Tag Archives: friendships

Freedom to feel forgiven

19 Jan

For years, I tried to repent to God for my sins, and then wrestled with the emptiness of not feeling “forgiven.”

Partially, that unsettled confusion inside of us is one of the many tricks of Satan.  He likes to convince us that because we have a memory of our past sins, then we’re not forgiven of it.  That’s a lie.  But it’s one many of us secretly believe in some form or fashion over the course of our lives, even if we think we don’t – or don’t admit it out loud.

Having a memory doesn’t mean we aren’t forgiven. Instead, it truly can serve to be a blessing from God to help us refrain from making the same mistakes.  Consequences are good for us, and God rarely allows us to escape them because they help mold and shape our future actions.  It’s so much easier to repent and truly walk away from a sinful behavior with a memory of the action and consequences.

However, I’m going to talk about the other less mentioned reason for why we often don’t feel forgiven.

I John 1:9    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Sometimes confession of our sin can and will simply be to God alone.  But there are other times when our souls are not at rest and the guilt remains a burden to us because we know, we’ve sinned not just against God, but against someone else.

God created us for fellowship.  We NEED each other.  The two greatest commandments are to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.

So we know that God takes the communion and interaction of the body very seriously.

As much as it pains me to say this, because it’s hard to do, there will be times when forgiveness will not come, freedom will not come, and joy will not return until you confess your sins to God, and also to those your sin affected.

I’ve had to taste this medicine a LOT in the last 5 years.  I hate it.  It never gets “easy” to tell someone you sinned against them.  It’s humbling.

But as my husband told me once when I was confessing something to him that gave me the courage to spit it out, was something along the lines of  “There is freedom in the light, and bondage in the darkness. Just say it and bring it to light so you can let it go.”

There is no way to control how someone will we react.  They might be angry, they might need time, and they might forgive quickly. In my experience, I may have felt sad over the broken relationship when someone wasn’t willing to forgive quickly, however, the freedom of true forgiveness has always flooded me immediately upon confession – WHEN it’s a sin I’m repenting or have repented of committing.  ((There is not immediate freedom of guilt and a flooding of forgiveness when we confess sins but willingly continue committing them.))

I’ve had to confess a lot of sins in the past — but I’ll be square with you.  I just had to do this a couple of hours ago.  Yesterday, my emotions got the best of me, and I wasn’t speaking as loving as I should have to my husband, and sadly, someone over heard me.  I wasn’t yelling, but I wasn’t speaking with the respect that I’ve learned to use when interacting with my husband.  I let my emotions get the best of me, and I hurt my husband, and I gave a poor representation of our marriage, and of God’s work in our lives.

So, I apologized to my husband and he forgave me yesterday.  However, I was still unsettled and I knew what I had to do.  I had to apologize to the person who overheard us.  Not only because it was the right thing to do for my husband, (because it is VERY, VERY embarrassing for a man to be spoken to with any form of disrespect, especially in front of another man) I wanted to put some honor back in his heart, but also because this man is a Christian friend of ours and it was sinful for us to claim to be friends he could count on to pray for him, his marriage and his kids when we were misrepresenting Christ in his presence.

So, I apologized.  And I immediately felt forgiven by Christ and that guilt left me.  And he also was very gracious and forgave me immediately.  As I expected, he minimized the sin as if he didn’t even notice, but that wasn’t the point.  It didn’t matter if HE realized I sinned, *I* knew I had.

And that’s the other trick of Satan that keeps us in bondage.  The lie that the other person doesn’t even know they were sinned against, is already over, won’t forgive, or any other scenario where we convince ourselves that we shouldn’t confess our sins to the people we sin against.

Practical Application

Just to tie it all back together – we feel guilty and un-forgiven when Satan lies to us that our memory means we can’t move past sin or when excuses serve as reasonable sidesteps for not confessing sin to others.

So if you want to feel the freedom of forgiveness and to truly walk away from the guilt –

1.) Look at consequences and memory as a GIFT from God to help us truly repent of sin.

2.) Confess your sins to those you’ve sinned against.

A Bullet.

8 Jan

Wow — have your kids ever said something so simple and yet it resounds in your mind as the most profound thing you’ve ever heard???

