Unoffended

A tiny bud springing to life is the heart of one newly saved and abiding in Christ, 
the Liberating King.

Do you know Him?

A few months ago I attended a special event coordinated by the singles ministry at our church. This singles event has prompted a journey in my life I could not have dreamed possible: the journey to discover what it means to live unoffended.

The Monday after Thanksgiving, a man known in charismatic circles as one of powerful healing came and share his story of how God redeemed him from a destructive pit and delivered him into a life of love. Todd White doesn’t believe that God won’t heal someone he prays for… Does that mean everyone gets healed? 

I don’t know. But, I’ve seen and experienced the powerful way this man administers the gifts God has entrusted him to express and offer. He ministers the Gospel of Jesus and walks in signs and wonders. Believe it or not – he reads his Bible and refuses to believe that what he reads about God is not relevant and valid today. He goes to malls and walks the streets of cities around the world offering God’s healing power to anyone who will receive it. He does not give up until he sees God move.

And if that were all, would that be enough? Todd was so radically healed and set free when he met Jesus that he walks the earth, advancing the Kingdom and giving away what he so freely received at salvation.

Todd’s testimony is amazing from FUGITIVE to GOSPEL FREEDOM FIGHTER. A prodigal, if there ever was one, now walking in victory as a son of the Most High God. I will refrain from indulging my desire to tell his entire story because it really is not the point of this article.

You know, I have come to realize in my life that you can argue points of theology, doctrine and the interpretations of learned scholars (men), but the one thing you cannot argue with is the good fruit that comes from one person’s testimony about God’s love, goodness and grace. Based on what I’ve seen of Todd White I cannot argue with the testimony of his faith.

That night as one of my favorite worship leaders stood on the stage and poured out her heart like oil before the Lord, my heart opened to receive. As Todd took the platform I realized how much God must delight in this man who donned a Hawaiian shirt, Fivefinger shoes, and lots…

Did I say LOTS?

Yes, Lots. and Lots. Of dread locks. He’s a simple man who walks in the simplicity of his utter faith in God and walks also in great authority and power. Not puffed up with pride, but doused and immersed in love and humility.

Where was I? Oh yeah... He took the stage, and this man who looks like he has lived some rough, rough life steps up and starts to speak.

“Whoa! That was worship. Do you feel that? I mean…” He begins to weep. “You shouldn’t sing that stuff if you don’t mean it. Don’t sing it if you don’t believe what those words say… You shouldn’t sing it, man. It’s sick if you do.”

I found myself nodding in agreement and crying along with him. So true.

If I tell you Todd White got all up in my business with his next point, I would not be lying at all. HE. GOT. ALL. UP. IN. MY. BUSINESS. Y’ALL. 

He said, “I am unoffendable. I cannot be offended. I walk in love. I live by love and I choose not to be offended. Forget about boundaries, forget about protecting people – if you walk in love – you cannot be offended and you won’t hurt people.”

Uh-huh. If you are shaking your head, you are beginning to get how I and a number of my friends in that audience felt that night. It’s one of those moments when your heart says, “YES!” And your head says, “NO WAY!”

A tiny bud springing to life is the heart of one newly saved and abiding in Christ,  the Liberating King. Do you know Him?

A tiny bud springing to life is the heart of one newly saved and abiding in Christ,
the Liberating King.
Do you know Him?

I remember thinking: I didn’t know that was even possible! 

Yet, as Todd shared his story I could not get past that one thing. I began to ask God, “What does it look like to live unoffended? ”

As the few weeks that followed led to Christmas I wrestled with God much like Jacob did at Peniel. I came under conviction for all the judgments and offenses I continued to carry. All the times I have uttered the words, “Well, I don’t know about that, but you know she…”

Yeah, that’s me, guilty. I’ve done it over and over. Yes, I eventually move to forgiveness. Forgiveness, and not just in the sense I say what they did doesn’t matter or that it is okay, but forgiveness as in I sit before God and acknowledge what the specific person did that offended me. I acknowledge how that made me feel, and I confess any judgments I’ve made against them as a result. I also acknowledge that in and of myself I have absolutely no power to forgive. At the end of all of that, I choose by an act of my will to give every bit of it to Jesus, who earned the right to take that offense and all of its effects along with my judgments off of me and put them on the cross. Then I ask Jesus to give me something in exchange.

