Why New Year Is in the Dead of Winter

It’s fascinating to me that our New Year here in the West occurs in the dead of Winter. I know other cultures’ New Year occurs at different times of the year, and that’s great. I’m sure God is speaking to all cultures with the timing of their New Year celebration, but I’m only qualified to write about my own culture. What is God saying to us in the West?

Wouldn’t it make more sense for the New Year to be at the start of Spring, when everything’s budding and coming back to life? Maybe in some cultures it is; what an awesome time that must be. But God worked through our history to make our New Year when all the leaves are off the trees and everything’s dead. Why do you suppose that is?

I’ve heard a pastor say that leaves don’t actually change color in Fall. They reveal the true color they actually are when not getting overridden by all that green chlorophyll. The point he was making is, in the Autumn of your life, your true colors will show.

What are your hidden colors? Do they reflect the grace and healing of God’s empowerment in your life, or do they still reflect your wounding?

There’s nothing wrong, by the way, with being in a place of wounding. Acknowledging where you’re at is the first step to get healing. Run to God in those times, not away from him. The problem comes when we run away from God and to our chlorophyll of choice to hide our wounded colors, in our own strength.

What is your chlorophyll of choice? Control? Addiction? Entitlement? Performance? (Personally, I’m really good at performance, more about that later.)

Have you ever wondered why we don’t go straight from Fall to Spring? After all, why can’t the new leaves just push out the old? Why do we have to go through a cold, bare-root season first? Why do we have to get stripped down to nothing? Maybe there’s something necessary going on inside the trunk of the tree that’s getting ready for Spring. Maybe Spring couldn’t come without this time of preparation.

What happens when circumstances and struggles reveal our wounding and our chlorophyll of choice stops working? What happens when all the leaves are off the trees of our lives? Maybe when we’re stripped down to the bare trunk, maybe that’s when we hear God best. Maybe because then we have to and we don’t have any other choice. Maybe out of his great love and mercy for us, he’s stripped away everything that distracted us from his voice.

I think God considers that place the beginning. That’s where his New Year starts. Because when all the outside is stripped away, there’s nothing left but to work on the heart. And that’s what he’s always wanted, to heal our wounding and give us a new heart.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

I’m up for that. My hidden colors were worthlessness and rejection. The lie I believed was, “I am unlovable.” My chlorophyll of choice was being nice, being a servant to all. Dying to myself, literally, to a fault. My bitter root expectation was, “You’re going to reject me. So I’m not going to give you a reason. I’m going to be as lovable as possible, so that when (not if) you reject me, it’s on you.” We call this performance orientation, and I got really good at it, unfortunately.

God had to take me through a bare-root, cold Winter season. He had to strip away all the false leaves and false colors I used to protect my heart, in order to take that structure of lies and inner vows and bitter root expectations down.

Ironically, it’s when I started coming out of those lies that all disaster broke loose. My family fell apart and disintegrated. It hurt. But it was a season. It was only a season (a long season, several years), and I’m coming through it now. Sometimes the enemy’s greatest deception is to trick us into believing the painful season we’re in is forever, which brings desperation and despair. It’s not forever. It’s only a season. Trusting God brings hope through the pain.

He’s still working on me, but I’ve come a long way. He’s brought me into a fresh, bright Spring the last few years. He’s restored relationships I thought would never be restored, while others I still wait for. And he’s using his chlorophyll to work his colors into me.

How about you? What season are you in, here at the turn of the New Year? Tell us in the comments. If you’re in a cold, Winter, bare-root season, we’d love to pray with you. If you’ve come through such a season, please share your story; it will encourage others. And please share on social media if you think this post would bless others.

Needy by Design

No one wants to be needy. But this one thing makes us needy and there’s nothing we can do about it, no matter how hard we try. And we try really hard. We pretend really hard. But the one thing that makes us needy against all our best efforts to the contrary is… God’s Design.

God created us, like it or not, with basic human needs like being loved unconditionally. Like being welcomed and wanted. Like being touched in loving, respectful ways. Like being known, heard, and understood.

God created us needy to draw us into community. We are his image-bearers, after all (Genesis 1:26), and the Godhead himself lives in Community within himself.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one,” the Bible says in Deuteronomy 6:4. The word translated “one” at the end of that verse in the Hebrew is a plural oneness we don’t have in English. It is only used for God. The point is, the Trinity lives in community with himself. So if we’re his image-bearers, shouldn’t we live in community also? If fact, we reflect his image more when we’re in healthy community with each other than we do individually.

God created us to long for community with every fiber of our being, because it’s only with others that we find our completion, the fullness of our own identity.

But something’s gone wrong. We’ve been hurt by others. So we often decide we don’t want community. It’s too risky. It’s not safe.

