You Aren’t the Sum of Your Mistakes

shutterstock_1196187574Maybe you’ve made a few mistakes in your time. Maybe your past has moved in like an unwelcome guest. Perhaps there’s condemnation running through your thoughts—a steady stream of fault-finding reminders. Maybe you’re living under critical words spoken to you in your youth, and, whether they were true or not, you still drag the weight of them along on your journey. If you find yourself living on the outskirts of joy, or even faith, here’s some encouragement.

Continue reading “You Aren’t the Sum of Your Mistakes”

5 Ways to Reject Rejection

shutterstock_1173699898When we are rejected our immediate reaction is often to reject back.

We feel rejected so we reject.

Rejection is insidious. It cuts deep. It attaches itself to bitterness to gain strength. It can become a relentless cycle: rejection, bitterness, rejection. It makes us miserable and eventually affects our other relationships.

Hurting people hurt people and rejected people reject.

Let me explain how this can play out. I get rejected. Once rejected, I feel hurt. Once hurt, I want to hurt back. I grow bitter in my hurt, angry at having been rejected. The next time I see that person, I ignore them (aka. reject them). If I marinate in bitterness I end up rejecting others. By pushing them away I am further rejected.

In rejection, we become like frightened porcupines with extended quills. With our prickly exterior, you’d never know that all we really want is to be loved and accepted.

If we don’t break the cycle, we become habitual rejecters. Because we live in a state of rejection, our default is to reject others. Perhaps the worst part about this condition of the heart is that we send out a rejection vibe. It’s written all over us. We live on the outskirts of life, playing it safe. Anticipating rejection, we end up living bitter, cross, critical lives, keeping others at arm’s length. It’s ugly stuff. It’s lonely as heck. And it’s bondage.

It might surprise you that rejection also has to do with fear and control.

A source of rejection is the fear of what people think. I am much more prone to rejection when I’m caught up in how others perceive me or am trying to fit in. If I’m trying to control others’ perceptions of me, fearfully worrying whether or not they’ll like me, afraid of being rejected, I won’t engage fully and care for the needs of others. I’ll hold back and won’t be present engaging as my best self. I’ll control my behaviour and surroundings by disengaging. Assuming this posture, I’m more likely to be rejected.

What I should be thinking is, Who am I to think others should bow down to me? Why should I worry about impressing them anyway? What I should be doing is engaging fully, loving unconditionally, and caring deeply.

The truth is we will be rejected. In fact, life is full of rejection. We may not be able to control when or how often, but we can acquire skills to manage when it occurs. 

Here are 5 thoughts on how to reject rejection:

  1. I can change my response. Instead of taking offense and assuming mistreatment, I can make room for the idea that the person may have not meant to hurt me or even realized they have.
  2. I can realize that I am accountable for how I react to rejection. I’m not responsible for another’s behaviour, only my own. There’s no way to control the way I am treated or whether or not others enjoy my company. I’m only responsible for my response.
  3. I can keep myself free from bitterness by forgiving. Doing so also reduces the temptation to further reject. When I keep a tight rein on my thought life and refuse to let it percolate in bitter thinking, there is a greater chance my relationships will be fruitful.
  4. I can move from bitter to blessing and come in the opposite spirit. Instead of putting up walls, or rejecting back, I can show grace and love, engaging as my true self and blessing others with kindness independent of how I am treated. (Luke 6:26-27).
  5. I can remind myself that Jesus was ruthlessly rejected and yet he loved fully, engaged completely, and gave entirely. He gives me the wisdom and strength to do the same. I can remind myself that I don’t need to take my cues from others, but from God.

These are tough. They don’t come naturally. We won’t be good at them. They take determination, regular practice, and Christ’s healing and help. But with regular use, we come closer to the heart and mind of Christ and step further into freedom.

I love these verses from 1 Peter 2:23-25 from the Message translation:

“This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.” 

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  1. Who can you forgive and move from bitterness to blessing this week?

Open Arms

66117572_586387961768378_2838857366999400448_nKonnor came home for a visit today. Any mom will tell you that when your kids no longer live under your roof, any visit home is a precious event. This was demonstrated in the way Keira bolted down the stairs, threw her arms around her brother and clung to him, starved for his presence. I too adore seeing my son, catching up with him, admiring the man he has become.

The whole thing reminded me of how God must feel when we come to spend time with him, or when we return after a lengthy absence.

Since God’s love for us is even greater than a mother or father’s love for their child—or a little sister’s love for her brother—I can only imagine how happy God is to see us. His welcome is a door-flung-wide, arms-stretched-open sort. He is always thrilled to receive us.

