Forgiveness at 1:44 AM

“Forgiveness is the answer to the child’s dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again” (Dag Hammarskjold).

I can’t really add much more to that, and not just because it’s an ungodly hour of the night and I am dog tired. That statement really says it all about forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a miracle and you become a miracle worker every time you exercise the choice to forgive instead of holding onto bitterness and anger.

While bitterness against another is like drinking poison and expecting that person to die, forgiveness is like southern sweet tea (the best drink I could think of at this moment) that refreshes your soul as well as the soul of the forgiven.

One last thought: I still believe that sometimes the person most in need of your forgiveness is yourself, and that’s often the hardest to both and extend and receive it.

Good night.

Grace Wins

“You see, the reason why grace isn’t popular or easy is because it’s not cheap. To give grace costs us our right to be resentful and it robs us of our privilege to be bitter. After all, shouldn’t people get what they deserve, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?’ Jesus responds to that saying, ‘But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also’ (Matthew 5:38). Why should we allow others to slip away freely from their wrongs against us?  C. R. Strahan said, ‘Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim — letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.’
Christ forgave the very men who drove nails through His wrists. And if the same power that raised Him from the grave lies in us, then surely, He can give us the power to lose, so that our aggressors weapons are rendered useless. We need to rob our enemies of the ability to offend us, by gladly taking the full brunt of their attack. It is then, and only then, that hostility is defeated and love conquers death. ‘Make allowances for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others’ (Colossians 3:13)” (Total Surrender, Matthew Terrill).

I think this nails it. In the current climate, whether it be political or spiritual or personal, it’s much easier to get self-righteous and morally superior over against those who oppose us and who seem to have diametrically opposite beliefs and convictions.

It’s much harder to forgive and to show grace, but so much more than worth it.

Always choose grace. Always choose forgiveness.

I Think It’s About Forgiveness


I’ve been thinking about forgiveness quite a bit lately, particularly in the context of the story of Joseph and his brothers.

I imagine most of you are probably familiar with the story, but I’ll give a brief summary. Joseph has dreams as a teenager and (unwisely) decides to tell them to his family. That and being the favorite son doesn’t do him any favors.

His brothers end up selling him into slavery (making Joseph the first recorded victim of human trafficking). He winds up in Egypt, where he goes from a slave in Potiphar’s court to wrongful imprisonment to a high-ranking position in the government (thanks in large part to his God-given ability to interpret dreams.

One of the dreams he interprets predicts a coming famine to all the known world. He’s able to prepare by storing up large amounts of grain during a time of plenty, so that Egypt not only has enough to survive but also to sell to neighboring countries.

Some of the people who show up to buy food happen to be those very brothers who sold him in the first place. Joseph is able to see how God used their evil act for good to save a multitude of people, including his own family.

Joseph could have chosen bitterness. Or revenge. He was well within his rights to seek retribution against his brothers. He probably could have even had them killed if he wanted.

People will say that forgiveness is a cop out for the weak. I say forgiveness takes great strength. I will go so far as to say that true forgiveness is impossible without God’s help. As my pastor said recently, forgiveness is releasing the expectation that the other person or persons can fix what they did. That’s hard.

Joseph was able to forgive because of his perspective. He saw how God had been with him time and time again though every stage of his journey from home to Egypt, from son to slave to ruler. Joseph was able to see the bigger picture.

Forgiveness ultimately sees that there is nothing that you’ve done or that has been done to you that God can’t work for good and His glory.

Who do you need to forgive (including yourself)? Who do you need to seek forgiveness from?

I love the image that forgiveness is opening the door to a prison cell to release the prisoner only to discover that that prisoner was you all along.

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.


Costly Love

Jesus: Dear woman, where is everyone? Are we alone? Did no one step forward to condemn you?

Woman Caught in Adultery: Lord, no one has condemned me.

Jesus: Well, I do not condemn you either; all I ask is that you go and from now on avoid the sins that plague you” (John 8:10-11).

I’ve learned over the years that any kind of love, romantic or not, is costly. You have to give of yourself for love to work, to be real and true love.

The best kind of love, God’s love, is the kind that reaches out to the unloveable. In case you were wondering, that was both you and me once.

There are some people in your life, in my life, who will be very difficult to love. It will cost you something, maybe a lot, to love that person. It will require forgiveness and letting go of a lot of hurt and anger.

Maybe it will help you to remember that it cost God everything to love you. It cost a cross for God to demonstrate that love to you and me.

