonder how we could change this world if we decided to only speak those types of words.  I long for the day in heaven when those are the only words we will use.

I know that the last 15 months since Steve died were so hard on Nancy and she paid a price with her physical body as she dealt with the loss of a son.  A parent is not supposed to out live their child.  It is one of the hardest experiences we face here on earth.  I am comforted only by knowing that she and Steve are re-united in heaven.  

Thank you Nancy for your influence and for your forgiveness… maybe you will be there when Steve saves me a seat next to him on my first day in heaven.