Merciful

Sometimes God speaks to us through the words of others. That is what happened to me this morning. 102_4847

I had just finished breakfast and pulled my laptop onto the kitchen table. I surfed on over to Lisa-Jo’s blog to see what the 5 minute Friday prompt was going to be for today.

The prompt is mercy. No. Not, that. The very emotions that I have been dealing with over the past couple of weeks, spilled out…all over the kitchen table. I do not want to discuss mercy! For a moment I considered skipping today’s 5 minutes.

Lisa-Jo had a guest writer for today. Her name is Alia, and these are her words that cut through me, exposing my inner thoughts.

“Mercy seemed weak somehow. It seemed to bypass judgement and somehow pardon things I thought needed a season of harvest. Harvesting from poor choices or sin. Harvesting with consequences and lessons learned. After all, you reap what’s been thrown to the wind without caution.” –Alia

That is so me. Sigh. I can be merciful when I want to be, but oh how I want consequences when I see the poor judgement of others. It only seems fair, right?

And my heart hardens against mercy.

I am so very thankful that God is just, but also merciful. That He extends mercy to me, even when it is so undeserved.

I’m working on mercy and forgiveness. I’ll be honest, it has been and continues to be a struggle for me.

I continue on…and God continues in His love for me.

He skillfully works on me, shaping me into the image of His Son.

Sometimes the work hurts.

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Luke 6:36 Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

Memories Of The Moment

I was born in 1968, on a beautiful spring day, when many of our men and women were fighting in Vietnam. I grew up singing Simon and IMG_0213Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence in elementary music class, I watched Free To Be, You and Me with Marlo Thomas, and caught the Kroft Super Show on Saturday mornings, well before cable was the norm. As a teen, I listened to Michael Jackson’s, Thriller, and loved Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. I had excellent grades in high school. Life was good.

I didn’t know war. It was always some place else.

I graduated from college in 1990. I was teaching at my first “real” job. I had my own apartment, car, and was taking care of myself as an independent adult. Twenty-two seemed old and young all at the same time. The Gulf War started and I watched the news coverage. I had my students write letters to the soldiers. I became a pen pal to a young man who was my age. He was a native Iowan, named Pete. We talked of sand, and scud missiles, and the autumn beauty of Iowa. I told him about my classroom at school, how I loved teaching and the leaves changing on the east Tennessee mountains. I wanted him to remember what home felt like….even in the midst of the heat and feeling so alone.

I didn’t know war, except through Pete’s man-boy scrawl. The war was someplace else.

It was 2001. That Tuesday morning started like any other, early September day. It was sunny and calm. My classroom was active with the wiggles that come from corralling energetic elementary school children. Little did I know that the minutes were ticking down on normal. Things were about to change…and my memories of the moments that were about to occur would be forever etched in both my mind and heart. I remember running to the office where there was a TV in the school conference room. I saw the planes hit, I distinctly remember the sinking feeling in my gut. The memories of pacing the floor in disbelief and uttering, “Are we at war?”

With these attacks, this horrible tragedy…war came home…and it has changed me.

Changed us.102_4377

Forever.

O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.  Psalm 30:2

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Remembering those who were lost on this tragic day, twelve years ago. Remembering the police, coast guard, firefighters, and civilians that served that day, and some that paid the ultimate price. Remembering the servicemen and women who have fought and continue to fight for our freedom.

 

He First Forgave Me

A post from my archives that I needed to read again…and again. Maybe, you too?

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The Beauty Of Forgiveness

11 Jan

He doesn’t deserve my forgiveness! She did a terrible thing to me. Why should I forgive her? He hurt my feelings. She said horrible things.IMG_0247

 

Most of us in this life have had things happen to us that we feel we really don’t deserve. People have treated us poorly.  They didn’t do what they should.  They shouldn’t have done what they did.

 

I’ve heard myself say the words, “I will never forgive her for that”. She hurt me. She doesn’t “deserve” my forgiveness. I hate her.

 

With those words, the bitterness started to grow, like a vine around my heart. It was slowly choking out the ability to forgive. It was always there with me…like poison that I kept drinking–even though it hurt me.

 

The truth is that the “unforgiven” rarely suffer like the ones holding onto the bitterness. The one who demands payment for whatever sin was committed against them, suffers much more.