I was sitting in the back of The Church at Avenue South, where I normally sit when I am the designated graphics person who puts up the worship song lyrics and sermon text on the big screens.

I was thinking of how much I really do need to forgive because I know that there have been (and will continue to be) many cases where I will need forgiveness for myself. I, like so many of you, have a tendency to put my foot in my mouth and say stupid stuff. I have a tendency to be forgetful and selfish and lots of other things (that I’m sure you’ve been at some point in your life as well).

I continue to be thankful for Aaron Bryant for being a faithful messenger of God’s Word to God’s people. His honesty and transparency are always refreshing and inspiring. Thanks, Aaron, for always being a good and faithful servant of Jesus.

Forgiveness on Repeat

“Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore, we are saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we are saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own; therefore, we are saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness” (Reinhold Niebuhr).

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it” (Mark Twain).

“Forgiveness is the answer to the child’s dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again” (Dag Hammerskjold).

I’m still a big fan of forgiveness, because I still need it very much every single day.

I’m no worse than anyone else, but I also have a front-row seat to my own bad choices, bad motives, and poor decisions. I know that God has a lot to forgive in me, and I’m forever grateful that He still does.

My question for me is this: what has anyone ever done to me that tops what I’ve done to God? If God can forgive me for a billion dollar-sized debt of failures and regrets, how can I not forgive what amounts to a few measly dollars (in comparison) of those who’ve wronged me?

I forgive because I fail. I know there will be too many times when I will need that forgiveness not just from God but also from others. So I forgive.

Holding back forgiveness doesn’t hurt the other person. It does hurt you. It holds you back. It keeps you from growing and moving forward. The best illustration is that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die from it. Ultimately, that kind of bitterness is fatal to only one person– you.

So forgive, not because the other person deserves it– or even asks for it– because you need it for peace of mind and resolution. So you can finally move on and embrace the next place God has for you.

The end.

Whiter Than Snow

We finally got our Snowpocalypse, or if you prefer, Snowmageddon. All that means is that it actually snowed here in the Nashville, Tennessee area. 6 inches, in fact. I actually got a snow day.

I know those of you up north are reading this and groaning. Six inches of snow is to you what a light dusting of it is to us. Nothing. Well, even with that light dusting, people still panic and buy up all the bread and milk. The South is weird about snow.

Still, it’s been lovely to look at. I love how it covers over everything like a white blanket over a hibernating earth.

It made me think of that verse in the Psalms (or maybe in Isaiah) which goes something like this: though our sins are as scarlet, they shall be whiter than snow. At that point, the writer could think of nothing purer than freshly-fallen snow. I can’t either.

Grace is more than forgiveness for those past transgressions. It’s a covering up of them as if they had never been. It’s a clean slate and a new start. It’s a do-over that can take place at any point in your life, no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done.

This may be a repeat, but it’s worth repeating. The beautiful part of the gospel is that it reminds us that we don’t have to be trapped by futility and chained to past failures. Though Jesus, anyone can start over. It is indeed never too late to be what you might have always been and always dreamed you could be.

Probably sooner than later, the sun will come out and all that beautiful snow will evaporate and exist only in memory and all those photos I took with my iPhone.

Grace, however, is forever.

I really love that part.


God with Dirty Fingernails

I posted this on Facebook a year ago and was still blown away by how powerfully it spoke to me. I hope it speaks to you in the same way.

“As I looked out over the shivering crowd, I suggested that perhaps Mary Magdalene thought the resurrected Christ was a gardener because Jesus still had the dirt from His own tomb under His nails. Of course, the depictions in churches of the risen Christ never show dirt under His nails; they make Him look more like a wingless angel than a gardener. It’s as if He needed to be cleaned up for Easter visitors so He looked more impressive and so no one would be offended by the truth. But then what we all end up with is a perverted idea of what resurrection looks like. My experience, however, is that the God of Easter is a God with dirt under His nails.

Resurrection never feels like being made clean and nice and pious like in those Easter pictures. I would have never agreed to work for God if I had believed God was interested in trying to make me nice or even good. Instead, what I subconsciously knew, even back then, was that God was never about making me spiffy; God was about making me new.

New doesn’t always look perfect. Like the Easter story itself, new is often messy. New looks like recovering alcoholics. New looks like reconciliation between family members who don’t actually deserve it. New looks like every time I manage to admit I was wrong and every time I manage to not mention I was right. New looks like every fresh start and every act of forgiveness and every moment of letting go of what we thought we couldn’t live without and then somehow living without it anyways. New is the thing we never saw coming – never even hoped for – but ends up being what we needed all along.

