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Posts Tagged ‘God’s forgiveness’

Jo 23Of course I could never relate to the following (!), but I wonder if you are the sort of person who often tends to be just that little bit harder on yourself than God would ever consider being. Where God would choose to treat you with grace and kindness, you instead choose to drive yourself on and to berate yourself that you have not done enough or been perfect enough. You may even find it difficult to admit you are only human, after all, and not superwoman—or superman!

Yep, somehow that sounds all too familiar to me—at least at times. There are so many things I may want to do and can do. And so many things I may need to do that are merely part of life. Yet, unless I listen to God, learn to trust God’s guidance and rely on God’s enabling, I can easily run myself ragged.

Recently, I read again the very long Psalm 78, where the psalmist challenges God’s people to look back in their history and see how many times God rescued them and had mercy on them, yet how many times they chose to go their own way. As I read, I began to apply it to my own life—to remember the numerous difficult patches God has brought me through, to recall all the wonderful gifts God has given me along the way in the form of special people or amazing experiences or achievements beyond anything I ever expected. And as I did, I sensed things somehow falling into place deep in my spirit and heard God’s calming voice, reassuring me, as Julian of Norwich once wrote, that ‘all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well’.

In Psalm 78, we read how God’s people at one stage did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his law. They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them’ (10-11). Further on in their history, they apparently ‘did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance’ (22). Things seem to look up at another later stage, however:

They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. (35)

Yet sadly, we find a big let-down once again in the very next two verses:

But then they would flatter him with their mouths, lying to him with them tongues; their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant. (36-37)

Wow! Am I like that at times, I had to ask myself? Hmm.

What a relief then to come to the two following verses, right in the middle of the psalm:

Yet he was merciful, he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return. (38-39)

How much we need to remember, like God’s people way back then, that God is our Rock and our Redeemer—that we, who are like that momentary, passing breeze, need to rely so much on God’s strength and love and mercy and forgiveness and grace! Then, and only then, will we be at rest deep down, living out of that place of peace each day.

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I wonder if you are like me and do not readily allow yourself time off from all the tasks around you demanding your attention at home. It might be something I need to finish writing. It might be cooking dinner. It might be vacuuming—my pet hate! Any of these can prevent me putting time aside to be kind to myself and do nothing—or perhaps something special.

Recently, a friend invited me to see the exhibition ‘Modern Masterpieces from The Hermitage’ at the Art Gallery of NSW, with paintings on display ranging from impressionists such as Monet and Pissarro to the more avant-garde Matisse, Cezanne and Picasso. So we locked in a date and I immediately bought our tickets online. No backing out then!

And what a memorable day we had. After a speedy bus ride to the city, we strolled up through Hyde Park and the Domain to the Art Gallery. It was a beautiful day and, as we walked, we enjoyed God’s creative heart on display all around us, particularly in the towering Moreton Bay fig trees lining the road through The Domain.

As we entered the Art Gallery, we were overawed by the building itself, with its spacious, elegant interior, complete with domed ceilings and marble pillars. Our hearts lifted. Our particular exhibition was superbly set out and included an excellent multi-media presentation. And while some of the paintings were more to our taste than others, all spoke of such creativity, of pushing the boundaries, of trying new styles and techniques.

IMG_20190226_131535052Afterwards, we enjoyed lunch in the open air section of the cafeteria and were reminded again of God’s creativity, as we watched the cheeky and persistent rainbow lorikeet pictured here help itself to any crumbs we had left. What fun God musIMG_20190226_115620622t have had, creating its amazing colours! Perhaps it was this very bird, we decided, who inspired the artist Kandinsky to choose the colours he did for his bold landscape included in the exhibition!

As we eventually made our way home, after sampling the special delights of the Queen Victoria Building, we looked back on our wonderful day and felt so blessed—as if God had poured such kindness all over us in so many different ways. We were tired, but our hearts felt lighter and our minds buzzed with creative ideas birthed from seeing such creativity around us—both God’s and man’s, which surely comes from God anyway.

Recently, a friend commented how we can sometimes be less kind to ourselves than God is—and I think that may be true. Some of us are so hard on ourselves that we can end up becoming quite graceless and may even struggle with receiving God’s amazing grace. We do not deserve such compassion and forgiveness, our hearts cry out—we are not good enough. Yet through Jesus, God has reached out to us with such lovingkindness, drawing us close again. We are loved. We are accepted. We are God’s precious children.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13-14

I hope you can show that same kindness and compassion to yourself when you need to—and I hope I can too.

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IMG_20181121_121203912Recently, I found myself wondering whether our four-year-old granddaughter truly is only four and not a hundred and four! There we were, sitting on the floor, trying to set up some wooden train tracks together. I could see on the box that those train tracks were meant to link up in a certain way, forming three intertwining loops, yet I could not seem to make them do what they were supposed to do.

‘Oh dear!’ I told Maxine at last. ‘I think I’ve made a big mistake somewhere. These tracks aren’t going to connect up at all.’

Thankfully, Maxine did not show any disappointment or frustration.

Don’t worry, Nanna!’ she said in a lovely, compassionate tone. ‘Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone!Even I made a mistake once!’

