This is Redemption

Breathe. Open the door. Take a step in. You recognize this place, but the memories are vacant like a moving box with the word “childhood” written on the flap in permanent marker with nothing inside. Maybe you can remember running down the stairs to the sunday school rooms or bobbing for apples out on the lawn, but besides the absent memories what this place really represents is the years of hurt and brokenness. The reminder of all the pain that has happened since you last stepped in these halls. The people? They are all different. The grown up children? They have all moved away. The pastor? You’ve never seen him before in your life.

We slide in the back row. My mom, me, and my brother. Why he started to go back to this church a month ago I have yet to understand entirely, but I have a guess that maybe we are all seeking the same healing from the pain that started all those years ago after leaving this place. There’s been a stirring of his heart, I reckon. A longing to understand, to make things right.  Why now? I wasn’t really sure until we prayed together at the end.

The pastor, after a challenging message about being on mission and sharing the truth of Christ’s saving of our souls, asked us to gather with the people around us and lift up our joys and requests to God. We looked at each other knowing we aught to put our heads together, but there was a sense of awkwardness. How do we do this? We’ve never done this before or at least not in 17 years.  

“Well…” he finally said hesitantly; so the three of us squished together as my brother gathered us under his arm like little chicks and began to pray. He told God how thankful he was for the life he’s given him, for keeping our dad alive after his recent heart attack, for his two sons and his wife, but mostly for forgiveness and for being able to be a new person in Christ, to be able to let go of the past, to have a new identity. As he prayed all I could think about was how God has changed us all. 5 years ago, my mom wasn’t a Christian, my brother didn’t think the bible had much merit, and I was still walking around withholding forgiveness from him for the years of sexual abuse. I was withholding the gospel from him. As a child I walked around claiming to be a follower of Jesus, but the only gospel message I was communicating to him was that God doesn’t actually forgive our sins.

As a child I walked around claiming to be a follower of Jesus, but the only gospel message I was communicating to him was that God doesn’t actually forgive our sins.

But I forgave him by God’s strength and mercy, and hardly with words as I couldn’t bare any more of a conversation than a cross with the words “forgive” on it that I gave him for christmas once. It was more so in my actions as allowed myself to trust him, hug him, spend time with him; to live like I’d forgiven him. I could trust him because he had changed and more importantly he could trust me and the truth I was sharing because I had changed too.

Then I thought about how my mom has grown as a disciple of Christ and how her change has influenced him. She’s growing to have a gentler, quieter spirit that understands her desperate need for forgiveness and to trust in the Lord alone. I can only imagine how seeing her growth has influenced my brother’s faith. I’ve only heard through the snippets of conversations they’ve had, but they too have shared forgiveness for one another.

As she started to pray, now almost distracted by the moment God was giving me that I hardly remember what she was praying, all I could think of what the years of hate and blame I held in my heart for her, the pain of life, the walls in my heart, the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the loss of Jeff, the conversion of her soul, the months of singing praise together at church, the conversations of forgiveness, the bible studies, the renewing of our minds, and the peace in my soul…

Here we are. The three of us. Tossed violently by the waves of life, forsaking even our faith. Wayward brides who were dumping out the boxes of memories; trying to fill it instead with what we thought would satisfy, but still coming up empty. We kept finding the memories in our mailboxes year after year, month after month, day after day; haunting us all. We were even drowning for a while looking for oxygen to breathe, looking for someone to save us.

But God, in his mercy, saw it fit to have “…Christ Jesus come into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”

God had a plan to use my hard heart and choices of sin to work back around to teach me grace and obedience that impacts not only me, but shares Christ’s love for his children specifically my brother and mother.

All I can say now is that it works! It really does. He does work all things for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his great purpose. His promises are true, even when they don’t feel like it before it comes to fruition.

And it’s not over yet, its really just beginning, but standing there together in the arms of my brother and mother, I understand…

This is redemption. 

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Anger Denatured into Gratitude

A once ridiculing, anxious soul is metamorphosing into unconditional gentleness. Where once was fear now is filled with peace and where once was guilt is now filled with hope.

My mother.

Unfortunately, in comparison to me- the steps I’d thought I’d taken to overcome bitterness and anger are now so clear against her grace filled love. My mom is transforming and I stopped somewhere a long the way. Or maybe I took a pause to clean out some old dusty cupboards of pain.


Being a child with divorced parents isn’t a whole ton of fun. It creates some sort of childhood trauma that manages to covertly infect most neural pathways to your mind and heart. Oh, memories! I sigh- and the purposely forgotten memories! And holidays- what a wonderful time to remember how broken your family is! This is not a rant, I promise. 

Through one recent conversation or another I found myself angry. It was something to do with plans and what dinner was at who’s house and why it was so unfair the kids had to go the other parents instead of coming to some Aunt’s house. Some sort of blame was exchanged…blah, blah, blah. I ended up angry towards my mom and then sort of stopped communicating, and really, what led up to that isn’t the important part, but I was angry and I left angry back to Iowa.

Along the 5 hour drive I meditated long and hard on my anger. At first I didn’t understand why, I just was, you know? So I just let myself be angry and sooner or later a cry for justice was to be found.

“It’s not fair!” I found myself exclaiming. There was a huge injustice done to me with my parents separating: I didn’t ask for it, I couldn’t do anything to stop it, and yet somehow I was in the middle of broken promises and lonely relationships. “What about justice?”