That happened to me today when I was making lunch.  My husband’s parents got my boys these really awesome Nerf guns for Christmas and my daughter brought one into the kitchen where I was standing.  She proclaimed in her ‘mean, manly voice’, “I’m gonna get you Mama.”

I cry out “No, no, don’t shoot me, we’re friends. You don’t want to hurt your friend.”

To which she replies, “Yes, I do.  If I put a bullet in you, then we’ll be friends forever.”

She’s three years old.  And on first look at that, the simple sentence alone isn’t an earth-shaking statement.  It’s almost humorous her little innocence in trying to come up with a way to make it sound “fun” to shoot me so I’ll play along with her more.

But I got to thinking, is that how friendship works?  I’ll put a bullet in you, and if you live, we’ll be friends for life?

Well, maybe.

I mean, we do hurt the ones we love the most, right?  It’s why family feuds are the longest lasting and most bitter fights of all time.  Because we know where to hit each other to make them bleed the worst, AND we love each other so much that the bullet actually penetrates and really hurts instead of just bouncing off.

The wounds we inflict on each other kill each other and ruin relationships. (We give life or death with our words like the Bible speaks of when describing the power of the tongue.)

But those relationships that experience forgiveness for wounds and are brought back to life again through the revival of mercy and grace – those relationships mean the absolute most to us in the long run.

When I think of my husband, the reason I love him so much is because I know I’ve really hurt him.  I know I haven’t always been a good wife, or even a decent wife and I know that I’ve said hurtful things and threw punches verbally and spiritually below the belt a few times, and yet — he has extended forgiveness time and time again, with no long-standing consequences that he holds over my head.  When it’s over for him, it’s totally over.

How could he love me like that?  How could he forgive me like that?  How could he show mercy like that?  How could he be humble like that?

It cements my feelings for him to recall his patience, forgiveness, grace and love toward me.

He’s taken a bullet from me (more than once) – and instead of remaining dead, he chose life and forgave me.

And in my heart, that makes him my best friend for life.

Practical Application:

Spend some time thinking about your closest relationships?  Are they with people you have never, ever had a disagreement or issue with, EVER?  Or are they with people who you’ve had to disagree, argue, forgive, ask forgiveness, show grace and show mercy to?

How does that make you feel about those you haven’t chosen life with yet?  And what could that mean for your future with them?

A new community.

26 Aug

I wrote awhile back about “sheltering” our kids in a good way from the things that really are only harmful to them and don’t produce good fruit in their lives. Through that post, I had realized how sheltered I had become myself. And honestly, it hasn’t been a bad thing.

In that sheltered environment, I grew tremendously in my wisdom of not only who God truly is, but what His word has to say. For the most part, for the last 5 1/2 years, (since I quit working outside the home) all of my friends and people I have any real interaction with have all been Christians. And not even just infant Christians, but believers striving for maturity. It has sharpened me just as promised in Scripture that “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Already, through the idea this summer that our kids would be attending public school, and the months of baseball – we’ve been in a new environment. I’m learning how to and making quite a few friends who are not Christians, or who think because they believe that God exists that they are Christians.

These friends will not replace my other friends. And they will never become my best friends. We know that Scripture warns us that “Bad company corrupts good morals” and that if we think it won’t happen to us, we’re a fool.

However, I feel like I wasn’t quite ready for what God called us to do. I’m learning VERY quickly that this switch to public school was to get us in contact with some families that we wouldn’t have otherwise known. It’s the chance to step out of our bubble of protection and do real life with some of the unsaved, not only to be a light but to actually share the gospel with them on a one on one basis.

I’m not suggesting that the bubble we were in before was wrong. Absolutely not. It was crucial to helping reach a better level of maturity before starting this journey.
Five years ago, I might have jumped right in on the gossip train that has already rolled past me 157 times this summer. I might have been so desperate for friends because I was staying home and felt a loss of myself with my career change that I’d have allowed too much of the ungodly influence into a position in my heart that it doesn’t belong. Or I might have been too judgmental and not allowed some of these people to be right where they are, and love them through it. It is a tough balance to let people realize “I’m not exactly like you, but I like you.”

