What is forgiveness?

Today I was watching a bit of TV and this question was posed between two characters. The one hoped it was a clean slate, having others forget what happened, no longer needing to feel bad about something. The other character didn’t know if that was possible. That would mean the deed was undone and that can’t happen.

I’m so grateful for forgiveness. While, as a human, I may not forget what someone did, I can be free from bitterness and bad feelings about it. And sometimes I even forget.

Scripture tells me that is the reason Jesus humbled himself, came to earth and went to the cross to die a shameful death — to forgive me.

13You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.

Colossians 2:13-15

This feels really complete to me — canceling the charges, taking it away, disarming spiritual authorities, shaming them publically — it seems to me he erases the record making it like it never happened. I can stop feeling bad about it and maybe others will even forget what I did!

Now that’s a great way to begin (or end) this Tuesday!

I am going to get myself in trouble. I see the calendar says it is March and religious material tells me it is Lent. Putting those two things together, I expect for spring to be just around the corner with flowers poking through the ground and the temperatures rising. Every year I expect this and every year I am disappointed. It seems the cold in northern Indiana hangs on for a long time.

A reality check is in order. And not just in regard to the arrival of spring and warm weather. I am challenged to do a reality check in other areas as well.

Having been nurtured in a Christian environment that did not celebrate Lent – the forty days leading up to Easter – I did not develop the habit of celebrating Fat Tuesday, giving up meat on Fridays or fasting from something for forty days. The last number of years, I focused more intentionally on preparing my heart for Easter when the Christian church celebrates Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection — the cornerstone of Christian faith.

This year I chose a 40 day reading plan from the You Version Bible app. The readings and devotionals bless me and challenge me to think. (During my first year of teaching at a private Christian school, one of my students complained that I made him think! Horrors! He had to think in school!)

Anyway, I just finished reading a book entitled The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. It is the story of a boy born with ocular albinism – his eyes were red. His mother was devoutly religious and saw all of life through that lens, including her son born with red eyes. She told him he was destined for an extraordinary life. Sam did not experience life quite like that and struggled with how this thing that made him different could be God’s will or the foundation of an extraordinary life. What really controlled his life?

In my readings for Lent, the author contrasted Mary’s extravagent worship of Jesus with Judas’ betrayal. Judas was afraid that Jesus wasn’t going to come through on his promise of a new kingdom. How could he be ushering in a new kingdom when he talked about dying on a cross? Fearing reprisal from religious leaders, Judas did what made sense to him. He lost faith that God was in control.

As I read, I found myself exposed. Judas thought the religious leaders controlled his future. Sam Hell did not see how his experiences were “God’s will.” I sometimes believe that people or circumstances control my future. I am tempted to fall into the pattern of making decisions based in fear rather than faith in my kind, loving and sovereign Father.

27And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son. . .

Romans 8:27-29

Today I am reorienting myself to my true North, to place my faith in a loving, kind, compassionate, interested and involved Father in Heaven who controls my destiny, my future. It isn’t people. It isn’t circumstances. I rest in Him!

Vacation week!! Please check back again in a week when I will resume my normal posting.

Have a great week!

Recently I was reminded that laughter really is the best medicine. Not only does it provide short term benefits such as extra oxygen, lowering stress and releasing feel good hormones in the brain, it provides long term benefits as well. Immunity support, pain relief and improved mood are just a few of the long term benefits.

A few weeks ago, a group of women met for a few hours at a local venue. As we chatted and shared our lives, we also laughed. At one point, the inevitable happened. I had just taken a drink of water and one of the women said something that hit a funny bone in me. But I had my mouth full of water. My choices were 1) choke on the water or 2) spit it out. I opted to spit it out. And then I laughed until I cried. I went home a new woman! Relaxed with plenty of feel good hormones flooding my brain.

If you are concerned your life is short on laughter there are ways to remedy it. Reading comics or stories that tickle your funny bone can be placed where you will see them often. Find movies, books or comedians that make you laugh. Spend more time with people who make you laugh. Learn to laugh at yourself.

Scripture has much to say about the benefits of laughter. So get laughing! You will be glad you did!

22A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

Proverbs 17:22

Children provide a great deal of entertainment — even when they are being absolutely serious and horrified about something. It behooves me to contain my laughter when my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter shakes her finger or stomps her foot in indignation.

Last evening was classic. She and her sister had spent the day with their Nana and Papa while I gadded about with my oldest daughter who celebrated her birthday on Twosday, 2/22/22. We enjoyed time at the beach and a delightful dinner in a Italian restaurant after which we gathered the girls and returned home. Harper, the youngest, went into the bedroom and stopped abruptly, putting her hands on her hips. She turned to me and said, “Grandma! Come here!”

I quickly went into see what was the matter. She pointed indignantly at her bed and asked, “Who did that?” Piled on her bed were all the pillows from the queen bed plus some making it impossible for her to lay down or find her stuffies and blanket. I immediately said I didn’t know. She pursued her mother, asking her the same pointed question. Emily quietly said, “I think I did that.”

Harper didn’t miss a beat and looked at her with all the disgust she could muster and said, “Mom! Are you serious?”

“Yeah!” Emily responded. Completely serious, Harper said, “Mom! You’re rude!”

We held it together but have laughed more than once about that today.

I imagine God feels the same way at times. We see life and what we think we can do or what others can do and we believe we understand the whole picture. This is what scripture says.

1Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? 2The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one. 3“Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.” 4But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them.

Psalm 2:1-4

13But the Lord just laughs, for he sees their day of judgment coming.

Psalm 37:13

When my grandchildren make me laugh, I don’t laugh at them in a malicious way. I don’t think the Lord is laughing at us maliciously either. Just as my adult perspective finds humor in children’s indignation, he sees the futility of our human plans and plots. He knows we aren’t seeing the whole picture and our indignation is often misplaced.

