Category Archive: Forgiveness

Love Stories

couple elderly man old
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They sat outside Starbucks, a balding man and graying woman. I happened to glance at them just as she leaned across the table to give him a bite of whatever she was enjoying.

“That’s seasoned love,” I thought.

So what is love? The term is used lightly in our culture.

“I love chocolate.”

“I love my new boots.”

“I love this sushi!”

But when we see the real thing, we recognize it as something precious, irreplaceable. The Apostle Paul wrote these well-known words that define the meaning of love.

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.

Love never ends.

I Corinthians 13:4-9. ESV

Love is shown in the patience of a spouse or parent when the loved one makes a mistake.

It is shown in the caring, patient support of a spouse with a disability or with Alzheimer’s. Challenges can be many, and the care is sometimes very difficult, but the love resets forgiveness when needed and continues to support, encourage, uplift, and desire the best for the other.

Love is expressed by the spouse who does everything for his or her partner, from feeding, to dressing, to bathing, to brushing teeth, to lying close in bed with the assurance of presence.

Love is when one partner has a crazy, preventable accident and the first question from her spouse is “Oh honey, are you ok?”

Love is my husband starting my car on a cold morning so it will be warm when I get in.

Love is the backrub when one enters the room, “just because.”

Love is forgiveness.

Love may be speaking truth to one who is walking a destructive path … or taking advantage … or crossing righteous boundaries.

Love is giving up your rights because of a preference your partner has. It’s compromise over the small things and respect for the person to whom it’s more important on the big things.

It is enjoying being alone together or with a group of friends; talking to each other or sitting quietly, side by side.

One of my favorite definitions of love is from a young boy, who responded to the question about how you know someone loves you. He said “You know someone loves you when your name is safe in their mouth.” That’s a beautiful description. I have known that kind of love with both my late and current husbands. I knew they would not talk down about me, and that is very precious.

Love desires the best for the loved one. In His love, God desires to have a relationship with us. His love is far above and beyond ours.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV

What, or who, are some of the examples of love you have seen?

And, if you don’t know God’s personal love for you, you can. I’d love to communicate with you if you’re interested.

You’re Free

I was driving down the Grapevine between Los Angeles and San Jose. It was late, dark out, and I was alone. We didn’t have cell phones at that time. With little traffic on the highway, I was making good time. Without warning, a car on the side of the road burst into flames. Not just the engine–the whole car!

flame digital wallpaper
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Stunned, I didn’t know what to do–and by now I had passed the car, which was still burning. Were there people inside? Could I do anything to help in the middle of a fireball?

There was nowhere nearby to stop and call for help. I prayed and kept driving. That was about thirty-five years ago, and while it hasn’t consciously been on my mind since, the scene and the horror I felt have stayed in my book of memories.

So the last four weeks I’ve taken a Community Emergency Response Team training course–“CERT”. Two hours on zoom, Tuesday and Thursday nights for three weeks, then an all-day hands-on training Saturday. I have learned so much about very basic triage, getting under rubble to release trapped people, and checking vital signs before the professionals arrive. Don and I volunteered to be part of The Villages Emergency Preparedness Committee, which led to this further training for me. While my knowledge base is still small, I know a bit more about what to do as “first steps,” in the event of a major earthquake or fire. CERT is nationwide, and the link to the San Jose program is https://www.sanjoseca.gov/your-government/departments/emergency-management/be-trained/community-emergency-response-team-training. The training was well worth the time invested, both for responding personally (i.e. family and home) and within a local community.

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We had several work stations yesterday–triage, building checks, fire safety, immobilizing broken limbs, and removing debris to do light rescue. At the fire station we learned to aim the fire extinguisher at the base of the fire. I’ve never actually used an extinguisher and it felt good to feel the pressure and feel confident using one. After we practiced putting out our “garbage can fire”, I said I’d always wondered what happened with that car fire I saw years ago. The instructor said there was nothing I could have done as a person alone, except become a victim myself.

I thanked him, and a young woman near me put her hand on my shoulder and said, “You’re free.”

I teared up at her sweet gesture, and thought, isn’t that just what Jesus does for us? When we confess the ways we’ve pushed him away, the times we’ve walked away from him, and ask his forgiveness, he is right there to say, “You’re free. Your sins are gone. The past is wiped clean.”

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

James 1:25

What a gift! “You’re free!” I’m thankful for the young woman who expressed that to me, and reminded me of even greater freedom in Christ Jesus.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

II Cor 3:17

I pray you and I will live in freedom this week!

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Set Free … by Music

Georg Friedrich Händel was born in 1685 in Brandenburg-Prussia.

At the tender age of nine years, Handel began composing church services for voice and instruments every week for three years. As he grew and his talent developed, he worked as a composer in Italy and then England, becoming a German-British Baroque composer well known for his operas, oratorios, anthems, and organ concertos. 

