Christian Living

Abundant Redemption

Today I had a fairly lengthy conversation with one of my daughters about treating each time someone wrongs us as if it were the first time. It’s ironic because we’ve been talking about being complete on our podcast this week, Epic Every Day. Part of being a complete person is living in the present instead of hanging onto things from the past or sending your mind into the future.

Obviously, if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a passionate believer in the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation–forgiveness is a heart issue and something between you and God; reconciliation requires both parties to acknowledge their wrongs and work to make sure the problem doesn’t occur again.

The only way we can treat someone’s wrongs as though it were the first time they’ve wronged us is if we are steeped in the Gospel. See, the Gospel says that God redeems all the sins that affect us–both those we commit and those that are done to us. Sometimes it’s easy to get so focused on His future redemption (in the new heaven and new earth) that we forget about the now. I love in Psalm 27 where David* says “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Redemption isn’t just a future thing.

It’s amazing how much freedom has come into my life via that one concept. I love that I can stop beating myself up for things I’ve done in the past. It allows me to let go of my past baggage and press into the now. It wasn’t until I started Tapping/EFT on some of my past mistakes that I really felt how much of myself was trapped in the past. I really felt that I deserved to be punished–which is true, we do deserve death for our sin. Fortunately, that’s not the whole truth. Redemption means God has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103). Basically, they’re an infinity away from us. And He’s given us Jesus’ clean record. So, punishing myself is actually contrary to the Gospel of grace. In essence, it’s saying that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough.

I don’t know if you have anything like that in your past, but I can tell you that it’s exhausting to never let yourself off the hook for something you did in the past. I was constantly weighed down by shame and regret. Mental energy went towards either avoiding thinking about it or wishing I’d done something different/figuring out what I should have done. Time went into running away from my past. Carrying that maelstrom around took a lot of work!

Redemption also means we can let go of what other people have done to us. We can trust God to heal us and to work out their sin for our benefit. It’s a mind-boggling idea. I will freely admit that there are things that don’t feel like they can be turned to good, and I think it’s worth noting that God only promises this for believers. People who don’t know Jesus don’t have the same promise, and I know I struggle with watching the evil in their lives apparently consuming them. The world is broken. God will definitely bring glory to Himself through every person, but He only promises “to work all things out for the good of those who love Him” (NIV, emphasis mine).

So, if you are someone who loves Jesus, no matter what has happened in your life, God can work it out for your good. Which means you can forgive people, no matter what they’ve done to you. It’s not easy, but it is freeing and better in the long run.

Psalm 130: 7 ~ O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption (NASB).

Blog_ Abundant Redemption

Christian Living

Failing well

I recently started working through Lysa Terkeurst’s Bible study “The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands.” I’m really enjoying it!! I definitely needed to hear the importance of prioritizing this week.

In session 3, she talks about the difference between an error and an end: “An error is an unintentional mistake; an end is a termination,” (p. 89). She was talking about how fear of stepping out of God’s will can paralyze us. We get stuck in the belief that failure means an end–a mistake from which there’s no recovery, no way to fix the mistake. I have to admit that’s my tendency. I think it comes from having had situations where relationships ended no matter what I tried.

But errors are unintentional mistakes that God redeems. If we’re trying to follow God and we don’t do it perfectly (who does?!), God is able to redeem that error into something beautiful. He can use it to change our lives for the better and to change others’ lives for the better.

I’m reminded of the net under tightrope walkers. If they make a mistake, the net is there to catch them, to keep them safe. And then they can try again. There’s a freedom in knowing one doesn’t have to be perfect.

It’s like Carol Dweck talks about with a “growth mindset.” A growth mindset is one where you believe your brain can become smarter, you can learn new skills. You make mistakes because you know that it creates new neural pathways in your brain, allowing you to come closer to attaining your goal.

We’ve been talking about surrender all week on our podcast, Epic Every Day, and how it takes guts to surrender to God. It’s not easy. Mistakes are a place where surrender comes in handy. It brings God’s redemption into play.

And it aligns us with what’s already true–we can’t make any situation (mistake or not) come out right, regardless of how hard we try. I often hold myself to the standard of making things come out the way I think they should, but it’s a ridiculous standard. I am as incapable of directing circumstances as I am of directing the wind.

Obviously, that isn’t to say that our actions don’t matter. They do–they matter more than we can understand. We don’t have time to waste on getting caught up in inanities, in the busyness of life. We have to do the things God has called us to do. We have to apply the CSC’s (being calm, surrendered, centered, connected, & complete) or we’ll miss out on freedom and abundance and peace. Those things are worth fighting for–at least for me.

