devotional, encouragement, grief, healing, midlife faith

The Ultimate Victory of Jesus

*This is a guest post by my friend Kim Findlay. Find her blog, books, and Bible studies on her website. *

Their steps were heavy with grief as they walked toward the tomb early that morning. Silence hung in the air between them, reminding them of their sorrow.

How could he be gone? Shock still gripped them as memories of his death plagued them—the tang of his blood lingering in the air; his body slack on the cross held up only by those dreaded nails—the gash in his side.

Mary winced as the memory of the banging hammer echoed through her heart. The hammer that struck the nails tore through his hands, his hands. Oh, how she’d wanted to grab that hammer away and tell them to stop! Hot tears fell down her cheeks as she pressed on toward the tomb.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, her heart cried. He wasn’t supposed to die! She tried to remember the words he spoke during their time together, but there was nothing. Nothing but the horror of seeing him cry out in those final moments breath filled his lungs.

“Eli, Eli,” he’d cried, “lama sabachthani? Why have you abandoned me?”

She wanted to cry with him—Yahweh, what is happening? Why did he die? It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Fast Forward to Today

Have you ever wondered that? Has death ever stared at you through the eyes of someone you love? 

I have. In 2005, my daughter died from injuries she sustained in a fire that also destroyed our home. She was five years old. 

I remember crying out to God in those earliest days of grief when the pain was raw and the tears were deep. I cried and wondered and railed against the reality of sorrow that slammed into my life . . . it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Jesus told us this. The night before he died, Jesus sat with his disciples at the last supper, imparting final words and encouragement. Then, in John 16:33, he says, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Flashback

Just as they made it to the tomb, the ground began to shake! As if the events of the past couple of days hadn’t been enough, the very foundation they stood on trembled! The women watched as the guards shook with fear. The stone that covered the tomb began to move.

What was happening?

An angel sat on the stone, brilliant and white. They looked at one another, hearts beating fast. “Don’t be afraid,” the angel said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. But he isn’t here! He has risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.”

The women drew near to see where his body was lying —the tomb was empty! Their hearts, once filled with grief, felt as they’d explode with joy! They spun on their feet and ran from the grave. They had to tell the disciples what the angel said.

Jesus was alive?

They looked at each other as they hurried along. And then . . . they saw him. Jesus! They fell at his feet in worship. Jesus was alive! (Matthew 28:1-10)

Fast Forward

Yes, trials and sorrows are expected here in the land of the living. Heartbreak and loss, while painful, shouldn’t shock us. They are a part of life this side of heaven, but those hardships are not the end of our story.

Consider Jesus’ words again. This verse isn’t only about embracing the reality of trials and sorrows in this world. Too often, we spend time looking at the broken pieces of our lives, praying and hoping those broken pieces will somehow be made right again that we miss a glorious truth from Jesus himself—He is victorious!

Let me declare that again—Jesus is victorious! He conquered sin and death!

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57


This passage isn’t a mere calling out of suffering; it declares an ultimate truth. Yes, there will be suffering, but Jesus is greater! Death does not have the final say. He is bigger! Jesus is victorious!

Did you catch that? Jesus declares victory over it all! Sin and death. Loss and sorrow. Pain and separation. What a difference it makes when we face the trials of today. Yes, life is hard, and it hurts but those feelings, and these circumstances don’t win. Jesus does.

Pray and Reflect

  • John 16:33
  • 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
  • Philippians 2:7-11
  • Isaiah 9:6-7

Think and Journal

  • What sorrow do you carry today that needs Jesus’ healing touch?
  • How does knowing God promised a Savior in Isaiah bring you comfort today?
  • How does Jesus’ victory over death help us when we grieve the death of someone we love?
  • How does knowing Jesus is victorious change the way you approach sorrow or hardship?

*This article first appeared on the Beyond Sunday blog.*

change, devotional, divorce, encouragement, grief, healing, midlife faith, reinventing

Satisfaction Is in the Sanctuary

I used to be a complainer. I mean, like really. In spite of the sign I still (as an empty nester) have in my house that says No Whining. I complained to fellow worship team members about having to get up so early on a Sunday morning. (And totally missed the irony of that.) I complained about having to grade papers all weekend long. I complained about making dinner every night for my family. I complained about having to clean my big house.