All I know is that Saturday night, I got to have a fantastic talk with a new “friend” of mine who was sharing how her son asked them to pray before supper and wants to try Wednesday night church because of some of the thing my son Jayden shared with him when they had him spend the night. She was telling me how Jayden told her son that “God” is a cuss word. And a few other things that made me so incredibly proud of my son I could just burst open! I had already been working on her to come to church with us.
She called around a bunch of places in town, and is trying to get her son involved on Wednesday nights and said that she and her husband will try to go to church once a month wherever the kids end up going to be more involved.

To some, that might sound like a waste. Like she’s not really in it. Who cares about once a month?

I care. It takes one Sunday – one encounter with Christ to change your life forever. And to see this family changed would make this whole public school journey WORTH IT!

Practical application –

Look around. You’re right where you are for a reason. And you didn’t get there without your situations being filtered through God’s hands. What does He want you to do? What fears does that bring up? How are you going to have to step out of your comfort zone? When will the opportunities arise for you to be faithful and follow through?

Best Friends

13 Jun

My best friend use to live 20 minutes from me.  Last August, she moved two hours away.  It was a really rough time.  Two hours really isn’t that far, so visiting is possible whenever we really need too…. but it’s just far enough that weekly playdates all summer long are out of the question.  Running out to grab a cup of coffee together after a really bad day is not an option.  And getting the family together for a cookout, is a planned vacation which actually has to be budgeted now with gas at $4 a gallon for a four-hour round trip!

I’m still glad she doesn’t live 10 hours away! But it’s been an adjustment.

I think the reality that distance might separate us, cause us to drift, or circumstantially allow for either of us to grow closer  in a friendship with someone else has been present since she moved away.   Why?  Because that’s the way it always goes for me.

In my life, up until I became friends with Steph, I have had 4 best friends in my life.

My first two best friends and I grew apart as we grew up.  We joined different crowds, participated in different activities in school, and just went different directions.

It’s funny now, because the one girl’s (now) husband use to work at a college I started working at and he  introduced me to my husband, shortly after that, they met, he went back to school, ended up pastoring at my old church and we rekindled our friendship.  Now, THEY live like 2-3 hours from us again, but I’d still consider her one of my very dear friends! In fact, they came back last year and performed and helped with our vow renewal.  It was so great.

The other girl was my friend at a very early age, and then we didn’t talk much until we were juniors in high school again. She became my maid of honor when I got married and then fell of the face of the earth a month later.  She sent me a card eventually that said it was weird that she was young and undecided what to do with her life and I was married, so she just backed away.  It was really hurtful.  Since growing up and Facebook became so popular, we’re friends on there now, but we haven’t talked in person in MANY years.

My third best friend was only my best friend during 5th – 8th grade.  She filled that gap when the first two girls and I were drifting apart.

And my fourth best friend and I had a pretty devastating misunderstanding, and it ruined our friendship immediately.  That was awful.  Something I never hope I ever experience again.  Only because of Jesus and His healing power have we both forgiven each other and are speaking again since last summer.

In the last (almost) 30 years, I’ve had a million more friends.  And I can remember even saying “she’s like my best friend” but either something kept us from being similar enough to almost always be on the same page, or one of us had a best friend already at the time so you knew they might be your best friend but your weren’t their best friend type of thing.

I say all this to share that, friendships come and go in life all the time.  Sometimes people were only meant to be in our lives for a season. And other times, time or distance just separates us. But I think we all (especially women) need friends and long to have a best friend.   And for some reason, they aren’t easy to find.

Either we’ve been burned before and we’re afraid.  We can’t find anyone we are similar enough with to withstand that intimate of a friendship.  We have different schedules or are at different stages or seasons of life.  The spouses don’t care for each other (that’s the WORST one of all!!)  There are tons of reasons.

But I know that as long as I’ve lived, I wish I had a best friend for life.  Something about that is so appealing.  I feel like we were made to be loyal.  We were designed to be faithful and intimate with our Savior, our Spouses, our Christian family, and our friends.  So a life-long friendship is extremely desirable!

And I must not be alone, because the movies with those type of themes are always so popular.  Where either two girls or two guys grow up as neighbors and are friends for life.  Or even, a guy and a girl and they are friends who secretly love each other but never tell each other and somehow eventually get married.

My best friend has a daughter who is 5 months older than my daughter.  They are silly adorable together.  I took so many pictures of them together the last three days when they came down to visit.