Lysa references Proverbs 3:5-6 and argues that the opposite of trusting God is trying to figure everything out on our own. She has three different spectrums as a measure of where one is at with trusting God: what degree thought about the situation, what degree you’ve prayed about the situation, what degree you’ve entrusted the outcome of the situation to God.

As I was placing myself on those spectrums, it was definitely convicting. I often pray because I’m trying to convince God to work in my situation, rather than praying out of trust. Or I’ll get stuck trying to piece together every possible scenario and what the best thing to do about each of them is and forget to pray.

That’s not who I want to be. I want to be someone who makes mistakes well because I am learning and growing and because I believe God can redeem them, rather than someone who avoids acting out of the fear of making mistakes.

So what about you? How do you handle mistakes?

Failing Well

Christian Living

Why you should embrace “not yet”

As I mentioned last week, my phone died. Yesterday, the new phone we got arrived. It’s an iPhone 5. We decided to go with an iPhone so I can (theoretically) sync my novel and work on it both places. Frankly, the transition has been painful. I’ve already been cranky and feeling like progress is stalled in several areas of my life. It hasn’t helped to feel like I’m back to phone usage 101. I miss my android system! I miss the familiarity of it. I miss having free apps that do what I want them to do.

Been doing lots of whining, in case you couldn’t tell.

Today, I watched this video. It’s a TED talk by Carol Dweck, and in it, she talks about how children handle challenge. It was actually quite fascinating and exactly what I needed to hear. Sometimes I get so frustrated by the minute progress I see on my goals. I want to reach them now! Or at least to see significant progress, rather than 1% improvement every day. But life is about the 1%. If we really made 1% improvement every day, we’d arrive in 100 days. Better to be the turtle than the hare. But I digress.

TED talk. Children can be taught to handle challenge one of two ways. Carol Dweck used a math test to study this behavior. The first way is to see their failure at the test as a failure of themselves–they didn’t do well enough. They couldn’t do well enough. It engenders frustration and ultimately, despair.

The second way is to see their failure as a “not yet”–they haven’t learned enough to pass the test yet. Teachers who started giving their students the grade of “not yet” saw a huge upswing in their students’ scores. Telling your students/children/self that you haven’t gotten there yet reframes challenge as opportunity. It empowers you to study more or read the documentation for your crazy iOS system that isn’t working the way it should or whatever it is that you need to do to succeed. It creates a mindset where success is possible. And it helps your brain grow so you’re more able to handle the next challenge.

This morning, JB Glossinger, told Zig Ziglar’s “How to Train a Flea” story on his Morning Coach podcast. Basically, you put the flea in a jar with the lid on. The flea will always try to jump out. After some time, it learns not to hit the lid and begins to moderate its jumps. When you take the lid off, the flea continues moderating its jumps and will never escape.

Way too often, that is me. I don’t know if it’s a personality thing or how I was raised (or some combination) but I learned early in life to never do something outside of my competencies. Certain things I wasn’t automatically good at and so I would try them once (or not at all) and then not do them again. I didn’t get that “not yet” mindset.

As an adult, I’ve had to catch myself when I fall into fatalism. It’s easy to get stressed and overwhelmed in our crazy, busy society. But there’s always hope because we have a God who redeems everything. And if any religion has a reason to embrace “not yet,” it’s Christianity with our God who is always working our best and a future hope of eternal life with Jesus.

So! I challenge us to stop any time we hear those failure messages and reframe them as “not yet.” I haven’t mastered my phone or designing webpages or writing fiction or podcasting or parenting or teaching or being healthy yet. How about you? What haven’t you done yet?

Christian Living

How Not to Do a Burning Ritual

This week I did a burning ritual–for those of you who don’t know what a burning ritual is, basically, you write down things you want to let go of on little slips of paper and then burn them. Simple, right?

Uh, maybe not 🙂 I started by writing down the things that were the focus of my burning ritual. In this case, I wanted something to really solidify the things God’s been teaching me about His full redemption (e.g., Ps. 130:7) and to agree with Him against my own guilt and shame. So, I wrote down the mistakes and sins I’ve been carrying around–some of them for years. I bet you know what I’m talking about: those things that you studiously ignore, shove to the back of your brain, and when you think about them, you see no way for God to fix them even though the Bible talks about God’s full redemption.