 

I can’t tell you the exact moment that, that changed for me. The moment I forgave her for the awful things she said about me. Things that weren’t true. My forgiveness wasn’t showy. As a matter of fact, she never even asked me for my forgiveness. She never begged me to forgive her. It was never like that. I don’t know that she even remembers what she said to begin with…….but, I did. So, I was the one to make the move. To forgive her. In my heart.

 

You know, when you forgive someone it is does not always mean that you “forget” what happened. Our minds don’t work that way. Forgiveness isn’t about forgetting, forgiveness is about “letting it go” and moving on. Bitterness only hurts the one harboring it.

 

You might be thinking to yourself, “Dawn, does not get it. My hurt is too great. The offense too horrible. I cannot forgive. Ever.”

 

And you would be wrong. I do get it. I know. Believe me, I know. And you can forgive. It is a choice. Not easy, but  definitely not impossible.

 

Like I said, forgiveness is not about giving something to the other person. (unless he/she asks) Forgiveness is about YOU being able to rid yourself of bitterness.

 

Most of you know me (especially those of you that have been reading my blog for a long time). If you were to meet me you’d see that I am a wife and mom. Teenagers can drive me nutty.  I look sort of average. I like wearing tennis shoes. I shop at Walmart. I enjoy reading. I have a soft spot for dogs. I love my family. If I don’t get enough sleep I’m a bear. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes my sense of humor shines. Above all else I am a Christian.

 

The reason that I am able to forgive is NOT because I am special…because I am not. I am no different than you.  The reason that I am able to forgive is because, you see, I am one of the forgiven. When Christ took my place and hung on that cross, He cried out, “Father, forgive them!” Christ knew that one day I would exist. That my heart would be dark with the feelings that it harbored. That even if I tried to be good, I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have it in me. And yet, He forgave me. He didn’t have to. I surely didn’t deserve it. I didn’t even appreciate it.

 

But, I am grateful for a loving, compassionate, just, and holy God. God tells me in Psalms 103:12,

 

New International Version (©1984)
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

 

Because God first forgave me, I am now able to show forgiveness to others.

 

 

Yesterday, On The Way To The Barn

Yesterday, on the way to the barn, I had the pleasure of witnessing the still and quiet of the morning. Early morning mist was still clinging low to the ground. The sun was able to shine through, causing a golden glow. Flying over the mist were a group of Canadian geese, their instincts drawing them to the wetland across the road. 102_3529

The sunflowers I had planted months ago, at the side of the barn, were standing tall, faces to the sun.

I heard a meow, but where was the cat? Hiding in the weeds? Stalking her prey, as if she were a big cat in the savannah? Then I spotted her, trotting down the driveway. A drifter, as are so many barn cats, in the country.

I pet Jazz on the neck, her soft fur and her coarse mane. She tolerates my admiration, as she chows down on the breakfast I just served. She is a pretty horse, even as she is aging. I wonder if she considers or even remembers her days as a barrel racer?

The farmer has started harvesting the corn behind our house. Hard to believe that, that time is already here. Later in the day, I could hear the tractor chugging and see the thin wisp of smoke as the tractor made its way through the field. Ace barked hard at the intruder. What was this loud monster, eating up the field?

We are right on the cusp of my favorite season. Oh, how that makes me happy.

Thankful.

Thankful for another day.

Another chance.

Another opportunity.

 

 

 

Americana At Its Finest

I love going to the fair. Sure, it smells of animals and greasy fair food, but I do so enjoy it.

Last night we found ourselves at the Hardin County fair, here in rural Ohio.

The Friday night air of early September, was crisp, even a tad bit chilly.

It definitely felt like Fall is just around the corner…waiting just a few more weeks before bursting on the scene with all its fiery glory.

My husband and I spent time at our church’s booth, meeting and greeting people, sharing bubble gum, balloons, and Jesus.

The kids walked around the fairgrounds for a couple of hours, amidst the blinking lights, animal barns, and food booths.

We all agreed that if it can be deep fried and on a stick, people will eat it at the fair.

Americana at it’s finest.

 

 

 

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Life Is Not Fair

 

I’ve been dealing with some things lately.                                                                         Rusted-apya-007

Hard things.

Anger and resentment are deep.

The feelings hurt and my heart is hardened. Apathy strangles.

 

Life is not fair sometimes. Life is not fair most of the time.

I see each brick. I’ve memorized them. They build a wall.

My heart is so wrapped in bitterness that I have forgotten.

Forgotten what grace is…

I needed to read again, what I had written before.

