Story: Hope for a Hurting Marriage

Guest post: A story of true love and redemption:

Once upon a time, there was a young couple who fell in love.

They laughed. They had fun. They talked until the early hours of the morning about everything and nothing at the same time. They were different from each other in so many ways but they appreciated these differences. They basked in the beauty of new, young love and the possibility of their lives together. They both knew from the start that they had a future together. Within a year’s time got engaged and married the following year.

Within the first year of marriage reality set in and felt like a huge cloud looming. Not quite sure how this whole marriage thing worked, the young couple tried and tried at communicating and working together, yet they couldn’t quite get it right.

The foundation of their marriage wasn’t built very strong and they the felt the weight bearing on their marriage as the structure began to crack.

Pretty soon the young couple found out they were pregnant! Joy and happiness (and fear of course! ) of being parents now became the focus of this young couple.

Yet as the months ticked by, the arguments, stubbornness, harshness, bitterness and walls against each other kept building and building and the weight came crushing down a little more onto their home.

They tried getting help. They Learned new tricks and tips on how to work with each other better, leaned on friends who had been married longer and had good marriages.

Sigh. They pressed forward.

Pretty soon Baby Girl was born and she was such a beauty. Her peacefulness and joy radiated their home with warmth and laughter. She was truly a beautiful gift from God to this young family.

However, as the years went by their marriage kept sinking.  More walls were built. More arguing with no resolution. More sadness and loneliness began to fill the hearts of these parents.

The realization that the foundation of their home and marriage was crumbling was weighing on their hearts and minds. Coming to the end of their rope, they reached out to the Church, not knowing what else to do. Neither husband or wife wanted to give up, yet neither knew what else to do to fix the damage done. They started pealing back the layers of hurt and pain as they tried to move forward.

They pressed on, not sure if repair was possible.

Falling and getting back up. Falling again and picked up again by loved ones.

Finally, breakthrough came when this husband and wife started to surrender it all- hands up to Jesus.

When couples get married 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is often quoted:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

What does this really look like? How am I supposed to be patient when {fill in the blank}? How am I supposed to be kind when {fill in the blank}? How am I not supposed to keep record of wrongs when {fill in the blank}?

This couple lived apart for over a year. Through this time, the couple continued placing one foot in front of the other; looking forward and trusting that the Lord would lead them. They slowly kept climbing further up and out of the dark pit that had engulfed their marriage for so many years.

A change had begun. Head knowledge was becoming heart transformation. They were learning to trust each other, to work together, to give grace and find acceptance with each other. They were finding peace in their home. They did not always get it right but they kept pressing forward.

One day, the young wife looked up and felt the sun shining on her face.

 As tears streamed down her cheeks, she realized that they were no longer in the dark cycle of falling.

She realized with a grateful heart that the amount of peace and joy in their home was more then they had ever had in the 10 years of their marriage. God had walked with them through the hardest and darkest parts of their life and brought them to a new season.

Some say that marriage gets better with time, but for this couple, marriage got better by surrendering to the Lord and choosing to lay down their own agenda for the sake of the other.

Sometimes the thing worked hardest for is the sweetest in the end.

We are forever grateful to those who walked through the darkest time in our marriage with us. You spent time talking with us, praying for us, crying with us, counseling us and picking us up when we were down.  Our marriage was marked by your love and support. I can’t say we would have the same ending to this story without you and God working through you. We are forever grateful for you.

I am so happy to say “Happy 10th Anniversary” to you, Brian. Although this journey has had hardship and many painful moments, I have learned to love you more today then I could have known when we first said “I do.” Looking back, I would choose you again. I love you and can’t wait to see where our journey leads from here.

All my love,
Sarah

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Storytelling: “Restless in Chicago”

I’d like to welcome *you* into my home. Will you join me?

I’m hosting a brunch with women gathered around my breakfast table. The theme is “Rest” and I’m going to tell a story.

Storytelling: “Restless in Chicago”

It was a beautiful summer night on our little street, over-looking the Chicago River. Our building was a quiet refuge in the city. There was a cozy neighborhood feel of safety in being tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue- just around the corner.

Despite that safety, my heart didn’t feel safe and the journey to refuge was an all-out war.

I have no idea how the turmoil within my heart began on this particular night. I must have felt an offense from my husband; somehow I felt that he wasn’t loving me. This “unloved” experience always came with a sensation of being 11 years old inside. Adult Catherine *was safe and loved* but it was 11 year old Catherine that felt neither and it was her little heart that needed comfort.

