Happy 3rd Birthday Tirzah!

Dear Tirzah,

We now celebrate your 3rd birthday! (August 20th)

It’s been a gift to celebrate you and remember you… You were our little perfect Gift! and still are.

With the school year starting and Jeremiah entering Kindergarten, I’ve been thinking that you would be going into preschool… what would it have been like for you to be buddies with Jeremiah and him showing you around CHA?

I can picture it clearly in my mind… but then I think, “No! no, you’re just where you’re supposed to be… with Jesus… held in His arms… walking with Him in the heavenly gardens.”

I remember the words in my speech just 2 1/2 months after your birth:

( https://delightofmylife.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/119/

“The Lord convicted me that I needed to submit to Him so FULLY that I could honestly say before God and men that I would not change the story, if given the chance… I needed this unshakable faith and trust in the goodness of God… such that I would not rewrite Tirzah’s life on this earth. These questions: “Would I rewrite the story? Would I write it differently?”  … there is still the temptation… but still the same conclusion.

Dearest Tirzah, my most beautiful and precious little princess, you are our perfect gift just the way you were… still, silent, yet carrying a loud message of LIFE.

You brought us the gift of LIFE in so many ways:  Faith, Hope, and Love in new depths, new vibrancy…  and a farther reaching spectrum of emotions- more tears and steadfast joy (for now we cling to Eternity… a part of our hearts are already in Heaven with you, Tirzah.  Hope in Heaven is the only true Hope, and the only true joy has eyes toward Jesus and Eternity) These tears and this joy are a little closer to the heart of God (who weeps with deep mourning and rejoices in the heights of Heaven).

You opened our hearts to deep grief, such as we had never known before, and pain that we didn’t know was possible. But yet, we have seen the Lord’s faithfulness, felt His presence, and heard His voice with an intensity and reality that matched the depth of our brokenness. Job says in 5:18: “For he wounds, but he binds up;
he shatters, but his hands heal.”

Tirzah, your life is still bringing us the gift of healing. We can only be healed so far as we are broken. Dan Allender once said that “trauma begets trauma”… and oh! did we find that to be true!

I have a theory: that all grief, pain and trauma have the same biochemical outcome in our brains… therefore, one traumatic event can actually trigger all past trauma and bring it to the surface again.

The last three years have been tumultuous for your dad and I, as not only the trauma of loosing you on this earth was felt, but all past traumas of our lives were also brought forth.  This brokenness in our hearts was there before you, just buried beneath the surface. Now you have brought us the gift of healing and the gift of being “wounded healers”, by the grace of God.

My good friend Rose shared this verse with me often:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  ~ 2 Corinthians 1:4-5

This is where we are now, Tirzah. Because of you we have the gift of a new calling on our lives. And when I say “we” I include Jeremiah and Judah!

Ever since you were born, Tirzah, Jeremiah has a sense of empathy that is stunning for a small child. He was about 2 1/2 at that time. As a result of our grief over you, Jeremiah became keenly aware of emotions. When we read him stories after your birth, he would point to every character on the page and want to know how they were feeling. Every single day (this is no joke), multiple times a day, Jeremiah would hand me a train and say, “Percy is sad because there are no beetles, lets just listen to how he feels.”  One day we were at a park with a sandbox (of course another mom with a similar age boy was sitting right next to me), and Jeremiah (about age 3) handed me a shovel and said, “This shovel is sad because he can’t dig, let’s just listen to how he feels.”  I was a little tongue-tied… but beaming with pride.

God has joined your story with ours, Tirzah, and He is beginning to work in Jeremiah his own life verse:  “He defended the cause of the poor and needy and so all went well…”  (Jeremiah 22:16)

Tirzah, you’ve given him eyes of empathy… to see pain in the eyes of another.

Just a couple weeks ago, (at age 5) he prayed in the evening, “Dear God, I pray that Mommy wouldn’t feel guilty…”  My mouth dropped open: for him to understand that emotion, to recognize it in me, and to have the compassion to pray for me was simply stunning… and I believe Spirit-given.

I believe we will see God use you, Tirzah, in Judah’s life as well. Judah’s life verse comes from Ezekiel 37: verses 4-5, 10.

“Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, “Oh dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live“… So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceeding great army.