I let myself call out the injustice that had happened. It’s like there’s this imaginary pressure to not be impacted by divorce, like, it happens all the time or it’s not so bad or something. So all along the way of the last 10 years I’m bottling up this anger and sense of injustice inside, wanting to expressing it, but not knowing really what it is that I wanted to express. Yet I was letting it seep out every time my mom asked me when my dad is having thanksgiving or when I’m going over to his house.

Kind of ridiculous if you ask me now. Especially since she’s like this sweet lady who asks so prudently. Then I’m this ravenous wolf who just got punched on a wound.

So here I am in the car, “What about justice?” I say (seemingly to God) Of course, being God, he could almost laugh. Who could have a better understanding of unfair suffering than God? Jesus on the cross, anyone?

He doesn’t though- laugh, I mean. He comforts me by reminding me He knows about the injustice. It’s not fair. It’s not right. It’s not acceptable. He hates divorce! (Malachi 2:16)

Who could have a better understanding of unfair suffering than God?

And then of course, people kept sharing verses and articles on Facebook about unjust suffering and forgiveness…etc….. you know how that happens…

Verses like 1 Peter 2:19-25

For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God.

and 1 Peter 3:9

 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Genesis 50:19-20

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

And then I almost felt the Spirit asking me “What kind of justice would you like?”

Well… I don’t know I guess, I thought, it’s not like I want them punished (they believe in Jesus and his forgiveness and are in enough of their own pain) and in all actuality having them back together probably wouldn’t make anything much better either…. I guess I just wanted someone to hear me say it wasn’t fair. 

So I emailed my mom and apologized and helped her understand why I was so angry all the time. She apologized for her part, I apologized for mine and we both agreed to work towards forgiveness. I thanked her profusely for her grace as she is always so kind to me when I am unkind. She doesn’t mind the hits because she loves me so much and that’s pretty amazing.

That was all a month ago. On the drive back home for Thanksgiving today I asked myself what kind of attitude I was going to have this time. I prayed for a gentle one and I realized anything other than that would be a cry for justice. Then I asked myself, “How long will you cry out? How many do you need to hear you say it? Will it ever be enough?”

You’ve said it. It’s been heard. By God, by your mom, and by a lot of others. It’s been taken care of and it’s time to move on now. It’s time to be grateful for what you do have (believing parents, a home, food, people who love you, clothes, a job, income, school, air to breathe) and to be content with the portion God has given you. It’s time to stop looking at your circumstances with a microscope….

It’s time to be thankful. And so I shall!

Happy Thanksgiving! May God help you understand what good He is doing through your unjust suffering and unfortunate circumstances.

“Understanding unjust suffering is about not getting God to change your circumstances but beginning to understand how your circumstances are a part of His divine plan and you responding to that plan.”              Overcoming Unjust Suffering, Living on The Edge

 

Letting all go.

Here’s a song I wrote a couple weeks ago on the brink of forgiveness.

There’s a child inside of me crying, longing for you.
There’s a darkness that lingers around me, and nothing gets through.

And the strings of this pain that’ve colored this stain,
you’d think they’d pull like a noose.
Yet, I’m here to say when I give Him my pain,
there’s nothing that crumbles this cave like the truth.

Broken I’m falling before you, down on my knees.
Feeling the weight of regret, my soul needs relief.

Oh Father of mercy, please tell me you love me
and Jesus, you cover my need.
For my father before me, he could not protect me
from corruption and all that it reaped.

Here I am. Nothing in hand. Parched in a desert land,
and water comes from your hands.

Forever here I’ll stand, with your promise to the end.
For this world has left me wanting, though measured I have been.

When the wolves cry out to the moon; hungry, they encroach.
Yet laugh at them, though I must, for I will not let go
of the truth that has saved me,
the blood that renamed me,
and the penitence in all of my soul.
The healing He gave me,
the loves that replays in me,
and the freedom of letting all go, gives me hope.

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Bread and Blood, Body and Wine

“because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.  Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

-Hebrews 7:24-25 NIV

On the first Sunday of the month we take communion together as a church. Walking into the sanctuary, I really wasn’t sure if sitting with all these people taking communion was something that I wanted to do. I wasn’t really sure if sharing in this act together was something I really wanted to do. And I was really sure I could do it with the amount of doubt I had in my heart… so I thought maybe it would be better to just sit.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” Romans 12:21. As soon as we started singing I couldn’t get up to the plate fast enough. I must overcome this evil, this doubt, with good.

As I went back to my seat I stood with the bread and juice in my hand. I knew that taking this without remembering what Christ has accomplished would be like spitting in God’s face. Just take a moment to remember. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to.

Then a picture came through my mind as our pastor shared the verse above from Hebrews. Because Jesus rose from the dead, He stands before us, before the father. He always intercedes for us.  I began to picture person after person moving through a line at heaven’s gates. Head down, they would come before the Father. Then Jesus would step forward with His hand upon their shoulder and say “They are clean because of me.” The next would approach, head down aware of their lives before God, and yet Jesus would say “they are clean, because of me.” Person after person would approach.

Then came me. Standing before God, my head may have even been looking away, behind, so dismayed by the doubt that has weighed upon my soul. So sure that with the heart I have, God could never accept me. I wait for the words that declare my eternal destiny separate from God. I wait. Jesus comes beside me and places His hand upon my shoulder, there is a pause. Then He speaks, “You too are clean, because of me.”

“With all of my doubt still fresh in my heart?” I ask, ashamed.

“Yes.” He welcomes me in. He always welcomes me in once again. For I have believed in His son.

“Thank you Jesus for what you have done,” I muttered in my heart.

No doubt is too great that God can overcome, no sin is too great like Christ’s blood does not cover. He is perfect forever. (Hebrews 7:28)