So we hide from what we desperately long for. Hide ‘n’ seek is only fun when someone comes looking for you. If the person who’s “it” counts while we hide but then goes inside for a snack, leaving us in our hiding place, it’s no fun at all. It’s downright hurtful. It’s no fun hiding for long. Yet some of us have been hiding all our lives.

We hide with all our might while desperately yearning to be found. Sometimes we hide behind controlling everything and everyone. “They will only find what I want them to find.” Sometimes we hide behind perfectionism, behind being the good boy or the good girl. “I’ll be good so they won’t see who I really am.” Sometimes we hide behind bad behavior we know is wrong. “They’ll never come close enough to see the real me in here.” Sometimes we hide behind addictions to medicate the pain. “I won’t even see me in here. I won’t feel the pain.”

The only problem is, none of it works. And that’s the grace of God in our lives. He won’t let it work, for long at least. He keeps engineering situations and circumstances that undermine our best efforts to hide.

Like a loving parent playing hide ‘n’ seek with a child, he knows where we’re hiding. But instead of violating our hiding place, he’s standing in the middle of the yard saying, “All-y, All-y, all come free!” It’s safe to come out now. It’s safe to run to his loving arms. We have a choice to leave the false safety of our best hiding places, engineered to keep us safe by our own efforts but failing miserably. We have a choice to run to the true safety of his arms, a truly safe, but vulnerable, place where we’re not in control, but neither is our fear.

And that’s our choice, between fear or vulnerability.

So often God brings healing in the context of community, when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to be loved to life by imperfect people whom we are called to love to life in return. Yes, these imperfect people will still hurt us, but what we do with that hurt is different. We embrace it and give it to Jesus, rather than hiding from it. And he heals it. Occasionally we need to change communities to a healthier one. But more often God gives us his heart for the other person, and shows us how to love them to life.

How about you? Are you hiding in fear? Or have you embraced vulnerability in a safe, loving, community? Tell us your story in the comments or shoot us an email. And please share if you think this post would bless someone else.

The Power of Dropping Offenses

They could not have been more different. When Jack said “black,” John said “white.” When John said “black,” Jack said “white.” One drove a smart car, the other a hummer. One was rightly concerned about social justice, the other rightly concerned about government over-reach and losing freedoms. One loved the Washington Redskins, the other the Dallas Cowboys. What was God thinking when he brought these two men to the same church, working on the same committees? They both thought the other was really jacked up. They both passionately knew they were right in their convictions. They were both willing to die on their swords over being right. They could not have been more the same.

They were both offended. Offense is one of the greatest barriers to friendship in the church. Actually, offense is one of the greatest barriers to godliness in any sphere of life. For example, there is a huge Spirit of Offense operating in both political parties in America right now, playing us for fools against each other. But that’s another story. This story is about two men in the same church who can barely stand each other, offended, not over anything righteous like God would be, but over their own petty preferences, that only they valued so highly.

Whenever they got excited about something at church, darned if the other would show up too, and work on that same project. The other person sucked all the joy out of it for them, because they both chose to give the other that power over them. In fact, they ended up bumping into each other so often that they began to wonder what in heaven was going on. In fact, something in heaven was going on. Heaven had a plan.

God knew that one of these men was molested as a child by a family member they were taught they must respect. God knew the other had parents who demanded silent perfection. Neither had a voice growing up, and the pain of being treated as an object had traumatized them both. To one, something horribly bad had happened, and it shut down his heart. To the other, the daily lack of love, the daily lack of the necessary good thing, had slowly but surely sucked the life out of his heart. God knew these two stony hearts desperately needed each other.

Both marriages were about to collapse. Their wives were miserable, and neither of their wives respected them. One man was a servant with no boundaries, and his wife longed for him to stand up to her and lead. The other was oppressively over-bearing and his wife longed to be heard and have a voice herself. These men had much to teach each other.

In God’s economy, they each had something the other desperately needed. In such a friendship, they could speak hard truths to each other, within the safety of fraternal, brotherly love. God wanted to use those hard truths to work paradigm shifts in both men, bringing them into a new, exciting, and adventurous life they never dreamed possible.

There was only one thing standing in the way. Fear, manifesting as Pride, fed by Offense.

But God kept stacking the deck. John couldn’t worship without having Jack’s face pop into his thoughts. As God planned, it was beginning to drive John crazy. Jack couldn’t go to sleep without having some dream about John giving him something he desperately needed—the one person Jack didn’t want to be indebted to. God was on the move.

One day John bit the bullet and asked Jack for coffee after church. Much to his disappointment, Jack accepted. Jack wouldn’t let John be the righteous one by refusing the invite. Heaven cheated. God actually played their pride against them to bring them together. Whatever works.

During that first cup of coffee all hell broke loose. Literally. Lies and deceptions that demons had spent years building fell to the ground in moments, smashed into a million pieces as each man realized the other was not who they thought. Hell was quite upset. It was like Heaven had no regard at all for the years of hard work it took to stand up that delicate, but powerful, deceptive house of cards.