I had to be reminded about grace…

His amazing grace to me, and how I need to extend grace to others.

Grace is needed the most, when it is deserved the least.

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Saved By His Amazing Grace


“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound

 

That saved a wretch like me.

 

I once was lost, but now am found

 

Was blind, but now I see……..”

 

Webster’s tells us that grace is an act of favor, kindness, or mercy. Grace is given to those that deserve it the least. It is given to those that could never pay the price for it…because it costs too much. More than I could ever afford or even begin to be able to pay back. Grace is a gift.

 

Years ago, when my story first began……I was spiritually dead. My heart was as dark as the sin that it held. My desire to please myself was great. It was all about me. If I had not met Jesus along the way, the road that I was on, most certainly would have  taken me to Hell. Yes, Hell. I thank God for His amazing grace. A grace that I did not deserve. A grace that I did not earn. A gift that He offered me. Thank God, I accepted the gift.

 

Some people don’t believe in Hell. They think it is just a metaphor for badness, or sadness. A philosophical place, so to speak. Not a real place. Other’s think that Hell is a place that is going to be one raucous party and that all their friends will be there, participating in all the other worldly vices. Sadly, that is what Lucifer would have them believe–that it isn’t all that bad, come join the party. Who needs the Lord? Who needs self sacrifice? Who needs the Bible? That isn’t any fun. It is too constricting. Do what you want, when you want, how you want.  After all this life is all about you!! Satan’s lies echo in the ears of those that live for their own self gratification.  Empty lies that claim to offer the world…but, instead lead to death.

 

Hell is real. It is a place.  I believe the saddest and most painful part of it, for those who find themselves there, is the isolation. What makes Hell, hell is that God is not there. There is no love, no compassion, no forgiveness, no hope, no joy, no friendship, no fairness, no understanding…..no more grace. These things are not there…because the God who possesses these qualities is not there. That is what Hell will be. I think there will be people in Hell that will have a deep and profound sadness because they will know that their eternity didn’t have to end up this way. It was their choice. They chose this for themselves. When people tried to tell them about God, they scoffed at them…calling them crazy, or weird, or other harsh names. When they were invited to attend church, they laughed that a church is the last place they’d ever go! When God quietly knocked at the door of their heart, they slammed it in His face. Denying their need for Him. Apathy sets in. Hearts harden. Minds are set. And days slip by.

 

I was a sinner in need of a Savior.  I’m grateful I realized this at a fairly young age. It saved me a lot of grief. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not claiming perfection. Lord knows, and so do a lot of other people, that I went through some bad times in my life. Sometimes I’d wonder to myself how I allowed this to happen? What was I thinking? This stuff hurts! What a mess I made. Stupid decisions. The pain at times, was great. In the midst of all this I knew that Christ was still there. He never left me. I was His child. I had accepted His gift of grace and salvation years earlier….and I was His. Much like a parent looks at his/her wayward child and their heart breaks, God looked at me. He didn’t leave me there in the slime and dirt of my own life….bogged down in the morass of my own decisions. He brought me out of that. He set me on a rock. Sturdy. Secure. Strong.

 

My story is not one of all rainbows and roses. Life is gritty…..and we are all human. We make mistakes. We makes reckless decisions. We have regret. In the midst of all this, Jesus is there. Regardless of what you’ve done, or not done in your own life, He loves you.  He wants to give you the gift of His amazing grace. Will you accept it?

Everyone Struggles

Everyone struggles.

Everyone.

Sometimes the struggles are evident and easy for all to see. They are “in your face”, blatant. Raw.

Sometimes the struggles are more subtle.

Either way, the days can seem so very hard.

There are times in life when we find ourselves walking in the valley. In this deep valley the shadows are long. The path ahead is rough and hard and it is easy to trip in the darkness. Bruised and broken.  Moving forward, but still holding on to the past.

Life is hard. It always is.

A former pastor once said, “In life, there are three places…When we are heading into a difficult time, we’re in the middle of a difficult time, or just coming through a difficult time.” It’s true.

I don’t like the difficult times. No one does. I fight through them.

The battles leave me weary.

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I’m not the only one who has ever walked through the valley…it seems that David also understood. These life struggles are nothing new.

 

Hear my cry, O God;
    listen to my prayer.

 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
    I call as my heart grows faint;
    lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
 For you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the foe.

 I long to dwell in your tent forever
    and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Psalm 61:1-4 NIV