Trust today that God sees the whole picture. If something seems well planned against you, remember God just might be shaking his head and laughing at those well laid plans. He knows the end of all things. Rest in him and, maybe, just maybe, laugh at yourself today.

Did anyone capture the date and time yesterday when it all coincided? 2:22 p.m. on 2/22/22? My brother was on a Zoom call and was able to click a photo during that one minute. As we anticipated the minute when all numbers would be two, my mother asked if something was supposed to happen. No. There wasn’t anything predicted to happen. It is just a moment in time when all the numbers are the same. Imagine turning 22 on 2/22/22 at 2:22! That is a Golden Birthday for sure!

The future. No matter if it is in two minutes, two days or two months, we worry. We worry what life will be like for us. We worry what life will be like for our children and grandchildren. We worry if there will be any natural resources left. We worry if there will be freedom to enjoy. We worry — about everything.

The woman in Proverbs 31 did not. As a matter of fact, it says she laughs.

25She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

Proverbs 31:25

I haven’t always been the type of person who laughs at the future. I have worried. I have feared. It is difficult to laugh.

Perhaps that is because I felt responsible for the future. Responsible for what will come, what will happen. In some ways, I suppose I am. In most ways, I am not. In the writing of Isaiah the prophet, the Lord challenges the idols saying, “Yes, tell us what will occur in the days ahead. Then we will know you are gods. In fact, do anything—good or bad!” (Isaiah 41:23) No one knows what is coming except the Lord. He has a plan for us and it is good! This is what he says about his children:

9I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. 10Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:9-10

When I consider who holds me, I can laugh at the future. I don’t need to fear anything because I know that his strength is mine. I am held up by his hand. All will be well.

Does the future look frightening to you today? Are you able to recognize who holds you and that all is well? There is nothing to fear, so go ahead and laugh!

17Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” 

Genesis 17:17

12So she laughed silently to herself and said, “How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?”

Genesis 18:12

Are you ever tempted to laugh at what you hear the Lord speak to your heart? Does unbelief make more sense than walking in faith?

I get it. I have been there. So have these men and women of ancient times. I believe their reactions to God’s promise are preserved for us to learn. We need to know that we aren’t the only ones.

Today as you greet the morning, it’s okay to wonder. We all do. God’s promise didn’t change just because Abraham and Sarah didn’t see how it could be worked out. Neither does his plan for your life. You don’t have to understand how he is going to accomplish his promise to you. It’s your privilege to just rest in the work he is doing.

A week of short challenges are ahead for us.

2We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.” 3Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy!

Psalm 126:2-3

Years ago, I was showing my brother-in-law around the area where we live. At one particular stop in a small town near us, he went in to scope out what the country store offered. When he came out, he said to me, “Well, the joy of the Lord is my strength,” in a very sarcastic tone. I looked at him with a question in my eyes. He noted the woman failed to share the joy of Jesus even though she appeared to be quite religious.

It’s easy to be religious; much more difficult to be amazed by the Lord.

What does your life speak to others? Do you overflow with joy? Do you notice what the Lord has done in your life? Are you filled with laughter?

17For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

Zephaniah 3:17

This is one of my favorite pictures in scripture. It is intimacy, love, security and joy all wrapped up into one grand image of God’s heart toward his children. Just as a child, nestled in her parent’s arms, is soothed by the soft song of love sung over her, God holds me. He calms my fears. He soothes my worries. He sings songs of love over me.

In the past, I wrote regarding God’s voice in my life. It is quiet, surprising, expected, extravagant and humble all at the same time. It is the rustling of the birds through the trees; it is the waves rythmically moving in and out on the beach; it is the laughter of children; it is the quietness of butterflies; it is the breeze in the trees. I don’t want to miss a single moment or any whisper of God’s love for me.

That is my prayer for you today. May your hearts be filled with the knowledge and power of his loving presence in all of its magnificent calm.

What will you do to ensure you don’t miss a single thing?

My daughter is a nurse for the breast cancer surgeons in our area. Twice a week, she goes into the operating room with one of the surgeons and assists. She holds retractors and whatever else is required to ensure the doctor is successful. When the surgical portion of the procedure is finished, my daughter closes the wound. She took special training to qualify as the closer, practicing different types of stitches and closure methods on simulated skin. In my next life, I want to be like her.

Never has she ever been asked to do the surgery. That isn’t her role. The surgeon begins the task and makes sure it is finished properly.

The patient is the passive participant. Never ever does the patient assist with her own surgery. She succombs to the effect of anesthesia and cooperates as the surgeon does the work.

Many parallels exist between life and the operating room. Listen to Paul’s words from his letter to the Christians in Philippi.

6And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Philippians 1:6

There is a work necessary in each of our lives to restore the relationship between created and Creator. I often imagine I have an active role in this restoration, but I am not sure it depends as much on me as I think. It is God who initiates the action — he sent Jesus. It is up to me to receive the free gift God offers that restores me in relationship to the Father. After that, God sets out on a mission to restore me to the image of Jesus. In this process, I passively cooperate but I am not actively doing the work. That is God.

He is the one who cleans, washes, restores, builds up and tears down. I show up and he does he work in me.

Like with surgery. I show up, cooperate with the doctors but they do the work.

Maybe this doesn’t resonate with you but I find that the deep work of healing occurs in quiet moments with God. Usually accompanied by many tears, he does this work inside that I can’t even begin to imagine. I can’t explain it. I don’t know what it is. I just know I am different. The bitterness and hatred is gone. The gentleness and kindness is restored.

Get out of the way; submit to him, follow his leading and he will finish what he started.