How I Learned To Forgive

I’m not anywhere near perfect in this area yet but there was a definite time in my life when I learned a big lesson in forgiveness, and went from wanting to kill someone to being able to smile at and talk to them, knowing I had forgiven them, and it changed how I forgave people from then on. Here is my story, with specifics about the situation left out.

Quite a number of years ago there was a man that caused something that hurt me so much that I cried every night for weeks on end. It wasn’t a horrific abuse or anything criminal, thankfully, but it was something that was very hard for me emotionally. I was so upset, hurt, and angry that I really wanted to kill him! I must have felt like this for a long time, because I think it wasn’t till about a year later when I was reading my Bible that I came across something that hit me hard. I want to make a plug here for reading through the whole Bible (I have followed the M’Cheyne Calendar for over 15 years now) – I really don’t know how long it would have taken for me to be convicted on this situation if I hadn’t been reading like that.

The part I was reading at the time was Joseph’s story in Genesis. Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers, which then led to him being cast into jail in Egypt. Of course he did get out of there and ended up 2nd in command in the entire country of Egypt, but many people in that situation would have been bitter and resentful. But what Joseph said to his brothers, and this is what stabbed at my heart, was, ‘You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.’ Genesis 50:20. He forgave them and realised God had a purpose in all of it. I was convicted that I should not be holding this in my heart against this man, feeling bitter, angry and resentful. And even though this man had not repented I felt strongly that God was telling me I needed to forgive him anyway.

So then I thought, ‘How?’. I felt so angry still that it was hard to think I even could. So I prayed that God would help me to forgive him. Later on that day or the next day, I can’t quite remember, I was still praying and thinking about it, and then I just felt that it was OK again. I didn’t feel mad, and I felt like I had forgiven him – God had answered my prayer. But of course this was all in my thoughts – how did I know that it wouldn’t be different if I actually saw him in person? So I prayed that God would give me an opportunity to meet him and talk to him, so that I could know in my heart that I had forgiven him – crazy I know, but I just felt I wanted that assurance!

Anyway, the amazing thing is that the very same day I got an e-mail from a friend asking me to come to an event which he would be at, and I hadn’t seen him for at least a year! So of course I accepted, in fear and trembling. Then when it came time for the event, I prayed that I would have a chance to talk to him and be friendly so I would know that my heart was right, and again God answered my prayer and though neither of us brought up the issue from the past, I smiled and was friendly and I knew everything was OK. And it was a wonderful feeling to not have those feelings against someone anymore!! And what’s funny is that years down the line I can understand a lot more why he did what he did anyway, I just didn’t see all that at the time.

I want to encourage you if you have something against someone not to wait for them to ask for forgiveness but to forgive them in your heart anyway. And also to remember that love keeps no record of wrongs, and covers over sins. While some things that people do mean that wisely we should steer clear of them in the future or do certain things differently, we can still forgive them. And true forgiveness means doing your best to forget it and not bring it up again anymore, just like God: ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’ Ps 103:12 – an amazing verse.

What Do We Let Our Eyes See?

David said, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes” Ps 101:3 and also prayed that God would ‘turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things’ Ps 119:37. I have long believed that it is really important we are careful what we watch, read and listen to because it all has an influence on our thoughts. If we can keep the wrong things from entering our minds then it is so much easier to think the right thoughts, which lead to speech, and actions. Greg Laurie said ‘How does temptation come? Primarily through the doorway of the mind’.

I think a really big way that we can guard our hearts is by actively thinking about which films and TV programs we watch. Here are some guidelines I use:

1. Look at the rating

Kind of obvious, but very useful! I have a personal rule that I won’t watch anything above a PG though there are occasional exceptions. This has come from getting fed up of walking out in the middle! Most stuff above that is either violent, scary, sexual or has cursing, none of which are very helpful. The back of the DVD, if you have it, also usually has the reasons why it is rated that way which gives you an idea of the content.

2. Look at the storyline

The film might be a Universal rating, but be all about two people who are already married falling in love with someone else and sleeping with them, or the story of a criminal that makes him look good. Often the storyline is not really pure and God-honouring. I just read a statistic that said ‘89% of all sex on TV occurs outside of marriage’!

3. Look at a good review

Most times when I’m considering watching a film now I go to Plugged In Online – a really cool website of Focus On The Family. Some brave reviewer watches all the films that come out and then reviews them with a summary of its positive and negative elements to help us make informed decisions. This has put me off watching quite a few films which otherwise I might have watched and then regretted or walked out of!

4. Think Biblically

‘Therefore whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’ Col 3:23. I sometimes think if Jesus came back and I was sitting watching this film would he be pleased? And is what I’m doing glorifying God?

Even more convicting is Phil 4:8 ‘Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.’ This verse has led me to set aside an awful lot of things I might otherwise have watched, and I now tend to watch things that people would call ‘wholesome’ as they more often go along with this verse.

5. Know what you struggle with

Everyone has different temptations that are worse for them than for others, so while I believe we need to be careful of all these areas, some we need to be particularly careful in! If you’re struggling with cursing then films with curse words in will probably make it worse. And the same with other temptations.

6. Be OK with walking out

It’s better to walk out of a bad film and put up with what your friends say than live with it haunting you or affecting you in ways you may not even be aware of. And if necessary you can shut your eyes – here is a great promise: ‘He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, He who despises the gain of oppressions, Who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, Who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, And shuts his eyes from seeing evil: He will dwell on high; His place of defense will be the fortress of rocks; Bread will be given him, His water will be sure. Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; They will see the land that is very far off.’ Isaiah 33:15-17

Are You Willing To Go It Alone?