Now, it would be nice to sit here and confess right after that moment when I receive from Jesus life-giving power to overcome offense that the issue never arises again. But, that would not be true. I remember one particularly difficult year when I was nursing a broken heart and a particularly grievous offense that threatened a vital relationship in my life. I chose by an act of my will to engage God’s heart of forgiveness early in the journey through that valley of betrayal. But, before I even got to that forgiveness prayer, I sat in my car the night I learned of the offense and prayed, “God I cannot forgive ____________ right now, but You can. I don’t even know what is going on yet. But, You do. So, God I ask You to forgive _____________ and then work that out in me. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

I believe had I not set my heart on forgiving this loved one that very night this story would have come to a very different conclusion.

But, after that day a few weeks later when I engaged my will to embrace God’s grace and mercy, the wound remained like a surgical incision working through the process of healing. Stitched as it was, if you got to close and bumped up against it – it bled, it ached, it throbbed and it even tortured my heart. I would run into the one place I could be alone – the “toilet closet” and sit there on the closed lid of our commode rocking and praying, confessing Scripture until the moment passed. I would say, “Remember… God. Remember, I forgave ___________. We did this. Help me, God. Help me to heal.”

That season changed my life. But, not like this new season is changing my life. 

Right after Christmas an offense rose up between someone else close to me. And God used that as an opportunity to bring Todd’s words from a month earlier home to me. What does it mean to live unoffended? 

After several days, I remembered something that had helped me through the earlier episode where forgiveness became so relevant and healing to me. A pastor I respect and admire sat in a board room and shared about grace.

He said, “God’s grace is what it is. You can’t out-sin it. You can’t undo it. You can’t earn it. You can’t take advantage of it. It is what it is. Once you receive it you cannot lose it.” 

Powerful. Right? I sat there as revelation poured over me like a soothing wash of anointing oil. I knew he wasn’t saying that grace is a license to sin – but, that it covers sin and forgives it. As he spoke I began to feel this awareness come over me so I raised my hand.

He smiled and nodded for me to speak.

“So, what I hear you saying is that if I try to forgive someone out of my grace, they can take advantage of that, they can hurt me with that – because my grace is not unconditional, it is not free. But, if I forgive someone out of God’s grace at work in me, then they can’t take advantage of me or hurt me with it because it was never mine to give in the first place. It is up to God to take care of that – and He is a God of grace.”

The pastor smiled. He picked up his pen and said, “Would you say that again?”

I did.

He then responded. “So, what I hear you saying is that you are not going to be codependent on someone else’s response any longer. You’re not going to live codependent anymore.”

I just nodded and smiled. “That’s right.”

I needed to immediately let go of the thing that hurt me in what my loved one had done. So, I chose not to let it offend me.

Wait. What was that? You read that right. I chose not to let it offend me. 

You are probably asking what I asked that night when Todd White first illuminated this topic for me. “Can you choose not to be offended?”

And, my testimony, is yes. Yes, you can.

In the days that followed God showed me that His heart is that we remain unoffended so we need not forgive. You see, I cannot control what other people say and do to me or around me, but I can control how I respond to it.

Bitterness, prolonged unforgiveness, is like a weed in a lush green lawn. If you let it go unchecked, soon it will take over the entire yard and destroy the beauty that is planted there and instead replace it with dry and drab unsightly scrags that creep along the ground choking the life out of everything around it. Oh… I know I may be stepping on some toes, but it is just where I am in all of this.

If I allow offenses to take root in my heart, at some point I have to go and dig them out. If I don’t they become a root of bitterness that covers up all the beauty God intended for me to receive in this life and contaminates the lives of all those around me. Can I just say weeding the garden is a LOT of work?

So what if we tended the garden by choice, and refused to allow those weedy seeds of offense to enter in the first place?

What I have learned is this… I can walk unoffended, unaffected, by the choices and offenses of others. I must guard my heart and take responsibility for what I allow to take root in it. I am only responsible for what I allow the actions and words of others to do to my heart. I cannot change them, but I can change me – and if I remain unoffended I can pray for them and what it is that is hurting them to be revealed and healed. AMEN?

Above all else, watch over your heart; diligently guard it because from a sincere and pure heart come the good and noble things of life. ~Proverbs 4:23 (The VOICE)

In Full Bloom,

Michelle sig

 

 

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Just before Easter I ran across the following video that moved me beyond what words can adequately expressed. It is powerful! Life like that.

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Weighing Words

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The heart of the righteous weighs its answers,

but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.

Proverb 15:28

Words can be like a healing salve to a painful wound, or they can be like a knife and cause a painful wound. Words can bring us together, or rip us apart.

It only takes a moment ~ stop, take a deep breath, consider the weight of the words you are about to speak. Are they helpful, or harmful? If your desire is to pierce another with your words, reconsider.

