Radical Forgiveness Frees Innocent Victims

MEME - Only God Can Judge - July 24, 2017As I listened to the woman sharing how God helped her forgive her abusers, my heart ached. Her story mirrored some details in my past, but I couldn’t pretend to understand exactly how she felt. I couldn’t duplicate the ways she processed her pain, either.

Every innocent victim’s journey toward healing is complex and unique. There are no pat answers or secret formulas to help victims work through emotions and move forward.

Each one of us needs our healing path and pace to be respected. We need support from family, from friends, and often from professionals. We need understanding and, most importantly, patience and prayer.

There are no normal timelines in a person’s road to healing.

When we arrive at that crossroad moment and are faced with the choice of forgiving or clinging to unforgiveness, we need grace . . . especially God’s life-changing grace.

While that woman shared her heartbreaking story, I realized I’d been deceiving myself for years.

I’ve moved on. I’ve gotten over it. I don’t think about it anymore.

I was wrong, so wrong.

Although I’d went on with my life, I’d never forgiven those whose actions made me an innocent victim.

Without even realizing it, I’d settled for a guarded life behind a self-imposed prison of unforgiveness and armed myself with fear, bitterness, and denial.

I had allowed unforgiveness to control me and hinder me from embracing the completeness of my freedom in Christ, making my past an anchor.

But as I continued to get closer to God, the more I loved Him, believed Him, and trusted Him, I couldn’t escape that crossroad decision.

Would I forgive as I’d been forgiven? Could I?

As I listened to the woman’s sharing about what forgiving her abusers had done for her, I wanted so badly to experience that peace.

Forgiving wasn’t about letting my offenders off the hook, but being freed from them for good.

With support from my husband and God’s limitless power and patience, I finally understood radical forgiveness was hinged on learning what forgiveness is and isn’t.

Total Forgiveness by RT Kendall Book Cover Option 4In Total Forgiveness (pp. 11-19), R.T. Kendall states forgiveness is not approving, excusing, or justifying the hurtful actions of others.

Forgiving is not pardoning the offender, because we’re not authorized to do what only God can do as the only rightfully crowned Judge.

By forgiving, we’re not denying what happened, turning a blind eye to the offense, or even forgetting how we were hurt. The Lord never asks us to minimize our hurts by not taking the offenses seriously or pretending the scars don’t exist.

When we choose radical forgiveness, we’re breaking down every wall of denial and facing the facts of what happened to us or the person we care about, so that true healing can begin.

A false belief about forgiveness is that reconciliation is mandatory. But reconciliation means both parties admit the offense and agree to restore the relationship, which is not always possible, healthy, or safe.

However, we can be blessed with restoration.

Restoration: a personal revival, the restitution of what was taken or lost, a dignified process of renewal that no one can prevent us from experiencing through the love of Christ.

God’s goodness is not tainted when bad things happen and innocent people are hurt in this fallen world.

Our compassionate Father grieves with us and remains close to the brokenhearted. He affirms nothing will remain hidden, that all people will have to give an account to Him for every action and every thought (Matthew 12:36; 1 Corinthians 4:5).

In light of all Christ has done, in light of all He promises to do, in light of His perfect love for us, we can forgive as we’ve been forgiven . . . even when it feels impossible and even when it doesn’t make sense.

Whenever I have a hard time placing offenders in God’s hands, I think about Joseph (Genesis 37-50).

His jealous brothers sold him to slavery and lied to their father about his disappearance. When Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of attacking her, Joseph was imprisoned for years. He suffered abuse, endured betrayal, and bore the negative consequences of someone else’s actions.

We don’t know everything that happened to him during those years of enslavement and imprisonment, but we know how he responded to God.

Joseph lived in freedom and peace, despite his past or his current circumstances.

No matter what happened to him, Joseph trusted God, praised God, and obeyed God.

The Lord remained with Joseph and, at the right time, placed him in a position of power over Pharaoh’s house. When famine struck Egypt and his brothers showed up to ask for help, Joseph forgave them and everyone else who had hurt him.

Joseph knew God hadn’t wasted his journey.

Though he had every right and reason to be angry, Joseph had placed the past behind him and didn’t even bring up the past or seek revenge on those who had hurt him along the way.

Only healthy processing and peace through God’s power could have kept Joseph focused on the Lord’s purpose and allowed him to trust God to choose how justice would be served.

Radical forgiveness is impossible without God’s help.

Radical forgiveness doesn’t make sense.

Radical forgiveness has nothing to do with the offender or the offense.

By faith, we’re acknowledging that sin is sin and admitting we’re all sinners compared to our perfect and holy God, not one another.

As we place ourselves and our offenders in God’s hands, we’re accepting our freedom and declaring our trust in God’s character.

By forgiving we’re proclaiming our belief in God’s sovereign care and our confidence in God as the only rightful and completely trustworthy Judge.

We can trust God to bring all things to light, to right all wrongs, to hold all accountable in His way and in His time.

Through radical forgiveness, innocent victims break free from the bondage of the hurt that threatens to steal the joy, peace, and hope that is rightfully our inheritance as God’s beloved children.