So! I hand wrote them all down on a piece of computer paper and cut it up into little pieces. This was actually pretty hard. Seeing it all in black and white in one place was a cringeworthy experience. But actually, after I got over the shock, it was very healing. Everything on that list was the sort of thing anyone does. It really emphasized to my shamed self that I’m not uniquely evil, if that makes sense.

Anyway! I got a stoneware bowl (I’ve had bad experiences with breaking supposedly candle-rated glass with the heat of a burning ritual) and took my papers and bowl and lighter out into the garage so I wouldn’t set off the smoke alarms.

I tried burning them one at a time, praying over each and lighting it on fire, but, apparently, the paper was flame-resistant. So then I tried making a wee fire in the bowl with various flammables but it still wasn’t cutting it. Then I got the brilliant idea of soaking them in something. I was pretty sure we didn’t have lighter fluid and I happened to have just been cooking, so I threw on some homemade vanilla-infused rum–win, win, right? Good smells and quick-burning papers? No, not so much. The papers stuck to the bowl and wouldn’t let in enough oxygen for the fire to burn them.

In the end, I added one paper towel at a time to burn my papers, stirring liberally. Thank the good Lord, they finally burned up.

Now, why am I telling you this? All I wanted was to burn my papers in some awesome ball of flame so that I had a more tangible way to remind myself that God had taken those sins and fully redeemed them the next time I started feeling shame or avoiding those parts of my brain! But in the midst of my frustration, God reminded me that this is what we do with sin. We try to get rid of it on our own. We trying fixing our sins one at a time, instead of recognizing the root character issues that they grow out of. We add other things, hoping to get rid of the sin… good works, maybe being extra nice to the person we wronged, etc., etc., etc.

Nothing we can do can actually get rid of our sin. I love this fact. It means I am off the hook for trying to atone. I can’t atone. All I can do is throw myself on God’s abundant mercy and grace. I was reminded of that passage in 1 Kings 18:20-40 where Elijah goes up against the prophets of Baal. He has them pour water all over his altar and offering and then he just prays and a blast of fire comes down and pretty much vaporizes the whole thing–not just the offering, but the altar too. God’s forgiveness is like that. He doesn’t just cleanse us from our sins–He consumes all the bad consequences and turns them into something beautiful (Rom. 8:28). He fixes the hurts we’ve caused, using them for other people’s good too.

Is there anything you’re still hanging onto? If you’re God’s child and you’ve asked His forgiveness, He’s fully redeemed it–vaporized it and everything around it. It’s time to let go.

Christian Living

Leaving the Baggage Behind

So, how’s everyone’s new year going? Recovered from the holidays yet? I hope you had a lovely New Year’s! I did. We sat down as a family and wrote down the things we loved about 2016 and six goals for each of us in 2017. I am really liking this read-your-goals-out-loud-every-day thing. 

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a huge fan of writing down what you want to add to your life in the upcoming year. If we don’t plant it, we can’t reap it. I have lots of things I want to carry into 2017 or to add to my life in 2017. Lately though, I’ve been thinking about what I need to let go of this year. Kinda like the difference between sins of omission vs. commission—it’s easy to forget the omission ones. I make goals but rarely do I make let-go’s.

A friend and I were talking about shame recently and how we both struggle with hanging onto shame. That’s something I’m working on letting go of. I’m passionate about mistakes not defining who I am. It’s amazing how many things I’ve moved from the category of “power” to “thing” this year—for example, money. Mistakes are like that. They’re just a thing. They don’t have the power to define who you are—especially if you accept that you’re human and make mistakes and go through the process of asking for and accepting God’s forgiveness and then learn from them.

God’s forgiveness is amazing when you really think about it. If it’s been a while since you first became a believer, take a minute and just remember what it was like to carry your sins all by yourself. Then meditate on God’s forgiveness: God says He takes our sins away as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). He gives full redemption (Ps. 130:7)–I LOVE this concept. It means that any mistake or sin I’ve ever committed can be filled up with God’s redemption and turned into something that’s actually beneficial for me AND for the person I sinned against.

A lot of us had a less than perfect 2016. It’d be easy to carry our mistakes with us into 2017. But we don’t have to—and, in fact, carrying them will weigh us down and make us less able to do well in 2017. We can choose to fix them—to admit our mistakes, ask God for forgiveness and redemption and then do our best to address the issue/broken relationship and to learn what we need to learn—forgive (others or, more often in my case, myself), and then focus on 2017.

What are you hanging onto from 2016 that you can let go of?