And then I lost it. All of it.

During that really dark time, I felt a lot like Asaph and his confusion in Psalm 73 over the seeming prosperity of the wicked. I thought I had done everything right, but all of a sudden everything was wrong, and it seemed like the wicked were prospering.

For I was envious of the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Psalm 73:3

For sure, comparison and complaining are contentment killers! But does that mean we can’t go to God with our hurts and disappointments? Of course not! Throughout the Psalms, we see David (and here Asaph) expressing his disappointment and envy with the prosperity of his enemies. 

And that right there is the key: he went straight to God with his complaints. He didn’t post a litany of problems on social media. He didn’t verbally attack his enemies in prayer meeting by disguising it as a prayer request. He went straight to the Source of life for comfort and reassurance.

The other things Asaph did in this psalm were to recognize God’s goodness to Israel right up front and his own sinful feelings and reactions. We always need to remember God’s goodness toward us. Owning our feelings and confessing them as needed brings us contentment in our relationship with Christ.

When we own our feelings as not the truth, we realize that God is God, and we are not. We may never know this side of Heaven why someone else prospers, and we don’t, or why we’re the ones struggling with our marriage, kids, finances, or whatever when we thought we did everything right. 

Life is not a formula! And we don’t have the full picture of God’s plan, which is probably a good thing. But we do know that God will eventually work all things for our good. 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

As much as I want to know all of the whys of my difficult decade, I’ve had to release that desire. God hasn’t told me why, and I have to be ok with that. Honestly, letting go of my demands was releasing in so many ways. It left me free to focus on the good things that have come out of that time, which has led to a greater satisfaction with my Lord and with my life than I had before. 

But when I thought how to understand this,
    it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
    then I discerned their end.

Psalm 73:16-17

When Asaph gave up on questioning why and turned to worshiping God instead, he realized that the wicked would receive justice—in God’s timing. He realized that all of those things we strive after are temporary. They can be swept away in a moment. The only things that truly matter in life are found in God’s presence.

But for me it is good to be near God;
    I have made the Lord God my refuge,
    that I may tell of all your works.

Psalm 73:28

And in regaining my life—though devoid of many people and things I once considered necessities—I discovered that in Christ I had everything I needed. And He is all I need.

Friend, I pray you never have to experience devastating losses in order to appreciate what you have. How can you instead cultivate a heart of gratitude this next week? Drop me a line, and let me know your plan, so I can pray for you.  

encouragement, healing, lessons learned, midlife faith

Sticky and Sweet: Church Relationships

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Although Charles Dickens was referring to mid 19th-century England, I suspect many of us could say the same about our relationships within the organized church.

We all know that the church should be a refuge, a hospital for sinners and the weary, yet we are sometimes met by stabbing saints instead of singing saints. Looking for sweet fellowship, we often get mired down in the stickiness of life.

One thing I’ve discovered is that there are no perfect churches; however, we can’t equate God’s church with God’s character. The church is people, and people aren’t perfect. 

But don’t give in to the temptation to give up on church completely just because of a few bad experiences. It’s tempting. Trust me, I know. So, why should we keep attending church even when we’re doubting?

God desires us to be sanctified. Part of that ongoing process involves the church. I think we sometimes forget that. God calls us to be holy as he is holy, but it’s a process. 

The purpose of the church body is to help and encourage each other, not to rip each other to shreds. 

A dishonest [wo]man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.

Proverbs 16:28

Looking for some guidelines on how to make sure you’re acting like a model church member? Look no further than the apostle Paul’s epistles to the New Testament churches. You’ll discover that there really is nothing new under the sun! Here’s a synopsis of the high points: 

  • Worry about yourself first. Don’t criticize others, especially those in leadership. 
  • Major on the majors (doctrine, right treatment of people) and minor on the minors (don’t let your contentiousness over the color of the carpet drive someone away from the church—true story). 
  • Don’t cover up sin or abuse, but tread carefully and biblically when dealing with it. I have so much more to say on this topic, but that’s for another time.
  • Be kind. Be loving. 
  • Be involved. Don’t criticize the way people do things unless you’re willing to jump in and help. And even then hold your tongue.
  • Instead of focusing on the splinter in your sister’s eye, focus on the log in yours (Matthew 7:1-4). Focus on building up your fellow saints instead. Your local church body will be better for it.
  • Filter your words before they fly out of your mouth or off your fingertips. 
  • Don’t participate in gossip. While no one will deny that there are problems in the church, and church leaders are falling like flies, gossip only makes it worse. And don’t try to disguise your juicy news as a prayer request. We’re onto you, sister!