Letting their offenses against the other go in that first conversation over that first cup of coffee wasn’t easy. It was a blow to the pride of both men. They each had to consciously decide to drop their offenses, starve their pride, and risk being vulnerable. But, on the other hand, their pride hadn’t been working out so well for them lately, so they gave it a go. After a year, they were both enjoying a deep friendship so much more than they had ever enjoyed being right. It was worth it and not nearly as lonely.

How about us? Does God have a friend for us, whom we desperately need, that we’re too offended at to ask for coffee? Can we lay down our right to be right and be friends instead? Have you had this experience, on either end? Tell us in the comments and please share if you think this would bless someone else.

How to Make Our Churches the Safest Places on Earth without Compromising

At 17, Jennifer was the poster child of a Christian teen-ager. She was the model for her church youth group. As the Pastor’s daughter in a conservative church body, she lead the meeting many times. She was also secretly pregnant, a fact she couldn’t hide much longer.

Everyone looked up to her. On the outside, she was the perfect, evangelical Christian teen. Everyone wanted their kid to be just like Jennifer. She knew all the right New Testament answers, always knowing what to say and how to act.

On the inside, though, she was crumbling under the pressure. She longed for her daddy to be proud of her, and though he said it many times, her wounded heart didn’t hear it. She couldn’t articulate it, but her spirit felt dirty from being molested by a neighbor when she was 5, something no one, not even her, knew happened. The repressed memory hid the trauma, invoked as a defense mechanism by a child to survive.

In one world, she struggled to be good enough, desperately hoping the good she did would overpower how dirty she felt inside. In another world, she traded sex to hear a boy say he loved her, trusting the wrong messiah to make everything safe and ok. And for a few precious moments when they were alone it would work. Or at least it briefly felt like it did.

When she missed her period, and the home pregnancy test showed a “+”, she realized those two worlds were about to collide, and she felt crushed in the middle. Her perfect world of pretend at church was about to come crashing down in a fiery ball of reality. The disappointment of her family. The damage to her father’s reputation as a pastor. The disapproving glances from former friends and elders at church who would be barely polite behind thin smiles. The overwhelming shame. She felt the crushing weight of it all before it happened. There was no escape. Or was there?

This is the profile of the clients we see at our local crisis pregnancy center who break my heart the most. Pro-life clients for whom the shame, scorn, and rejection they would face at church is worse than having an abortion.

Think it doesn’t happen? I personally know a pastor’s daughter who, when she made her secret abortion public and repented, was told by her mentor, “If you ever come back to this church again, my foot will be the one holding the door closed the hardest.” This breaks my heart. Does it break yours?

Of the one in four women in the US who have had an abortion, 70% identify as Christians and regular church attenders.

It’s been said the church is the only army who shoots its own wounded.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I am not down on the church. I love the Body of Christ. This website exists because we’re passionate about seeing the Body of Christ walking in healing and wholeness and the fullness of our true identity.

And yes, holiness and purity are important. It’s hard to have intimacy with Jesus for long without them. I wrote a book on the subject (True Self: Sexual Integrity out of Intimacy with Jesus).

But it has to be ok to be wounded in church. If a fallen believer can’t go to church, where can they go?

Churches should be the safest places on the planet for someone experiencing a crisis. And many churches are. But some are far from it.

Jesus accepted the woman caught in adultery, prostitutes, tax collectors, what that culture considered the worst of the worst. But I’m no better. I’m the worst of the worst. We all are. We all need a Savior. So why can’t we have Jesus’ compassion for those looking for one?

Ok, I get that we don’t expect people to check their sin at the door. But if someone’s living a blatantly sinful life style, how long do we wait before addressing the sin in their life?

Honestly, I’ve no idea. That’s not my problem. That’s the Pastor’s problem. He gets to deal with that according to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit for that person. My problem is making sure I love them the way Jesus loves me. Maybe the Holy Spirit will prompt me to say something to them about their lifestyle, at some point. But it’ll most likely be after we have a relationship, and in a way that convicts not condemns, leaving them feeling accepted and loved, not rejected.

I know we can do this. That’s the church’s job, after all, to love as we’ve been loved. To be Jesus’ loving arms of acceptance and forgiveness.

So how do we do this? Can the Church really be the safest place on earth without compromising? Yes we can. I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit in us to make us into all we are called to be.

So here’s how. We decide to be safe. The church will be the safest place on earth when we decide to be the safest people on earth. This decision affirms some obvious truths we so often forget.