The chances that they’ll be life long friends is slim.  I doubt their mom’s being friends who live two hours apart if going to force a fantastic bond, but on the off-chance that they build a great friendship of their own, and one day become each others maid of honor, we’ll have all these adorable pictures of them together since birth to share 🙂  Like this one:

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I suppose the only way we can help them be best friends some day is to model a good best friendship for them, and teach them how to be a good friend.

And maybe today’s practical application can be a self-test of how we’re doing in our friendships – not just with our best friends, but with all our friends.

Practical Application:

1.) Do I keep in touch and check in on my friends?

2.) Do I care about what is important to them?

3.) Do I value their opinions, insights and ideas?

4.) Do I keep their secrets?

5.) Do I give honest, Godly advice?

6.) Am I being the kind of friend I hope to have in my life?

 

Sheltered

31 May

A few months ago, a friend of mine who just went back to work in a hospital after being a stay at home mom for seven or so years said to me “I didn’t realize how sheltered I was.  You should hear these women talk.  They curse like nobodies business and gossip constantly, even to me, on my first couple days of training.  It was like culture shock.”

I thought about what she said and realized, my kids are sheltered – but *I’m* extremely sheltered as well, maybe even more than them.

In the last two days, I listened to a song on YouTube that a friend told me to listen to and I couldn’t believe it.  And then, I turned on the news today on the television (something I haven’t done in YEARS) and the VERY first thing I saw was a commercial for a new television show called “Mistresses.”

The commercial, playing at noon, had mostly naked women rolling on top of men without shirts on in what I would classify as nothing less than pornography.  So if the name wasn’t enough to get you, the visual display sure would.

(Here is the trailer – DO NOT WATCH with children near your computer!! – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4V-Z7u_Bw08 )

I was dumbfounded.

And felt intense relief that my children were NOT in the room when I turned the TV on, again – at NOON to watch THE NEWS.

Being sheltered has a REALLY bad wrap.  Whenever I tell anyone that we send our kids to private Christian school, or that friends of ours home school, there is a list of at least 5 objections – but the number one is ALWAYS “they’re going to be so sheltered, socially awkward and go crazy in college.”

I disagree.

I suppose if there is not active parenting, then the chances of that are much higher.  But for every ridiculously crazy “kid gone wild” story you’ve heard – there are many more out there of kids who didn’t do that as well.

Classic case of judging a group by the acts of one member.

Anyway, the maturity level of a college kid often plays into the failure of giving into temptations – but not always.  I know plenty of adults who succumb to peer pressure very easily.  I have, plenty of times.

I actually think being sheltered helps aid in the success of not going wild.

Here me out.

Do you know why that song and that commercial bothered me so much?  Because I NEVER, EVER see or hear things like that.  And so it was VERY easy and EXTREMELY obvious that those were disturbing, wrong and inappropriate.

I remember when I use to cuss constantly.  There was a time when someone said “did you hear what she just said?”  And I hadn’t.  There was nothing obvious about the curse word because it was a part of my every day life.

Now however, I can’t watch a single rated R movie, and VERY limited PG 13 ones because if there is any cussing, it drives me crazy!!  Especially useless cursing.

Let me clarify incase this is being read wrong, I do not believe sheltered is the same as uneducated.

Being uneducated is dangerous.  It’s wise to know what is happening in the world. We can’t make proper choices if we are unaware of the circumstances of the situations and world we live in.

But being sheltered means creating a safe environment where one can thrive in Christ without being friends with the world.

Think about it –

The definition of shelter is – a dwelling place or home considered as a refuge from the elements.

Why wouldn’t we all want to be sheltered from the evil elements of this world?

If today has left me with nothing else – it has left me with an even greater urgency to pray for my husband who is out in the world more often than I am and to make sure our home is a safe shelter.

Practical Application:

Accept being called “sheltered” as a positive thing instead of an insult.

Rejoice in and preserve the shelter of our home, keeping it safe and free from dangers to our spiritual health.

Pray more earnestly for my husband who faces the elements on a more regular basis.

Guilty of Gossip

28 May

So & so did such & such & I felt/think _____ about it.