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 4:29

Let’s focus on the sweetness of fellowship with believing sisters in the church. What’s one thing you can focus on this week to help foster positive relationships within the body of Christ? Leave me a comment (or email me back) and let me know!

change, healing, midlife faith, moving on, reinventing

Introducing the Midlife Faith Group!

A few months ago, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Angie Baughman on her podcast Steady On. We chatted about all kinds of life stuff, especially what happens when we get to the middle-aged stage of life (defined by many as ages 40-65ish). I’m pretty sure I had a moment and totally forgot to post the link for y’all to listen to it, so here it is:

Mid-Life Christianity with Bethany LaShell 

You can also find Steady On on most podcasting platforms.

Faith is important in every stage of life, but by midlife, we’ve been hit by some of the bigger storms of life, and our faith has taken a beating. Instead of drowning when the waves roll over us, we can learn to increase our faith.

Faith is a muscle; the more you use it, the bigger it gets. 

I’ve finally figured out that I’m not alone in this stage of life—hallelujah!—and that we’re stronger when we’re together, so I’m creating a private group on Facebook just for women who are in this same, weird, hard stage of life called the middle. Please come join us!   

Midlife Faith is a group for Christian women who are looking for encouragement and hope in the hard stuff of life – adult (ish) children, the (nearly) empty nest, aging parents, job transitions, divorce, church challenges, health issues, and more. Midlife Faith is for women who are in their 40s-50s (ish!) and wondering how to navigate this new stage in their lives. We’re all about pointing others to Jesus and speaking positively into each others’ lives. I’ll be sharing my weekly (ish) encouraging blog posts and other resources. This will be a PRIVATE group on *Facebook, so members can share comfortably. 

Request an invitation today!

Please invite your girlfriends who are in this same stage of life! While we are a Christian group and all about finding answers in the Bible, being a professing Christian is not a requirement for membership in the group. 

*If you’re exiting Facebook in favor of other social media platforms, you can arrange your settings to open immediately to this group instead of your own page.

change, devotional, healing, lessons learned, medical issues, midlife faith, reinventing

Behind the Mask of Health Mania

As we begin a new year, we often make goals or resolutions to improve our physical health—lose weight, exercise more, eat better, cook at home more, cut out sugar, etc. But we often forget about those goals before the end of the month. While there’s nothing wrong with improving our physical health and nothing wrong with making goals or resolutions, perhaps we’d be better served by focusing on the state of our souls.

It’s all too easy to hide the state of our souls behind the state of our physical bodies. Many overly health-conscious people hide the imperfections of their souls behind the perfection of their physical bodies. We obsess over counting points and steps while neglecting our daily devotions. (Just me? I thought not.) We preen in front of the dressing room mirrors while gossiping behind closed doors. 

While we are definitely called to take care of our physical bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6), we are not called to make idols of them. Sin takes a good thing and makes it the only thing; at the same time, Christians tend to take a worldly thing and give it a spiritual spin. 

For example, the premise of Daniel Fast is to eat just vegetables in order to lose weight; however, the actual reason Daniel chose to eat only vegetables was so as not to “defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank” (Daniel 1:8 ESV). As a result of following their convictions to remain pure, God gave them favor so that Daniel and his friends were “better in appearance and fatter in flesh” than their counterparts (Daniel 1:15 ESV). 

What we see here and in other Scriptures is that being what we would call overweight or fat meant having enough food to eat during biblical times. Obviously overeating is considered gluttonous, but as in all things, balance is the key.

Another biblical principle concerning our physical bodies that often gets taken to extremes is the concept of athletic training. The apostle Paul often uses the importance of physical training to emphasize the importance of spiritual training. For instance, he talks about how only one person will win a race even though many people will train and participate in it. So, we are encouraged to run in such a way as to win. Of course, the point is to run our spiritual race in such a way as to win an “imperishable” wreath or crown (1 Corinthians 9:25). 