Handel became a very successful composer of big, bold musical arias and operas for London society. At that time, going to an opera was not the semi-formal, reverent event it is today. Instead, listeners walked about, eating and drinking, spitting, booing, and sometimes rioting if they didn’t like the song. Handel even started three commercial opera companies to supply Italian opera to the English nobility.

in 1737, exhausted by stress, Handel suffered what appears to have been a mild stroke which impaired the movement of his right hand. Fans thought he might never compose again. However, after a six-week course of treatment in Germany he returned to London to continue composing. Six years later he suffered another stroke. Again, Handel’s audience thought he would no longer write but, once again, he stunned them with a quick recovery.

Handel did quite well with his big, bold music until that style went out of favor. He lost everything and went bankrupt. He is said to have suffered from anxiety and depression. One of his friends, Charles Jennens, sent him a letter filled with Bible references about the Messiah, the Chosen One God would send to redeem His people. Not being a religious man, he set these aside for a time. But when he picked them up and read of the promised Messiah in Isaiah, the coming of the King in Revelation, he locked himself in his study for twenty-four days straight, hardly eating or drinking, to complete this oratorio.

After twenty-four days Handel’s servant heard weeping behind the door. Forcing it open, he found Handel inside, tears streaming down his face. “I think I did see all heaven open before me, and the great God Himself,” he said. He determined to conduct the premier performance of THE MESSIAH in Dublin around Easter of 1742, with the goal of freeing many locked in prison for debts they could not pay. The oratorio received rave reviews and exceeded expectations, raising 400 pounds and paying the debts of between 142 and 157 prisoners.

Imagine those 150-ish men and women bending over, leaving their cells, bodies likely stiff from lack of exercise, as they walked through a low-arched stone passageway into the outside air. Glimpse their joy as their debts were pardoned and they returned to their families to start anew.

This is what Jesus Christ came to give us–new life, hope, peace, love, and purpose.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10, ESV

What a picture of the redemption Christ offers us. For a sin debt we cannot pay, the penalty of which is death, He came to earth, born and placed in a lowly manger, and grew up to show us God’s character. He, the one person born without sin, then gave His life as a ransom for all who would receive this free gift.

So whoever has God’s Son has life; whoever does not have his Son, does not have life.

I John 5:12, TLB

Handel continued to share this oratorio, donating significantly to the London Foundling Hospital for abandoned children and infants.

Throughout his life he was known as a generous man. Never married, his will divided his assets among his servants and several charities, including the Foundling Hospital. And to prevent his loved ones from bearing the cost of burying him, Handel donated the money to pay for his own funeral. He was buried in Westminster Abbey a week after his death. 

It is said that when England’s King George first heard THE MESSIAH, and its closing Chorus, he stood in awe of the King of Kings. That began the tradition of standing during the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus.

In 2010 the Philadelphia Opera Company gathered 650 vocalists (in guise as shoppers) at the heart of a three-story Macy’s which had a large pipe organ installed in the center of the store. As the organ began the introduction to THE MESSIAH, the singers joined in for a fabulous flash mob. I hope you’ll take the six minutes to watch this, look at the faces of those who stop to listen, the hands raised in praise, the cameras taking in the sight and sound of this “Random Act of Culture”. I found it extremely uplifting, and hope you will too.

May you rejoice in the coming of Messiah, once as we celebrate Christmas and the babe born in a manger; and with the promise of His return in the future.

And He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah!

Seventy times Seven

Our granddaughter, Gabrielle and her boyfriend, Weston spent four days with us this week. What a delight. We cherish the time we spent together. This picture was taken at Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz.

Floating $2 bill

We learned to know Gabrielle again after not seeing her for a few years. Learned to love Weston. The four of us laughed and talked as we prepared three appetizers for a larger get-together, each one doing his or her part in seamless completion of a task that would have taken me several hours longer on my own. We went to the beach (one day, fog; the next sunshine), enjoyed a few magic tricks, talked through some issues, shared our faith journeys with them. These are precious memories we carry forward.

I could go on writing about the ways God answered prayer this week, about times of laughter, but life isn’t one-sided. It is filled with joy and with sorrow, as most of us have learned by now.

I felt the barbs this week … again. You’d think after years of passive hostility I’d be used to it. We don’t see each other often but when we do it’s like I don’t exist. She moves away as soon as I enter the space where she is.

“I want to hate her,” I told Don, “but I can’t. That would not be Christlike.” (And that’s a choice, not a feeling.) And I don’t. But how do you or I respond when a hurt feels repeated deliberately, year after year. Somehow I don’t think I’m alone in this.

jesus saves neon signage
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Jesus tells us to forgive seventy times seven. But forgiveness isn’t easy, and it doesn’t come cheap. It costs the forgiver, requiring letting go of the right to hurt back, releasing the sense of self-righteousness that can come with unwarranted animosity.

Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily happen immediately. It may take a period of time, of praying and talking and working through the issue with God’s help. Forgiveness is also a choice, not a feeling. And the choice may need to be repeated until it becomes reality. For me, the process starts with the God who tells me to:

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.  Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many

Hebrews 12:14-15 NLT
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Bitterness hurts me more than it does anyone else. It blocks the free-flowing channel of communication between God and me. And then it transmits to others around us, just as these roots are spreading out beyond the base of the tree.

I think of the man I read about whose wife was murdered in cold blood. He was later able to forgive the murderer, and even to share God’s love with him. That is possible only by the power of God!

And I know my Father wants me to let this go–again. He has forgiven me for the times I’ve walked my own way. We’re told to confess our sins and be healed, so I requested prayer after church this morning. My sin was holding onto the hurt and, in the process, hurting my beloved husband. I’m still working through this one, but by God’s grace it is coming. And I realize I may have misread some of her actions this week. I hope so.

Who’s a difficult person in your life and how do you deal with him or her?

So … a week with precious memories and some hurt. Which will I allow to rule my thoughts and life? Hmmm … Amazingly, while on the Cross, Jesus prayed for his persecutors. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 NLT) I know what choice he wants me to make. And after almost a week of struggle, I choose to obey.

Living in Freedom

What do you need this year? Is it confidence, hope, peace, forgiveness–either for yourself or toward someone else?

Will we shift with the changing variances of politics, economics, belief systems, hurts? If we do, our feet will slip easily, not having stood on solid ground.

Many of you will recall reading about Corrie Ten Boom, author of THE HIDING PLACE. In 1922, Corrie was the first woman licensed as a watchmaker in the Netherlands. Over the next ten years, in addition to working in her father’s watchmaking shop, she established a youth club for teenage girls, providing religious instruction and classes in performing arts, sewing, and handicrafts. The faith of Corrie and her family led them to serve their society by offering shelter, food and money to those in need.

The family determined to help the Jews during Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, which began in 1940. At great danger to themselves, they offered a haven for Jewish fugitives. The Dutch Underground Resistance learned of their activities and sent an architect to create a concealed space within their home, “the Beje.” Whenever neighborhood sweeps happened, a buzzer alerted the resident Jews to crawl into “the hiding place” and remain completely still until the raid ended.

Corrie also became involved in directing some of the underground movement to smuggle Jews to other safe homes. It’s estimated that 800 Jewish lives were saved because of her work.

What caused this family, this woman, to risk their own lives to help those less fortunate? Some important tenets of their faith included the fact that the Jews were God’s chosen people, and that all people are created equal.

In February 1944, a neighbor betrayed them and the family was arrested. Corrie’s father died ten days later. The Jews hidden in the concealed room were not discovered and were later moved, with the help of police who were part of the Resistance, to other locations.

Eventually Corrie and Betsie were taken to Ravensbruck concentration camp, where they led Bible studies at night with a Bible Corrie had been able to smuggle into the camp, despite the thorough searches of the guards. Her dear sister, Betsie, died in the camp in December 1944, telling Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.”

Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.

George Macdonald, Author and Mentor to C.S. Lewis

Twelve days after Betsie’s death, Corrie was released–later learned to be due to a “clerical error.” A week later all those in her age group were sent to the gas chamber.

It would have been easy for Corrie to become bitter. After the camp was freed by the Americans, she spoke about forgiveness in a church in Germany. Afterward, a man approached her, offering his hand to shake hers. She immediately recognized him as one of the Ravensbruck guards who had been particularly cruel to Betsie.

Arm stiff at her side, would Corrie shake his hand, forgive him? Or could she not because of the horrors he and the Nazi system had perpetrated on her and her family?

She quickly asked God for strength, reached out and shook this guard’s hand. It was one of those moments where one has to think “Will I act as I believe; or as I feel.” She acted on her belief in the forgiveness of God.

Corrie ten Boom at Right with Billy Graham and others in front of the old watch shop

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

C.S. Lewis

Forgiveness. The reason Jesus Christ came to earth to live among us, to die a criminal’s death, and rise again. Because he took the penalty for our sins–yours and mine–on himself, we can be free of the weight, bondage, and penalty of sin.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

I John 1:9, NIV

I love another quote by Hannah More, an English religious writer and philanthropist who died in 1833.

Forgiveness is the economy of the heart. Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.

Hannah More

Forgiveness frees us, not only from the penalty of our own sin, but from the burden of anger, hatred and a bitter spirit that grow in us when we refuse to forgive someone else.

Is there anyone you need to forgive? I thought of this on the weekend and realized I still have some resentment in my heart toward a (very) few people who have hurt me. And I choose to let that resentment go. Sometimes that takes forgiving multiple times, perhaps prayer with a deep friend, or counseling, before we’re able to really let the issue go; but isn’t living in the light of freedom, with a heart that doesn’t hold onto past hurts, worth working that through with God?

I think so. I hope you do too.