Thursday, April 16, 2015

Recognize that your readers might fear God’s grace is out of reach


Your readers need to know your stories about forgiveness because they might think they’re beyond God’s grace—at least one of them, maybe several of them.

I haven’t researched the topic but I suspect every memoir involves some aspect of forgiveness:

Our need to ask forgiveness from others
Our need to accept and embrace God’s forgiveness

If I’m right—if every memoir involves some aspect of forgiveness—do we treat forgiveness like the elephant in the room?

In one way or another, forgiveness surrounds our everyday lives, from birth to death, but do we shy away from taking a serious look at it?

It looms, maybe in the corner of the room, but are we uncomfortable discussing it?

As a memoirist, how are you addressing the topic of forgiveness?



Your readers—

your kids, grandkids, great-grandkids,

generations yet unborn—

will struggle with their own failures

and weaknesses

and temptations

and sins.

God can use your life’s stories
to help them turn to Him
for forgiveness and restoration.


Twice this month we’ve looked at a couple components of forgiveness. Today, let’s continue:

We need to accept and embrace God’s forgiveness, and we need to forgive ourselves:

After we’ve confessed and asked God’s forgiveness for our sins against Him and others, after we’ve radically, deliberately, sincerely turned our lives around, too often we continue to beat ourselves up over our failures. Too often we still consider ourselves soiled, ruined, disgraced. We feel doomed to live with shame the rest of our lives.

If that’s where you are today, I encourage you to ban the following judgment of yourself:



Instead, ask God to help you embrace the following:




Rest in the assurance that God’s forgiveness is complete, perfect, lacking nothing.

Believe God’s promise to forgive (1 John 1:9, Proverbs 28:13, Psalm 103:12).  

LIVE like you are forgiven (Psalm 32:5).

Relax in God’s love, mercy, and grace (Zephaniah 3:17).

Delight yourself in the joy of the Lord (2 Samuel 22:20, Psalm 16:16, Psalm 35:9, Isaiah 61:10, Nehemiah 8:10, Psalm 92:4).

Your stories are important—people need to know your stories of giving and receiving forgiveness—but spelling out every last detail might not be appropriate.

How much do you share with your readers—your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren?

“How open and honest do we need to be?
Do we have to tell our readers everything?
No!”



In Write His Answer: A Bible Study for Christian Writers, Marlene Bagnull points out that Paul, in the New Testament, must have had deep regrets over his persecution of Christians, yet he didn’t dodge it, he didn’t treat it like the elephant in the room.

Instead, spoke of his sinful life (Acts 22). He didn’t tell all the gory details of how he persecuted people, but he told the most important information: the Lord confronted him and called him to repent so he could tell others about God’s grace and forgiveness. Paul wrote, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy….The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly…” (1 Timothy 1:13-16; see also Romans 8:2).  

Paul didn’t record what, specifically, was the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-8).

He wrote that he kept doing things he didn’t want to do, but didn’t name them (Romans 7:15).  

But Paul always pointed his listeners and readers to God’s grace.

And he did so even though he knew he still was not perfect. “I am still not all I should be,” he admitted (Philippians 3:13).

You see, it wasn’t because Paul was so great. No, it was because God was and still is so great!

Like Paul, you and I are far from perfect, and, like Paul, we don’t need to tell all our gory details. But with humility, if God so leads, we can share transparently some of our failures in tactful ways so that we, like Paul, can tell how God saved us and changed us—by His staggering grace and mercy.

Your stories and mine are important because those who read them might think they’re beyond God’s grace. Our stories might inspire them to accept God’s forgiveness for themselves.

“Out of his awareness of his own sinful nature,
Paul was able to point others to
‘the power of the life-giving Spirit’ (Romans 8:2).
We can do the same.”

Marlene Bagnull, Write His Answer

With God’s help, we must write stories that point readers to God's grace. We can write stories to bless entire families and generations—not because you and I are so great, but because God is so great!






Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tuesday Tidbit – From generation to generation


Here's your 15 seconds of inspiration,
your Tuesday Tidbit:



What stories do you need to write
so that
your future generations
can know what 
God has done for you?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

I never dreamed I'd be capable of doing that


We’ve all been there. We’ve chosen to do something selfish, mean, immoral—or maybe even illegal.

We’ve made willful decisions that hurt people and bring shame upon us. Deliberate actions that cause life-long consequences—for ourselves and others.

Sometimes it takes a long, long time to admit our transgression.

And when we do, the enormity of our offence hits right between the eyes.