Along with the extreme of doing our utmost to win the prize, what can happen when we idealize perfection too much? We put down those who can’t achieve it, and they somehow become less than. Instead of embracing all people and abilities as God’s unique creations, we revile them and leave them in our dust. 

So our aim should be working to become more Christlike instead of focusing only on physical fitness: “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way” (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV).

Another aspect of physical training taken to the extreme is exhaustion. Behind the mask of achievement and success lies a tired body with multiple invisible problems. We go and go and go while neglecting the rest our bodies need because our culture sees rest as laziness. But God designed us with a need for regular rest! Our need to be always on the go leads to drive-thru dinners several times a week that do not provide our bodies with the nourishment they need.

What’s the cure? When we’re so worn out that we don’t know what to do, Jesus invites us to exchange our burdens for his. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me … and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29 ESV).

In the end, it’s all about balance! When we’re tired or hungry or on a sugar high, we can’t focus on God. Let’s take off our masks of physical perfection and busyness, so we can focus on our spiritual well-being and ask God what our priorities should be.

Call to Action:

Read and reflect on these passages of Scripture in light of this week’s sermon.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:12-13 (ESV)—“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything. Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food – and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
  • 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)—”Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
  • Ephesians 5:29 (ESV)—”For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
  • Hebrews 4:10 ESV)—“For whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”

Questions for Reflection:

  1. In what ways do you find yourself masking your spiritual state behind your physical state?
  2. How have you taken a good thing and turned it into the only thing, which takes the focus off properly glorifying God with it?
  3. How can you create more balance in your physical priorities this week?
  4. How can you create more time for physical and spiritual rest in order to prioritize your relationships with God and your family?

*Note: This article was originally posted on my friend Tammy’s church blog, Beyond Sundays.

anxiety, devotional, encouragement, healing, holidays, lessons learned, midlife faith

The Mask of False Happiness

As we wrap up 2020 (who’s breathing a sigh of relief with me?), it’s a good time to reflect on our emotional health. One of the masks we women tend to don frequently is the mask of false happiness. Now, there’s nothing wrong with faking it till you make it occasionally, but we’re not meant to live that way. We’re meant to live authentically, sharing our true selves with each other in community.

When we drop a bowl on the ceramic floor, and it shatters, what do we do with it? We toss it in the trash can, of course. When the Japanese break a piece of pottery, on the other hand, they repair it with gold (do they sell that kind of superglue in WalMart?) and proclaim that the piece is even more beautiful than it was originally. Their idea is that by embracing the brokenness and flaws, the piece becomes even stronger and more stunning. This is called kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair” or kintsugi, which is “golden joinery.” Wow! 

What if we treated people like that? What if we reframed our emotional scars—instead of judging ourselves as failing at the Christian life, how about we see our scars as battle wounds of winning warriors? What if we saw those made fragile by life’s circumstances and emotional upheavals as those who needed more care—not judgment and rejection?

Then, perhaps, we would be able to take off the masks of happiness and perfection that have become so a part of ourselves that we hardly recognize ourselves without them. With the rise in mental health issues and social media comparisons, we’ve all become quite adept at putting on a happy mask. But behind the mask of “fine” lies a multitude of “not fine.” Good news: God cares for the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).

What if, instead of hiding behind the mask of our fake smiles denoting a nonexistent, perfectly happy life, we put our authentic selves on display? Scary thought, I know. 

As noted by poet ee cummings, “The greatest battle we face as human beings is the battle to protect our true selves from the self the world wants us to become.”

But here’s the thing. The emotional connections and emotional health we all long for do not lie behind the mask of perfection. They lie in wide-open authenticity. In order to be truly loved, one must be fully known. The reverse is also true; in order to truly love others, we must fully know them.

The other side of emotional health is what we believe about ourselves, which is largely based on how we talk to ourselves. So often, we talk to ourselves in ways we would never talk to a struggling friend. Instead, we need to pretend the woman (or man) in the mirror is a good friend across the table at our favorite cafe. 

What we think—about others and about ourselves—matters because out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 NKJV). 

Instead of trash talking to and about ourselves, we need to remind ourselves of what is true and right and lovely. Instead of sowing discord in our own lives and in the lives of those around us, we need to reap the fruits of the Spirit by being as gentle and patient with ourselves as we are with treasured friends.

Remember what God says about us: we are his masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10)! Not practice pieces, not discarded, broken bowls. Masterpieces to be treasured!