It must have been this “11 year old Catherine” inside my adult mind that got angry in response to feeling unloved, ignored, and unwanted. (In fact, it was an inner “little Catherine” that used to ask my husband, Ryan, almost every single day, “Do you love me? …Why? …How do I know? …It wasn’t until I realized years later that these questions were never for him, that my inner little girl was finally quieted and the questions ceased. But that’s another story.)

On this late night, the wounded 11 year old girl inside of me was stomping through the house, and my mind was filled with exhaustion, adrenaline and resolve to leave. As I was lacing up my shoes, my husband, Ryan, sat down on the bed next to me, and said, “You can go if you need to, but let me get you a hotel. And I’ll make you a deal: for every hour that you stay, I’ll upgrade your hotel. And if you stay until midnight, and you still decide to leave, I’ll get you the “W” Hotel.”

A gleeful smile and delighted laughter broke through my anger and tears.

It was a brilliant display of love, humor, and giving of freedom that was enough to melt my heart.

He put his arm around me and I began to sob- full-body sobs, reaching deep down into young Catherine’s heart. He guided me to lay down, and then rubbed my back. He listened to how hurt I had felt, and he apologized. I apologized too.

Ryan prayed over me as he rubbed my back and I fell into a deep and deeply *restful* sleep.

God’s Gift to us is Rest

I once heard Dan Allender say that we each have a war with rest, and this is our war with faith. Now I understand this truth in my experience.

Through the praying, writing, and sharing of this story God began to open my heart to see that my “war with rest” is correlated to “little Catherine’s” struggle in the past. God showed me a young part of my heart that He wanted to heal.

I found several “rest correlations” in my story: 1) Rest and relationship; 2) Rest and being seen and heard; 3) Rest and receiving; 4) Rest and our physical bodies; 5) Rest and repentance and 6) Rest and unconditional love.

I came to a tenacious conviction that “true rest comes *only* through communion: communion with God and with others in a context of unconditional love.”

My story illustrates that this true communion comes through a battle.

I hope you can see that this is your story too. For each person, rest comes through a fight. If you do not find true rest in your life perhaps it’s because you’ve never engaged the war.

Rest, through communion with Himself, is God’s desire and gift to us.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ~ Matthew 11:28

Past and Present Converge in War

The battle surfaces and rages because there is an Enemy who does not want us to come to Jesus for rest. Our own nature also resists the coming that involves repentance and receiving.

Isaiah 30:15

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel,

“In repentance and rest you shall be saved;

in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

But you were unwilling…”

Are you familiar with the part of your heart that resists rest- that is “unwilling” to come to Jesus? What is your *war* with rest? What does it actually look like in real time and what does it feel like in your body? How can you begin to actually fight this war *for rest*?

We live in a sin-torn world where Evil reigns, if only for its allotted time. Evil wars against life, against communion, and against love… and therefore, against rest; and against us coming to Jesus, where ultimate rest is found. How does Evil wage this war and what are the weapons? Evil always weaves lies in such a crafty manner such that the lies seem to be truth to the very core of our being.

“You will only find rest in solitude.”  Evil whispered this lie in my ear from an early age.

Young 11 year old Catherine desired to be seen and heard, yet she lived in silence, and no rest came. The only “rest” she knew was time alone, with her bedroom door locked shut. However, the “rest” itself was a lie; an illusion. It may have been an escape from the reality outside the bedroom door, and at the time she had no experience of true rest, so how did she even know what rest was? The illusion of rest came through self-destruction. It was behind this locked door that she began to slice her skin open with a knife. Was it through the red, salty blood that “rest” came?

The Battle Won

We can either continue on our own path, which is really no rest at all but only an escape that leads to hurt and destruction or we can follow God’s way to true and lasting rest.

In my teen years, I began to settle in rest when God opened my eyes to the fact that Jesus had died on the cross for me. I had known and believed this since I was a little girl, but as a teenager it became personal to my own struggle.

It was healing balm for my raw heart to know that God saw the worst in me and saw all the things I hated about myself but still loved me: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

His blood paid for all my sin, therefore, I didn’t have to make myself bleed anymore. I found rest in God’s unconditional love for me through Jesus.

My heart found rest and joy in communion with Jesus. Spending time with Him in prayer and Scripture was my delight, and my heart was full.  This was abundant life that I had not known through the false rest of escape.

A Paradox: The Battle is Won yet Keep Fighting

The book of Hebrews sets forth a paradox: we work to rest.