Lord, there are some offenses and some offenders that feel impossible to forgive when we’re working with the wrong definition of forgiveness. Please help us remember Your command to release offenders into Your hands is intended as a first step toward restoring what was taken from us. Please help us trust You, as You make us more like You, so we can live the new life promised through You. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Radical Forgiveness is Loving Obedience to God

MEME - Forgiveness is letting go of the hurt - Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Quote - July 2017“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13, NIV)

When I started planning this series a few months ago, I’d been asking God to help me forgive a few people in my life who had not admitted their sins against me or repented.

I wanted to obey God. I wanted to forgive. Period.

So, I asked for a heart-check and began studying what God says about forgiveness.

In my B.J. (Before Jesus) days, I boasted being a master at casting blame on the people I’d hurt. If I hurt them, they must have done something to provoke me. Besides, what they did was way worse than what I did. Right?

After Jesus exposed my plank-in-eye syndrome, I saw how justifying, minimizing, and excusing my sin worsened the hurt I’d caused others and pushed me further away from them and from God.

I’ve always had a hard time letting go of the hurt when receiving surface-apologies. These poor attempts at repentance usually begin with a phrase like, “I’m sorry you feel hurt, but . . .”

It’s painful when someone claims you caused their hurtful actions. It’s like an abuser saying, “I’m sorry I hit you, but you made me do it.”

Not only is that a lie, it’s passive-aggressive manipulation.

It took me years to realize the victim mentality, common in one who has not processed or healed from past pain, often resembles an abuser’s mentality.

My heart grieved when God began to help me recognize those destructive behaviors in others close to me, and even in myself.

Learning how to embrace the art of radical forgiveness required me to learn how to process my own pain in a healthy and holy way.

I used to slip on my victim-jersey, look for hints of offenses against me, and eagerly tell the world how I’d been wronged.

I named names and shared details with whoever would listen.

I disguised my gossip as prayer requests and enjoyed when people felt sorry for me or took my side. It felt good when people admired me for being so strong or so kind after being so wronged.

But in 2005, when I first read Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall, God used the following statement to convict me on how I processed my pain:

“If you must tell another person what happened‒because you can’t contain the pain‒tell only one, and choose someone who won’t repeat it.” (p. 10)

By the time I re-read Total Forgiveness in 2009, God had carried me through plenty of tough ordeals that required me to put this skill into practice.

In one situation, mutual friends informed me someone was gossiping and slandering my name.

While I wanted to come to my defense, God stilled my tongue.

Oh, how I wanted to pray for vengeance like the psalmists who stood on the retribution principle.

But God made it clear I wasn’t supposed to tell Him how to fix my offender, prove how wrong they were, or demand everyone be told the truth about what really happened.

Instead, often through sobs and a few layers of stubborn pride, I remembered how Jesus prayed for those who cheered as He was crucified.

I asked Him to help me forgive.

The Lord wants none to perish. If my desire is to be more Christ-like, I would want none to perish, too, wouldn’t I?

Surely a trustworthy King would provide healing care, perfect justice, and fight on my behalf.

He did. He does. And He’ll continue to do so.

Being committed to radical forgiveness is a lifetime process of learning . . . and failing.

With my identity more secured in Christ, I re-read Total Forgiveness in 2014 after being hurt deeply by someone close to me. I praised God that I no longer felt the immediate need to play the victim and demand justice when I’d been hurt.

He helped me process my pain through personal prayer and Bible study. I shared minimal details with a couple of prayer partners who promised not to judge, who desired reconciliation and prayed for restoration, and who weren’t afraid to tell me when I was in the wrong.

By God’s grace, that relationship is now stronger than ever! Hallelujah!

I don’t always handle situations perfectly, but I’ve finally accepted I’m not defined by my sin or controlled by the sins of others.

Being rooted in my relationship with God makes forgiving a demonstration of my confidence in His trustworthiness and loving care.

In Matthew 18:21-35, the apostle Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who has sinned against him. Jesus’s answer is interpreted as perfect forgiveness, ongoing and complete, just like Christ has forgiven us.

Jesus shared the story of a servant begging for mercy when confronted with his insurmountable debt to the king (vv.23-26). Once forgiven, that servant went out and found another servant who owed him, demanded payment, and refused to extend the mercy he’d received from the king (vv. 27-30).

In referring to how the king responded to the unforgiving servant (vv. 31-34), Jesus said: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (v. 35)

As Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune so eloquently said, “Forgiveness is not about forgetting, it’s letting go of the hurt.”

When we’re committed to living in radical forgiveness, God helps us realize our sin is no better or no worse than the sins of others.

He’ll help us trust Him to protect our reputations and heal our wounds, even when the scars run deep.

God will handle every offense and offender justly.

So, we don’t need to tell everyone how someone wounded us. We don’t need to prove we’re right and someone else is wrong. And we don’t need others to admit their transgressions before we forgive them.

When we submit to God and truly believe His grace is sufficient and His love unconditional, we can be freed by forgiveness, expecting and extending mercy . . . unlike that wicked servant.

Radical forgiveness is simply loving obedience to God.

Forgiveness is not forgetting, minimizing, justifying, or accepting sin.

Forgiveness never requires us to pretend we weren’t hurt or to allow the offender into our personal space to hurt us more.

On the contrary, forgiveness demands an honest look at the situation as we trust God to work.