When we can fully embrace God’s proclamation of value and worth about others and about ourselves, then our brokenness will become beautiful, and we would no longer feel the need to hide behind the mask of perfection and false happiness. We would embrace others and ourselves with the art of kintsugi. 

Call to Action:

Pray and Reflect on the following passages in light of this week’s sermon:

  • Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)—But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
  • Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)—For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
  • Philippians 4:8 (NLT)—And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

Questions for Reflection:

  1. What emotional masks have you been wearing lately and why?
  2. How can you embrace your emotions in order to become more comfortable with them and then be willing to share them (judiciously) with others?
  3. How can you make yourself a safe place for others to be their authentic selves?
  4. Make a list of your characteristics and thank God for making you the way you are—a masterpiece. 

*Note: This article was originally posted to my friend Tammy’s church blog, Beyond Sunday.

change, devotional, encouragement, healing, midlife faith, moving on

How to Forgive

Forgiveness is good and necessary. But it is HARD!! And as an intangible idea, it’s difficult to navigate. It’s funny how hurtful words raged once can echo through the memory like a kid shouting in a tunnel, yet words of forgiveness whispered quietly on our knees need to be repeated to be remembered sometimes. 

As a practical girl, I like tangible steps. Here are a few that I’ve found helpful:

  1. Make time to get alone with God. You need to feel to heal, as contrary as it may seem! Feelings that are swept under the carpet do not heal. They multiply like the hair ties my cat hides under the rug. 
  2. Write a list of the offenses lurking in your heart – no matter how long ago they occurred – then out loud (and in writing) say, “Father, I choose to forgive (who) for (what) that happened on (when) at (where). Please help me to leave the offense here at the foot of the cross.”
  3. Writing about your feelings is a great way to process them and then to release them. The purpose here is to trace the redemption that comes through the process of forgiving someone. After you’ve forgiven a particular offense, either rip the paper to shreds or put it in your fire pit. Or, you can write in “FORGIVEN” across that journal page as a reminder to set aside the hurt when it comes to mind. 
  4. Spoken words have power. Hearing ourselves forgive someone aloud and release the desire for revenge is much more powerful than just thinking about it. 
  5. Sometimes the grievances are so significant or held for so long that you may need to see a Christian counselor to help you work through them.

What do those steps look like in reality? Here’s a glimpse:

Not long ago, a friend lovingly confronted me about the fact that I still sounded bitter about events that had happened years ago. Things I thought I’d forgiven. Yes, they were hard things—like betrayal, deliberate financial ruin, character assassination—but I thought I was past them. 

So, I spent some time alone with God. I made a list in my journal of all the grievances I could think of off the top of my head, all the people whose wounds still lingered in my mind. I allowed myself a short time to acknowledge the hurts.  

Then I reminded myself that I am not responsible for their words and actions. God has seen my every tear and heard my every cry. In holding on to my own desire for revenge, I was trying to act like God. That’s not my job!

God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. Ecclesiastes 3:17 ESV    

Ecclesiastes 3:17 ESV

I prayed and told God that I wanted to forgive these people and these offenses, but that I needed help. I told God that I was so weary of carrying what I wasn’t meant to carry:  the heavy burdens of unforgiveness, bitterness, and revenge. 

The longer we try to carry that emotional baggage, the heavier it becomes. Jesus invites us to exchange our burdens for His:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV

A few days later, I was blessed to witness more than 50 people get baptized in a river. To watch so many people publicly declare their faith and rejoice in Christ’s forgiveness was awesome and inspiring!

Afterwards, while I was standing on the riverbank watching kayakers and sticks float past me, and it occurred to me that this would be a perfect place to visibly watch my own bitterness float away.

I grabbed a handful of leaves and, one by one, audibly gave each leaf a name and an offense. Then I released each leaf to float down the river. Soon, I could not tell which leaf was which. After a few more minutes, none of the leaves I’d tossed into the river were visible. 

While I was doing this, I prayed yet again for the Lord to help me release the burden of bitterness in my heart. After all my leaves and tears were gone, I felt a lightness and a joyfulness that I have not felt in many years. 

Yes, I may still need reminders to myself that I have released that resentment, but that’s all they are: reminders that God can turn resentment into redemption. I tell myself that was then; this is now. I tamp down my desire to mete out a cold shoulder or a snide dig, and I take it to the Lord in prayer again.

