Tag Archive: forgiveness

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
Photo by Patricia McCarty on Pexels.com

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
gray trunk green leaf tree beside body of water
Photo by Daniel Watson on Pexels.com

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.

Girlfriends

Driving alongside a very low reservoir en route to the Santa Cruz area last Thursday, I thought of the four college girlfriends with whom I would spend the next few days.

Judy, a tall, striking brunette (now stunning white) was one of the popular crowd. She always had an answer for those who teased her, and the boys loved being around her. Fun, full of confidence, her lovely soprano voice added much to both the college choir and small groups.

Shirley, a lovely Canadian whose family had just moved to Fresno, had another beautiful soprano voice and developed deep friendships with her servant’s heart, often using gifts of hospitality she learned at her mother’s side.

MarJean, a beautiful brunette with a soaring soprano, had also lived part-time in Canada. Jeannie was quiet, pursuing art, music, and deepening her walk with God. She, like me, is a writer. She is now also a beautiful white-haired woman.

The four of us sang together, usually three at a time – alternating voices and parts according to the song and our strengths.

I didn’t get to know Marilyn as well during college. A pretty blonde, she fell in love in our freshman year and married Don after our sophomore year. I still remember the “candlelighting” ceremony when Marilyn announced her engagement to the women’s dorm. But how I’ve learned to appreciate her love and care for her family and her gifts of hospitality!

I lived in Canada until my ninth year, when we moved to California. At Fresno Pacific, Shirley, MarJean and I learned our birthdates, all the same year, are within three days of each other – September 25, 26 and 27. Judy, Shirley and MarJean lived mostly off campus, since their families were in Fresno. But the deep conversations we shared about faith, challenges in our lives, the laughter that rang out when we were together, were gifts that have lasted over fifty years now.

We used to think 73 was old. How perceptions change as we grow and learn that the depth of friendship, faith, and laughter continues!

What rich memories we share. Four married men they met at Pacific. I graduated without an “MRS” degree and waited another fourteen years to marry.

But those gifts didn’t stop after graduation.

Our lives continued to intertwine over the years, as we lost husbands to death or divorce. Several have gone through significant physical challenges themselves, or with much-loved family members. We’ve earned a few more wrinkles, some parts replacements, and some changes in hair color.

So this weekend, just after the last of our 73rd birthdays, we gathered at the lovely beach home of one of our number. We laughed, cried together, shopped (note the “Husband Day Care Center” in the Capitola shopping district), and talked nonstop ’til the wee hours both nights we were together. We encouraged each other and enjoyed the long-time friendships which have woven in and out of our lives over these 50-plus years.

So I’ve been thinking about friendship, and its importance in our lives. I’ve had several precious friendships, these and several others, for decades. Newer friends add joy to my life. Friends grace us in many ways.

  • With shared friendship, laughter, and tears through the stages of life–from single to marrieds, to widowed or re-single, to remarriage; children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews.
  • With hearts and ears that listen and don’t try to fix us. Job’s “friends” tried to fix him and God rebuked them (Job 42:7). They could have just sat in the dust and mourned his losses with him without judging him. Shirley was the first person to whom I told the whole story of my first husband’s last day on earth. She listened, voiced sympathetic sounds, but didn’t try to fix me. I felt ‘heard’, and that was precious.
  • With honest feedback and sometimes, correction. “An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship.” Prov 24:26 NLT
  • With forgiveness when they’ve seen us at our worst, and encouragement when we’re doing well. “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9, NLT
  • With calls or visits in times of crisis, from marital trouble, to death, illness, or family crises.
  • With the freedom to hang out even when we are numb and disengaged because of our own pain–and to let us be right where we are at the moment.
  • With the support we feel because of their loving friendship.

I’ve been blessed with two terrific husbands. But someone once said that most women will have their girlfriends longer than their husbands. I’ve known these four women longer than either husband!

A writer younger than I saw a group of 50-ish women laughing together, and commented on their obvious bond. In an article in the Huffington PostKari Kubiszyn Kampakis relates that one of the women told her:

   “’Don’t ever lose touch with your girlfriends, sweetheart. The older you get, the more you’ll need them.’