Your little brother’s first birthday is now just a few days away! I wrote this in Judah’s newborn album:

“The Knight family is now a family of five. Judah is our third child: his older brother Jeremiah, and older sister Tirzah. We want Judah to know all about his sister. Our desire is the same for both Tirzah and Judah: That they would both carry a message of LIFE.

“The verse that Tirzah carries in her still and silent way, for it is engraved on her headstone, is one that Judah will carry with a strong and loud voice:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? ~ John 11:25-26

 

 

Do you love me? : Every child’s question

Almost a year ago, our family was in a state of desperation. The arrival of our sweetest little bundle of joy, Judah, had apparently upset the balance of our happy home. Four months later, Ryan and I were sleep deprived and Jeremiah was having daily temper tantrums. (I started writing this when Jeremiah was still 4; He is now 5)

I knew something HAD to change after Jeremiah punched Ryan in the face and stomped on my IPad.

After I recovered from my initial shock and disbelief, I geared myself up and flew into action. I spoke with trusted people and asked others for prayer.

Eventually, I remembered a book that a few CHA moms had been raving about… “How to Really Love your Child” by Dr. Ross Campbell. When I looked it up on Amazon, I realized THIS was the book that Park Community Church had gifted to us at Jeremiah’s baby dedication!!

And then sheepishly I also remembered I actually had tossed the book aside and thinking, “Why would I ever need this?? I know how to love my child!”

Oh the pride of a new parent!

Parenting has a way of humbling the most stubborn pride.

The truth is: I need this book (probably to re-read it often!); we all need this book.

While I strongly encourage you to read this book (whether or not you have children), I will share the journey God lead me on through this book. And I do believe this book was an answer to prayer and a God-send. It is true that within a week of reading this book, Jeremiah’s temper tantrums not only stopped, but he was answering us, “Yes, Mom”, and “Yes, Dad”, all on his own! It felt like a miracle! I can’t even describe the relief it brought my heart to have peace and joy return to our home!

  1. The Wrong Question

First, I realized I had been asking the wrong question: “How can I correct Jeremiah’s behavior?”

I’ll admit I was sick and tired of the tantrums. I simply wanted them to stop. And I was angry. I was fed up and ticked off about the disruption in our home. I felt like I was being robbed of peaceful mornings and enjoyable dinners.

Dr. Campbell writes (p. 104): “The tendency is for parents to ask, “What can I do to correct this child’s behavior? Unfortunately, all too often this question leads initially to punishment. It is then difficult to consider the real needs of children, and we may end up spanking or sending children off to their rooms. Children will not feel loved if we approach handling misbehavior this way.

“We should always begin by asking ourselves, “What does this child need?” 

In other words, where is there a breakdown in the experience of love? Has the child been receiving loving eye contact, loving touch, focused attention and loving instruction?

The basic tenant of Dr. Campbell’s book is that children are constantly asking, “Do you love me?”

They don’t ask directly with words, but instead with their behavior. The more rebellious and disruptive their behavior is, the more desperate the question: “Do You Love Me?”

  1. The Essential Needs of a Child

Dr. Campbell opens the book with the story of “Tommy”, a 14 year old who had been a “good kid” and whose parents are now bewildered by the troubled road he’s traveling. Tommy’s parents feel like they’ve loved him and given their best into raising him the right way. However, when Dr. Campbell talks to the boy one –on-one, he finds that Tommy’s experience is quite different. He does not experience the love of his parents, and doesn’t feel like they’re concerned about him either.

“Tom Smith’s parents do love him deeply. They have done their best in rearing him, but something is missing. Did you notice what it was? No, not love; his parents do love him. The basic problem is that Tom does not feel loved… Like most parents they believed they were meeting Tom’s needs: food, shelter, clothes, education, guidance, etc. In the process of meeting all those needs, they overlooked his need for love- unconditional love. Although love is within the heart of almost all parents, the challenge is to convey this love.”

The thought shattered my anger and broke my heart: When Jeremiah was having a temper tantrum he was actually pleading with me, “Do you love me??”

The hard truth is that we often unwittingly answer with a “no” through OUR behavior…. And consequently our children feel unloved.