It’s important to remember that we don’t always play a part in the sinfulness.

Yet, even when we truly are innocent victims, we can forgive because we trust God’s sovereign goodness and love will prevail as we’re all brought to account before His throne.

I’ll share more on how God is helping me accept this hard truth next week.

Until then, we can admit embracing radical forgiveness is hard and sometimes feels impossible.

But we can also expect God’s help.

Why?

Because forgiveness isn’t a preference or a choice.

God gives us a mandate, not an option, to forgive as we’ve been forgiven . . . because He equips His followers to be freed by submission to His authority and empowered by His Spirit to live in courageous obedience and faith.

Lord, thank You for loving us, forgiving us, and empowering us to forgive. Please help us process our hurts in ways that honor You. Help us recognize our sins and repent without excusing or blaming others for our sinful behaviors. Please prepare our hearts as we continue to dig into Your Word and discover what forgiveness is and isn’t. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Total Forgiveness by RT Kendall Book Cover Option 4Photo taken by and used with permission from Dr. W. A. Dixon, Sr., my amazing husband and best friend.

Meme created by X.E. Dixon.

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You can join me in reading Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall, as we continue this journey toward experiencing the freedom of radical forgiveness.

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Radical Forgiveness Begins with a Prayer

MEME - Christ's love leads to Radical Forgiveness - July 7, 2017(Suggested Reading: Luke 23:32-43)

Though a friend accused me of something I didn’t do, made hurtful comments, and chose to sever our relationship, I continued praying for her and believed we’d work out our differences when she was ready to discuss the situation. When a mutual friend referred to me as this person’s ex-friend, I decided to forgive her as I began to process my shock, anger, and sorrow. Still, resentment and bitterness began to take root in my heart.

Although I knew the answer and didn’t want to hear it, I cried out to God. “What do You want me to do, Lord?”

Forgive.

But she hurt my feelings.

Forgive.

But she’s gossiping about me.

Forgive.

But she hasn’t even apologized.

Forgive.

As I wrestled with the Lord, He reminded me of the countless times He’d extended undeserved mercy toward me and led me to Luke 23:32-43.

While Jesus hung on the cross, He willingly submitted to the nails that pierced His hands and feet. As an atonement for our sins, He paid the insurmountable debt our wickedness earned.

Christ’s love paved the way for a clean slate through His unfathomable offer of radical forgiveness.

Looking on the ones who cheered for His execution‒those who mocked the King of Kings without remorse or repentance‒Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV).

The ones He asked the Father to forgive weren’t remorseful . . . at all.

Yet, R.T. Kendall states that “[asking] the Father to forgive them showed that not only had [Jesus] forgiven them and released them from their guilt, but also that He asked His Father not to punish them or take revenge on them . . .” (Total Forgiveness, p. 3).

I considered the words Jesus cried out while hanging, bruised and bloody, on the cross . . . paying the price for my sins.

Have my attitudes or actions ever hurt the Lord or others without me knowing, or worse . . . without me even caring?

Have I ever gossiped or left a friend feeling abandoned or betrayed?

Have I unintentionally spoken unkind words or deliberately wounded someone with well-crafted harsh words?

Have I cast blame or refused to take responsibility for my wrongdoings?

Have I damaged or severed a relationship when processing my bruised feelings or healing from past hurts?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes.

As I imagined Christ hanging on the cross because of my countless offenses against Him and others, my complaints gave way to conviction.

I sobbed and asked for forgiveness.

The Lord didn’t need me to tell Him I’d been wronged. And I wasn’t helping or changing my situation by sinning in my anger or wallowing in my grief. So, I asked the Lord to help me release my offender into His loving and merciful hands.

No more pleas for payback.

No more daydreams of dishing out a cold bowl of revenge.

No more harboring resentment.

And no more pity-parties.

The more we pray blessings over our offenders, the more God helps us see them through His eyes of loving grace . . . and the more peace reigns in our hearts.

When we place the offense and the offender into God’s trustworthy hands, we no longer feel the need to demand apologies before forgiving.

We can choose right relationships with God and others, over insisting on being right or gloating in someone else’s remorsefulness.

We don’t have to miss out on God blessing us because we’re too busy being resentful, angry, or afraid over something we can’t change and something the offender isn’t losing sleep over.

In the situation with my ex-friend, I prayed for her to be overwhelmed with God’s love and blessed by His outpouring of kindness. We weren’t best buds when we saw each other again, but I wasn’t uncomfortable around her.

I was happy to hear how the Lord had blessed her since we’d last spoken. Not because the hurt didn’t matter or because I’d forgotten or healed completely, but because the Holy Spirit had empowered me to truly forgive her, even though she never apologized.

Choosing radical forgiveness enabled me to appreciate the time we shared as friends and freed me to trust God to empower me to love like Jesus loves.

Forgiving isn’t easy or natural to our self-centered flesh. But when we choose to forgive, the peace of God reigns and allows us to enjoy life without being derailed by tooth-decaying bites of bitterness.

There are some relationships I’m struggling with right now.

Forgiveness and reconciliation doesn’t always mean the restoration of a relationship.

Still, I’m asking God to reveal my part in the conflicts, to help me seek forgiveness for my wrongs, to forgive those who repent and seek forgiveness, and to empower me to prayerfully release all offenders to Him . . . even when they’re not remorseful.