The damage done by our words can irreparably harm, or they can bring joy, peace and happiness. Goodness and grace trump meanness and pain any day.

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Instructions

porch enclosed

Hello friend!  Pull up a chair, we have so much to catch up on. Would you like a cherry lemonade slush? Amy’s recipe is the best.  We added some ginger ale for fizziness. Mmmm, refreshing!  Especially after the heat we have experienced this summer, hasn’t it been hot?

Can you believe school starts in just 23 days? No, I haven’t gotten school supplies, yet. My Chris was telling me the other day that the average family spends over $600 per child for back to school.  Can you believe that? Yeah, we pull that average way down for sure.

This summer, we have had so many plans to go new places and create new things–like Grand Canyon, a back deck and Kylie’s backpack.

Yes, the material is cut and ready to be sewn.  All the pieces are placed on the dining room table.  And the instructions? …laying there, making about 20% sense to me. I am hoping Chris can decipher them and help us.  I think engineers like to read instructions. Me, now? I would rather look at it and figure it out–and hope it works out. My way doesn’t always turn out so well.

Don’t you wish life came with instructions? Oh, yeah, I know…the Bible is our instruction manual and all.  But I guess the place I struggle with most is how to apply the crazy life and find the appropriate instruction IN the Bible for such life. I also was never very good at the matching tests of questions and answers. Sometimes, I feel like closing my eyes and picking at random.

My good-ness it has been a year I have been fully unprepared for, my friend.  What do you do when…

your dear friend has a major stroke?

the jobs you hoped for didn’t come through, but there are still bills to pay?

your health takes a turn for the worse and you realize you need to get to the bottom of it before you have a major incident?

your summer plans take a sudden u-turn and get cancelled?

you get hurt, feel rejected, forgotten and thrown away like so much manure?

Yes, I guess you are right, manure does help things to grow. So spread it around, huh? Yes, that is what I’ve been doing. Taking the fertilizer that has been my life and spreading it around, asking Jesus to make good things grow from it.

You know, you’re right, I have much to be thankful for…family, friends, life. And I am.  I am thankful.  Thankful is what makes me get out of bed every morning.  As my friend, recovering from her major stroke said the other day, “Sometimes the hardest decision every day is just getting up.” She’s right, you know.

As for instructions, I am thankful for the Engineer that is the Holy Spirit, who not only reads my heart but can apply His apt Word to it. Sometimes the solutions don’t seem to add up or make sense, not now anyway. But someday, they will. There is no reason to try and explain it all away and tie it up in a neat package with a bow.

Sometimes people forget your phone number, your birthday and hate your very life. Sometimes people fail to tell you the whole story and you meet with them over coffee and you try to prayerfully play the matching game–without all the choices and details–and you lose a friendship. Sometimes every single thing that seems like it oughta work out and save the day, it doesn’t. Sometimes a baby dies before she even has a chance to be born. Sometimes we experience the loss of abilities that we used to have and wonder what life will be like now. Sometimes it seems like those who said they’d be there, aren’t. It’s just plain disappointing and painful.

Where are the instructions for those kind of things? I feel, once again, like as I read my Bible, I can decipher only about 20% when it comes to all this heavy life. I need the interpreter and the engineer…

Oh, it is worth it though. Sometimes, I have seen God work in a way that never would work in everyday life. He takes His extraordinary measures and applies them to my ordinary. Sometimes, we do the hard work and actually take back some ground that was stolen. Sometimes, we are given the gift of one very good friend, who understands you. Oh, and if there are TWO? Well now, that is a blessing. Sometimes, being silent and making something beautiful is like a salve to the wounds. Sometimes, pouring it all out in angry speech to God just clears the air.  He knows anyway. Might as well just pour it all forth…get it out on the table, like the pieces of material for Kylie’s backpack.

Then we read through the instructions with the Engineer and He shows us the way to piece it all together. He is very good at showing us a piece at a time. And He’s all about making things new, making a way in the desert, giving hope to the hopeless.

Yes. Sometimes the hardest thing we do is get up every day. But we do. And we learn to love. We choose to show up. We choose to get in the yoke with Jesus. We learn how He works. It’s about as refreshing as this lemonade. I find that it makes me glad. Glad of heart and glad of soul.

Oh friend, thank you for stopping by today. Thank you for listening. Sometimes…well, you know, sometimes…sometimes we’ve gotta know we aren’t alone. I am glad to know you are here. God has bound our hearts together. For that, I am glad.