In his book, Dr. Campbell has a chapter on each of 4 essentials children need from their parents in order to experience love: 1) Eye contact; 2) Physical Touch; 3) Focused Attention, and 4) Loving Discipline or guidance.

Once I had the insight that Jeremiah’s outbursts were an understandable reaction of anger to his experience of feeling unloved, I had to determine where the gaps were. How had I changed since Judah was born?

I realized that eye contact had taken a sharp decline and so had focused attention. I was letting him watch quite a bit of TV or movies while I was caring for Judah.

Dr. Campbell defines focused attention as “giving a child full, undivided attention in such a way that the child feels without doubt completely loved; that the child is valuable enough in his or her own right to warrant the parent’s undistracted watchfulness, appreciation, and uncompromising regard. In short, focused attention makes a child feel like the most important person in the world in his or her parents’ eyes.” (pg 57)

He goes on to give the example of the priority that Jesus gave to children: “And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; and [He] said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; … for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’… And He took them in his arms and began to bless them, laying His hands upon them,” (Mark 10:13-16, NASB)

  1. Hollow Substitutes for Real Love

Dr. Campbell says that in his experience, “focused attention is the most demanding need a child has, because we parents have extreme difficulty in recognizing it, much less fulfilling it. We do not recognize this particular need for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that other things we do for a child seem to suffice. For example, special favors (ice cream or candy), gifts and granting unusual requests seem to substitute for focused attention at the time. These kindnesses are good, but it is a serious mistake to use them as a stand-in for genuine focused attention… Focused attention is not something that is nice to give children only if time permits; it is a critical need each child has. How children view themselves and how they are accepted by their world is determined by the way in which this need is met. Without focused attention, a child experiences increased anxiety… He or she is consequently less secure and is impaired in emotional and psychological growth. Such a child can be identified in the nursery or classroom.”

  1. We must answer with our Presence

Dr. Campbell asks hard questions of parents in his book:

“What are the priorities in your life? Where does your child fit in? Does your child take first priority? Second? Third? Fourth? You must determine this! … No one else can do this for you. A spouse cannot determine your child’s priority in your life… Only you can do this. So what is it fellow parent? What and who gets priority in your life? Job? Church? Spouse? House? Hobby? Children? Television? Social life? Career?”

As I read these words, I recalled that after Judah was born I had bought Jeremiah new toys and a batman shirt… I would let him watch batman shows on TV… or how I had continually pass Jeremiah off to Ryan while I cared for Judah. I was dismayed as I evaluated the sum picture.

Even though I am a stay at home mom, I realized that with the little time I had when I wasn’t caring for a newborn baby, I was not actually making Jeremiah a priority. I was exercising to lose weight. I was cooking healthy meals. I was organizing our home. All good things. But I wasn’t face to face with Jeremiah, simply enjoying his presence with me.

I decided to make changes… immediately. In the chapter on focused attention, Dr. Campbell instructs that “Careful Planning Pays Off.” I considered and planned how I could rework my days and weeks to have one-on-one time with Jeremiah. I know that Jeremiah loves to bake or work with food, loves his Boys Life and Ranger Rick magazines, and doing our Bible devotional book. So I made sure they were available and ready for when Judah was napping or content with tummy time. Instead of seizing this time to exercise or clean, I would seize these moments for Jeremiah.

  1. God is the ONLY Perfect Parent

The idea that your child might not feel and actually experience your love may cause an initial guttural reaction of defensiveness… “Of course my child knows that I love him (or her)! I tell him that I love him every day!”

We must realize that our *unspoken* language actually speaks louder than our words. Words are meaningless if we do not show love FIRST by our presence.

Think this through with me: how does a child learn the meaning of language? Of a word? It is by an embodied experience of the word… such as “hot” or “cold. They must feel it with their bodies to know the meaning of the word. Similarly, how does a child even come to understand the meaning of the word “love”? It is not through hearing the words “I love you” only… but through delighted eye contact, gentle touches and holding, and it is through the time spent enjoying each other.

This is the model given to us by God- the Father of His people. God shows love for his children time and time again *through his Presence*.  His very purpose in the creation of mankind was for intimate fellowship with them. Before the entrance of Evil, God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day… enjoying each other’s presence. And now God is working all of history toward the supreme goal of restoring His intimate presence with us… The highest desire of God’s heart is to be *with us*.

