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Friday, March 31, 2017

A Lenten Healing: 40 Graces for Forgiveness (Day 27: Love-Starvation)


One of my dearest friends, who adores animals, always says, “Everything needs to be loved,” as she ruffles up the facial whiskers of any furry creature who will allow it. Those words are so much more profound than they sound in her puckery little baby voice.
Considering my aversion to social activities, my distrust of anyone I haven’t met (as well as a few that I have), and my ongoing affair with self-sufficiency, it’s kind of surprising—or maybe not surprising at all—that I also struggle with love-starvation.
It’s never enough.
There’s no amount of attention, praise, adulation, romance, validation, or camaraderie in the world that could satisfy me.
Here’s another ugly story about myself. Some years ago a friend of mine gave the message at church on Sunday morning. I could barely pay attention to her words, I was so eaten up with jealousy. I knew it was wrong to feel like that, and I hated to even admit my angst, but I told the hubs about it when we got home. “I’m older than she is, I’ve been at the church longer, I’ve got the same level of education. Why did they ask her instead of me?!?”
Hubs cut right to the heart of the issue. “So you want to speak at church?”
“No!” I responded without hesitation. Preparing a talk is a lot of work, I’m not a theologian, and I don’t long to give a sermon one tiny little bit. “But I want to be asked to!”
Love me. Please, everybody, validate me. Tell me I’m worthwhile. Convince me that I’m special and valuable and important and beautiful and adored.
Now, before anyone goes blaming any of the people in my life for not caring well enough for my emotional needs, remember that I’m broken. The love-starvation is simply one more by-product of that hole in my roof, called “unimportant”.
Yes, I need to forgive others for not doing the impossible job of filling up the black hole of need inside me. But more importantly, I need to let Jesus both fix me and fill me. Only he can definitively answer my most down-to-the-brass-tacks question: Am I loved?

* * *

I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places;
I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
-- Psalm 102:6-7

* * *

I’m an utter mess, Lord. I’ve got illness on top of brokenness on top of foolishness. I want to stop blaming other people for it all. It’s no sweet little platitude that only you can satisfy all my needs. Please redirect my negativity toward others into a real desire to heal. Move me out of the quagmire of my preoccupation with myself. Thank you that you want that for me, too.



40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey is now available in print. $6.49 at Amazon.com.





With questions for personal meditation and space for journaling, this 40-day devotional series offers a deeper look at Christ's command that we forgive. For a personal pilgrimage, or as a resource for group Bible study,40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey invites seekers of forgiveness and healing to the path on which God longs to meet us all. $6.49 at Amazon.com. Find out more about 40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Lenten Healing: 40 Graces for Forgiveness (Day 26: Isolation)


Whereas Jesus often went away to be alone with God, I often go away simply to be alone. “Where’s the exit route?” is always in the back of my mind. I like to be the one to drive when going out with a group, for example, not because I think I’m the best driver—okay, there’s that too—but mainly so I can leave whenever I decide it’s time. Part of my escapist tendency stems from simple introvert fatigue, but it also results from having been helplessly stuck with people I didn’t enjoy in places I didn’t want to be.
In other words, I like control. And when I’m all by my lonesome, I get nearly total control over everything. Yum!
A pastor I once heard said that much of the Christian life consists in trying to keep oneself on the road between two ditches of error: Steer too far to one side and you fall into hedonism, the other Pharisaism; one direction leads toward arrogance, the other to unholy shame; too extreme this way and you consent to sin in the name of tolerance, the other extreme leads you to speak and behave in hateful ways that drive people away from Christ instead of leading them toward him.
In that light, being alone and/or being social are neither good nor bad things, unless taken to extremes. (I am extraordinarily talented at extreme-ing.) The main issue, as always, concerns my heart. Do I surround myself with people so I don’t have to face myself or my God? Or do I reject others because I refuse to see God’s image in them?
The second one, for me.
I focus far too much on the ways other people aren’t pleasurable to me, instead of on what God wants me to give to and take from others. Were I more concerned with God’s intentions for my relationships, I’d forgive immediately when someone gives me something I don’t want (like rejection or ridicule) or takes from me something I do want (my time or energy). Because I’d recognize that I and everything I have truly belong not to me, but to God.

* * *

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
– Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

* * *

God, forgive my hard-heartedness, and my reluctance to engage deeply with others. I like to call isolation “setting myself apart”, but it’s really nothing more than unforgiving self-interest. Teach me to be more free with myself and my time, to be who you want me to be to other people.



40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey is now available in print. $6.49 at Amazon.com.