“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience {unbelief}.” ~ Hebrews 4:11

Jesus was the final sacrifice and offering for sin; therefore, we can accept his gift,  and cease from our own labor of earning merit before God. Through the sacrifice of Jesus in our place, we are reconciled and accepted before God.

Jesus has done all the work on our behalf; now it is our lot to rest in the acceptance Jesus has purchased for us by his own blood, and yet we need to fight to experience in our daily lives the rest he has secured for us eternally.

The fight is to keep coming to Jesus continually and to keep trusting that we are indeed forgiven, loved and accepted by God. The fight is to believe this in every moment of every day.  In my story above, the lie that I was unloved and a second lie offering isolation as a solution both threatened to steal my experience of rest.

In this life we never arrive at perfection, or wholeness or fullness of healing. God always has more for us: more healing, more freedom, more rest. In order to continue into “more” we must say “yes” and follow Jesus as he invites us into exploring our stories, and therefore our hearts and minds.

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. ~ Psalm 139:23-24

Each story contains insight as to how Evil has woven lies that we’ve unwittingly or wittingly agreed with. New insight invites us to repent of ways we’ve attempted to find life, healing, or solace apart from God.

In the aftermath of my story work, repentance involved renouncing and turning from the lies that promised safety through escape in solitude, instead of in Jesus. In repentance I turn more fully to Jesus as THE source of life.

Evil still comes to me and whispers the lie of “rest in solitude.”

The settings and circumstances may be very different. Instead of a late night drama, it can be a joyful family afternoon.

I might be out rollerblading with my family in our drive way and suddenly a guttural need to flee will arise. I will find an excuse to go inside and be alone. I was never aware of this pattern until I did this story work. Now can I recognize and name the excuse; previously, the reason to leave felt like a true need.

Now I can hear the invitation of Jesus through Ryan’s gentle voice urging me to stay; telling 11 year old Catherine, “it’s safe, you’re loved and welcome here. You belong with us.”

I am waging war against Evil.

I keep my roller blades on and skate a little longer.

I am staying in communion.

 

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

 

 

drain. the. swamp.

1. Part One

Pussy. Tits. F***.

These are the words of Trump that have caused a national uproar and a torrent of emotion across the country. People were outraged. Shocked. High-profile men and women withdrew their support from Trump.

Social media went wild. People wrote comments such as, “I could never look my daughter in the eye and tell her that I voted for Trump.” … and  “Whoever votes for such a man is humiliating and debasing themselves.”  People are saying that what he did was a sex crime, and by their words convicting him as a criminal.

Clearly what Trump said 11 years ago was wrong, sinful, and encompassed by the work of Darkness.

However, as far as I know, Trump has not been accused, tried or convicted of any crime. Do we really want to revert to the witch hunt tactics of the 1600s?  This was also in the tape: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”  He is not describing an act of rape… seduction and adultery yes, but rape or forced assault- no.

  1. Part Two

My purpose is not to elevate one political party. I want to address the self-righteousness that is rampant. My concern is your heart and my heart.

The question I’d like to ask is: what man out there has not ever talked or thought about a woman in a crude way? How many men out there have not even *once* been a consumer of pornography, which supports sex trafficking, sexual abuse, and a “rape culture”?

The point is, as the Bible says, “There is no one righteous, no not one” (Romans 3). I’d like to challenge people to get off their self-righteous high horse and not act like Trump’s sin is worse than ours. (or Hillary’s sin… for some reason Trump’s seems to be more spoken of).

{Jesus} said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone. ~ John 8:7

The self-righteous talk that I am reading and hearing is a severe offense to the Gospel of Jesus.

We ALL need to be saved by the free gift of grace offered by Jesus.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” ~ 1 Timothy 1:15

Here’s a story about the political self-righteous rhetoric:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray,… The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: *** ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like [Trump] ***

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, *** ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’*** ~ Luke 18

Are *you* more like the Pharisee or like the tax collector in your words and thoughts?

Be *outraged* at Trump’s sin… and Hillary’s. But are you more outraged at your own sin? Who has the log?? and who has the speck?

You’re either humble or prideful. Your heart is either repentant or self-righteous.

And here is the end of the matter: God gives *grace* to the humble, repentant sinner, but opposes the proud.

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” ~Luke 18

  1. Part 3

How DO we address the wrongdoings of both political candidates?

Paul uses the two words: *GENTLENESS* and *HUMILITY*

Galations 6:1- Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.

In Matthew 7, Jesus defines true humility with the analogy of the log and speck:

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?  How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. ~ Matthew 7:3-5

First, you must have the integrity and honesty to take **ownership** of the log in your own eye.