It was this desire that lead him to come to earth as a Man (equally God and equally man) to reconcile mankind to Himself. As the God-man he became “Emmanuel” meaning “God with us.”  And as Emmanuel, He could fully empathize with us (Hebrews 5:2). To empathize is to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)  This is empathy: what you see and hear and feel in your body reverberates in mine. It is to see another fully; to see with body, emotions and mind.

How can this happen between two people without undistracted, face-to-face, eye-to-eye presence? This is essential to love. Sadly, I fear that many people have never experienced this… instead only a hollow, empty shell of what we call “love.”  Because we can never give away what we haven’t received.

The good news is that regardless of the failings of our earthly father and mother, God always stands with his arms open for the prodigal child, wanting to be our Perfect Parent. We can receive His perfect love, and His Presence.

God receives his first personal name in the Bible by a woman who has been abused and traumatized… she runs away, isolated… only to find she is not alone. God meets her and says: “I see you.” … Therefore, the woman names Him: “The God who sees”; which is “El Roi.”  (Genesis 16:13)

Through receiving the perfect love of “El Roi” in more fullness day by day, we can in turn continually grow in loving others including our children.

We must meet our children with our full presence and see them with the eyes of our heart and soul.  Yet, you cannot give away what you have not received. Therefore, go to God… continually. Each day we must make the journey from being “elder brother” to become the “prodigal son”… Is it ONLY the prodigal child that can *receive* the Father’s unconditional love (the only TRUE unconditional love in the world).

(for more on the Prodigal Son: https://delightofmylife.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/dangerous-waters/ )

(for more on Face to Face with God: https://delightofmylife.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/a-slap-in-the-face/ )

6. Know Your Own Story: Personal road blocks to Love

Have you ever seen the “self-awareness” grid? It’s called the Johari Window. (click below)

johariwindowmodeldiagram

I still remember my bewildered feeling when my first counselor, Cyndi Mesmer, showed me this diagram. It was frightening to realize there were things about me that others could see that I couldn’t see. The point is we need to be open to others in order to grow. Without their feedback we will never enlarge the “open and free” window.

Part of this willingness to receive feedback is the humility to admit that we don’t love our children perfectly. There is room to grow.

The journey goes like this:

  1. We realize that we don’t love our children perfectly. We have road blocks.
  2. We consider our particular road blocks- do you struggle with focused attention? With eye contact? With physical touch? or with loving discipline? (discussed more in the book than in this blog post)
  3. Consider how these roadblocks fit into your childhood story? How did your parents give (or not give) these essential love ingredients?
  4. Seek healing and growth by bringing these struggles into relationship- with a counselor, your spouse, and even your children. Most importantly, bring your struggles to Jesus- ask Him for insight, healing, and growth.

For Mother’s Day this year I asked Jeremiah for feedback. I asked, “What makes Mommy a good mommy?” Jeremiah said, “You give hugs and kisses.” I asked further, “Do I give enough hugs, or do I need to do it more?”  He replied, “You need to do it more.”

I was glad I asked! I never would have considered myself to be a parent that struggled with physical contact… never in a million years!! But in Jeremiah’s experience he needed more.

A wonderful resource for this journey is the “How We Love” book series by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. As professional counselors, they look attachment styles that they call “love imprints.” We all have “love wounds” from our primary relationships that cause us to give and receive love out of insecurity. The five types they look at are “Avoiders”; “Pleasers”; “Vascilators”; “Controllers” and “Victims.”

In their book “How we Love Our Kids” they look at how a parent’s love style impacts their children. For example, how does a child experience a parent who is a “Pleaser” or an “Avoider”?  They also look at children: How does a child become a “Vascilator” or a “Controller?

Perhaps this will be my next book review!

 

War and Peace: Christmas 2015

Thoughts for Christmas 2015

This season I’ve been looking at and thinking about passages in Scripture that describe Jesus’s mission in coming to dwell with men.