   Kampakis continues: “The women in the elevator that day were spot on. And now when I see a group like them having fun, I realize the laughter is only part of the story, what comes after the complicated grown-up stuff. And while we certainly need the wonderful men in our lives, for they play a crucial role, too, men simply aren’t designed to understand us like one of our own.

   “Sometimes it takes another woman to intuitively recognize what needs to be done — then do it. Or to sense what needs to be said — then say it. Or to take the thoughts and emotions we don’t voice — and know what to make of them.

   “Having great friends is largely a matter of being a great friend … girlfriends matter in good times and bad, laughter and tears, and through the highs and lows that reveal who’s with us for the long haul, and who’s willing to share in our suffering so that one day, when we’re laughing again on the beach, there will be a history that makes the laughter sound richer and stirs the curiosity of anyone in earshot.”

2015 Reunion

The laughter and conversations my girlfriends and I shared this weekend is richer because of the history we’ve walked through together.

What has made your best friendships rich? Are there friends you need to forgive? I’ve had to forgive and be forgiven; and the friendships that have remained are richer for having gone through the fire and persevered.

Friendships. Important? Critical, even?  YES.

“Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.”

Proverbs 18:24

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“SCARY STORIES”

We sat around the table after dinner, reminiscing. I recalled the time a friend of mine scared my little brother and his friend, who were home alone. Mom and Dad had an invitation out. Before I left for a youth group sing, I wrote down the number where I could be reached. “Call me if you need anything.”

About half an hour into our evening, the phone rang at the home where we met. “That’s for me,” I said as I walked toward the telephone. Sure enough, it was little Bob.

"our protection"

“our protection”

“We’re scared,” he started out. “Mark and I are sitting on the couch with the big black scissor.”

“What are you doing?”

"Telling each other ghost stories"

“Telling each other ghost stories”

“Telling each other ghost stories.”

“Well, cut it out.”

I continued, my heart touched by the picture of these two youngsters sitting side by side with a big black scissor as their protection. That in itself was frightening.

“Do you want me to come home?”

“Well,” said Bob’s young voice, “I don’t want to inconvenience anyone.”

“I’ll be home in five minutes,” I responded as I pulled out my car keys. I chuckled as I told Jim what had happened and that I was heading home.

I pulled into the driveway and walked into the house to pull two little boys into my arms. I put the big scissor out of the boys’ reach, put my pj’s and long robe on and calmed them with (what else) chocolate cake and ice cream. Suddenly both boys’ eyes widened and they pointed outside. “I heard something,” one said.

“Stay right here,” I demanded. Then I took the big black scissors and went out the front door – a pathetic figure walking past the bushes brandishing this crazy tool of destruction. “Who’s out here?”

I reentered the house and the boys were jumpy. “Up there,” and they pointed to the stairway. Now I was getting scared. I slowly walked up the steps, telling the boys to stay where they were. (Why didn’t I just call the police?) As I walked past my parents’ bedroom, Jim jumped out and grabbed me from behind.

“Do you know how close you got to being stabbed by a big, dull scissor?” I asked. “Don’t you ever scare these boys again. You can scare me (yeah, right–like I’m invincible), but not them. Now YOU calm them down.”

Jim settled the boys and put them to bed.

Memories–this a fond and funny one in retrospect; some are painful; some heartwarming. But all are a part of the fabric of our lives. This one showed me my own God-given protective instinct over those I love. It also taught me something about the value of forgiveness and communication and laughter with a friend who might terrify my little brother but then spend time calming him and helping him feel secure again.

What memories do you carry?

Do they set you free or do they hold you back?

2014 Christmas Past

cloud resizedWe are now in 2014 Christmas Past. I’ve taken a short break from my blog but am back. How’s your celebration been? Have you enjoyed time with family and friends? Spent time alone, whether lonely or simply alone?

We’ve had a full month. Since Don and I weren’t hosting any Christmas get-togethers at our house, we scheduled our hardwood floors to be sanded and refinished. That required our moving everything out of cupboards, drawers, off walls and floors. The floor men moved our large furniture but the small pieces took a lot more time. And since we couldn’t walk on the floor while the work was being done, we also had to move ourselves, our two dogs, and anything we would need for a week up to the guest house.