Action Step: I decide the following:

  • Acknowledging my judgement of others often reflects my own fear, and
  • Acknowledging this is not my church, this God’s church, I will not reject who he brings in.
  • I decide to let the pastor deal with the person’s lifestyle and sin, That’s the Pastor’s job, not mine.
  • I decide to love them as they are, like Jesus loves us. That’s my job.
  • I decide to speak life into their lives, when prompted by the Holy Spirit. I pledge to do so lovingly, wrapped in encouragement and acceptance.

What do you think? Will you make this decision to be a safe person with me? Would this make a difference in the world?

Have you experienced Jesus’ loving forgiveness through your local church? On the giving or the receiving end? Or not? Tell us about it in the comments, and please share if you think this post would inspire someone else.

Photo by Biegun Wschodni on Unsplash

3 Things to Defeat Being Overlooked

We are honored to have a special guest post by Eric Gale. Eric is a follower of Jesus, husband, and father of 3 daughters. Additionally, he is 3rd-degree black belt and sensei in Tai Chuan Do Karate. You can find him at FaceYourGoliaths.com where he will help you slay the Goliaths in life. He is also a huge fan of Star Wars and blogs about using Star Wars to share your faith at TheChristianJedi.com. I also highly recommend downloading Eric’s free ebook, “Releasing Your Inner Daivd,” available here.

Have you ever felt like David, who was considered the least of his brothers?

We know that the prophet Samuel came to Jesse’s house in Bethlehem to anoint King Saul’s successor.

Jesse trotted out Eliab but Samuel was told not to consider Eliab’s height or appearance. Then Jesse brought out his next six sons and none of them were picked. When asked if he had another son, Jesse mentioned that indeed there was one more, the youngest, but he is tending the sheep.

Do you feel like someone that is overlooked?

When David was brought to Samuel, the LORD told Samuel that David was the one. How do you think David felt after seven of his brothers had been brought out to Samuel before his father remembered him?

How humiliating for David!

He was overlooked because he was the youngest and had been out doing his job, tending sheep (not a glamorous job).

During his time tending sheep, David was being prepared for what God had in store for him.

While shepherding, David would kill both lions and bears with his sling. David also had time to be alone with God in prayer and in singing. He even was called up to sing and soothe Saul.

Sometime later, David was going about his normal life when Jesse instructed him to go bring bread to his eldest brothers and cheese to their commander. This was the normal errand for the youngest son.

David was not old enough or big enough to be sent off to war. His brothers were. David was left at home.

When David arrived at the front lines, he heard Goliath’s taunt and can’t believe what he hears and that no one is doing anything about it.

His eldest brother Eliab “burned with anger” when he heard David talking with the men and berates David.

David would not have any of Goliath’s blasphemy and mockery.

David was the only man in the army willing to fight Goliath and word was reported to Saul.

Saul heard about David’s training in the wilderness and wanted to fit him with the king’s armor. That did not work so Saul had David go out and fight Goliath with what David was used to.

David’s time as a shepherd allowed him time to get to know God and to practice with his sling.

The fight that was to transpire between David and Goliath was one that David gave completely over to God. He trusted the LORD to show up and defeat Goliath but he still was willing to do his part.

David’s faith in the LORD and his ability with the sling made short work of this hulk of a man.

3 Lessons Learned

1) God can and will use your abilities and past to give you a future when you do His work.

David’s time as a shepherd allowed him time to work with his sling and to build up courage against lions and bears. David also was able to spend alone time with God and get to know Him better.

2) Your family may not always support you.

We see this in how David was overlooked by his father when Samuel came to Bethlehem. We also see it in how Eliab treated David, with contempt.

3) Others may try to get you to do things their way and not the way you know.

David knew how the LORD had gifted him and told the king that he could not use the king’s armor. We are all gifted and need to use our gifts in the way God intends. We need to be mindful of when people in our lives tell us we need to do things a certain way since that is how they did it. Times and giftings do change.

The LORD Will Triumph

Remember that every battle is the LORD’s and His victory is assured.

As believers, we are part of the body of Christ. We are each gifted in a unique way and need to function the way God has made us.

Generosity Trademarks the Kingdom of God

Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to the wind: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) His point was that, just like the wind, you can’t physically see the Kingdom of God, but you can see its effects. You can see the marks of where it’s been. I believe generosity is one of the key marks of the Kingdom of God.

As Christians, we should be the most generous people on the planet.

As Americans, as a country, we probably are. I don’t have exact figures (or any figures) in front of me, but I know our government, which is becoming less and less Christian all the time, still gives away billions of dollars in foreign aid every year. America is one of the most, if not the most, generous countries on the planet. This is the mark of a country that was founded on Kingdom of God principles.

And it’s not just the government. Some of the most effective aid organizations in the world were founded by and are run by American private citizens. Crisis Response International (my personal favorite), Not for Sale, Mercy Ships, Goodwill, The United Way, just to name a few, are amazingly effective charitable organizations providing help across the world where it’s needed most. They provide dollars, medical supplies and services, food, rescue, and labor for rebuilding after disasters (not to mention the Gospel). They have their roots in the Kingdom of God and their generosity is making lasting impacts around the world.