This is the passage from Isaiah that Jesus himself quotes as his own mission statement:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the **captives** and release from darkness for the **prisoners**, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

This Christmas season I want to explore the tension between the Age we’re IN at present, versus the HOPE of the Age that is promised to come. Here is my premise: We live in the Age of captivity, of prisoners, of darkness… In that sense there is grief, and sorrow… But Jesus came for healing and for freedom- He offers that TO US, and calls us to work *with him* for healing and freedom in the lives of others… The context of Jesus coming is a declaration of WAR on EVIL; the very nature of releasing prisoners and captives suggests that there would be resistance from an Enemy. And we are called to enter warfare with Jesus against Evil.

This is the time we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death”… and as we walk “we fear no Evil”… but we do live in Satan’s realm and reign (Revelation 12, 1 John 5:19: the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.) THIS life is the battle ground. We still live in the period of sin and death… there IS weeping… and there IS a true, deep and grievous wound… We need healing… we need freedom from captivity. And we need to Fight… for our own heart and for others… to be wholly bound to God alone.

Jesus himself said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”(Matthew 10:34)

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. ~ Eph. 6:17

This passage doesn’t even make sense if you’re not at war. Who carries a sword unless they’re at war, and without intent to *kill*?

I believe that God’s people have bought into a lie- that we’re already in the Age of full Joy and victory (part of the lie is that if you don’t *feel* this, then *your* faith is deficient)… we’ve been tricked into exchanging our swords for plowshares before the time.

THIS is the time we are in: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a warrior.” ~ Joel 3:10 (note: in contrast Isaiah 2:4 is the age to come)

So you might be wondering: okay, where does the Joy and Peace of Christmas fit in to all this?

There IS joy and peace… but it is not based on this world, it is based on the hope and the promise of Christ’s second coming, when the defeat over Evil will be final and when God’s Kingdom will have full reign. We do see smaller (but not insignificant) victories of God in our own hearts and others, that foreshadow that ultimate victory. The joy and the peace is in the beginning of the Battle… that we DO have One who has come to fight on our behalf- to set us free and empower us… Our confidence is in Him, therefore we hold true joy even with the sorrow of this broken world.

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. ~ Isaiah 35:10 and 51:11

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow **will turn into joy**. ~ John 16:20

We are called to hold complexity- joy and sorrow; to be childlike in faith, yet a warrior ready to kill.

Jesus isn’t afraid of this complexity. He creates tension, conflict, and complexity and *invites you to wrestle with Him in it all.*

THIS wrestling is true faith.

Be faithful and take up your sword this Christmas.

Oh yeah, and just make sure you’re on the right side of the battle:
Psalm 7:12- If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.

This is the beautiful thing, that even as this is the age of Battle against Evil, it is also the Age of Salvation, when the call of God is “Come!!” and He has his arms of mercy open to ALL who come to him repentance and faith (faith that Jesus took the punishment you deserve when He died on the cross, and offers the free gift of canceling the debt YOU owe of your own blood and death, that instead Jesus paid it FOR you) :

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare…

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” ~ Isaiah 55

Merry Christmas :oD

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. ~ Romans 16:20.

May *you* have your foot on the neck of Evil in the year to come.
Love, Catherine

Ps. If you’re interested in digging more into the topic of warfare, I’d suggest “Waking the Dead” by John Eldridge, and the podcasts from his website: ransomed heart ministries. Also, Dan Allender’s book “Bold Love”; If you’re interested in reading about the basics of faith in Jesus, I’d recommend Timothy Keller’s book “The Prodigal God” and Charles Spurgeon’s “All of Grace.”

on forgiveness: Part 1

This two minute video on forgiveness is profound… I hope you will watch it.

Here is a summary of the process Dan describes:

First, let me define “forgiveness” in 2 parts. The first part of forgiveness is canceling the debt some owes you for harm done to you. This is what God’s forgiveness is for us- The cost of our sin to God’s holiness and purity is infinite, therefore, we in turn owe a debt that is that is immeasurable and infinite. This debt demands an eternal, infinite payment… And this is grace: Jesus, being God in the flesh, took our debt upon himself and paid the debt for us. That is the *gift* He offers to us. Freedom from debt. And not only does he remove our punishment, but he *blesses us* with adoption- we are welcomed into God’s family as *sons and daughters*. That is the second part of forgiveness: a desire for goodness to come to the other, and an active movement to bless (Dan’s words).