As an imperfect human in desperate need of my Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ, I’m sure I’ll need to forgive others and ask for forgiveness all the days of my life.

So, as I pray over my current relationships, I’m submitting to the Holy Spirit and digging deeper into Scripture.

Total Forgiveness by RT Kendall Book Cover Option 4I’m also rereading Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall, a book God used to help me understand what forgiveness is and isn’t, as well as what He says about forgiveness in the Bible.

I look forward to growing with you, praying with you, and living in the freedom and peace only possible through Spirit-empowered radical forgiveness.  

Lord, thank You for forgiving us and for empowering us to forgive. Please prepare our hearts to receive and submit to Your truth and love.

Show us our wickedness and lead us into the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24). Help us recognize, confess, repent, and turn away from our sins. Please help us reconcile, even if restoration of the relationship isn’t possible, as we embrace the peace and freedom of living in radical forgiveness. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Counting the Ways

MEME - Psalm 150 v 2(Suggested Reading: Psalm 150)

During my last appointment with my doctor, I thanked him for helping me improve over the last five years. Although I still struggle with chronic pain, I’m better than I was when I started this trek in September 2012.

I rejoiced over the little things I can do now, like writing for longer periods of time. I reveled in the small victories and even appreciated the battles that God used to strengthen my resolve and remind me how much I need and depend on Him.

It haven’t always embraced His peace. Sometimes, I struggle with discouragement, weariness, and doubt. But God’s been patient as He helps me experience the endless hope of surrender and contentment founded in knowing His ways are good because He is good.

After my appointment, I suffered another bout with severe spasms and a debilitating headache that lasted over 14 hours. The next morning, I praised the Lord. Why? Because those painful flare-ups have lasted for days in the past.

As I thanked the prayer warriors who interceded for me, even before they knew I was struggling, God reminded me about the power of praising Him through all circumstances.

When we begin to count the ways God’s been good to us and practice honest praise, it’s harder to drown our hope in discouragement.

The psalmists practiced honest praise.

They processed their emotions and shared their struggles. They recounted God’s merciful and mighty acts, always returning their focus to His unchanging goodness, unlimited power, and unhindered demonstrations of love.

The Lord doesn’t expect us to stuff our feelings or minimize our hurt. He doesn’t want us to pretend we’re perfect or act as if we never struggle.

He knows us, inside and out, and wants us to be real with Him . . . and others.

God can handle our mixed emotions. He can change our confusion to clarity, as we seek Him in His Holy Word. He can replace our anxiety with confidence, our uncertainty with wisdom and discernment. He can meet us in our weakness and empower us to stand firm in faith.

When we’re feeling weary, battling doubt, or ready to quit, God beckons us to lift our chins, inhale His peace, and exhale a whisper of praise.

The more we breathe in the countless ways the Lord has been good to us, the more we can sing His praises and trust His unchanging goodness.

A praise list begins with one thing that we can be grateful for, one thing we’ll choose to give thanks for. That one thing can incite our endless worship and gratitude as we praise the Father of Compassion, the Maker of the Universe, the Sustainer, Redeemer, and Deliverer whose love transforms us and changes the way we approach life.

One thing.

We can praise God for the heavens, the starry skies that light the darkest nights, the sunsets that make us gasp in awe of His creativity, the puffs of clouds and rays of sun that warm our hearts with hope (Psalm 150:1, NIV).

We can praise God for His miracles, as well as the quiet moments when He simply makes His presence known (v. 2).

We can praise God for His greatness (v. 2). Oh, how the list goes on when we count the ways that God is great. Hallelujah!

Nothing compares to the magnitude of God’s love for us, the depth of His compassion for us, the measure of His sacrifices for us.

His greatness is revealed in His unchanging character, the perfection of His God-breathed words, and the dependability of His faithfulness.

We can praise God with the music we make and as we enjoy the songs nature sings for us (vv. 3-5).

We can count the ways He is great as we appreciate every detail in His vast creation, from the sweetness of honey to the intricate paint strokes on each flower petal He decorates.

Our great God listens to us, even when our prayers are silent tears that slip down our cheeks. Hallelujah!

Our great God remains with us, even when everyone else seems to have deserted us. Hallelujah!

Our great God understands us, even when we don’t understand ourselves. Hallelujah!

Our great God loves us . . . He loves us.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

When we’re counting the ways God loves us, the ways God has been there for us, the ways God has provided for us, the ways God has protected us, our praise will flow.

Hallelujah!

Lord, thanks for the opportunities to reflect on who You are, what You’ve done, and how much You’ve given us. Please fill us with gratitude as we consider all we have, instead of what we feel we lack. Help us appreciate every breath we take as a priceless gift to be treasured. Help us recognize every morning we wake up as another chance to praise You, to get to know You more, and to share You with others. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Photo taken by and used with permission from Ivonne Vargas.

Meme created by X. E. Dixon.

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Walking in Wisdom (A Prayer)

MEME - Proverbs 4 v 5(Suggested reading – Proverbs 4:1-13)

Lord, thanks for Your inerrant Holy Word through which Your Holy Spirit reveals Your infallible truth and unchanging, perfect character.