That’s great, but what about the rest of us? Can we be generous right here at home, every day?

I think we can. For example, waiters and waitresses should be fighting to work Sunday afternoons, when the Christians come for lunch after church. We should be the biggest tippers on the planet. (If you’re in the restaurant industry, please leave a comment about whether this is so or not.) A standard tip is 18%. I tip at least 20%, honestly because the math is easier, not because I’m being generous. I compute 10% in my head by moving the bill’s decimal point, double it, and round up. I’m working on tipping 30%, because I want to be generous. It’s hard though, because it gets expensive. Generosity is sacrificial, that’s why it marks the presence of the Kingdom of God.

Janet and I recently experienced an amazing weekend of generosity. We went to a writer’s conference, Tribe Conference 2017, in Franklin, TN, just south of Nashville, that exemplified this concept. Tribe Writers is a program founded and run by best-selling author Jeff Goins that teaches creatives how to get their message out there (and make a living at it) in this amazing new digital renaissance we’re living in. This was the first time Janet and I attended the annual conference.

What an amazing experience! I’ve been to lots of professional and personal conferences, and I can honestly say Tribe Conference 2017 was the most generous conference I have ever been to.

Every single speaker (and breakout session leader) gave away something of value. Not just run-of-the-will lead-magnets that you expect to give away, but premium products either free or at significant discounts. Some made exclusive content just for the conference attendees on hidden pages on their websites. Their generosity was really overwhelming.

Mr. Goins brought a young writer, Natalie Brenner, on the stage to tell the story of getting her book, This Undeserved Life, published. It’s her story about how God shows up in the middle of grief. Her book gives Christians permission to grieve, which is really important because unfortunately I know stories when the church has not.

The book just recently came out, and she’d sold a few hundred copies. Mr. Goins asked everyone there to buy her book, on the spot, which practically all of us did (Janet and I bought two). He doubled her book sales in 60 seconds, and put her on track to becoming a best-selling author. It was definitely a class act. He didn’t have to do that. She certainly didn’t expect it and was floored. It was a blessing to watch the effects of unexpected generosity.

(Yes, the link he gave us to buy the book was an affiliate link, meaning he got a small commission. But those proceeds were used to buy Natalie’s book for anyone in the room who couldn’t afford it, so he funneled it back into book sales for her.)

This was not a Christian conference. It was about writing, marketing, and platform building. But the generosity of the team, the speakers, Mr. Goins himself, and the attendees during the conference was unbelievable. Everyone, speakers and attendees, would stop to give you personal help on wherever you were stuck—the technology, the writing, whatever. Although not overtly Christian, it was obvious that many are Christians, because their generosity overflowed. The mark of the Kingdom of God.

Disclaimer: Janet and I are in the Tribe Writers Pro program, a mastermind group that has helped us significantly in building our platform. However, none of the links in this post are affiliate links. We’re getting no monetary value from telling you about Tribe 2017. It’s just our most recent example of seeing unexpected generosity in action. It was really an amazing experience seeing Kingdom of God principles play out in the marketplace.

The big take-away here is this. Their over-the-top generosity made us want to go again next year. We were proud to be part of such a giving community. Everyone wants to hang out with generous people. Generosity makes the gospel attractive. People may argue with your theology, but they can’t argue with the help or the undeserved kindness you’ve given them. It’s why Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

Generosity is love with skin on it.

What about you? Have you benefitted from extreme generosity? Have you given it? How can we be generous in the everyday stuff? Tell us the story in the comments or shoot us an email. And please share on social media if you think this post would bless someone else.

The Secret to Repairing a Relationship You’ve Damaged

We’ve all done it. We’ve damaged a relationship we cared about. We know we’re at fault, although we don’t like to admit it. How can we repair that relationship? Some would say it’s like feathers shaken out of a pillow on a mountaintop—you can never put them back in—it’s too late. I respectfully disagree. There is a way to put the feathers back in the pillow.

Relationships are like bank accounts. They have balances. When we damaged the relationship, we tipped the scale away from the other person. From their point-of-view, there’s a negative balance in the account. That’s why the relationship’s damaged. We need to make a deposit.

“Making it right” is not good enough. Maybe we broke or lost something that belonged to the other person. Just replacing the item is not enough, although that technically “makes it right” and undoes the thing we did. But really we just brought the negative balance back to zero. The other person went from a positive balance to zero—they still lost overall in the transaction. They’ve forgiven us at this point, but they still feel slighted in the transaction, which is why the relationship is damaged.

The secret is to make a deposit (or several deposits) great enough to get the other person above their previous positive balance. Once they feel the scales are tipped back in their favor, you’ve repaired the relationship.