But for some, their image of God is more of a looming, angry, and unyielding figure with arms-crossed in a posture ready instead to point out all the ways he’s been disappointed. For them, God is unapproachable, distant, and cross.

Sometimes our children’s actions or choices upset us or ignite an angry response. Our kids make mistakes—as do we—but because we love them we forgive them and continue to champion them on their journey. God behaves likewise to us, multiplied many times. Take a moment to read below what the Bible has to say about God’s nature:

Psalm 30:5: “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.”

Psalm 116:5: “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.”

1 John 1:5: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

Micah 7:18-19: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.  You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

I John 4:9: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”

Like earthly parents, God is capable of being angry at his children. When our behaviour defies his holy standard—and it will—it not only hurts us and potentially others, but also hurts him. But here’s the thing: God is not only slow to get angry, he doesn’t remain angry. And maybe that’s where we get stuck.

In our guilt and shame, we further belittle ourselves believing God has rejected us, that he could never forgive us, that he wants nothing to do with us. But the verses above show that nothing could be further from the truth. He loves us so much that he sent his son as the remedy for all our junk: past, present, and future. The moment we repent, he forgives us and no longer holds those actions against us. Nor does he remind us of our failings. In Christ, every moment is a fresh start.

Just as we celebrate when our children arrive home, excited to get all caught up with them, our God is delighted when we share our lives with him, tell him all of our news, and rest in his presence. He doesn’t force us to come home, but anticipates the moment we do. His love is endless, his forgiveness knows no limits, his compassion is for all. No matter where you’ve been—or for how long—his arms are always open.

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  1. When was the last time you had a visit with God? It’s never too late to start or begin again.
  2. If you’ve never received the free gift of salvation and forgiveness of sins through God’s son Jesus, it’s only a prayer away.

 

A Broken Togetherness

19059562_10155076822815091_6085062570885595610_nTwenty-seven years of together. That’s a decent amount of time—a length I could hardly grasp when I said “I do.” Even now I can barely believe that span of time, even with the years stacked behind us, a beautiful bundle of children—all of it a blur of too fast.

It’s not for the faint of heart this thing called marriage. The years are uncertain, difficult, tumultuous, breaking. They are framed with laughter, stained from tears, and cushioned with faith, hope, and love—without which they’d crumble to certain death. But all of it is the making of a marriage and the making of us, together and individually.

It goes without saying that marriage is the choosing of a life lived alongside another. That recession up the aisle represents side-by-side living, saying no to selfishness, and no more going it alone—physically, emotionally, and even spiritually.

It’s a door flung open into your interior life, and the wider it remains, the better off you’ll be. Shutting the door in unforgiveness, complete self-reliance, or self-preservation isn’t an option. You signed on for a double passage.

It’s not a give and take mentality either. It’s a give and give again. Forgive and forgive again. And love—inside of imperfection—again and again.

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It’s not just proclaiming love in word but in being. In doing loving acts, speaking love out, responding in love, listening in love, sitting quietly in love when you’d rather tell him or her a thing or two. It’s staying when you’d sooner leave. It’s working to fix broken.

And to be honest, you’ll probably get wounded. Love fiercely and there’s a decent possibility. But it’s far better to love than to close yourself off in protection and precaution. That only serves to stifle vibrant love in all its various forms.

I’m no poster child for marriage done right. Ralph and my kids will tell you. Even so, I like to joke that because of him my crown in heaven will be too heavy to carry, and I’ll be assigned a full-time Seraphim flying overhead to hold it up. But he’s the realist and will tell you I’m no angel either.

But marriage isn’t I love you because you’re lovable. It’s closer to I love you in spite of the fact that you often aren’t. To know one’s faults and failings thoroughly and still love brings us closer to the heart of Jesus who loves us this way. To be wounded by that same person, forgive, and continue to love grows us to be like Jesus.

In this imperfect world full of imperfect people, love and marriage will likewise never be perfect. We are two broken people becoming less broken only now we do it together. Yet we often arrive in our marriage in this semi-broken state expecting perfect. So when life gets messy and our expectations of perfect go unmet or completely unravel, we think we made a bad choice. Instead of digging in and shoveling out of the chaos we concur the job is too hard and throw the shovel down.

But what if we agree that marriage isn’t perfection, nor is it the place where all our needs and desires will be met, but instead a broken togetherness.

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It’s not I love you because you’re beautiful, you complete me, you say and do the right things, and show up with chocolate and flowers (though that’s never a bad idea). It more closely resembles, if we are blessed with years I’ll love you until your skin sags. I’ll hang on to your hand over the hospital bed rail until your breath runs out. I’ll stay until the us becomes one again, and all that remains is the beautiful memories and the slightly less broken me once again.

So, here’s to another year of us—of we—amid our imperfections. May we love longer and larger than expected, and leave each other better than we found us.

