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Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

There are people who, based on their actions, seem absolutely bent on making it impossible for me to display grace and forgiveness. But this doesn’t change the fact that I must forgive. Tirelessly, and totally. Jesus made that very clear in Matthew 18:21-35.

 

Who must I forgive?

EVERYONE, no exceptions. Even my enemies.

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:44)

When?

Whenever they offend me.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

How?

Completely. No holding back.

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2)

Why?

Because I was forgiven a debt I could never pay, and I am expected to do the same for others just like me.

JUST. LIKE. ME.

Wait—I don’t act like HER … I’m not a bad as HIM

Wait—in whose book did I deserve the grace I received?

he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:10

Some people are hard to forgive because they are hard and unforgiving. Are they a lost cause?

Not to God.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9).

How will my bitter neighbor ever learn to show grace and forgiveness if I, a recipient of undeserved grace, can’t show him what it looks like?

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little. (Luke 7:47)

…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:13)

If it’s not my responsibility to exemplify undeserved grace, then whose is it?

What if you and I are the only example of Jesus that an offensive person will ever know?

i love u bc God loves u

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Let’s Talk: What has the Grace of God taught you, and how has it changed you? What does it allow you to do that you couldn’t before/on your own?

-Camille

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Between the Pages header

Hey, there!

I’m kicking off a new series of weekly blog posts under the heading Between the Pages. We’ll be taking a look at precious gems of Truth found in fiction and film. Each week, we’ll talk about some of the novels, characters, films, and other forms of story that have left an impression on our hearts, or have impacted our lives in some way.

Bridge-to-Haven_3001I recently read Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers. It’s a beautiful allegory, and it doesn’t take long to see how Ezekiel and his son Joshua—a carpenter—symbolize God and Jesus. How a fast-talking charmer deceives and lures the main character, Abra, away from those who love her and into a path of ruination. How quickly she becomes enslaved, and how, with every bridge she burns, she feels more and more separated from her father. How unforgivable and unlovable she believes herself to be.

It’s a powerful and painfully raw story. But life is often painful and raw. Gritty. Enslaving. And the consequences of our choices often hurt more than we ever anticipate. But to me, the most heartbreaking consequence isn’t Abra’s lost innocence or the degrading enslavement she finds herself in. It’s the assumption she is too far gone, and her bitter resolve to keep running away from God and never look back.

sad girl bridge

Have you ever believed a lie like this? Felt you’d burned too many bridges? Believed that God is fed up with your repeated failures and you might as well just give up? We see God through human eyes, and assign him human qualities, such as impatience, resentment, frustration, etc. Even the enemy of our souls, the father of lies, knows that God will not write you off, let you wander off, lost and alone.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  Luke 15:3-7

Jesus leaves the 99 and goes out in search of the one, his precious lost lamb, his beloved. He won’t force us to come home, but he will climb every hill and ford every stream and beckon to us, show us there is no place we can go that he has not already gone, no place we can hide that he is not already there.

The idea of leaving loved ones behind and believing oneself beyond redemption runs through my next book, Wings Like a Dove (Dec 2019). We’ll talk more about Anna’s story soon.

But in the meantime, let’s talk about burned bridges.

  • Have you ever burned a bridge with someone in your life? Left a trail of burned bridges? 
  • Have you ever felt you’d reached a point of no return with God or people in your life? 
  • Have you ever wanted to make amends, but didn’t know where to begin? How did you deal with it? If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?
  • What advice would you give someone who feels they are truly unforgivable?
  • What stories or characters have left a lasting impression on you about the relentless love of God?

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Along The Banks

I recently read a quietly deep, beautifully written novel called Some Wildflower In My Heart (Bethany House Publishers, 1998) by Jamie Langston Turner. The story is told by Margaret, a deeply wounded woman who has spent decades closed off to love, relationships, and especially God. She ensures distance from others by being cold and unapproachable. Yet In spite of her brusque demeanor, she finds herself the recipient of the persistently kind, friendly attentions of a woman named Birdie with an inexhaustible capacity for love.

In the real world, anyone behaving like Margaret is sure to go to their grave friendless. But because one woman’s love for Jesus flows like an underground spring and touches everyone she meets, there may be hope for Margaret.

I try to imagine myself being persistently gracious and kind to someone who continually rejects the kindness. I can’t really see it. Could you? Would anyone you…

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Does happiness elude you? Are you disenchanted with life?

It’s so easy to flounder in feelings of discontent. We don’t have to look far to find something to complain about. Government. Health. Finances. Longevity. People. Job Security. The other political party. Relationships. Rush hour traffic. Adulting. Taxes. Social Injustice. This world and this earthly life are full of imperfections that can interfere with our plans, mar our happiness, rob our joy, and jade our outlook.

I’m reminded that this world was never where our happiness was meant to come from. If the lasting peace we seek is based on everything in our life going “right,” or all the good things in life finally lining up, I’m afraid we will never be happy, because everything will never be fully right. Not in this broken world. Not in this life.