Forgiveness may seem more clear, when simply defined in the above 2 parts. However the *process* is not simply, or easy, or completed in a moment with mere words, “I forgive you.” (Is that what we teach our children, and we ourselves have believed? One kid pushes another on the playground. An adult steps in, instructs the offending child to say, “I’m sorry” and the offended to say, “I forgive you.” And it’s neat and clean and DONE… then go off to play as before. And then in adulthood, when it doesn’t happen this way, do we question what is wrong with us? Why can’t we forgive, especially when God has forgiven us, instructs us to forgive others, and promises the power of the Spirit to guide us.

I think in the breakdown of the process of forgiveness as DA describes, we’ll see that we often road block at the very first step, and abandon the task altogether, often resorting to a *socially acceptable* form of contempt- *avoidance*. In refusing the painful process of forgiveness, all thoughts of harm are swept under the rug, and as DA says, “Your enemy becomes one you don’t see, and literally you cast them away from your eyes.”

The steps are: 1) Name the Wound; 2) Remember God’s forgiveness toward you; 3) Step into the War. (I will discuss each step in one blog post at a time. Here is part one:

1. Step 1: Name the Wound

The first step in forgiveness may very well be the hardest and most painful. When we’ve been harmed by another, we need to *name the wound*, face the heartache, and understand the particularities of the cost it’s been to us- our bodies, our being, our relationships.

However, we tend to minimize it, over-look it, “sweep it under the rug”, as I described above, and “move on”. This is a not true forgiveness. Can I pose the question- is much of what we consider “forgiveness” merely a counterfeit of what God truly desires from our hearts?

“You cannot forgive what you have not faced. The harm is almost always deeper than you have allowed yourself to name. Will you face the consequences of harm done to you?” (DA)

This happens over time.

I recently read a letter that C.S Lewis wrote in 1963, near the end of his life, about the difficulty of forgiveness: “Do you know, only a few weeks ago I realized suddenly that I at last had forgiven the cruel schoolmaster who so darkened my childhood. I’d been trying to do it for years: and like you, each time I thought I’d done it, I found, after a week or so it all had to be attempted over again.”

Sometimes forgiveness is a journey that takes a life time.

If forgiveness, by definition is canceling the debt owed to you… and to forgive you must understand what the debt is, this means you must *enter your own heartache for the wound that was caused you… and you must enter into the anger for this wound… THEN you can cancel the debt in truth. Again, this is not done easily. Clearly, this requires a high degree of felt pain… and this is why it may be a slow journey.

The question may arise- how exactly do we enter into the heartache and pain of the wound? Especially, given that we instinctively, unwittingly shield ourselves from such pain. I personally found that processing in a safe group with other people (specifically at the first group session of the Allender Center counseling certificate in Seattle) was essential.

Sharing our stories of harm in a group setting is helpful because it reveals where our hearts have turned against ourselves with accusations of being “dumb” or “overreacting” or “foolish” or whatever it is we tell ourselves as a reason that the harm is not significant. We can never see our own face, we automatically bring so much judgement… We need other people to see our face… to see the pain, and reflect the truth of the pain back to us. In my own experience, it was revelatory to see the faces of other people in reaction to my own story, and to see their compassion. At first, I could borrow from them that compassion for myself, then make it my own.

It was powerful for people to say, “the cost of the harm done to you has been *high*“... It was in the presence of others that God showed me areas of my heart that held contempt for myself, and then opened my heart in compassion and grief. And finally, I understood, in greater totality, the debt I am called to cancel. As Dan says, this is a high privilege, and in no other arena are we closer to the heart of God.

{if you were intrigued by the first 2 minute video, here is a 14 minute interview discussing forgiveness that fleshes out more of the ideas: “Forgiveness: Unpacking the Confusion }

a child shall lead them

this morning as I was getting ready for the day, Jeremiah thoughtfully said, “Jesus took away our sins… and sins are disobeying… How does that make God feel when we disobey?”  I replied, “It makes God feel sad, but He forgives us.”   To which Jeremiah’s face brightened and exclaimed, “AND He loves us!”

Yes. “Spirituality” is that simple:  1) We are sinners; 2) Jesus took away our sins (when He died on the cross, He took our sins upon Himself, stood in our place and bore the full penalty FOR us, *instead* of us; 3) Now God forgives us AND loves us.