Please give us listening hearts. Prepare us to submit our wills to align with Yours, as You help us understand and live in loving obedience to Your Word (vv. 1-4).

Empower us to walk in wisdom and courageous faith, Lord (v. 5).

Please help us give up everything that hinders us from surrendering our all to You, no matter what the personal cost (vv. 6-7).

Help us respect You and honor Your Word, even when the world mocks us and attempts to tempt us into wandering from Your perfect love and the eternal victory You’ve secured for us (vv. 8-9).

Give us ears to hear You, Lord.

Give us the discernment and courage we need to accept Your truth, and the strength and wisdom we need to follow You‒the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6; Proverbs 4:10-11).

Thanks for making our paths lead straight to You.

Strengthen us, fueling our confidence with Your promised care (vv. 12-13).

Though the road ahead often feels long and seems overrun with weeds of discouragement and doubt, You are our sure hope.

We need You. We praise You. We worship You, Lord.

Please continue to make Your presence known as You empower us to believe You and walk in Your wisdom, one brave step at a time.

In Jesus’s name,

Amen

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God Doesn’t Forget Us

MEME - 2 Corinthians 4 v 17To respect my husband’s family tradition, we visited the cemetery on Memorial Day and brought new flags, in honor of his father’s service in the military. Although we know we don’t have to visit the cemetery to honor or remember his dad, although we know he had accepted Christ as his Savior and that his spirit is secured with the gift of eternal life, we place new flags on his headstone once a year.

On the way back to the car, I noticed the raised words on a sailor’s gravestone: World War I & II.

Weeds crawled over his name and dying year . . . 1975. No flowers. No decorations. Just weeds.

I glanced at the faded flags we’d taken out of my father-in-law’s marker a few moments earlier.

Every year, we drove to the cemetery to pay our respects to my husband’s dad. But there would come a time when no one would visit, when everyone who knew him would be gone.

The sailor’s headstone reminded me that there would come a day when all of us are forgotten on this side of eternity.

I’m sure we won’t be worrying about being remembered by other people when we’re praising God in eternity, but the thought of anyone being forgotten grieved me.

Kneeling before the sailor’s headstone, I twisted and pushed the wooden dowel until I’d secured the flag in the dry, cracking dirt. “Thank you, Sir,” I said.

Alan knelt beside me, without saying a word. He took the second flag from my hand and planted it deep into the ground.

I gazed across the yellowing grass dotted with grave markers and small waving flags and sighed. A group came every year to remember and honor veterans. We’d seen them before, placing new flags on the military headstones. The fresh flags waving in the slight breeze affirmed they’d finished their yearly task. Still, even they’d missed this lone sailor with the weeds covering half of the identifying words under his name.

I began plucking the overgrowth. “It’s sad,” I said, “the idea of being forgotten.”

My husband nodded. “We’ll bring extra flags next year.”

“I’d like that very much.”

And so began a tradition.

Even though there could be people who remembered these veterans without visiting the cemetery, and even though we believe our spirits live forever in eternity when we place our trust in Christ, we committed to bringing extra flags for those whose stories had long since stopped being shared with eager ears seeking to learn more about their families’ history.

We would be more intentional about thanking God for those who had given their lives to protect our freedom, those who had served sacrificially, those who had probably never imagined having weeds over their headstones, those who had never dreamed of the day they would be forgotten.

As the reality of my mortality sank in, God comforted me with the assurance that He knows each of us by name and loves each and every person He creates, even when we reject Him.

God knows us, cares for us, and will never forget us. He wants none to perish, and all to be restored in His love and grace (John 3:16-17; 2 Peter  3:3-9).

Gratitude filled my heart as I, once again, received His truth on a deep and personal level: God knows my name. He is always with me. He will never leave me, never forsake me, and never, ever forget me.

I never imagined there would come a day when I was concerned about being forgotten, until an injury and an extensive recovery time led me into a season of isolation.

These have been the most difficult days I’ve ever experienced.

When feelings of loneliness and sorrow threaten to destroy every bit of my joy, peace, hope, and faith, the Lord comforts and strengthens me with His constant presence and His infallible Word.

He’s increasing my compassion for the forgotten ones, the lonely ones, the hurting ones in the world.

He refreshes my hope by empowering me to live and love each and every day, in honor of our Savior Jesus Christ . . . because even when life is hard, this world is not where our lives end.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV)

We may not know what tomorrow brings, but we know there will come a day when all of the people who knew us will be gone. That’s no reason to lament.

Because of our new life in Christ, we can leave a legacy of faith that points others to His everlasting hope.

Lord, thank You for empowering us to make a lasting difference in this world by living and loving in the name of Jesus‒praying for others as we share Your Holy Word, and serving selflessly as we lead others to You‒the only One who can truly promise You will never leave us, never forsake us, and never, ever forget us. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children‒with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

The LORD has His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” (Psalm 103:13-19, NIV)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

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When Mother’s Day isn’t as Happy as the Messages Available in the Card Aisle: A Mother’s Day Prayer

MEME - Proverbs 31 v 30 - Happy Mother's Day

Thank You, Lord, for creating moms and showing us how to love moms through Scripture.