 

 

 

Making a Marriage Work

shutterstock_589431530Yesterday, I attended a wedding shower. The bride-to-be asked the guests to write words of wisdom on cards that she would collect and keep. It was a wonderful idea and each of us scrawled our advice across the card. I wish I had read a few besides the ones the ladies on either side of me wrote. Next month it will be twenty-seven years for Ralph and I, and it’s never too late to learn.

Being a fairly verbose person, I surprised myself by writing only one word: Forgive. 

I realize I could have filled the card, not because I’m so wise or wordy, but because there are so many things that a couple needs to learn to make a marriage work. Things such as communication, prioritizing time together, respectfulness, faithfulness, and selflessness. But for me, if I don’t forgive, the others fall apart too.

If I suffer from a bitter heart—as I’ve been known to at times—it chokes out my ability to fully tend to my marriage. The anger that comes from withholding forgiveness disables communication. The bitterness can cause distance, inhibit respect, ignite selfish behaviour, and, if I’m not careful, can dissolve faithfulness or faith in my marriage.

Anything you want to thrive takes hard work, and a healthy marriage is no exception. There are a host of things that conspire to dismantle a marriage. The lack of the things previously mentioned can be factors, but other tensions beat at the door too. Things such as sickness, financial trouble, long work hours, and constant travel. The relationship may be may strained by putting the children first, extended family issues, living for self, or passing blame. A refusal to take responsibility for their part in the marriage issues, differing interests or ideas, unrealistic expectations, or infidelity can tear a marriage apart.

Marriage is hard work; extending forgiveness makes it easier.

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I would be amiss to fail to mention love with regard to marriage. If love is the glue, I imagine forgiveness is a strong element of this cementing factor. And just like love, forgiveness is a deliberate action. It’s easy to say you love a person. It’s easy to love when the relationship is new and exciting and you feel loving, but as the years press on and the hardships press in, that feeling may wane. And so there are times when you make a choice to love even if you don’t feel loving, just as you forgive even if you don’t feel like it. Both are a deliberate act of the will. Both do wonders to keep your marriage alive and thriving.

Feelings come and go and aren’t always a reliable reality. You have a choice as to how you will behave within your marriage and toward your spouse. You can choose unloving actions or loving ones, you can choose to remain bitter or forgive. And all these deliberate choices can either dismantle or build up your marriage. Your “I do” was an agreement to work hard at something nearly impossible without forgiveness, and fairly impossible without love. But if you learn to persevere and work through each struggle, there’s a greater chance your marriage will grow stronger having overcome them.

This summer many couples will find themselves proclaiming their love at the altar. Since neither one is perfect, I hope their vows include a promise to forgive the offenses of the one they profess to love—as many times as needed. And if they find themselves at a loss, I hope that they seek help from others when needed, and learn how to craft a strong marriage graciously padded with forgiveness and love.

I’ll leave you with this song: Fight For You – by Grayson Reed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lY0cdhDbmt0

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

~ Colossians 3:13

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

~Ephesians 4:31-32

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  1. What is one thing you can think of that needs work in your marriage?
  2. Is there anything you need to forgive?

 

 

A Eulogy for My Best Friend

Jesus_Back_on_The_Cross

This Easter weekend, I’d like to introduce you to someone I’m most fond of. He may be the most misunderstood man who ever lived. But I love him for it, because he’s probably the only man who didn’t care one bit about any of that. And because he didn’t care about what others thought of him, he was unswerving in his life’s purpose.

He didn’t get in the way, like some religious people of his time, and block others from seeing God. He showed up in unlikely places—often with the unpopular—and pointed people to his father. Instead of harsh judgement and criticism, he honoured everyone: men, women, and children, and reached out to those on the outskirts of society who would have appeared unholy, unworthy, and labelled sinners by the “religious”. He showed great compassion and said they were the ones he came to call (see Luke 5:32). He offered healing, grace, love, hope, and peace to anyone who would listen and even offered his very life. He gave all, for all, until his last breath.

He was the most unselfish person the world has ever known. His life was lived for his father’s purposes for the sake of others. Every place he stepped, every action he took, every word he spoke was for another’s benefit. His mission was clear: to show God’s love in a myriad of ways so all could see, hear, and understand his father’s great mercy and love.

The beauty of his unfathomable life is that none of it was typical—nothing you’d expect of a king. That was part of the problem. People found his humanness and humility unfitting. It was difficult to take him seriously and hard to accept that he wouldn’t fit their preconceived idea of God. Those who had spent their whole lives waiting for him, missed him. Those who should have known better, crucified him.