What you see in Trump, or Hillary will fall into the 2 core issues of the human heart: Lust and anger.

Jesus said that those who struggle with lust are adulterers and those who struggle with anger are murderers. (non-sexual lust is idolatry or adultery before God).

Perhaps Trump is the adulterer and Hillary is the murderer.

BUT SO AM I.  Like Trump I am an adulterer and like Hillary I am a murderer. Anything less than this, is *self-righteousness*.

Got it?  (Just to make sure, try saying out loud to your significant other- “Honey, just so you know, I AM an adulterer and a murderer. Seriously.” )

The point is that you never address someone whom you see to be MORE of a murderer or an adulterer than yourself. This is true humility.

As Dr. Dan Allender said in his podcast, “This leavens the playing field. We can say, “In this struggle I have *been there*, I AM there, and I will BE there in some form until the coming of Christ and full redemption in Him.”

4. Conclusion.

DRAIN. THE. SWAMP.

Drain your OWN swamp first!!

“..the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” ~ Mark 1:15

To him {Jesus} all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” ~ Acts 10:43

For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live. ~ Ezekiel 18:30

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ~ 2 CHR 7:14

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 }

Christianity is a *Legal Standing*

Here is my proposition: True Biblical Christianity is primarily a “Legal Standing” in God’s court of law. This is in contrast to every other religion, and many so called forms of “Christianity” which are codes of morality and goodness.

Imagine that you are summoned to court to stand trial, after you’ve been arrested for a crime. Let’s say robbing a bank. And as you’re sitting there the prosecution pulls out a video tape of your crime. There is no disputing the truth- you’re clearly guilty. So the judge sentences you to either life in prison or pay a 10 billion dollar fine. You realize that there is now way you can pay this debt- EVER. No matter how hard you work your entire life.
You hang your head in defeat and despair once you realize that there is no way out of the life sentence.
Then you look up, and see the judge himself walking around from behind the justice desk. And he says, “I will pay the debt myself, therefore, this man can go free and the justice of the law will be upheld.”
*This* is the true Gospel (meaning “good news”)- We ALL stand guilty before God’s court of law {we are all liars, adulterers (at least in heart), murderers (hating someone or being angry is murder of the heart), blasphemers (if you’ve used God’s name as a curse word either verbally, or taking his reputation through the mud)} And God’s Law demands death for sin. But God, in human form- Jesus- came around from the judgement seat and said, “I will take their place. God’s righteous law will be upheld, and justice met, because I will take their place and pay their debt, so they can go FREE.”
Thus, when a person has “faith” in Jesus, they are accepting His gift of paying their debt.

This is the *primary* point of following Jesus- In a legal sense our standing before God is changed from “Guilty” to “Forgiven/ Acquitted”. But that’s only half of the legal change…. It’s actually MORE than that… It’s a legal *exchange*. Jesus took our place legally (our sin was laid to his account, although he did not personally become sinful.) And we also took his place legally (HIS perfect adherence to the law was credited to our account- so in God’s court of law we are legally seen as perfect law-abiders, although in reality we have transgressed.)

God’s perfect Law demands perfect obedience/righteousness… and when broken/ transgressed, demands death. Jesus fulfilled BOTH demands of the Law *on our behalf*. 1) Because Jesus was God in the flesh, he lived a perfect, holy, and righteous life… This perfection is credited to us. 2) The law demands our death- Jesus’ death is credited to us. And our debt paid.

This is the *freedom* that is offered: **EVERYTHING God demands from us, He *gives* to us, through Jesus**

So all is Gift. All is Grace. And all is Free and freedom. We are *accepted* before God.

There is no earning, no working, no striving… just receiving the GIFT and resting in that for salvation.

Here are some passages for reference: (Best thing to do is to read all of Romans and Galatians with an eye toward the legal language)
First our legal standing as guilty:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. ~ Matthew 5:21-22

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” ~ Matthew 12:36-37

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. ~ Romans 3:19

Legal Exchange & Legal Standing as Justified/ Acquitted:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. ~ Romans 3:21-28 {propitiation is a legal word, meaning to take another’s debt on yourself}

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…That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace… But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
~ Romans 4:2-5,16, 24-25

yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. ~ Galations 2:16

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”– so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. ~ Galations 3:10-14
Legal Standing as Righteous (not our own personal righteousness, but that of Jesus credited TO us)
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–
~ Philippians 4:9

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. ~ Galations 4:4 (NOTE: “adoption” is a legal transaction, as well as family)