Look at it from their point-of-view. Say my neighbor borrows my car, gets in a fender-bender, and has it repaired. He brings it back and says, “Hey, Dave, I got in an accident but I got it repaired. Here’s your car.” I thank him and forgive him, but am I going to let him borrow my car again? Nope. I feel slighted in the transaction. Now my car’s been in an accident. They never quite drive the same. My resale value is negatively affected, blah, blah, blah. While I’m thankful he at least fixed my car, the relationship is still damaged, because I feel like I’m still getting the short end of the stick.

But say he brings my car back and says this instead: “Hey, Dave, I got in an accident but I got it repaired. While it was in the shop, I took out your stock AM/FM radio and replaced it with a state-of-the-art, surround-sound, premium sound system, with a 6 CD disc changer. Here’s your car.” Now can he borrow my car again? Anytime he wants! And I hope he gets in an accident! Maybe I’ll get spinners next time. (Kudos to John Sandford, Elijah House Ministries, for this example.)

You see how this works? It’s called Restitution. It’s the secret to repairing damaged relationships. You have to go over and above to do something the other person views as significant to tip the scales back in their favor. Restitution makes a deposit that takes the relationship balance back above where it was previously, in the other person’s eyes.

Here’s a couple more examples:

  • If broke your neighbor’s lawn mower, not only do you buy him a new one, top-of-the-line even if his other one was not, you buy him a top-of-the-line weed-whacker as well.
  • If you lost your friend’s book, not only do you replace it, searching high and low on eBay if you have to if it’s out of print, but you give her a $200 Amazon gift card along with it.

It doesn’t have to be monetary restitution, although those are easy examples. Here’s a non-monetary one.

  • Maybe you’ve said or did something really hurtful to your spouse. So you get up early and do some chore they normally do that you know they hate. Maybe you know they clean the bathrooms every Friday, so you get up at 4:00 AM every Friday so you can do it before going to work. How long? Forever. And you don’t say a word about it. Let them discover it.

Restitution is a sacrifice you make, could be monetary, could be effort, from a place of empathy over the pain you’ve caused them. Not because you’re hurting. Because they’re hurting.

Some caveats here:

  • It has to be something significant from the other person’s point-of-view, not from yours. It has to be something meaningful to them.
  • You can’t ask them—that just comes across as the manipulation it is. This might not seem fair, but think about it. Once you ask, you make it about you: “What box do I have to check to get on your good side again?” But that’s not fair! I can’t read their mind! No, but:
    • The Holy Spirit can, and will tell you the answer if you seek him out about it. God is totally into restoring relationships. That’s what that whole cross thing was about.
    • If you care enough about the relationship, you’ll put the effort into figuring it out. Trial ‘n’ error is ok.
  • You can only do this with the right heart. This isn’t penance. You’re not trying to manipulate them because you want something from them. You’ll truly broken and hurt, not because you feel guilty over what you’ve done, but honestly because of the pain you caused them. You hurt because they’re hurting, and you want to bless them not hurt them.
  • Don’t bother with narcissists. There are people that secretly rejoice inside when you do something negative to them. They hold that negative bank account over your head as a way to manipulate and control you, and no restitution you do is ever enough. I wrote this post with the assumption that the relationship you’re trying to repair is a healthy one. No relationship with a narcissist is a healthy one. Do whatever a reasonable person would accept, but don’t submit to any control a narcissist tries to exert beyond that. If they walk away from the relationship, let them.

The other person may or may not allow the relationship to be restored. That’s on them and their ability to forgive. But you’ve done, and continue to do, everything the Holy Spirit lays on your heart to do. Depending on the offense, restitution can take years. But it’s so worth it.

Does this strike a chord with you? Does this resonate? Tell us your story in the comments. How did you repair that relationship? And please share if you think this would help someone else (share buttons below).

How to Experience the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

We are honored to have a special guest post by Rachel Larkin. Rachel lives in New Zealand with her husband and their three young adult sons. She is the author of Simple Prayer: The Guide for Ordinary People Seeking the Extraordinary. She writes about growing in faith and developing your potential on her website at http://rachellarkin.com/. She is also a practising Chartered Accountant, home schooler for fourteen years and craves chocolate constantly. 

I highly recommend Rachel’s free eBook, available here: The Untold Story: 7 Steps to Seeing God in the Midst of your Real Messy Life. I’m sure you’ll be blessed by it and enjoy it as much as we did. (BTW, these are not affiliate links. We get no commission or anything if you click them or buy from Rachel; it’s just an honest recommendation.)

 

God often takes what is ordinary in life and sprinkles it with extraordinary divine moments.

Look at Jesus’ first miracle while He was on this earth. He took ordinary water at a wedding of a family friend and changed it into the best wine that the guests have tasted. He showed up powerfully in the middle of everyday life!