The depth of our wrongdoing feels like a kick in the stomach and we take a new look at ourselves and say, “I never dreamed I could be capable of doing that.”

Who am I? And what that kind of person am I, really?

Yes, we’ve all been there.

Eventually we realize we couldn’t hide any of it from God. He knows every detail.
 
Like David, we cry out, 
Oh, God, don’t cast me away! 
Don’t reject me! 
(Psalm 51:11)

And we know deep down inside that we can do nothingnothing—to undo what we’ve done. We can’t make our actions disappear. We are powerless to do anything to clean ourselves up.

All we can do is fall on our faces, confess our hard-hearted, selfish disobedience, and ask God’s forgiveness.

If our repentance is sincere, God is ready to forgive.

If we’re ready for “…a radical reconstruction of the heart,” (Max Lucado), God is ready to forgive.

Repentance:

“… a radical
and deliberate
turning or returning to God
that results in
moral
and ethical
change
and action.”
(from NIV Study Bible footnote for Matthew 4:17; 
emphasis mine)


Yes, God is eager to forgive.

Remember that symphony from last Thursday? Here it is again:

“God not only puts our sins out of sight
(Isaiah 38:17);

he also puts them out of reach
(Micah 7:19, Psalm 103:12),

out of mind
(Jeremiah 31:34)

and out of existence
(Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:22; Psalm 51:1, 9; Acts 3:19).”
(NIV Study Bible’s comment for Isaiah 38:17; emphasis mine)

God’s forgiveness is complete.

His forgiveness is perfect.

We are undeserving, but “… Through forgiveness, [God] releases us from a debt we could never pay and assures us of His continuing love for us.” (Martin De Haan)

Our only response must be to accept His mindboggling forgiveness, grace, and mercy.

Fully accepting and grasping God’s forgiveness can take a long time, but after we do, can we forgive ourselves?

And after God forgives us, after God takes our sins from usas far as the east is from the west!should we forget our wrongdoings? Or should we remember our willful disobedience? Or should we do a little bit of both?

We’ll come back to this next week but, for now, think about these questions. Pray about these questions.

Listen to something important:

Your readers—
your kids, grandkids, great-grandkids,
generations yet unborn—
will struggle with their own failures
and weaknesses
and temptations
and sins.
God can use your life’s stories
to help them turn to Him
for forgiveness and restoration.

Your stories are important.
Spelling out every last detail
might not be appropriate
(more on that next week)
but with God’s help,
you can write stories to bless
entire families and generations.

What stories do you need to write?

(Revised from an earlier post)





Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tuesday Tidbit: “Without you I wouldn’t be who I am.”


Here’s your 15 seconds of inspiration for today,
your Tuesday Tidbit:


Without you I wouldn’t be who I am.”
(Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey)

Henri Nouwen wrote of the importance of receiving—of accepting—from others, things like encouragement, affirmation, insight, bravery, advice, perspective, support.

Who comes to mind when you read such words and sentences?

Perhaps several people come to mind—individuals who helped shape you into the person you are today.

Write about those people and your experiences together and include those stories in your memoir.

Nouwen wrote of saying:

“‘Thank you, you gave me hope;
thank you, you gave me a reason to live;
thank you, you allowed me to realize my dream.…’”


Even if those important folks no longer walk the earth, write stories that will thank them.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Forgiveness: forgetting and remembering?


“‘I was wrong. I’m sorry. Now let’s get on with business. It’s your job to forgive me. It’s time for us both to put this behind us.’ With a few well-chosen words, the tables are turned. Like a wrestler doing an escape and reverse, an offender gains the upper hand. His victims are now expected to forgive and forget.

“He might even remind them that according to Jesus, if we don’t forgive others, our Father in heaven won’t forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15).

“Now that I’ve admitted my wrong, now that God has forgiven me, and now that the Bible requires you to forgive me, why can’t we act like this never happened?

Thus writes Martin De Haan in his article, Forgiveness (from Times of Discovery, Volume 60, Number 1; emphasis mine).

He continues, “We’ve been told that when God forgives, He forgets, and that if we really forgive, we’ll forget too.”

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of such words, you know the ripping, searing feeling in your heart because something about this doesn’t seem quite right!

So, let’s look at what the Bible says about God’s forgiveness:

“God not only puts our sins out of sight,
(Isaiah 38:17);

he also puts them out of reach,
(Micah 7:19, Psalm 103:12),

out of mind,
(Jeremiah 31:34)

and out of existence.
(Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:22; Psalm 51:1, 9; Acts 3:19).”
(NIV Study Bible’s comment for Isaiah 38:17; emphasis mine)

So, God forgets.