I tried not to laugh or even smile—I knew she would be highly embarrassed and offended if I did. Besides, she had meant it so kindly. And there was so much wisdom in the first part at least of what she had said. As for her last sentence—well, even it was meant to be kind and generous! At that point, I let her know I appreciated her words. And I realised too how weirdly comforting they had been, because I was feeling a little silly that I could not put a simple train track together.

Eventually, I found some instructions in the box and, after my husband and Maxine disappeared to the playground, I managed to work them out. What a sense of accomplishment I felt, as that train track came together!

Maxine’s gracious response, however, led me to reflect on the many other much more serious mistakes I have made in my life, some more accidental than others. Sometimes I have said or done things out of ignorance, thinking I was right and even, in fact, acting in a godly manner. On those occasions, God has known my heart, seen my sorrow and graciously picked me up, strengthening me to do better. Yet on other occasions, to my regret, I have deliberately chosen a wrong course of action, knowing full well I am making a huge mistake—sinning, in fact. Many times, I have said that hasty, angry word or judged someone harshly or refused to listen to God and do some kind act or speak those life-giving words to someone. Yet each time, God has still reached out to me, shown me my wilful mistakes and in kindness led me to repentance, setting my feet on solid ground once again (Romans 2:4). What a loving, patient God we have!

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him: as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:8-12

Yes, Maxine is bound to make more than that one mistake in her life, but I hope and pray she will always know her loving, compassionate Lord is with her to comfort her and enable her to move on in his strength.

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I wonder if you have ever experienced one of God’s gentle but firm ‘ambushes’. There you are, getting on with your life, when you read some words of Scripture or someone shares a deep thought with you and—kapow! In an instant, you know God is reaching out to you, longing for you to pay attention.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with someone about an issue she was facing.

‘Lately, I’ve sensed God is asking me, “Do you trust me? Do you really trust me?”’ she said, almost as a throw-away line.

Even as I continued listening, I felt a definite nudge in my spirit and knew God was challenging me with this same question. But inwardly, I blustered a little. Of course I trust you, God! I don’t need this reminder. This person is talking with me to glean wisdom for her own life—not vice versa!

Then we put our house on the market. Hmm … did I really trust God to find that one person who would pay a good price for it? If I did, why did I have so many ‘what if’ questions in my mind? Why did I occupy my time inventing those worst case scenarios where everyone would think the house was too small or too old and where we might not have the money to make our own next purchase?

Then came Easter—and this year, I decided to read the account of the crucifixion and resurrection from John’s Gospel. Of course, John was writing in an entirely different context about an entirely different situation, but as I read, I realised God was speaking into my own life as well.

On the evening of the first Resurrection Sunday, we are told in John 20:19, as the disciples huddle in a room with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus joins them.

Peace be with you!’ he says, as he shows them his hands and side.

In an instant, I sensed those words were for me too.

‘Yes, Lord,’ I admitted at last, ‘My situation is nothing like what the disciples had just experienced, but I know I need that same peace right now too.’

I read on and came to the account of another meeting Jesus had with his disciples a week later, when Thomas was also present.

Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you! Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  John 20: 26-27

Hmm—‘StopIMG_20170421_145112767 doubting and believe.’ Those words speared straight into my spirit. There was no way around it. I had certainly doubted God was able to look after us in the whole process of selling our house. I felt rebuked—and rightly so. But I also felt deeply comforted. Yes, God knew our situation. Yes, God could indeed be trusted, even in the face of my unbelief. And yes, God was forgiving too!

Then last Friday, even before going to auction, our little house sold for a very good price indeed—and only twelve days after being put on the market. Thank you, Lord, for your unending faithfulness to us in so many ways!

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Jo 23I’m sure I’ve managed to embarrass quite a few people in my life. I can recall several occasions when my parents ended up rather red-faced over something I had done. And I’m sure I can remember one or two times when my own children let me know how much I had embarrassed them in one way or another!

I’m also good at embarrassing myself. Now I can laugh more readily at some things I do and have done. But there was a time when I was much more sensitive and much more prone to feel ashamed long after I had goofed in some obvious way.

And I can certainly remember feeling ashamed when others have pulled me up about something I have said or done. As a young child, I hated to be disciplined in any way by my parents. It was altogether too embarrassing. When this happened, I would curl up in a ball, with my thumb in my mouth.

‘I’m not a naughty girl! I would wail as I sobbed my heart out.

I understand that sense of shame. It can become all-pervading and was something I had to deal with later in my life, with God’s help. But recently, I was given an entirely different insight into this whole experience of shame—from God’s own perspective.

At the time, I was reading through Hebrews 11 where the writer describes the exploits of brave and godly people in the past and how they were commended for their faith. There I was, enjoying being reminded of these stories when I came across a verse that shocked me:

Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:16

If God was not ashamed to be called the God of these heroes of the faith, I reasoned, then that must mean God could well have been ashamed of others who did not persevere. So could that happen now? Could that apply even to me? What a horrifying thought—imagine embarrassing God! Surely I could never do that.