Please help us to remember moms are people who fall short, people who have been hurt and who have hurt others, people who do the best they can to love, people who need You. 

 

Help us recognize one another’s brokenness and need for grace.

 

Thank You for those beautiful, loving relationships between mothers and children.

 

And thank You for those more complex relationships, like mine with my mom, that were made beautiful through the refining fires of conflict, through trials that led us down hard paths to Your healing grace made possible through our individual relationships with You, Lord.

 

Even if we don’t have a good relationship with our moms or if we’re moms who don’t have good relationships with our kids, for whatever reasons, please help us honor one another and pray blessings over each other.

 

Please help us experience Your love so intimately and completely that we will be forever changed.

 

Help us love You and receive the fullness of Your love for us, so that we can surrender and allow You to help us love like You love, forgive like You forgive.

 

And help us serve one another selflessly and generously, like You served Your disciples when You‒the King of Kings and Lord of Lords‒knelt to wash their feet.

 

Please give us wisdom and courage to say the kind and affirming words we’ll wish we would have said to our moms while we were able to see their smiles, on this side of eternity.

 

Even if the other person is not ready to receive our love, our forgiveness, or our grace, please help us to choose to love You by doing our part to make peace without feeling responsible for how the other person responds.

 

Please, Lord, love on those precious ones who have broken relationships or unresolved conflicts with their moms.

 

Please love on those who are grieving because they don’t have their moms with them today.

 

Please love on those who don’t know their moms but long for that relationship.

 

Please love on those who have been hurt by their moms, those who are trying to figure out how to love their moms in a healthy and holy way, those who aren’t ready to take that first step toward reconciliation or even that baby step toward making peace without reconciliation.

 

Please love on those moms who long for better relationships with their children, for those who want to forgive but are struggling, those who want to apologize but don’t know where to start.

Please love on those who are aching over the loss of children and those still waiting to be blessed with a child.

 

Please love on those whose mother and child relationships are even more complex than those we’ve placed before You today, Lord.

 

You know every detail and are able and willing to help us. So, we ask for Your help today, Lord.

 

We need You. We can’t love without You.

 

For those who are hurting this Mother’s Day, for whatever reason, please be our peace as You shower us with Your unconditional and life-transforming love.

 

Help us open our hearts to You and trust You are always with us, always loving, always listening, and always enough.

 

Please bless our families with Your healing and restoring grace, in Your perfect timing and in Your perfect way.

 

Help us trust You as we accept our mother and child relationships will not look like any other person’s mother and child relationship.

 

And through our intimacy with You‒Loving Savior and Redeemer‒we can relate to others in a way that honors You and brings us peace.

 

May You be glorified as Your power is magnified through our weaknesses, especially when we’re facing a Mother’s Day that isn’t as happy as the messages in the card aisles.

 

In Jesus’s name, Amen

 

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In honor of my beautiful mama, Martha.

 

Mom, I thank God for allowing us to experience the heartaches that brought us to Him and eventually deepened our relationship with one another. I will always miss you and am grateful for the last four months God allowed me to serve as your caregiver, the last four months He allowed me to know you as a person, not just my mom.

To read more about my mom, check out “What I Wish I Would Have Said to My Mom.”

 

Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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What I Wish I Would Have Said to My Mom

MEME - John 13 v 35This year, I’ll be celebrating the third Mother’s Day since my sweet mama danced into the loving arms of Jesus. I’m thankful God blessed me with the privilege of serving as her live-in caregiver for the last four months of her stay at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance House.

Even though we would talk weekly before her diagnosis, I learned more about my mom during those four months than I had my entire life.

The Lord allowed me to get to know her as a woman, not just a mom.

We laughed. We cried, well mostly I cried. We shared stories, and even secrets.

God blessed me with the opportunity to tell my mom I thanked Him for our past, for the struggles and disagreements that strengthened our relationship.

I wrapped my arms around her and told her I was proud she was my mom, that I was proud to be her daughter.

I thanked her for the tough love I had resented before.

I thanked her for making time to chat with me whenever I called, for encouraging me to be creative and use my gift of writing to help others.

I thanked her for making me laugh, and even for the times she made me cry. Then I apologized for all the times I made her cry.

I thanked her for being the best mom she could be.

I affirmed I had no regrets, even though the great relationship we shared during our last decade together and through those last four months had been refined by the fires of conflict over the years.

I told my mom what I liked about her as a person, not just a parent.

As I watched her interacting with friends, with doctors and medical staff, and with fellow SCCA House neighbors, I complimented her until she blushed.

Oh, how I miss seeing her sweet cheeks blushing whenever she received a kind word. My mom was more comfortable speaking kind words to others.

During the most difficult time of my mom’s life, God blessed me with a glimpse of her heart.

When the cancer returned, time passed too quickly. There were too many people around. Our private times were gone. There was so much I wanted to say, but didn’t.

She knew I loved her.

By the grace of God, I served as her caregiver while still recovering from two shoulder surgeries, multiple injections in my upper thoracic back and neck, and a hip injury that occurred two months into our stay in Seattle.

As she watched me battle my own chronic pain, as she saw how much I missed my husband and son, my mom realized the depth of my love for her.

She knew I loved her so much that I wanted to serve her whatever the cost . . . the way she’d loved me and served me over the years.