The Bible says to not err from the simplicity of Christ.

This is why it says that to receive the Kingdom of God, we must receive it like a child.

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. ~ Mark 10:15

Children are naturally needy, and they happily accept help and provision. They accept the care of their earthly father, (and mother), and simply enjoy being taken care of.  *We* must allow ourselves to be needy before God- as sinners who *cannot save ourselves*, and simply, happily except the help He offers in Jesus… who offers to stand in our place and take the penalty of death.

If salvation and going to Heaven is that simple, that easy, that FREE (We’re sinners, and God did ALL the work Himself to free us), then why does the Bible say that “few” find the way, and that “in that day there will be *many* who say to me, Lord, Lord” and I will say I never knew you”? (Matthew 7)

It’s because people err at the first point. The Gift of God is free. But people don’t think they need the gift. So, in their pride they turn their backs on God’s free gift of grace. People don’t accept the truth that they are sinners, deserving hell, and needing a Savior.

Instead, people believe they can save themselves. People believe that they are “good” enough for God to accept… and as for their faults, they think that God is loving and forgiving and so He will overlook their minor flaws in light of how *good* they truly are.

That’s simply an evil lie. God IS loving and forgiving, but He is also equally *Just* and *Holy*. God will not overlook sin, because He is a *just and perfect Judge*. In God’s court of law, a guilty verdict must have it’s due penalty.  It is *through* Jesus that God is loving and forgiving. Our sin was so evil in His Holy sight that He put to death His very Son in our place.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. ~ John 3:36

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. ~ 1 John 5:12

Your sin *will* be paid for: either by *you* in eternal death in hell, or by Jesus on the cross, if you accept His free gift.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… ~ Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.~ Romans 6:23

The Gift is given to the one *who does not work* to earn God’s favor… If you approach God based on *your own perceived goodness* He will give you your due. That is a fearful thought.

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” ~ Romans 4:2-8


Birthday Video

There’s still time to donate to Tirzah’s legacy of life at through the Morning Center. Click below for her memorial page and fundraising in her honor.

https://secure.morningcenter.org/np/clients/morningcenter/campaign.jsp?campaign=21&fundraiser=12286&team=21#.VcyXcDVkpl0.facebook

Tirzah’s life message: Resurrection and LIFE:

“Resurrection is real. Life is more powerful than death. Light CAN pierce darkness. (1 Corinthians 15:54).

Lord, we know You will come. We know You are here. Let us bring all our wounds and brokenness to You expectantly, without a doubt. Remind us that all the children we hold, and all the children we don’t, are yours. Yours in this broken life and Yours in Eternity. Come, Lord Jesus. We wait in **Hope**. ”

(Katie Davis, Kisses from Katie)

The Valley of Vision:

“Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the Valley of Vision, where I live in the depths, but see Thee in the heights… there I behold Thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox,

that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high,

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive, that **the valley is the place of vision.**

Lord, let me find thy light in my darkness, thy life in my sorrow, thy grace in my sin, they riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.”

~The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritian Prayers

Dear Tirzah:

My sweet Tirzah, Jesus just couldn’t wait for you because you are so beautiful. And if I had a garden, wouldn’t I give my Lord the most beautiful Rose of the garden? How could I give Him any less than you?

~ Dear Tirzah, October 3, 2014

Soli Deo Gloria:

Tirzah’s life is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he life, and everyone who believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? ”   ~ John 11

Do *not* be deceived: wake up from your drunken stupor, and do not go on sinning… Return to the Lord, for He is merciful and will abundantly pardon.”  ~ Jeremiah

are you having fun yet??

In my last blog entry I wrote about the idea of Hope being a journey, and the idea that true hope comes through the *resurrection*. In this post, I want to explore the journey in more detail… The general outline below is based on a chart from Dr. Allender’s Trauma Care conference.(if you’d like a full copy let me know!!)

Dr. Allender opened the conference by describing each of our lives as a story. We were created by GOD- Elohim. We were *written* by God. Psalm 139:16 says, “your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” 

Therefore, God is Author and God is also *Authority*… He drops us into a story, without explanation, and we cannot demand one of Him… Our stories are not ours alone- they *belong* to the Author. Our stories are eternally important… each meant to uniquely show forth the Story of God. Therefore, *your* story is worth exploring, knowing, and making available to the Kingdom of God.