But … what about the times I put other things before God in my life? What about when I dishonour God by not mentioning my faith? What about those occasions when I do not trust God will provide for me and give in to my doubts and fears? What about the way I so often live like an orphan instead of a much-loved child of the King? Could these things ever cause God to feel ashamed of me?

How wonderful it is that God is so forgiving of wayward, forgetful children like me and so gracious towards us all because of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf! How amazing it is that God continues to love me, at the same time as possibly feeling ashamed of my behaviour! How thankful I am that God is able to lift any guilt and shame off me and replace it with perfect love and acceptance—forever! As Isaiah 43:25 tells us:

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

I don’t want to continue practising the fine art of shaming God—do you?

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Recently, I had reason to think more about the great power one particular little word in our English language can wield. Yet this word seems to stick in our throats so often or is too much even to think about saying because the stakes may be too high for us.

Yes, it’s that one little word ‘sorry’.

IMG_20140614_152459Now it appears this is a hard word even for two-year-olds like—well, like our beautiful, little grandson Zain to say. Recently, while visiting us, he did something naughty and, as a result, his dad took him on his knee and decided Zain needed to say sorry. But no—that was not an option for our Zain. Not at all. Time after time, he sat there, shaking his head and refusing to say that one little word that would resolve the situation. Yet how could he, a two-year-old, know how to be so stubborn? What might cause him to decide he was not prepared to stoop so low as to apologise?

Now at that point, his conflict-avoidance grandmother decided to resort to bribery and offered him a lollipop if he would say sorry. But even that did not change his mind. When his dad began to eat that lollipop instead, there were great cries of anguish—but still no sorry. That lollipop began getting smaller and smaller until it had almost disappeared. Yet that little word was never said.

A few days later, out of the blue, Zain apparently said to his mum:

‘Lollipops at Nanna’s house. But I didn’t get one. I didn’t say sorry.’

Even at two, he understood what the issue was and how high the stakes were. After all, a lollipop is a big deal to a two-year-old.

But what about us when it comes to saying that little word? How mature are we about this?  In particular, what happens when we know we need to tell God we’re sorry? There’s much more than a lollipop at stake, in this case. Yet I for one, just like my grandson, so often seem to have too much pride and stubbornness to admit my faults, even to such a loving, forgiving God. On top of that, I seem to have an endless, inbuilt supply of excuses ready as to why I don’t want or need to admit to those ways I have fallen so far short of how God would want me to behave.

It doesn’t matter.

God will forgive me anyway.

It wasn’t so bad, after all.

Others have done much worse than I have.

I’m too ashamed—I don’t even want to think about.

I hope, like Zain, I will grow up one day.  I hope I wake up to myself soon and remember how important it is to keep short accounts with God. I hope I never forget the freedom God’s amazing forgiveness brings when we come before our loving Father with contrite hearts just as that prodigal son did.

How about you? Is sorry a hard word for you to say too—especially to God?

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 Jn 1:9

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I’m on the home run – I think – with my first non-fiction book Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey, due for release in October by Even Before Publishing. A few days ago, the first layout version of the book arrived for me to check through and to get someone else to proofread as well. Now I know from past experience with my previous books how essential this meticulous proofreading is. But each time, I find such experiences somewhat disconcerting. As I discover this little mistake and that little oversight, I ask myself how these could ever have escaped my attention – as well as the attention of my two manuscript readers/editors – during our numerous checks prior to this. They seem so obvious now. Admittedly, some always tend to creep in during the editing process – as one thing is changed, so another is affected without noticing. And sometimes things happen as the manuscript is imported into a different program. But I know they will be there – I don’t assume anything with my work these days.

This time around, however, my experience has been even more interesting in that each day this week we have minded our five-month-old grandson. Can you picture him sitting on my lap, a little unhappy for some reason or another, reaching out his cute little hands towards my keyboard? Can you imagine my attempts to type sensible comments with one hand, while holding him firmly with the other?

Nevertheless, I have now succeeded in finishing it. Yet I am left with this weird feeling inside. Are there other mistakes I should have noticed? Are there more clumsy sentences I should have changed, even at this late stage? Have I acknowledged everything I should have acknowledged? Does the book do my lovely spiritual mentor justice? After all, this book is about the spiritual journey I have enjoyed with her over the past fifteen years – it reflects on her as well as on me.

And then as I reach for my Bible in order to sit in the sun and let God’s Word minister to me, even before I open it, I am reminded again of God’s amazing grace. God has been right beside me, through all the challenges of this week. And right now, God is saying a wonderful ‘Well done’ to me at another task completed to the best of my ability.

Yet as I let my mind relax and focus fully on God, I am reminded of another even deeper truth. Every day of my life, God sees my mistakes – my impatient words to a family member, my self-focus, my complaining about this or that, my self-doubt, my forgetting others who need my support. Yet God never gives up on me but continues to reach out in love, to forgive, to urge me on to do better. From God’s perspective, all my mistakes are gone. As Psalm 103:11-13 says:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him …

There are no hidden mistakes with God. God sees. God knows. God loves. God forgives. I still find that so amazing and freeing – and I pray with all my heart you do too.

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