‘It happens to all of us,’ I concluded that Easter Sunday morning. ‘God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over.‘” (Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix)

Another Random Blog

I have lots of thoughts running through the ol’ noggin all the time. Every now and then, I need to let a few of them loose so you good readers can share in the joy that is called my brain.

1) Social media is great. I love it. I love how you can communicate with friends and family even though you may be oceans apart. I do say this though: if you’re married, I hope that your primary means of communication isn’t through social media. I hope that for every one post to your husband or wife, there are at least five face-to-face conversations (and at least four of those being affirmations). Posts and texts are great, but nothing replaces hearing and seeing your loved one say, “I love you” while looking you in the eyes.

2) As much as I still love summer, it does tend to run on. I’m ready for all things autumn, from cooler temps to pumpkin spice everything to jackets to leaves changing colors. I think you know (or you should know by now) that fall is my favorite season of all. Mostly because I don’t sweat so dang much.

3) As much as you will need forgiveness from others and as much as you will need to forgive others, the most important person you need to learn to forgive is you. You see more of your own weakness and brokenness than anyone else. You know more than anyone how your own road is littered with the carcasses of good intentions and promises you discarded along the way. You also need to know that if God can forgive you of anything, there’s no reason why you can’t forgive yourself. Remember that Jesus was willing to die for what you did. It’s hard, but it’s harder to live in the prison of self-loathing and regret.

4) Go forth and do something frivolous and spontaneous today (or tomorrow if you’re reading this after 10 pm). Take time to notice your surroundings and to take pleasure in God’s creation. Take time to cherish those God has placed in your life for this season. Wherever you are, be there in the moment and live it to the fullest (to borrow a bit from both Jim Elliott and Oswald Chambers).

That’s my latest random post. There will surely be more to follow as I think very nonlinearly.


RIght Living and Right Speaking

Occasionally, the creative well runs dry and I end up “borrowing” from other great writers. One of my favorites that I’ve quoted many times in the past is Henri Nouwen (who along with Brennan Manning are probably my two favorite authors).

Here’s what he wrote that again struck me so powerfully:

“To be a witness for God is to be a living sign of God’s presence in the world.  What we live is more important than what we say, because the right way of living always leads to the right way of speaking.   When we forgive our neighbours from our hearts, our hearts will speak forgiving words.  When we are grateful, we will speak grateful words, and when we are hopeful and joyful, we will speak hopeful and joyful words.

When our words come too soon and we are not yet living what we are saying, we easily give double messages.  Giving double messages – one with our words and another with our actions – makes us hypocrites.   May our lives give us the right words and may our words lead us to the right life.”

Right speaking comes out of right living. People will sense the authenticity of your words when they see what you say lived out. Your faith will be more caught than taught, and if your words don’t match your actions, then people will dismiss the words and not the actions.

If I speak and act out of a need to be liked or thought well of, then what I say and do won’t be as effective as if I speak and act as one who knows who he is and who knows that he is the Beloved of God. My identity informs my authenticity.

I hope and pray that from this point on I will speak only what I live, and I will live only what God has already spoken about me.


What’s It Worth?

“Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?'” (Mark 8:34-37).

God is not your co-pilot. If He is, it’s time to switch seats.

But enough of cliches. This is the gospel. It’s not about prosperity and happiness. It’s about following Jesus, no matter what, even if it hurts.

Sometimes where Jesus leads is pleasant, but not always.

Sometimes, it feels good to follow Jesus, but sometimes it feels like swimming against the current.

Sometimes, you’ll really feel like saying yes to whatever Jesus asks of you, but sometimes you will have to say yes when your feelings are saying no.

It’s about letting Jesus lead, wherever He takes you and through whatever He brings you.

As much as I love my comfort and convenience, that’s not the road that Jesus took.

His road was marked with suffering and pain.

His road was definitely the road less traveled, the narrow road that few find that leads to life eternal.

His road was the road that led to you and me in our worst moments, where He invited us to follow and find out what a different and better life could look like.

What good would it do me to get everything I’ve ever wanted and dreamed about, everything on my Amazon wish list, everything on my bucket list, and lose my soul in the process?

If I have everything else and no Jesus, I have nothing. If I have nothing else but Jesus, I have everything.

The end.