Dr. Allender outlined four parts to each story (although some stories may never progress out of part three, tragically).

1) Shalom .  This is a stage of innocence… peace… and *hope*… where goodness and kindness where known.

2) Shalom Shattered.  This is where peace is disrupted, and tragedy enters.

3) Shalom Sought. Dr. Allender explained, this is where we live in the midst of being “East of Eden”- and trying to find our way back home. But the doorway is blocked by two Angels with swords of fire… this reminds us that the way home will be a different route. But in this stage of the story, we are trying to get back “home” on our own efforts, we are trying to rescue ourselves… thus, the more we seek, the more we loose… and as Dr. Allender says, “here the story thickens and the plot develops.”

4) Shalom Restored.  This is the “denouement” (Ryan and i always look at each other and laugh when we’re listening to Dan Allender and he uses words like “denouement”… this would be a classic example!!… If you’re like me and never heard this word before, it means “to loosen”… and is “the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved.” )

This is where GOD comes in and rescues. Jehovah Goelekh (Isaiah 49:26&60:16) – The LORD Thy Redeemer.

Each person’s life will have an overarching story, but within that countless smaller stories in which we will move in and out of these stages.

Following the above outline, the storyline of Hope goes like this:

1) Hope.  Characterized in the most basic sense of dreams and desires.

2) Disillusionment & Powerlessness (Hope shattered). I think that when tragedy enters and people experience a shattering of hope, very often they are unaware of their deeper feelings and connections with behaviors or reactions, and very much unable to piece together underlying motivations and have the ability to articulate them… So as you read in this section and the next, it may be a stretch of your thoughts… but please bare with me ;o)

Here in the disillusionment and powerlessness is the feeling of being made a *fool*. After the shattering, the former dreams and desires seem foolish. Some common reactions of the human heart would be cynicism, addictions- as an escape from the risk of hope, and seeking a sense of power through indifference – “if i can’t control the future then i will not care what happens.”

3) “Stranger” & Anger.  Here is where we try to rescue ourselves from this sense of disillusionment, powerlessness and foolishness. The cynicism can morph further into anger, bitterness, and revenge… and in all these, our hearts are closed off to other people, and in some measure to God. There is a vow ( made consciously or unconsciously) that “no one will get to my heart.”

4) Hope Restored= True Hope–> becomes Prophet.  This again is where GOD comes in and rescues us… Here *Hope* is restored through God’s promises… and primarily of the resurrection.  The “Denouement” is where Hope finds it’s solid ground in the Resurrection of Jesus, for there on the cross He defeated sin and death.

Isaiah 25:8~ he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.

Romans 8 (selections)~  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death... The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you…  Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

This confidence in the resurrection, leading to eternal glory gives us TRUE HOPE!!!

True Hope will produce ***AWE*** … which is another word for worship. We will also have confidence in the victory of God’s eternal Kingdom as the culmination of time… this is the “memory of what is to come”… We will begin to PRAY and FAST for what will  be…. we will be disturbed and defiant with a holy disruption and a holy defiance (as Dan would say ;o))… against evil gaining ground in this world and in our own homes and hearts. **More hope will bring more disruption, perhaps chaos, and more defiance into your life.**  (if you question this, look at the lives of the disciples after Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension… what did the resurrection do to their lives??)

Thus, steps the Prophet onto stage.

The Prophet or Prophetess will be one who speaks of *true hope* to others… Who brings holy disruption into people’s lives by a call for repentance… and draws forth passion for the coming Kingdom of God… provokes others to FIGHT for goodness, beauty, and *Truth* to gain ground.

I will end this post with one of my favorite things Dan Allender said during the Trauma Care Conference:

He said “Our calling before God is to make the Gospel known. THIS is immense fun! If you’re not having fun in your life, it’s because your life is not oriented toward destroying evil. FUN= putting your FOOT on the neck of EVIL and crushing that “SOB” (hey, Dan said that not me! ;o) )  “What brings your heart to *fury*? What makes *your* heart cry out “HELL, No!”  Stand Against untruth anywhere in the world. Take back territory for the Kingdom of God… Engage the Kingdom of God… *play* with God in the fields of God”