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Ephesians 4:31-32

Your process of forgiveness may look different and may take more or less time. That’s okay. How can I pray for you on your journey toward forgiveness today, friend?

anxiety, change, devotional, healing, midlife faith, moving on

The What and the Why of Forgiveness

For many years, I operated on a faulty definition of forgiveness. My definition ran something like this: “Forgiving someone means they win the argument. Forgiving someone means I have to let them fully back into my life. Forgiving someone means I have to let them continue to run roughshod over my feelings. Forgiving someone means what they said or did doesn’t matter.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. No wonder my bruised feelings and resentment built up a nearly impenetrable wall of bitterness around my heart that spilled over onto friends and family alike.

If it’s not that faulty definition, then what is it? Forgiveness is not a feeling. It’s an action you choose to do. It’s giving up your right to resentment, retribution, and revenge. Forgiveness is refusing to revisit the offense in your mind and with your words or actions; it’s unlimited and unconditional.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you weren’t hurt, but rather that you are choosing to move forward. It doesn’t mean you forget what happened, but you don’t hold it against the offender. Forgiveness is not excusing the behavior of another person, nor is it allowing damaging behaviors to continue.

When you forgive, you choose to let go of the debt of sin. It’s basically ripping up the bill. Forgiveness releases you, sweet friend! Let God do his job—he will bring justice to the offender at his appointed time.

But why do we even need to forgive? Because it’s commanded in Scripture:

And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.

Mark 11:25-26 NKJV

The strength of our relationships depends on our ability to forgive. Want to preserve your relationships with people? Learn to forgive.

The Lord’s prayer “shows us that we need daily forgiveness as much as we need daily bread.”

R.T. Kendall, Total Forgiveness

Our emotional and physical health depend on our ability to forgive, according to science. Unforgiveness opens the gateway to depression, anxiety, heart problems, headaches, lowered self-esteem, high blood pressure, weight gain/loss, a weakened immune system, and a whole bunch of other issues. Yikes! Who wants to hang on to all that?

Unforgiveness leads to bitterness, which can escalate to hostility, hatred, and eventually a hardened heart. A hardened heart full of bitterness cannot engage in a loving relationship with anyone. The bitterness will seep over into your everyday life and people around you will notice your bitter attitude. Yikes again! No one wants to be around that much poison.

I’m not saying forgiving someone is easy, because it’s not, but can you appreciate just how very necessary it is, friend? Next time we’ll talk about the nitty gritty of how to forgive—even those who don’t ask for it, don’t deserve it, or aren’t around to receive it. 

Can I pray for you on your journey toward forgiveness? Drop me a line and let me know!

anxiety, encouragement, healing, lessons learned, midlife faith

The Mask of Political Correctness

Behind the mask of political correctness lies a divisiveness—even among Christians—not seen in our country for many years. While we pray for healing in our land, how do we remain friends with those on the opposite side of the fence, whether that fence is political, economic, social, or religious?

By being so focused on trying to be politically correct, we’ve become socially incorrect! In trying not to offend anyone, we offend so many more people!  

Somehow, we’ve turned into an angry mob that thinks it’s ok to scream and yell our every thought from the street corners and from social media platforms. In doing so, we’ve alienated even those we love.

I could give the all-inclusive exhortation:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 ESV

Instead, let’s talk about what to do if you’re on the receiving end of a friend or family member’s tirade that goes against your views or grieves your soul. How do you maintain that relationship? Should you? How do you separate a person’s political/economic/social/religious views from the person herself?

It’s not easy! First of all, pray! Give your heartache over to the Lord. He knows all about betrayal and abandonment (Simon Isacriot, anyone?). 

Then, if the other person holds an immoral or unethical position, gently share the biblical position with her. She may not receive it, but you have done what you could. Then drop it and don’t harp on your position any more.