Jesus was involved in many occasions of adding the extraordinary to the ordinary. The crowd was hungry as they had been following and listening to him all day. The call went out for supplies, and an ordinary boy gave up his ordinary fish sandwiches to Jesus. A prayer of thanks was said over the food. Something divine then took place. Multiplication happened. An ordinary lunch turned into an extraordinary feast for over five thousand people. This kind of miracle wasn’t a one-time event either.

I remember a time when we had a young family and very little spare money. I prayed that God would stretch the very little that we had. I ended up calling our car the Elijah car because of an unexplainable situation when the gauge was signaling empty. I went to the gas station to fill the car. But to my surprise the car filled quickly and the cost was only a quarter of what I would normally pay for a full tank! It struck me right there on the pavement of the gas station that something divine had taken place. There didn’t seem to be any other way of explaining what had just happened. God turned up in my ordinary life!

My life is filled with accounting work, home-schooling, keeping a home, writing, loving my husband and raising our children — all ordinary work. But when I pray over my ordinary work God starts to work in the background. I notice moments that have a dash of the divine in them.

  • A conversation with one of my young adult sons turns into something deeper and hearts are affected.
  • A ‘chance’ meeting with a stranger becomes a moment of extra encouragement for my soul.
  • A morning walk generates ideas that can only originate with God.
  • The simple act of driving to work is transformed into a sacred journey of communicating with my Heavenly Father.

Ordinary people with ordinary abilities, possessions and tasks can see the fingerprints of God touch their ordinariness and create divine moments.

Take Action

Change your mind about your ordinariness. Decide to believe that God can use whoever you are and whatever you have. Spend time in discussion with God. Use the ordinary moments of your day to communicate with the Father. Have a mindful attitude about the events and people that come across your path. Look for God in those places. Seek His glory, it’s there.

Have you discovered God in the ordinariness? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Restitution

A young man went to a wise old guru with a problem, something he just didn’t understand. The young man asked the guru why he can’t take back hurtful words he’d said to someone. He’d apologized, but the relationship wasn’t the same. Why can’t he fix this?

The wise old guru took the young man on a treacherous climb up a tall mountain overlooking a deep gorge. It was very windy up way there. He had brought a feather pillow along with them. The guru took out his knife and slit open the pillow, waving it into the wind, scattering the feathers to the four winds.

Then he turned to the young man. As the guru handed him the now empty pillow fabric, he said, “Your task is to put all the feathers back in the pillow.”

“There’s no way!” exclaimed the young man. “That’s impossible! Once the feathers are out of the pillow, there’s no way to put them all back in again!”

The old guru nodded in agreement. “That’s why you can’t take back your hurtful words. It’s too late. They are already out,” he said. The young man finally got it.

I’m sure many of you have heard this story before. The moral is to be careful what we say. But there’s something else going on here. Turns out there actually is a way to put the feathers back in the pillow. It’s called restitution. It costs you a lot and it’s hard work, but it can be done.

Let me back up a minute. Say Person A wrongs Person B. We’re assuming it’s an accident, not a heinous crime or anything like that. Just normal day-to-day relationship stuff. We’ve all been in both positions.

Say you’re Person B who was wronged. Say Person A borrowed something special to you and lost it or broke it. Maybe the lost a special out of print book, or broke your lawn mower. Maybe they borrowed your car and got in a fender bender. Maybe they accidentally injured you by some careless act on their part. And worse, maybe they acted like it was no big deal. Or maybe they were mortified and replaced it or had it fixed.

Either way, say you’ve forgiven them. But there’s a boundary their now. You’re probably not going to let them borrow something again. Setting healthy boundaries is healthy, and does not (necessarily) mean you’re in unforgiveness. Especially if they act like it was no big deal, and wonder what’s wrong with you that you’re making it one, or they have a pattern of disrespecting other people’s things.

I would totally recommend setting that boundary. It’s not about the item, it’s about honoring, which is the currency in the Kingdom of God. Your boundary forces them to confront the issue in their heart with dishonoring others, which they can choose do to or not. You’re not responsible for their response to a healthy boundary.

Now let’s say you’re Person A, who did the wronging. We’ve all been there. Say you want to repair the relationship. How can you get the other person to remove that boundary? By restitution.

Relationships are like scales. Person B feels like the scales are tipped away from them, like they got the short end of the stick in the transaction. Restitution tips the scales back in their favor. Here are some examples:

If broke your neighbor’s lawn mower, not only do you buy him a new one, top-of-the-line even if his other one was not, you buy him a top-of-the-line weed-whacker as well.

If you lost your friend’s book, not only do you replace it, searching high and low on ebay if you have to if it’s out of print, but you give them a $200 Amazon gift card along with it.

