no straight lines

empty-parking-lot.jpegA couple days ago I was in a virtually empty parking lot and as I looked down through the spaces I could see that not all the lines were perfectly straight. I know for sure that the lines that were drawn work great and that no one would look at the job that the line-painters did and ask for a re-do or a refund. I think that when it gets right down to it we all understand just how hard it is, even with help, to be perfect in anything.

My immediate reaction to these thoughts was to “social media” this out: “We cannot, with our bare hands, draw a straight line or draw a perfect circle. It is by and for grace that we were not meant to.”Receiving grace from another is a blessing and giving grace to one another is, I believe, a blessed obligation. Why is that?

A good friend of mine claims that we are all striving to return to Eden. He’s referring to the Garden of Eden in the Bible. Whether you believe that the Garden was an actual place where God created Adam and Eve, or a poetic symbol of a pure and simple time with fresh wonder and partnership, I believe that we could all find some truth to that claim. I also believe, in the context of our human journey, that with each breath everyone of us is given the chance for grace and to give grace; and that grace ultimately leads to redemption.

Be it redemption to right action, to regaining self-confidence, to restoring peace in relationships or finding the joy in giving and forgiving, there is much to be done. And do we not have a responsibility to point each other in the best direction that we know? Divinely, we were not made with the capacity for perfection. Indeed none of us can claim to have lived a straight line, but this need not be the focus when grace is available to us at every turn to restore, to inspire, and to redeem. For all the grace that you have been given… give those around you that draw less-than-perfect-lines some of that grace.

Luke 12:48 “Everyone to whom much was given, of them much will be required,”

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forgiveness #3 – a new breath

“Only if you first seek inner forgiveness will your confrontation be temperate, wise, and gracious. Only when you have lost the need to see the other person hurt will you have any chance of actually bringing about change, reconciliation, and healing. You have to submit to the costly suffering and death of forgiveness if there is going to be any resurrection.” – Tim Keller in “Reason for God”.

This gives us a clear picture that in order to fully forgive, we must let a piece of ourselves die. And what for? Because there is new life on the other side. When a mother nurses her baby, her body will actually take vital nutrients from itself and put them into the babies milk. Now let’s take it all the way to our breath. We need fresh air to live, and that means we must let go of the old air, for we cannot be sustained on that. We need THIS breath for right now.

You may or may not believe in the Bible’s story of Jesus, but allow me to use it as a powerful image of how forgiveness gives new life, even if at a cost. It is as follows: Jesus came with a powerful message of love as opposed to law: of opportunity as opposed to obligation. The extent of Jesus’ claims angered the powerful people of that day and so they had Him killed. As He was dying, He said the words “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” What a powerful phrase. Unimaginable forgiveness was given with His last exhaled breath.
So what happened next? The Bible says that three days later there was a resurrection of life. Can you picture what that might look like? That suddenly, on the other side of forgiveness, a gasp of breath as fresh air fills empty lungs, eyes blink open searching for light, and a once broken heart roars back into action. All that had been heaped upon that body, mind and heart was now gone and had been replaced with newness, with freedom, with fresh life. Amid the scars of wrongs done, supernatural healing had taken place and somewhere in the middle of it all was a new breath that birthed a dawn of a new day.
Will you do the work necessary to completely exhale from a place of unimaginable forgiveness so that you can inhale the life-giving aroma of grace and peace? It is not your right, it is your gift to breathe forgiveness, both given and received, until your lungs are full, and to do that again and again.

forgiveness #2 – the reach

Who should we forgive? How far should our reach of forgiveness go? Is it always out and away?
Obviously we should forgive others. This doesn’t mean letting them hurt you or your loved ones again and again. It means letting go of that hurt in a way that frees you to, again, experience love and acceptance. I have pictured, in my mind, creating a space between myself and that person. As I do this, I see them unattached to me and the circumstance by which I feel offended. I visualize them with their needs and wants, just like I have. From this perspective (and it may take a bit of time to be able to do this) I find human to human sympathy for them. This helps me decide how to proceed. Do I maintain a healthy distance from them or do I seek complete restoration and even press into a deepened intimacy with that person?

We should also forgive our situations. At first read, this might sound a bit silly. However, I think it’s possibly the most practical and present way we can exercise this gift of forgiveness. What if, in the midst of a stressful moment, we paused to breathe and look around at the kids, or at our work/school situation, or at a family interaction and, in that breath, forgave it with all the grace and peace that we would forgive our closest friend or loved one? I would argue that this would give us the room we need to act with clear love and wisdom without blaming ourselves or an innocent bystander.

And last but not least, I believe we should forgive ourselves. This sentence doesn’t always come up in Christian language but do you not believe you are forgiven by Another whose actions and decisions you have pledged to follow, believe and even imitate? Then actively forgive yourself. To follow and pray to a God that is love and then to mentally beat yourself up is incredibly inconsistent isn’t it? Self loathing for the sake of humility is sort of like angrily cutting off your legs because you can’t dunk the basketball. You can humbly know your place and still enjoy the game and confidently grow in your strengths. Christian reader, this week especially, you celebrate being forgiven, now give back by being forgiving even if the one you must forgive looks back at you in the mirror.

Whether you must reach out or within with your forgiveness, it is a gift that you cannot afford to hold tightly. It must be given.

forgiveness #1 -the scorecard

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of forgiveness lately. I believe that there’s such a power in it. I also think that it is one of the keys to inner freedom. You might be familiar with the phrase “The truth will set you free.” Jesus said that. So, if we buy into the idea that forgiveness leads to freedom, then it can be said that being unforgiving is holding on to a lie. What lies might we be holding onto? 
 

Perhaps we believe that someone else’s wrongs against us are insurmountably offensive. Maybe we’re holding a scorecard that tells a story of how we should win and they should lose. I do this from time to time and can I ask; Is it me or are these scorecards incredibly heavy? Just thinking about holding one, reading the story over and over and tallying the numbers in my favor makes my arms want to drop to my sides in exhaustion.



It might be that your wound is fresh, or at least it seems that way, and you have plenty of energy to hold that scorecard and even yell the results to anyone that will listen. You might even still be filling in the details of your card. Can I ask “Where is this game going?” If the game is over and we’re left hurting over the results, what do we do with it?   


Do we try to forgive and forget? For those of you that may think that this is a Biblical command, it is not. To forget, even in the loosest interpretation of the word, would set us up to be a doormat. I don’t believe that forgiving is wiping the slate completely clean so that we enable the broken ones in our lives to hurt us and themselves again. Also, forgiving isn’t letting a hurtful event slip into a seldom used corner of our minds only to trip and fall over it later in such a way that is debilitating and paralyzing. 


But, what if we took an inventory of those old scorecards that we can’t seem to stop checking in on, took a deep breath, and really looked at them? Do they tell the story of who you are today or have you grown? Are you aware that the past doesn’t have to tell the story of tomorrow? As freeing as the end result might be, will it take work? Who or what should we forgive? 
Knowing that all of our attention spans are shorter than ever (and I forgive us for that) I’d like to post some more thoughts on it later in the week. Thanks for reading!