With questions for personal meditation and space for journaling, this 40-day devotional series offers a deeper look at Christ's command that we forgive. For a personal pilgrimage, or as a resource for group Bible study,40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey invites seekers of forgiveness and healing to the path on which God longs to meet us all. $6.49 at Amazon.com. Find out more about 40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Lenten Healing: 40 Graces for Forgiveness (Day 25: Foolishness)


I could write a book on this one. Heck, a series of books. I’ve even offered to be a keynote speaker on the topic.
No takers yet, though.
If you really want an in-depth meditation on foolishness, hit Proverbs. (31 chapters, 31 days in a month—coincidence?) There are 71 references to fools in Proverbs alone. I had a hard time picking just one for today.
No one wants to think himself a fool, but when I refuse godly or even plain-common-sense advice, justify myself, argue against Scripture, get complacent about my faith or behavior or attitudes, talk more than I listen, mock others, tolerate sin in my life, brag about anything, hide anything, or seek to deceive anyone, I wallow like a fat, happy pig in the muck of my own foolishness. And we know what pigs are usually destined for, right?
MmmmMMmmm, bacon.
I had a conversation recently with a woman who hates men. I don’t think I’m overstating it. She had nothing good to say about the male gender, and refused my arguments that there are actually a lot of good men around (my husband and son, whom she knows, included). She’s obviously been hurt, and is propping up her own gender with outsize pride while wholly denigrating the other. I said to my husband, “I hope she meets some men who can change her mind.” Hubs replied, “She probably can’t, with that filter in place.”
That’s what foolishness is, isn’t it? A bad filter over our eyes that alters the way we see ourselves and others. It can make us prideful or unhealthily ashamed. Like a funhouse mirror, it exaggerates certain things while minimizing others. It distorts reality.
I already know that some of the things I’ve held grudges over are really, honestly, pretty trivial. But because of the filters of foolishness I had/have in place, the offense seemed much greater than it actually was. And had I taken off the filters altogether, I could probably have dealt with the offense simply by brushing it away, like a gnat.
Foolishness may be one of unforgiveness’s closest buddies.

* * *

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
 -- Proverbs 12:15

* * *


Please show me what filters I’m still wearing that I shouldn’t be. What do I keep over my eyes that makes it harder to see the light and discern the truth? What kind of foolishness do I entertain in my life, and why have I clung to it so tenaciously? Help me throw off my foolishness and be a humbly wise woman who forgives before even realizing she needs to.


40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey is now available in print. $6.49 at Amazon.com.





With questions for personal meditation and space for journaling, this 40-day devotional series offers a deeper look at Christ's command that we forgive. For a personal pilgrimage, or as a resource for group Bible study,40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey invites seekers of forgiveness and healing to the path on which God longs to meet us all. $6.49 at Amazon.com. Find out more about 40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Lenten Healing: 40 Graces for Forgiveness (Day 24: Self-Strength)


When I was younger I made a vow that I would never need anyone. I would always take care of myself.
That was an unholy vow—one that does not align with God’s will—and I had to renounce it some years ago in order to let God realign my life and start putting me back in right relationship with others. The error in my oath was not necessarily that I committed to not putting my faith in other people, but that I put it all in myself. God was nowhere in sight.
Jesus can calm a storm with his hand, drive out a legion of demons with a word, and offer salvation to the entire population of humanity by his single act of sacrifice.
I turn the wrong way while under the visual and verbal instruction of a GPS, I frequently call my children by the wrong names, and I cut myself slicing carrots.
Jesus was meek, which as we’ve seen means not that he lacked power, but that he didn’t use his power to dominate or intimidate others. By trying to manage life under my own power I actually fail to appropriate that of Jesus. I damage my relationships with others as well, both by refusing to need them and by regarding their needs with a certain level of disdain.
I made that vow of self-strength because I didn’t want to be hurt by asking something from someone and having it refused me, or given grudgingly.
I renounced the vow, but never forgave with respect to the reasons why I made it.
It’s time.

* * *

The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. – Psalm 33:16-17

* * *

I’m sorry for wrongly putting my faith in people, then for wrongly refusing to reach out to people, and for wrongly setting myself up as mistress of my own destiny and defense. I’m sorry for closing myself off instead of turning to you when legitimate needs I had went unmet. Lord, I need to forgive the wrongs that took place, almost certainly in full ignorance of what was happening. Forgive me the times I’ve failed others, most of which I probably don’t even know about. I’m still learning how not to be proud of my own strength. It’s really so infinitesimal compared to yours, you probably laugh when I flex my meager muscles. Keep reminding me who’s really the warrior and the king and the conqueror.



40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey is now available in print. $6.49 at Amazon.com.




With questions for personal meditation and space for journaling, this 40-day devotional series offers a deeper look at Christ's command that we forgive. For a personal pilgrimage, or as a resource for group Bible study,40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey invites seekers of forgiveness and healing to the path on which God longs to meet us all. $6.49 at Amazon.com. Find out more about 40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey.


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