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Winter Reflections

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As the evenings come early and the crisp air flows all around, we realize, winter is upon us. While I enjoy each season as it comes as goes, winter is by far one of my favorites. Favorite because as I walk bundled up, in a flurry of falling snowflakes, I see no leaves, no flowers, no green.  I pause for a moment remembering the spring before of the glorious red, yellows and blues. Trees full of leaves and the sweet melody of birds. Now, as I look around and see shimmering white I am reminded that the flower and trees are hibernating getting ready to again blaze with beauty once the first thaw of Spring begins. But, in order to do this, they need time to prepare and time to be still.

We too need times in our lives to stop, be still and reflect and winter presents us that opportunity. Winter gives us the chance to bundle up in the warmth of our homes and the hearts of friends and loved ones. Winter reminds us that just as leaves fall from trees, we too can shed the pain of our past so we’ll have new growth in the future. While winter’s cold may seem long and deep, we know with all certainty it will end soon.

As we enter the season of Winter I encourage each of you to let the past go and to forgive one another. Spend some time this season reflecting on all the blessings you have. Decide how you want to bloom and grow, make a plan, and put it into action. Winter is a wonderful time of year to enjoy the crisp air and short days realizing that no matter what we are going through it is only for a season and Spring is coming soon.

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Meet “Margo”

Jane aka Margo

Hi!  I’d like to introduce myself to you.

My name is “Margo”. 

Now, I’d like to confess something to you.

Margo is not my real name .

I will be writing here at A Martha Heart under a pen name. I will be writing anonymously mostly from The Closet, in order to speak more freely about some of  the trials and tribulations I have been through in my life while protecting the privacy of my husband and children. Some of my stories also intersect with extended family members, and I definitely want to honor their privacy as well.

When I sat down to think about all the difficult issues I could write about from The Closet, I had to laugh because it sounds like a story line from a soap opera.  I plan on writing about my mother abandoning me and my sister, my parents’ divorce, my own marriage struggles and almost divorce (twice), my husband’s mental breakdown, my struggles with depression, and add two teens/young adults to the mix and the possiblilites for blog fodder are just about endless! I will also be writing about some of the “sticky situations” we get ourselves into as fallible humans making our way through life.

I did have a couple of concerns about writing anonymously at A Martha Heart.  I hope you will hear my heart as I write about the difficulties of life. I am not writing to gain sympathy or attention. I am writing to show that in my darkest days, Jesus was there. No matter what I’ve gone through, He has always been right there with me. He has always fulfulled Romans 8:28 in my life.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I also write to give you hope, that no matter what happens in this life, Jesus loves you, and He is there.

I’m also concerned that I might come across as an Eeyore-type personality or that my life is absolutely horrible. But nothing could be farther from the truth. While I have had my share of heartache in my almost 50 years on this earth, God has blessed me abundantly and I am extremly thankful for the blessings and even the pain.  John 16:33 explains where my joy comes from.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 I realize that we all have a story. Some of you have had to deal with much more difficult circumstances than I have. I want to honor your stories and pray for you.

I don’t write as someone who has “arrived” or as one who has all the answers, but I do write as someone who can point you to the One who is the answer to all of life’s problems.

Something helpful in dealing with the problems life sends our way is deciding ahead of time how you will respond to the challenge.  Will you despair and fall apart?  Or will you grasp on tighter to Jesus’ hand and hold on no matter what?

Kerrie Roberts – No Matter What

I’m running back to your promises one more time, Lord that’s all I can hold on to, I gotta say this has taken me by surprise, but nothing surprises you. Before a heartache can ever touch my life, it has to go through Your hands, and even though I keep asking why, I keep asking why,

No matter what, I’m gonna love You, no matter what I’m gonna need You, I know that You can find a way to keep me from the pain but if not,if not, I’ll trust you, no matter what, no matter what.

When I’m stuck in this nothing-ness by myself, I’m just sitting in silence, there’s no way I can make it without Your help, I wont even try it. I know You have Your reasons for everything, so I will keep believing, whatever I might be feeling, God you are my hope, and you’ll be my strength,

No matter what, I’m gonna love You, no matter what I’m gonna need You, I know that You can find a way to keep me from the pain but if not, if not, I’ll trust you, no matter what, no matter what.

Anything I don’t have You can give it to me, but it’s ok if You don’t, I’m not here for those things, the touch of Your love is enough on its own, no matter what I still love You and I’m gonna need You

No matter what I’m gonna love you, no matter what I’m gonna need you, I know that You can find a way to keep me from the pain but if not, if not, I’ll trust You, I know that You can find a way to keep me from the pain, but if not, if not, I’ll trust you, no matter what no matter what no matter no matter what.

Now, that’s some good preaching!

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