When a child is born, a mother anxiously checks for 10 fingers and 10 toes. She waits to hear the verdict from the medical staff that her child is healthy and whole. It’s a time of wonder when that tiny being is first placed in your arms and a time of uncertainty when you’re released to return home with the responsibilities of caring for a new life.
As each year passes, we watch our children grow, revealing their distinct personalities. While one child may be more fearful, another may test a mother’s patience with attempts to defy gravity or some other activity leading to cuts, bruises and broken limbs.
Letting go is difficult.
As the mother of two sons, now in their late 30s, I am aware of the limitations of my influence at this stage of their lives. With the lessons they learned as children embedded in their memories, I can only pray daily for their safety, well-being, their relationship with God and success in all they do. I pray for their work situations, their health, their relationships and how they raise their children.
When a child is young, a mother knows how to fix things. We can kiss a scraped elbow, place a warm, damp wash rag on their heads to bring comfort when ill, listen to their fears and promise them there are no monsters under the bed.
A mother’s heart is torn when a child becomes an adult and she realizes how her role has changed. Letting go is difficult.
Good Friday has passed, but Jesus’ prayer on that fateful day should be taken to heart. One take-away from the day Jesus was crucified was His willingness to forgive those who persecuted Him.
Looking down from the cross on the Roman soldiers who were gambling for His clothing, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
But it wasn’t just the Roman soldiers He referred to during this distressing time. On either side of Jesus were two criminals who belittled Him. As the religious leaders mocked Him and the crowd jeered at Him, what did Jesus do? He prayed for them—a prayer of unmatched mercy and redeeming love. Even in His agony, Jesus’ concern was not for Himself but for the forgiveness of His enemies.
Is there someone you need to forgive?
Did you know withholding forgiveness from someone who has wronged you does more harm to you than the one you refuse to forgive? Refusing to forgive not only weighs down the spirit, it can also affect your physical health. Whether it’s a minor spat or long-held resentment toward another, unresolved conflict can go deeper than most realize, especially if it’s a family member or friend.
Refusing to forgive ups your risk of high blood pressure, the risk of heart attack, sleep problems, increased pain and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. As we age, research reveals a greater increase in the connection to forgiveness and our health.
“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners”— Romans 5:8 (NLT).
Growing up, I never felt as if I were good enough. My mother expected perfection from her daughters. In retrospect, I’m sure she followed in the footsteps of her own mother. Both meant well.
When you’re raised to seek perfection, you never feel worthy. A feeling of unworthiness leads to insecurity in all your relationships. Striving to earn the love of others leads to internal conflict. Being a people-pleaser creates a false identity.
His mercies are new each morning.
Until I came to know Jesus as my redeemer and Lord, I never understood the meaning of “unconditional” love. I struggled, like others, to understand how God could love me without any conditions attached.
Pastor Charles Stanley says, “. . . maybe we just feel unworthy of His love. Well, I have news for you: No one is worthy. God’s love is based not on whether we are deserving but on His character—we need to understand that love isn’t simply something God does; it’s who He is.”
“‘And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’” The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these”—Mark 12:30-31(NLT).
For over 11 years, I’ve sat down at my computer each week to write this column. It wasn’t part of my retirement plan after leaving education in 2005. But God had other plans.
Although I grew up in the church, I didn’t have a personal relationship with God until my late 40s. I’ve never regretted accepting Jesus as my Savior and Lord. There have been times, however, when I wanted to give up. Trials have left me drained but Jesus has sustained me.
When I grow weary and want to quit writing, His Holy Spirit encourages me through the feedback I receive from readers. Writing for His glory is a labor of love.
We can’t love the unlovable on our own.
Love is the answer to the current discord and hate in this world. If we claim to be Christians, shouldn’t our life reflect the light of His love? If we claim to be Christians, shouldn’t we love everyone, even the unlovable among us?
Love everyone? What about the person next door who disturbs the neighborhood by constantly yelling at his children? What about the neighbor who leaves trash scattered across his lawn, distracting from the beauty of the area? What about the grumpy one who never speaks, even when you try to establish a relationship? I admit it’s not easy and I sometimes fail.
“The whole earth is full of his glory”—Isaiah 6:3(KJV).
Listening as our associate pastor read the familiar words, I marveled anew at God’s love for us. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
God didn’t have to create anything. He didn’t have to create the birds of the air or the flowers we love to pick or the other multitude of creatures and plants for our enjoyment. Just as He created us for His pleasure, He wanted us to enjoy and take care of His creation. Oh how we have failed—all of us. I take comfort, however, in the fact that He never fails us.
As I glanced out my kitchen window this morning, I was surprised by God. A large red-headed woodpecker was enjoying the suet at the feeders hanging on the edge of my deck. This beautiful creature, along with the various other birds that visit each day, are stunning. The variety in their size, shape and color leaves me breathless. How easy it would have been for God to make them all alike. How boring would that be? But, He didn’t.
Clear distractions, focus on each moment.
God loved us so much that He went out of His way to create, to spend five days deliberately preparing a Creation He called “good.” In today’s world, it’s sometime difficult to find the good in the midst of all the chaos.
A recent quote by an unknown author gave me pause. The author said, “The New Year is a time to learn to rely more heavily on the grace of God.”
To do this, I’ve realized I have to let go of some things to make way for His work in my life. Here are some suggestions to help all of us unclutter our lives:
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 3:13-14(NIV).
Since 2001, I’ve packed my belongings and moved five times. That averages moving every three years. However, I did remain in one house for almost 11 years. If you’ve ever moved, you know the challenge it involves. While looking forward to a new adventure, there is still the logistics of dealing with possessions one has accumulated over the years.
When I prepared to move this last time in April 2016, I realized, once again, how much I had amassed. During the 11 years I’d lived in that residence, I lost my only surviving parent. My mother had passed in 2004, followed by my father in 2007. When my sister and I met to assess their belongings, we each chose things we wanted to keep. Then, we allowed family members to make their selections. Everything that remained was given away.
As the apostle Paul said, we must forget what is behind.
We must cling to Jesus.
As I cleaned out cabinets last April and started packing, I came across some of my mother’s crystal, as well as other decorative and delicate items stored on the top kitchen shelves since September 2007. Almost nine years later, the keepsakes had remained untouched, except for one beautiful cut-glass vase I’d used many times. Why was I hanging onto things that were not useful to me? Why had I toted them home in the first place? Gathering dust, they had remained hidden from sight.
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had” – Acts 4:32 (NIV).
Three words at the top of a brightly colored advertising insert in my daily newspaper captured my attention. “Give better gifts.”
The insert was only one of 25 stuffed inside to lure customers into shopping Black Friday sales. Retrieving the heavier-than-usual newspaper off my driveway on Thanksgiving Day reminded me that Christmas isn’t far off and I’d better get busy shopping. However, I abhor crowds so I tossed the advertisements in the trash.
I’m not opposed to saving money when shopping. However, I have come to detest the commercialism now associated with a sacred Christian holiday. Recent TV commercials and a story in the business section of the newspaper several days before Thanksgiving made me want to cheer. Many businesses are refusing to open on Thanksgiving so that their employees can spend the day of gratitude with their families.
Gifts of our time and our presence are better than any store-bought gift.
One company has gone one step further by announcing for the second year in a row that they will be closed on Black Friday. In fact, according to the article, they are not offering any Black Friday deals online or otherwise. REI, a national outdoor retail co-op, is dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting its members and the community for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. Passionate about the outdoors, the company is committed to promoting environmental stewardship and increasing access to outdoor recreation through volunteerism, gear donations and financial contributions.