It’s not wrong to desire a more perfect world; our souls were created to crave this. And it’s not wrong to enjoy life and the world around us. But it’s short-sighted to look for lasting contentment on earth. We were created to long for an indescribably fulfilling eternity with the Creator of our souls, our loving God.

The enemy of our souls has myriad weapons and tactics, but one steady aim: to drive a wedge between you and God. He’s good at finding your weakness, your vulnerability. The crack in your armor. The crack he finds in each of us will vary. Is discontent your weakness? Discontent is not just a matter of your own unhappiness, it’s also a foothold for the devil to drive you farther and farther away from what you need most: God, and his body of believers to help you stay strong in your faith.

If it is contentment you seek, it’s not found in perfect circumstances, but in relationship with a perfect God.

Jesus said, “give thanks in all things, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Not just in the good times. One of the best ways to battle discontent is to stop and thank God for all he has done and for all you do have. Our pastor encouraged us yesterday to remember to thank the Giver before we run off to enjoy a gift, and to keep our eyes on Him rather than on what he gives.

May a heart of gratitude bring lasting peace to us now, because an eternity of abundant, endless blessings and beauty and perfect “rightness” awaits.

give thanks

… for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

Philippians 4:11

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I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned  in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. –the Apostle Paul, Philippians 4:11-13

wind-treeContentment is so fragile, so subjective. If we truly desire to be content no matter our circumstances, or believe we’ve achieved it, soon something comes along to test this resolve. I can’t resolve to be content. And I’m tired of faking it.
I often see verse 13 plucked out of this paragraph, and yes, while always true, the apostle is specifically saying we need help to be perpetually content in every situation. The fact that Paul makes a point to say he needs God’s strength to achieve this tells me that continual contentment is important to have and yet impossible to achieve alone.

I live in a world that constantly tempts me to desire comfort and ease as a replacement for contentment, and it is quick to tell me what it will take. The latest fashion trend (which appears to be 90s Grunge at the moment-ehh, no thanks). Newer furniture. Bigger home. Perfect body. A newer-faster-cooler car. The latest app to make life easier. Healthier junk food. Stress-free relationships-job-commute-vacation-etc.

Deficiency or pain or discomfort or unrest or disunity or human imperfections (ours AND others’) will always be with us. ALWAYS. Contentment is going to need to be more deeply felt, more firmly established, less apt to be plucked away the moment something goes wrong.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
(She) will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.” Jer. 17:7-8

What shakes your sense of contentment? I confess that for me, and more lately as I am “feeling” age gaining, it doesn’t take much. How do you respond to adversity, or a rough day at work/home/with kids? Boneheads on the road? (um, I’ve never seen any…) Unsatisfactory customer service? Mind-numbing political rhetoric? Facebook feed? How long does it take for you to turn from the source and reach deeper for the Source, for the Lord’s strength and larger eternal perspective, for peace that passes understanding in the midst of discontent?

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Waking to find all 3 of my books listed on book blogs for Top 10 Tuesday 5-star titles today. Here’s one featuring The Memoir of Johnny Devine, along with 9 outstanding titles. Also, visit Reading Is My Superpower for not one but TWO of my books listed, as well as some excellent titles for your reading list!

By The Book

Thanks to the folks over at The Broke And The Bookishfor hosting Top 10 Tuesdayevery week. There are lots of book bloggers that participate, so make sure to click HERE to find out what they are up to.

toptentuesday

This week’s theme is 10 of My Most Recent 5-Star Reads. I have been inundated with reading blessings this year and have enjoyed lots and lots of great books. The following are the last 5-star books I have read. Make sure to check out the reviews I have linked.

Top 10 5-Star Reads

(In Alphabetical Order)

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa (suspense)

The Body under The Bridge by Paul McCusker (mystery)

The Fragmentby Davis Bunn (historical suspense)

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Guarded by Angela Correll (women’s fiction)

The Hearts We Mend by Kathryn Springer (contemporary romance)

A House Divided by Robert Whitlow (legal drama)

If I Run by Terri Blackstock (suspense)

unknownUnknown51kwubDrxcL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Unknown

The…

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Revisiting Good Friday…

Along The Banks

I don’t know about you, but I’ve wondered on occasion if God really loves me.

Remember when Jesus said take my yoke on you, for my yoke is easy and my burden light? Imagine a thick wooden yoke with slots for a pair of oxen and Jesus strapped into one side. He not only offers to help shoulder the burden, but I think he carries the bulk of the weight, gives us the “light” end. He positions the wood across his shoulders in such a way as to lighten our load. I love that picture.

It’s Good Friday and I’m reminded that Jesus carried another piece of wood across his shoulders for me—alone. Not a yoke, not a shared burden, but a lonely task. To bear the weight of all my sin.

Before I realized this week’s post lands on Good Friday, I was planning to write about why I…

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