This is how one man explained him:

“He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.”  ~ Isaiah 53:3

In the end, even his closest friends scattered. He died utterly alone, and it appeared his thirty-three years on the earth had amounted to nothing. But I adore the way looks are deceiving, and more than that, how his heart-wrenching obedience changed everything. Because he suffered the most horrific death known to humankind, I was offered a second crack at life—a chance to surrender the life I deemed so dear for a new one with him.

He once said: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30

And there it is, with him I live freely and lightly; the heaviness of all the things I wasn’t meant to carry handed over. My burdens lifted, my sins wiped out, and my mind renewed. All the former things fade in importance for the friendship found in him. And as the load is lifted, love fills the deadened creases of my life. This same love brings with it a breath of freedom and joy, and peace that ignites hope. You can’t describe his beauty. It’s something to behold.

He moves into our tired lives when we let go. But it’s not easy—the letting go. You see it at the cross, this refusal to release. Some hanging on tightly to their position or praise, others hanging on to disbelief, and others to the material things of this world, grasping at anything that seems too precious to leave behind. Because what is known feels safer than launching into the unknown, even if the known is mediocre at best. But all the praise, position, money, best behaviour, or good deeds count for nothing if I reject him.

His radical, life-altering offer is extended to all. No one left behind. No matter where you come from or what you’ve done, you aren’t excluded. His forgiveness is a free, unearned gift, and when you receive it—believe in and trust him—you’re renewed for today and preserved for eternity.

You’re beautifully and unconditionally accepted and adored by the creator of the universe, all because one Easter, over two thousand years ago, Jesus died for you.

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God loves you. There isn’t a thing you can do, or not do, to earn his love. With a simple prayer, you can receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life, and step into tomorrow with him.

Becoming a Lover

photo-1518568814500-bf0f8d125f46With the approach of Valentine’s Day, I’m giving you permission to love. Which is weird, I know, but maybe it needs to be said. Because let’s face it, love can be a little tricky. Mostly because people are tricky and do all sorts of things to make themselves unlovable.

They push love away with their meanness, their messiness, and their thoughtlessness. Maybe it’s a result of their baggage, their wounding, or not knowing any better. Which is sad, because even in the pushing away they really wish to be pulling in. But vulnerability is scary and takes courage, yet without those, love precariously teeters on pretense. To invite love in means to risk rejection or the ache of a broken heart. But love is the very thing our hearts need most.

As much as love can tear us asunder, it can just as easily heal.

Despite love’s glorious complexity, we need to learn to how to love, actually discipline ourselves to love, and chose to love under all circumstances. Every day we’re faced with opportunities to love so there’s no shortage of practice.

Part of love is respect. It’s listening to another’s viewpoint even when we don’t share it, extending kindness to the person whose choices or worldview you disagree with, and not tearing another down needing to prove your point.

Part of love is action. It’s refusing to turn a blind eye to need. It’s serving the stranger, listening to the lonely, and caring for your family.

Part of love is sacrifice. It’s the giving away of all you thought you didn’t have to give. It becomes tangible in the sharing of such things as time, money, or other resources that you could easily withhold.

Part of love is getting dirty. It’s refusing to remain on the sidelines of others’ lives but instead climbing into the trenches with them.

Part of love is bearing with one another and forgiving. It’s choosing to let go of hurt, blame, and shame. Quite often, we even need to learn how to love and forgive ourselves.

As we learn to love unconditionally, we become impervious to the ungracious acts of others. We discipline ourselves to not take offense, or grow upset or bitter, when treatment is less than admirable. And when we do that often enough, we grow loving.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ~ Colossians 3:13

But it’s more than respect, action, sacrifice, getting dirty, putting up with, or forgiving.

Love has to do with faith. Not in the people around you, who you are learning to love, but in the One who first loved you and sacrificed his life in place of yours. Without Christ, and the help of his Holy Spirit, I’d be remarkably unloving. My forgiveness capacity: borderline zero. Even with him it’s a daily struggle, because I prefer not to be mistreated, disrespected, or neglected.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. ~ 1 John 4:18

As God nestles into our hearts, as we draw closer to him, there becomes room for miraculous, perfect love. I say miraculous, because apart from him, there would be little chance of fear-fleeing love. Christ suffered mistreatment, disrespect, and neglect himself. Through him—and the healing nature of his love—we learn to love fearlessly, courageously, habitually, and independent from others’ treatment. What they do, or fail to do, ceases to matter as much, and that protective wall we keep up—just enough to peer over but not let others penetrate— crumbles.

God’s love heals, purifies, strengthens, and perfects. But first, we need to let it in.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

~ Mark 12:30-31

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  1. Have you received God’s offer of love?
  2. What is your greatest barrier to loving God or others?
  3. Ask God to help you love creatively and courageously today.