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mouse trap

Don’t Take The Bait – Randsomed Heart Ministries

I enjoy reading the daily devotionals sent out by John and Stasi Eldredge’s Ransomed Heart Ministry. Today’s seemed to strike a sensitive nerve in me. Holding on to hurt leads to death. I am seeking his help to identify and release the hurt that I have experienced. That’s not to minimize it, but to recognize it and simultaneously recognize that I also am, at times, a perpetrator of wrong, hurting others. May you find deeper connection to our Lord and Savior through this message…

The only way is love. Paul says love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:5). In loving relationships, we want to throw away the list in our heads of wrongs done to us and ignore them when they raise their indictments yet again. Too often we keep those lists, ruminate on them, and nurse them like a wounded animal. We say we forgive—and we may even believe we have—but when the list presents itself again we entertain it with a sort of sick satisfaction. “See what they did? Remember what she said?” We have taken the bait of offense. We are inside the trap.

The word used in Scripture for offense actually means “bait,” the bait that is placed inside a trap to lure an animal to its death. 

Offenses need to be forgiven quickly, or they will fester and poison the relationship. The poison seeps out and affects our own souls as well. Offenses that are held on to lead to death. 

People will hurt us. We will hurt and offend as well. We all will do this with intention and without, with our thoughts bent to wound and with no thought at all. Jesus took all our offenses into his broken body when he died for us, and he took everyone else’s as well. All that he suffered—the beating, the scourging, the mocking, and finally the crucifixion—was more than enough to pay for it all. Our offenses and theirs. 

Memorial

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn: A 9/11 Tribute

In an effort to acknowledge the tragedy of 9.11, I would like to talk about mourning. The Beatitudes give us the phrase, “blessed are those who mourn”. This doesn’t really jive with the American way and the selfish desires of my heart, but I’m sure it’s true. In my understanding, the idea of mourning is centered on an acknowledgement of something that is good that is missing. This acknowledgement can often be painful to the person who is admitting there is now a void of someone or something in their lives. Unfortunately, in an effort to minimize personal pain, I might ignore or diminish this acknowledgment. This can have significant long-term, unintended side effects. In short, by not acknowledging the good things that are now gone, we can unknowingly close off those areas of our heart and prevent them from ever being healed. You see, we cannot selectively shut out pain. The door we are shutting is the same door that healing and love need to enter our hearts. So, if you are like me, you may have closed many doors in an effort to avoid pain, but you also stunted your ability to love and be loved. Part of the GOOD NEWS is that God can help you re-open those doors, mourn, and heal.

I pray for the families and friends of those who died on 9/11, that they would be able to re-open doors that may have been shut and experience God’s healing touch.

Blondin (Francois Gravelet) pushes a wheelbarrow across a tightrope over Niagra Falls

Operational Belief vs. Intellectual Ascent (part 1 of 2)

In my experience it seems there are two kinds of “belief”:

  1. Intellectual Ascent
  2. Operational Belief

If I witnessed a stunt man comfortably pushing a wheelbarrow across a high wire with more than 200 pounds of sand in it, I could easily believe that he could do it with a normal-sized person in the wheelbarrow. This doesn’t mean that I’m ready and willing to jump in and give it a go.

In my life I also find similar gaps in what I believe intellectually vs. how I actually respond under the daily stresses and pain of life. You see, in order to make sense of life and protect myself from pain at a very early age, I arranged a self-protective survival system. Mostly, this system works at a subconscious level. It’s instinctual. I think just about everyone does this to some degree.

The irony is that the same instincts that serve to protect us from evil or harsh circumstances can also prevent us from relational connection and healing with God and others. Allow me to provide a couple examples:

  • A good father intellectually knows he needs to exhibit patience and unconditional love while training and discipling his kids. However, when the kids repeatedly show disrespect, self-centeredness, and anger toward the father, he resorts to raising his voice, shaming the kids for their actions, and using a general tone of anger towards them. How can this be?
  • A good mother intellectually knows she is never alone and God is always watching out for her. However, when she experiences loneliness due to an emotionally unavailable spouse and a schedule that doesn’t permit meaningful connection with other adults, a deep despair sets in; an operational belief that she is truly alone and must be emotionally tough and shoulder the load by herself. How can this be?