God forgets?

God doesn’t forget anything,” states De Haan. “From cover to cover, the Bible shows that God remembers the sins of His people.

“Both Old and New Testaments are full of stories which preserve forever the memory of His people’s forgiven wrongs.”

Whoa. I don’t know about you, but sometimes the Bible and God jerk my emotions around.

So God forgets but He also remembers?

De Haan proposes that forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. He observes that while we can easily forget some wrongs against us, others are “always near the edge of our awareness.”

“When God says He will not remember our sins,” De Haan says, “He means He won’t remember them against us.”

Read that again: When God says He will not remember our sins, He means He won’t remember them against us.”

Pastor Sid said it this way one Sunday morning: To forgive is to let go of holding someone guilty.

In the Hebrew, Jeremiah 31:34 means God will not mention, recount, bring to remembrance, or think about those of our sins He has forgiven.

Max Lucado has an earthier way of explaining it: When God says He will remember our sins no more, it means He will not rub our noses in them.

So what should we do when someone says to us, “The Bible requires you to forgive me, why can’t we act like this never happened?

Forgiveness may not involve complete restoration,” suggests De Haan.

“… Forgiveness doesn’t require a return to business as usual. There may be results that are irreversible.…”

De Haan is talking about natural, reasonable, and logical consequences.

Forgiveness may allow for consequences. A forgiver may still wisely and lovingly ask for reasonable restitution, legal due process, a plan to avoid recurrences, and time to heal. Wise follow-through is often necessary if we are going to forgive and love well.”

Forgiveness takes lots of time and it requires the offender’s genuine repentance.

“Repentance is more than
a change of mind
or feeling sorry for one’s sins.
It is a radical
and deliberate
turning or returning to God
that results in
moral
and ethical
change
and action.”
(from NIV Study Bible footnote for Matthew 4:17; emphasis mine)

It is wise to develop a plan for healing.

(It is also wise to develop a plan for rebuilding trust. Forgiving is not the same as trusting again, but that’s a topic for another day.)

So what do you think? 

Does forgiveness leave room for forgetting AND remembering?






Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesday Tidbit: A story you never thought would be yours


Here's your 15 seconds of inspiration for this week,
your Tuesday Tidbit:


God wrote your story, perhaps one you never expected,
never dreamed of, never wanted,
but, in ways only God can do things,
your life is turning out well.
He wrote it, 
now it's your turn to write!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

“Opportunities with your name engraved on them”


Today I hope and pray the words below
will stir up ideas for
stories to include in your memoir.

May you find here
“a seed of an idea”
and may you be
“available and ready”
to write!

What past events or encounters do the following quotations bring to mind?

What do you or a friend or a family member know, 
from personal experience,
 of each quotation’s message?

What wisdom, what blessing, can you share in your memoir?


“Each day sets before us unique, unprecedented opportunities and challenges. More than a few of them have our names engraved on them. Most of the time, we are too busy or too conveniently self-deluded into thinking that our decision will have no consequence. Yet every now and then (from where does that thrilling and terrifying insight come upon us?), we feel compelled to act. Each one of us are messengers on a sacred mission. The world depends on it!” Lawrence Kushner, Eyes Remade for Wonder (emphasis mine)

Our lives mean much more than we can tell; they fulfill some purpose of God about which we know nothing.... Oswald Chambers, The Quotable Oswald Chambers (emphasis mine)

“It’s impossible,” said pride.
“It’s risky,” said experience.
“It’s pointless,” said reason.
“Give it a try,” whispered the heart.
(author unknown)

Faith is a decision you make to believe that the dark road you are traveling on will eventually yield to a sunrise.” Tony Evans

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” President Theodore Roosevelt 

“Any grief we have gone through ourselves and given over to the Lord’s healing is preparation for comforting others.…” (Lloyd John Ogilvie, Silent Strength for My Life)

“… Through flaws and fissures in the bedrock harshness of things, there wells up from time to time, out of a deeper substratum of reality still, a kind of crazy, holy grace.” Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey (emphasis mine)

They can give your readers hope,
guidance,
a hand up,
a warning,
a smile,
a good cry,
help in making a decision,
courage,
faith in God,
and so much more!

God gave us the gift of language to express something extraordinary. Well chosen words launched intentionally from one heart to another establish bonds, create character, soothe, heal, edify, build, and bring comfort.” Birdie Courtright (emphasis mine)

Be intentional.

Write your stories as a gift for others.

Launch them from your heart to your readers’ hearts.