She loved me enough to tell me she knew.

The Lord blessed me with the opportunity to thank my mom for choosing me as her caregiver. I thanked her for the priceless gift of allowing me to care for her.

We affirmed one another, encouraged one another, and prayed for one another.

Still, there were some things I never said to my mom, things she probably knew but I wish I would have spoken out loud.

I wish I would have told her I’d miss the sound of her laugh, the silkiness of her hand on mine, the way she ran her fingers through my hair when we snuggled.

I wish I would’ve told her I’d miss seeing her eyes fill with compassion and tears when she listened to hurting people.

I wish I would’ve told her I’d miss the softness of her voice when she asked me to pray for someone.

I’d miss her storytelling.

I’d miss the cards she sent me, the stick figures she drew of us in those cards.

I’d miss our phone chats.

I’d miss the early mornings I called to say, “I love you and just want to say have a nice day,” before she headed to work.

I’d miss hearing her tell me she was praying for me and every member of our family.

I’d miss her saying she just wanted to tell me she loved me.

I wish I would’ve told my mom I like when people say I look like her, but it’s more important when they say I love like her.

I wish I would’ve told her the way she chose kindness and grace made a difference in my life.

I wish I would’ve told her I was glad God created her and thankful He decided to bless me with her as my mom.

The list could go on and on.

Even if I was the greatest wordsmith in the world, I wouldn’t be able to express the beauty my mother added to my life, the priceless impact she made in my world.

She exemplified the fruit of the Spirit every day:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV)

During her standing-room-only Celebration of Life service, countless people shared stories of how my mom expressed kindness through her words and her actions:

“A kindhearted woman gains respect.” (Proverbs 11:16, NIV)

My mom wasn’t perfect. I’m not perfect. But she was the perfect mom for me.

She loved God. She loved our family. She loved people. She loved me. She loved well.

She loved like people are supposed to love: selflessly, fearlessly, willingly, cheerfully, and generously.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35, NIV)

I wish I would have told my mom how much she meant to me every single day.

I wish I wouldn’t have wasted moments, days, years being angry, bitter, unforgiving, and stubborn.

God blessed me with the chance to tell my mom I was sorry for every conflict we had, and at the same time grateful because He’d used each trial to help us appreciate and understand one another more.

Still, I wish I could tell her I love her, just one more time.

I know she knows.

And though we’ll be together in Eternity with Jesus, our Lord and Savior, I wish I would’ve looked my mom in the eyes and said everything I wish I could say now that she is gone.

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Lord, my relationship with my mom reveals how complicated mother and child relationships can get. Thanks for blessing us with the opportunity to make things right after wasting years hurting one another. Thanks for bringing both of us into a saving relationship with You and making it possible for us to have a good relationship with one another.

There are some of us who are grieving the loss of our mothers or struggling with the dynamics of mother and child relationships. Please comfort us and guide us during those difficult moments when this day brings up mixed emotions. Please bring freedom and peace through love, forgiveness, and grace, whatever that looks like for our individual circumstances.

I’ve experienced how hard Mother’s Day can feel when there are unresolved conflicts in this special relationship or when the sting of grief feels as fresh as the day we said goodbye. These moments cause me to be grateful for my relationship with You, Lord.

Please bring each of us closer to You and make it possible for us to be closer to one another. May Your will be done, Your name glorified, and Your power magnified, as You empower us to love as You love us.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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In loving memory of my mom, Martha.

Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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Rejoicing Because God is God

MEME - Psalm 5 v 11bOn Thursday morning, I woke up praising God for blessing me with minimal instead of high-level pain. I thanked Him with grateful tears for over twenty-four headache-free hours. My body ached after a week of constant muscle spasms and nerve pain that caused debilitating headaches.

Though the painful days are an expected part of the recovery process after my recent nerve ablation in my neck and injection in my upper thoracic back, the journey often wears me out physically and emotionally.

By mid-afternoon, I praised the Lord for allowing me to enjoy a wonderful time of reading His Word and writing for His glory.

Then, I received bad news over the phone.

After sobbing prayers, God comforted me with His promise to be with me every step of the way, even if I wasn’t sure what my next step would be.

The Lord assured me He had already planned ahead for my needs and made a way for me to follow Him, if only I would be willing to place my confidence in His unchanging character and integrity.

I called my husband to let him know about what had happened and together we made a decision in the matter. As we trust the Lord to provide in ways we can’t even begin to figure out, we remain certain He’ll care for us. He always has and always will.

A few minutes after hanging up with my husband, I checked the mail and smiled when I saw a card from a friend.

Her timely, encouraging note felt like a hug from God.

I spent some extra time reading my Bible and shed a few more tears when the Holy Spirit drew me to this familiar verse:

“But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You.” (Psalm 5:11, NIV)

Soon after, I received another call. This time, the news was great.

After a roller-coaster-day of emotions, I praised the Lord with yet another sobbing prayer.

Those tears expressed an unexplainable joy.

My pain hadn’t gone away or improved, but it hadn’t gotten worse. My bad news hadn’t changed, but God had revealed His care once again.

Even as I type this blog post, my focus isn’t on the ever-changing good or bad circumstances in my life, the uncertainty of the future, or the complex emotions the inevitable changes evoke.