In each case, the operational beliefs do not line up with the stated (intellectual / scriptural) beliefs. It can be difficult to even recognize these inconsistencies because they happen at an instinctual level. Often they have been with us for decades and seem normal and necessary for our everyday coping and survival. But they are not. These inconsistencies threaten our ability to connect with God and others.

As you might imagine, our unhealthy operational / instinctual beliefs die hard. What can be done? Check out Part 2 of this post to find some steps to consider taking with a God who can’t wait to lovingly help you “close the gap”.

practice not perfect

Not Your Mama’s Practice

My soul is messy and crowded with things that have no business in here. Man, there is a lot of dross; you know, that stuff we long for God to burn up in us so we can be pure and holy and useful (Proverbs 25:4). It feels heavy and I feel sluggish. I want that junk out and I want it out now.

Actually, it feels more like, “I want them out,” like there’s a bunch of hooligans running amok in my soul. They grab fistfuls of cookies without asking, sneak peaks at things not meant for their eyes, yell foul and unkind words, knock over furniture, scratch and tear up the woodwork, and upset and upend the quiet, good me I long to be. I am trying to boss them around, tell them we know how to behave, they know better, my soul knows better.

I am full of broken instincts and behaviors, failed best efforts and renewed resolutions. They are all ill-behaved children who refuse to listen to parents and reason.

I am hoarse from yelling, “Out, wearying worries and useless tail-chasing! Out, old, worn thinking ruts and circular thought patterns! And I’ve got a stick I’ll use on ya if you come back this way!” Maybe if I just threaten the broken, failed parts of my soul and thoughts and choices a little more, get really good and fed-up and determined, it will finally work.

Maybe I will finally not be so broken.

Part of me so wishes it worked like that. I get bossy and take control, and even pray some more and ask God some more, and hope something goes “BAM!”: I am the repaired, good Christian I long to be.

Interestingly, God seems in no hurry to turn things upside down and shake out the garbage all at once. Even if I get fed up with it all at once.

Instead I get practice sessions at being a new creation in Christ. And while I am confident that, in terms of salvation and being seated in the heavenlies, the whole “new creation” thing happened instantly, I believe that in terms of refining me in the flesh in which I still walk, it certainly did not. It appears I have the opportunity in that sense to be a new creation every day.

Make that every hour.

Okay, every minute.

Maybe even every 3.8 seconds.

And it’s not the “Practice Makes Perfect!” kind of practice I know so well, either. It’s not the ruler-on-knuckles piano practice, the shoot-hoops-till-fingertips-are-bloody basketball practice, the play-till-you-can’t-stand-or-see-straight football practice, the write-this-word-1000-times-till-your-fingers-cramp spelling practice. The goal is not perfection the way I have always thought of it, no errors ever, no fumbles, no fouls. Never a missed note, nary a turnover.

It’s the practice of believing and and walking with my Good Dad, the Holy God who says, “I am pouring out grace and opportunities and grace-laden opportunities for you, my daughter, to both see who I am and be like I am. No matter how your last effort turned out, and no matter how this effort turns out, I love you. It’s unshakable. I am shaping you. And I am unshakable. I’ve got this, and I am your practice. Walk intimately with me in delighted, active trust and love, and I will burn up the dross, sometimes quickly but often slowly and in a way that reveals more of you and more of me. I will do it as you practice receiving and living in my love and grace that have the only real power to bring change, that you may see more of me in every interaction, every moment, both in you and out of you, toward you and toward others. I am your never-exhausted, never-weary, alive-in-the-Holy-Spirit-in-you, practice of love.”

So, what’s my prayer now, if I drop the stick I’ve been shaking and swinging at myself, and let my Loving Father be my practice?

Now I pray for the grace and courage to show up. Show up, and practice bravely believing all God has done, is doing, and will do. Practicing taking off my armor and opening my soul to its depths to hear, know, and feel all he says, all he is, and that his grace and love bring real change, lasting change. My coach is never tired, never exasperated. His inexhaustible love that desires and welcomes me right where I am even as he works in me is my first practice stop. The basics, the piano scales, free throws, and line sprints of my soul, so to speak.

Honestly, I have never been good at practicing anything, really. Flute, volleyball, softball, algebra equations. I want instant results now and I don’t like “failing”; even my friends have noted, I just don’t play games and sports I can’t win. I want guaranteed success and I want it immediately.

But I am starting to get the picture that for my soul, practice isn’t my performance; it’s remembering who my coach is.

In 3.8 second intervals. Over and over and over and over again.