I think there is a very good chance that everyone is guilty of gossip at some point in their life. Male, female, young, old, every race and culture are all familiar with this deadly little sin that is so horrific & sneaky that most people don’t even realize they are gossiping or being gossiped to when it happens.

There are two times in my life when I’m most tempted to gossip.

1.) When I’m hurt by someone.

It is really hard to resist the urge to share in grave detail the situation when I feel hurt, disappointed, wrongly judged or mistreated. Something happens in me that demands for my side to be heard. I desire some justification to the situation. I want someone to agree with me that how I feel is validated and only natural. I want someone to tell me “I have rights” and I don’t have to put up with it. Or at the very least, feel sorry for me for how bad I have it or the sad situation I have to put up with.  I just want to say everything I think and feel to someone who will understand and not try to tell me that I *can’t* feel that way.

2.) When I know that myself and someone else have a mutual dislike or opinion about someone else.

When I experience or hear something about someone I don’t really care for, have a bad relationship with, has hurt someone else I care about, I think makes bad choices and I know someone else agrees with me – it’s so easy to share.  It rolls easily off the tongue and sadly, often leaves me feeling pleasure of some sort. (That feeling never lasts – like all sins of the flesh, it’s only good for a short time and then you’re left in a worse state than before.)

For those of us not living consciously about gossip, we may not even mean to “gossip” when we do. But that doesn’t make it any less wrong.

When we are gossiping, we tell intimate details about others.

Think about this. When your spouse wrongs you and you share it with a friend, do you leave out even a single detail? Usually not. That friend probably knows every single sentence that was spoken and all of your emotions and feelings of being completely devastated by the situation.

When reconciliation happens with your spouse. How often do you share every single detail? What usually happens is we say “Oh, he said this and I said this and we worked it all out. We’re good.”

Now let’s think about what happened for the friend who heard the gossip.

1.) They rarely hear all the incredible details of every day life, but they have now heard intimate and private mistakes and failures about someone and how intensely it hurt someone else that they care about.

2.) They get a quick spun version of the reconciliation, which was probably full of some admission of fault on your part and how much you might have hurt your spouse too (because fighting is NEVER one-sided) and the situation can appear to be that you just “gave in and put up with that jerk.”

3.) Their perception of your spouse is based mostly on failures.

This happens as much as, if not MORE often with friendships. When we talk about people we don’t like to other people, we rarely give a glimpse of any good qualities they may possess. We make them look despicable, evil, malicious, violent, untrustworthy, dishonest, unfaithful, and cruel.

We are allowing our feelings about their mistakes to define them. God help us all if anyone only has a vision of who we are based solely on how someone else feels about our mistakes.

It doesn’t matter what they’ve done or how they’ve hurt me, how I feel about their sin IS NOT a true picture of them, nor is it how God defines them.

Ponder this for a minute. Think about two people who don’t get along with each other.  Now imagine how each of them might make the other sound to you.

It leads me to ask, which one is painting a true picture of the other?

The person you hear from first? The person you are friends with? (Because you know your friend, there is NO WAY they could possibly be leading you on by their raw emotions, all they speak is facts in the midst of their hurt and they never ever hurt other people.) The person who sounds most convincing?

There is no way any person is truly describing the situation in the most honest form when they are:

1.) Placing all the blame on someone else.

2.) Trying to negatively alter your perception of someone.

3.) Exposing someones mistakes as the definition of who they *are* as a human, not just something they have done.

4.) Seem to be gaining satisfaction in getting dirt off their chest or fuel to empower themselves.

5.) Sharing rumors or facts about someone other than themselves that are not edifying to the person they are talking about.

I would love to say that this only happens among unbelievers. But that would be a bold face LIE! Believers can be trapped in this battle as quickly as if not more quickly than unbelievers. Somehow, Satan has convinced us to be crafty in naming it something else. And we have bought into the notion that as long as we do that, it is no longer gossip or sin.

We’ve disguised gossip as:

~ A prayer request.

~ Venting.

~ Seeking advice from a friend.

~ Just giving someone a heads up of the situation.

I do believe seeking advice or counsel from someone when you just feel overwhelmed or defeated by a certain person or situation is definitely a wise thing to do.

But this takes a lot of prayer and discretion. Some things to keep in mind.