If you got in a fender bender, you not only fix the car, but you replace their stock AM/FM radio with a 6-disc CD changer and a premium surround-sound stereo. (Kudos to John Sandford, founder of Elijah House Ministries, for this example.)

It doesn’t have to be monetary restitution, although those are easy examples.

Maybe you’ve said something really hurtful to your spouse. So you get up early and do some chore they do that you know they hate. Maybe you know they clean the bathrooms every Friday, so you get up at 4:00 AM every Friday so you can do it before going to work. How long? Forever. And you don’t say a word about it. Let them discover it.

Restitution is a sacrifice you make, could be monetary, could be effort, from a place or empathy over the pain you’ve caused them. Not because you’re hurting. Because they’re hurting.

You can only do this with the right heart. This isn’t penance. You’re not trying to manipulate them to drop the boundary because you want something from them. You’ll truly broken and hurt, not because you feel guilty over what you’ve done, but honestly because of the pain you caused them. You hurt because they’re hurting, and you want to bless them.

They may or may not drop the boundary and allow the relationship to be restored. That’s on them and their ability to forgive. But you’ve done, and continue to do, everything you can. Depending on the offense, restitution can take years. But it’s worth it.

If you’re the wronged party, you (usually) can’t demand restitution; that can be manipulation. And you’re perfectly justified keeping your healthy boundary in place forever if they never do anything (words don’t count) to show you their heart has changed.

If you did the wrong, you can’t ask the other person what it takes to lift the boundary; that (usually but not always) shows you’re just in it for the benefit to yourself. You’ve got to figure it out, possibly by trial ‘n’ error. But ask the Lord, he knows, and he’s all over restoring relationships. After all, that’s why he went through that whole cross and resurrection thing.

Does this strike a chord with you? Does this resonate? Tell us in the comments a story where you’ve been on one side or the other. And please share on Facebook if you think this would be helpful to someone else (click the “f” button below).

The Missing Attribute of God

In every situation, no matter how jacked up it is, the thing we need in the heat of that moment is an attribute of God. In fact, God intentionally engineers every negative situation, and every encounter with difficult people, to show us and teach us another attribute of himself.

In the Bible, showing means knowing. In the Bible, there’s no knowledge without experience. In Hebrew thought, and in the Kingdom of God, there’s no such thing as head-knowledge, there’s no such thing as academic knowledge, there’s only experiential knowledge. In fact, the Hebrews had a word for someone with head-knowledge but without experiential knowledge, and that word is all over the book of Proverbs – Fool.

Do you know God is patient? All of us would say “yes”. But am I patient? If I’m not, then I really don’t know God is patient. Do we know God is merciful? All of us would say yes. But do you show mercy, or do you rejoice when people get what’s coming to them? If we laugh and say, “That’s what you get!” then we really don’t know God is merciful.

Take mercy for an example. God will teach us his mercy by putting us in (1) situations where we experience it, and (2) other situations where we get to practice it. Maybe someone will wrong us and we’ll be justified in letting them have it. But maybe we’ll hear the Holy Spirit say to let love cover over this one. Maybe God will give us his heart for that person, that difficult boss, that frustrating co-worker, and we’ll understand their wounding and practice mercy.

I have Graham Cooke to thank for this topic. In his Living Your Truest Identity audio series, Graham asks, What if we can never be challenged by a negative? What if we can only be challenged by the fruit of the spirit? What if, for example, you’re not really frustrated, you just don’t know how to be patient (or self-controlled, or whatever fruit of the spirit or attribute of God he wants to teach you next). What if God actually engineered that frustrating situation because he wants to give you his patience?

I think Graham Cooke has a good point. We are created in the image of God. So if there’s no, say, frustration in God, then there shouldn’t be any in us either. (Actually there is frustration in God – read the OT prophets to see what God gets frustrated about – being out of relationship with his beloved people, even us.) But the point is, if God’s not frustrated at this situation or at this person, if God’s heart for this situation or for this person is not frustration – and we’re created in the image of God – then we must not really be frustrated either, even though we’re acting like it out of our own wounding.

So God is using this frustrating situation or person to move us out of believing the lies brought on by our wounding and our fear, and into the healing and freedom brought by believing his truth. The cure for wounding is healing. The cure for fear is freedom. God wants to give us both, and he does it by expanding who we are into who he is. When we come to understand the character of God, not just in general but specifically for this situation, we understand what attribute of God he engineered this situation to give us.

That’s how Romans 8:28 can say that God works in all things for the good of those who love him. All situations are designed to teach us an attribute of God. All of his attributes are good. Therefore, yes, he’s working for good in all things, because all things are engineered to show us one of his attributes.

Does this resonate? Share an instance in the comments where God used a difficult situation or a difficult person to show you more of himself. Or share a situation you’re currently struggling with – what attribute of God do you need? And please share this on Facebook (or your favorite social media) if it blessed you – just click the share buttons below.