Here are some other considerations and actions you can take:

  1. How important is the relationship to you? Is it worth preserving? 
  2. Listen actively to understand, not to give an answer. Listen with an open mind—you may learn something. On the flip side, be sure you know what and why you hold to your beliefs. Get to the heart of the matter that’s separating you. 
  3. Don’t take it personally. I know, I know. I’m the pot calling the kettle black! But chances are, your friend is not attacking you but rather is desiring to prove her rightness.
  4. Set boundaries. 
    1. Block posts from groups that upset your equilibrium on social media. 
    2. Unfollow someone for 30 days (they’ll never know, and it’ll give you time to breathe and decide whether you want to keep seeing her posts after that).
    3. Don’t engage in public debates on social media! Those debates tend to take on a life of their own and involve half of your friend list. 
    4. If needed, set a time limit on how often or how long you’re willing to engage in face-to-face discussions.
    5. Have a go-to phrase to signal the end of the discussion, such as “Well, we aren’t going to solve the world’s problems today, so let’s set this aside and focus on something happier.”
    6. If you can’t meet at Starbucks without getting offended by something she says, become less available for a meeting.
  5. Let go of the notion of being right. You may, indeed, be right according to Scripture, but if you insist on winning every argument, you will lose your relationships; however, it is possible to give facts and evidence occasionally in response without attacking the person or destroying a relationship. 

How do I know, first of all, how difficult it is to separate the person from her beliefs, and, second of all, how difficult it is to truly love someone in spite of her contrary views? Someone very close to me has become increasingly vocal about a value that is completely contrary to Scriptures. I understand, sweet friend, and I’m praying for you.

How can I pray for you during this difficult time? Let me know!

anxiety, encouragement, grief, healing, lessons learned, midlife faith, moving on

The Mask of Busyness

Let’s talk about everyone’s favorite topic—masks! No, I’m not getting political or scientific, but just like we all have our reasons for wearing/not wearing cloth masks, we all have our reasons for wearing the invisible masks that hide our true selves.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been lonely lately. Sure, the whole virus thing hasn’t helped, but even before that, I was missing people. So, I thought I’d fill my evenings and weekends outside of work with busyness.

Surely if I went on enough hikes and attended enough game nights, I would find a bosom friend (think Anne of Green Gables and Diana). Surely if I attended enough Bible studies and volunteered enough, I would be more spiritual, and God would love me more, right? Surely if I ate out every other meal, I would forget that my own dining room table was set for one. 

Behind the mask of busyness lies a face of loneliness.

You guessed it. All of that busyness didn’t work. Going to all the game nights and other activities didn’t help to fill the gap left by a friend whom I no longer saw regularly. Surfing Facebook constantly didn’t fill in the gap for a lunch-time heart-to-heart talk with a close girlfriend.

Trying to be more spiritual didn’t make God love me more. He already loves me more than I can imagine. “’Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10 NIV).

Joining dating sites didn’t garner me a partner to share the ups and downs of daily life. It just emphasized the sting of rejection and loneliness—over and over again. 

Eating out all the time just made my waistline expand and my wallet shrink. And I’m still faced with the empty spot at the dining room table.

So, when I remove the mask of busyness, I’m left to face my loneliness head-on. What will I do with it? The ultimate answer to the mask of busyness is Isaiah 46:10, 

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

God is the answer for my loneliness. God is the answer for your loneliness, too. Here are five simple, practical steps to combat loneliness:

  1. Seek a closer connection with God. Being alone is the perfect time to schedule dates with the Lord to spend more time reading the Bible and praying. Look around for a Bible study to join—you’ll make some new friends in the process! Read the Psalms. David knew all about feeling alone.
  2. Write it out. Journal your thoughts to God. It is okay to feel lonely. Write about the hard stuff, but also write about the good stuff that He’s done for you in the past. Thank Him for His current provisions for you and for what He will do for you in the future.
  3. Make an effort! It’s so, so hard to reach out (so hard that I dislike that actual phrase—true story), but it is, oh, so worth it. Chances are that others around you are also wishing they had closer connections, but don’t know how to ask for them.
  4. Get involved in a ministry and/or volunteering with those less fortunate.
  5. Remember this season won’t last forever. 

God wants us to turn to Him instead of to activities to fill our emptiness. He promises to give us what we need. He is a … 

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
     is God in his holy habitation.
God settles the solitary [lonely] in a home;
     he leads out the prisoners to prosperity (Psalm 68:5-6 ESV).

It’s time, don’t you think, to set aside our masks of busyness and seek God. He already knows us inside and out anyway (see Psalm 139). How do you mask your loneliness? Let me know, so I can pray for you!

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