When we take refuge in God, we can rest in the knowledge of who He is and who He always will be.

When we place our hope in knowing God won’t change, we can feel secure even when the world around us feels totally out of control, which it totally is.

We can be glad because our good and loving God is constant, present, dependable, trustworthy, and faithful.

We can sing for joy because He is our Protector and Provider.

We can love His name, as revealed through Scripture, because His name affirms His unchanging character.

God is Jehovah, the Existing One, the Lord who wants to be known (Genesis 2:4).

He is Elohim, Creator (Genesis 1:1).

He is El Shaddai, The Almighty (Genesis 17:1).

He is Jehovah Jireh, Provider (Genesis 22:14).

He is Jehovah Rapha, Healer (Exodus 15:26).

He is Jehovah Shalom, “The Lord Our Peace” (Judges 6:24).

He is Jehovah Rohi, Johovah Raah, “The Lord Our Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1).

He is El Roi, the God who sees (Genesis 16:13).

He is El Olam, The Eternal God, everlasting (Genesis 21:33; Psalm 90:31).

Because God is the Great I AM (Exodus 3:14), the Beginning and the End, we can call Him Adonai, our Lord and Master (Genesis 18:2).

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Lord, thank You for Your infallible truth through which You reveal Your unchanging character. Please penetrate the deepest corners of our hearts and minds with Your loving, God-breathed words.

Help us seek You and rely on You to transform our hearts and minds, as You strengthen our resolve and deepen our faith. You are our peace, our refuge, our quiet strength, even when we feel our weakest. You guide our steps and make a way where there is no way, as far as we can see. 

You will never change. You will never grow weary. You will never abandon us. You will never forget us or ignore the cries of our hearts. Thank You, Lord. Thank You for loving us in ways we don’t even see.

Hallelujah!
In Jesus’s name, Amen 

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Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon

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For further study on the names of God, you can visit Bible.org or the Blue Letter Bible websites.

(At the time of this posting both of these websites were active and God-honoring. Though I am doubtful this would be the case, I would appreciate readers informing me if there is any questionable content on these sites in the future.)

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Finding God’s Fingerprints

MEME - Psalm 145 vv 1-2 - FREE Pexels Cross Photo Downloaded April 30, 2017

(Suggested Reading: Psalm 145)

As I continue to grieve the loss of a beautiful sister in Christ, I’m missing her Facebook posts. I’d always enjoyed the way she praised God in all circumstances and prayed for others, her hope firmly anchored in unshakeable faith, even as she battled cancer.

I’ve noticed a common thread as I read posts and comments shared by others who are grieving her loss and celebrating her inspiring life. Suzanne loved God and saw His fingerprints in every aspect of her life, much like David−the writer of Psalm 145.

David begins his love song by committing to a lifetime of praising the Lord:

“I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your name for ever and ever.” (Psalm 145:1-2, NIV)

David proclaims God’s greatness will be passed on to future generations, as His people share who He is and all He’s done (vv. 3-7).

The psalmist affirms the Lord’s goodness, graciousness, compassion, and loving patience (vv. 8-9). While pointing out God’s fingerprints in his life and in the lives of those around him, David gets caught up in praise and changes his focus.

Instead of merely telling others about the wonders of the Almighty, he immerses himself in worship.

The recording of his testimony becomes an intimate conversation with the King of Kings.

I often find God’s fingerprints more easily in situations when I’m writing about the things He’s done, the things He’s taught me, and the things He reveals about His character as I read His God-breathed words in Scripture.

By inviting Him into my writing process, I can get so caught up in what I’m sharing about the Lord that I become drawn into a time of intimate worship, praise, and prayer.

Like David, in Psalm 145, my focus switches from serving God by pointing readers to His Word to sitting at my Master’s feet and gazing into His face.

Whether we’re writing, singing, teaching, or chatting with a friend, something powerful happens when we join forces to help others find God’s fingerprints in the world around us:

They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your might, so that all men may know of Your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of Your kingdom.” (Psalm 145:11-12, emphasis mine)

As we point to the Lord and proclaim His greatness, our own faith deepens and our testimonies become psalmist’s songs that we can’t keep to ourselves (v. 13).

We can burst out in joyful praise and say:

“The LORD is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made. The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” (v. 13b-14)

Like David, we can become so enthralled by God that we turn back to Him with grateful confidence in His provision (v. 15-16).

We can celebrate His loving righteousness toward His people (v. 17).

We can rejoice in His constant presence, His sovereign care, and His promise to listen to those who call on His name (v. 18-20).

The psalmists and my precious friend Suzanne recognized God’s fingerprints in their lives, in the lives of those around them, and in Scripture.

When we do this, the Lord can strengthen our resolve, comfort us, and empower us to tell everyone how wonderful He is and always will be, no matter how hard our current circumstances feel.

We, too, can sing:

“My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise His holy name for ever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Thank You, Lord, for the allowing us to experience Your loving grace, encounter You intimately as we prayerfully study Your Word, and exalt You as we share Your truth and love. Please fill us with wisdom and courage we need to speak or write words that will glorify Your name and testify about who You are and all You’ve done. In Jesus’s name, Amen

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Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon, using free photo from Pexels (April 30, 2017).

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