Being there was good. We realized a few things we hadn’t put in place for guests and have remedied those. We pulled the love seat out to face the TV and cuddled in front of the electric fireplace insert/heater Don bought, warming both our hearts and bodies. Then our granddaughter asked whether her best friend and baby could use the guest house the weekend we were celebrating with the Loewen clan. Don and I looked at each other. “And WHY did we decide to have this work done right now?” We had to say no and stay in the guest house for a few extra days ourselves.

But good times proliferated. Our Froese family Christmas was very early, December 6th, because Arn and Carol, my brother and sister-in-law from Kansas, were here then. Our niece Jennifer graduated from nursing school (yeah Jenn!). Then on the 21st, we had a lovely get-together with the Loewens at Dan’s (Don’s oldest son), after which our two youngest local grandsons spent two days with us. We played SkipBo in the cozy living room in the guest house and most of us won at least one game.

Best of all has been the focus on Christ’s coming to earth. He invaded our space; he entered our universe for the purpose of having a relationship with us. All glory to God, who has given us this unspeakable gift, the privilege of knowing Him, of receiving His love, forgiveness, and the promise of eternal life. He has also given us hope for life in this world. Life isn’t easy; but He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us.

In the coming year I’d like to focus on new ways to share God’s love and grace with others. I hope to listen more, to consider my words’ impact before speaking, and to find practical ways to help those around me. One day Jesus will reign and the world will be at peace because of the justice He brings. Meantime let’s work to be agents of that peace in our world today, whether that’s in helping the needy or staying away from unproductive arguments about politics.

These are my thoughts as we end this year. I’d love to hear what you’re thinking and dreaming of as you look ahead into 2015.

Grace, God’s Grace

I feel bound. Working in a ministry with legalistic leadership, I had lost the joy in service and felt only anxiety and tension. Some mornings it was all I could do to get up and go to work. Many evenings I cried myself to sleep, praying “Lord, please hold onto me. I have nothing with which to hold onto you right now.”

This is one of the results of legalism that our pastor spoke about last weekend. Loss of joy, feeling like I need to “work harder” to please Christ, wondering if I’m following God’s plan for my life or someone else’s.

At the time, I felt my leader was asking things of me that God was not asking … signing a vow to commit to a somewhat nebulous goal (“Sign it or leave” – but where would I go? I wasn’t prepared to leave this organization I had helped establish); telling me I should not attend the church I did because they would pull me away from the ministry…not from Christ, but from the ministry.

I Tried Harder

I signed the vow. I went to the church where most of the staff worshiped. Sermons were excellent. But I missed my old fellowship and friends, and resented being told where to worship. If I didn’t follow the unwritten rules I was considered rebellious. I was told I “should” have joy. But I didn’t.

Legalism and my response to it resulted in some severe health problems. Finally the leader suggested that, since we had worked together for ten years, I take a month to rest. Before meeting him at the end of that month, I went to Yosemite to read and pray and seek God’s will. I didn’t hear a voice; I didn’t get a clear direction. What I did sense was that God was giving me a choice, with the assurance that He would be with me regardless of what I elected to do. I chose to leave that organization, but it took several years for my spirit and body to recover.

That’s a clear picture to me of the difference between legalism and grace. One said “You haven’t done all we required.” (You’re a disappointment. You failed.) It’s all about control.

Jesus said “What would you like to do, my child?” Grace is a free gift, unmerited favor with God. Wow!

In Galatians 5:1 Paul says “So Christ has really set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” (NLT)

My husband is very gracious. He pulls my car out of the garage and next to the side door on cold mornings so that when I get into the vehicle it’s already warmed up and ready to go. He often empties the dishwasher first thing in the morning, before I’m up. He starts the laundry if I’m out for the day. But he does these things because he loves me amazingly, not because someone put a list up saying “Do this and that and the other …” These are acts of love, not of duty. There’s a huge difference between the two.

Isaiah 30:15 states “The sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says, ‘Only in returning to me and waiting for me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.’ …” That reads to me like grace, not legalism – not “doing,” but resting, waiting, basking in the love of God, and then responding in love.

I’m still learning about grace. How about you? Are there areas where you feel bound rather than free? I’d love to hear from you.