1.) One person is enough. (Unless they tell you they feel like they cannot help you in this situation and would like to bring in someone who has more expertise {like dealing with an abusive spouse or something like that}) If you need to tell more than one person, you need to check to make sure your motives REALLY ARE to seek help and counsel, or something from the earlier mentioned list.

2.) Choose someone who DOES NOT KNOW the person you are having an issue with. (You don’t want to alter someone elses perception of someone or give them a reason to find fault or offense.) Don’t go to someone in your church about someone else in your church. Don’t go to a family member about another family member. This is especially true of your spouse. If you share your deepest hurts with your mom, chances are she is going to have a harder time not judging and also forgiving even long after you’re over the problem.

3.) Choose someone who will help you see YOUR sin in the situation. Many fights between spouses escalate or in some way involve the husband feeling disrespected or the wife feeling unloved. When telling the story, you want someone who will not be bias, and will help you see where you can correct your behavior as well as help you let go of your own hurt and show grace. All too often we want to choose someone who will throw their hands in the air and say “You shouldn’t put up with that. I can’t believe he/she treated you that way. You deserve better. I can’t believe what a jerk they are.” This is NOT Godly council.

Practical Application:

~ Confess any instances where I have been or currently am caught up in gossip.

~ Pray over and make a list of anyone I may have wrongly judged based solely on the testimony of someone who didn’t like them or was hurt by them.

~ When tempted to talk about someone, take time to make sure I have the right reasons in mind and I really consider who would be a wise choice for the situation at hand.

~ When listening to my friends, be aware of the “why” behind what they are sharing, and stop the conversation if it is not to seek true Godly help, including seeing their own mistakes and sins.

~ Be the kind of friend who GIVES Godly council instead of fuels the hurt fire.

Refreshing!

26 Feb

Saturday night was our first women’s rally at our 6 month old church.  It was AWESOME!! We had 145 women there, and it was such a blast.  We had giveaways, comedy, a wonderful message brought by our Pastor’s wife, snacks, jewelry for purchase (SO CUTE!), a hair & nails room, AND a room for arm and neck massages!

But none of that would have been any fun without this truth.

Everyone, and I’m not being generous with my wording to cover for some people, I literally mean EVERYONE, was SO awesome and friendly toward each other.

See, since we’re just starting out… there isn’t this long history or “knowledge” on each other.  Be it old, new, true, lies, rumors, gossip, experience…. we just simply don’t have it.  And so our pasts are not a stumbling block.  We’re all new.  And that’s how we see each other.

We don’t have long histories of friendships.  Some of the women from the church have been friends for a long time, but that’s the exception, not the rule.  And those women have been nothing short of wonderful to never make anyone feel like they don’t fit in or are not welcome in their group of friends.  In other words, there aren’t any “clicks.”

Everyone who is attending the church is either driven by a strong determination to share Christ with those who don’t know Him, or are just meeting Christ…. which is the PERFECT recipe for lives totally sold out for Kingdom work. We don’t have people who have been “pew sitters” for 15 years, because we’re 6 months old.

We have A LOT of work to do, so there is a spot for everyone.  If you have a heart to serve and help, there IS a spot for you.  You don’t have to sit on the sidelines and put in 10 years of time before you can be recognized and put in a spot to serve.  And better than that – the people attending the church WANT to serve.  We don’t have 10% of the people doing 90% of the work.

I left Saturday night feeling SO refreshed.  My Facebook went NUTS on Sunday and Monday.  I have 15 + new friends on there and over 100 notifications!  I can’t help but sit and weep.

I spent 11 years at a church struggling to make any real friends (especially my age), being judged and accused over past sins and false rumors & gossip, having a split in the church of people who were either friends with “this group” or “that group” because of people picking up other people’s offenses instead of pointing them to forgiveness, and a lack of true hunger for God and His word.

I know our church is new.  And everything is good when it’s new.

So, it’s RIGHT NOW (not after the fact) that we need to be extremely intentional about implementing safety nets, standards, and preventative road blocks from allowing our church to end up like every other church out there.

Practical Application

Talk about this openly and honestly.

Pray & ask for God’s help.

Put things into action now!

 

** If I described your church, I don’t believe it is too late to change if you really seek God’s face and call on others one at a time to get them on board with your vision – you can turn your church back around.  It only takes one person who is willing to sacrifice.