I just watched ‘Prince Caspian’ where C.S. Lewis draws a very challenging picture of our walk with Christ. When Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy try to find the crossing of the river to go and help Prince Caspian, Lucy sees Aslan the lion, who is symbolic of Christ. She tells the others that she has seen him and he is telling them to go that way. But the way looks impossible – down a tall cliff with no visible path, and they don’t see him. So they don’t believe her and go a different way. After a long journey the other way they get met with arrows fired at them and have to quickly retreat. They end up going back the way that Lucy told them to, having delayed their journey considerably by their detour. Later on Lucy meets Aslan and tells him that she would have followed him, but the others didn’t believe her.

Here is what happens next, from the book: ‘From somewhere deep inside Aslan’s body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl. “I’m sorry,” said Lucy, who understood some of his moods. “I didn’t mean to start slanging the others. But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?” The Lion looked straight into her eyes. “Oh Aslan,” said Lucy, “You don’t mean it was? How could I – I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don’t look at me like that… oh well, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone, I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?” Aslan said nothing. “You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right – somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?” “To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.” ‘

I think many times in the Christian life God calls us to do something, just like Aslan called Lucy to go that way. But we don’t go because other people don’t agree or do the same, and we are scared of going by ourselves. This has challenged me every time I’ve read it or watched it to remember that I CAN go by myself. And I SHOULD if it is something I am sure God is telling me to do. He will be with me – it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or does.

My Favourite Breadmaker Recipe!

I love the smell of homemade bread! When I got quite a bit of birthday money a few years back, I finally decided to buy a breadmaker, and I haven’t regretted it yet 🙂 I do have to be  careful not to cave to the temptation to eat half the loaf when it comes out of the breadmaker, but generally I manage that! I only just managed to get this photo taken this morning before my dear husband came and pinched a bit of bread off the side…

Homemade bread is also a great way to bless people, as most people love it, and it’s a fun thing to serve when you have company, with some butter and cheese. Here is my favourite recipe for the bread I make most days, that my family loves.

Yeast 1.5tsp

Strong White Bread Flour 350g  (2 and 3/4 cups)

Strong Wholemeal Bread Flour 125g  (1 cup)

Sugar 1.5tsp

Butter 25g  (2 tbsp)

Salt 1.5tsp

Water 320ml  (1 and 1/3 cup)

Chewable Vitamin C tablet crushed (this helps it to rise)

I use the grams and ml since I’m in the UK. The measurements in brackets are as near as I could convert to, so hopefully it still works if you use cups! I put the ingredients in the breadmaker in the order shown, as exactly as I can. If you use a measuring scale, the water can be measured as grams which is quite handy – 320ml is the same as 320 grams. I put this in the breadmaker with the Rapid bake (2hrs) program, for a white loaf, large size and light crust. The bread stays moist for a couple of days and tastes great.

In case anyone is looking at buying a breadmaker, it might help you to know that I have a Panasonic SD254 and I love it, apart from I think the one with the raisin dispenser gives you a few more options. It does seem to be a good idea to research models before buying, as I have heard a lot of bad stories about breadmakers not working very well.

Don’t Give Away Your Strength and Virtue

I was reading through Proverbs 31 the other day and came across where King Lemuel’s mother says to him, ‘Do not give your strength to women, nor your ways to that which destroys kings.’ It struck me that even though that is obviously meant for men, it really applies to women too, but the other way around. As women we can voluntarily give away our strength to men by what we do, say or think. The word ‘strength’ here is translated as virtue in three other places in Proverbs, and also can mean valour, substance, wealth. Obviously the strongest meaning of this, with the worst consequence, is sexual immorality. But I really think there are many more subtle ways this can happen too. Samson lost his strength when Delilah cut his hair. In Nehemiah 13v26 it says that women caused Solomon to sin.

One way I believe this can happen is in our thought life – when I was single I often caught myself thinking too much about someone who I knew I wouldn’t want to marry. The danger in that is a waste of thoughts that could be better used planning how to serve God better, meditating on scripture, praying etc. And then of course the more you think of that person, the more likely it is that you might justify to yourself why it would be OK to be with them even temporarily and end up dating and eventually marrying someone that is not good for you.

Married women can give away their strength and virtue by thinking about men other than their husband, it might not be lustful thoughts but it is still wrong. And when you have wrong thoughts and keep entertaining them, it gives the Devil a foothold. Not that the first thought that enters your head is wrong, but to keep it there is! We need to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Another way is by having a close male friend that is not their husband, to quote Greg Laurie, ‘Girls, you can’t have a guy apart from your husband be your buddy’. Having lots of in depth conversations alone with another guy is asking for trouble – you may not even be attracted to him, but it takes away from the time you should be talking to your husband and can so easily lead to resentment when you find they are more sympathetic! And to quote Greg Laurie again, ‘Most adulterous relationships start with friendship, which leads to close relationship, which leads to seeking marital counsel from someone of the opposite sex – which is like putting a shotgun to your head’.

On a less sinister note I believe we can also give our strength to men when we put men before God, which results in all kinds of things that sap away our energy. One example I have seen in my own life is that we can expect our husbands to be all we need, when actually God is all we need. Then when our husbands don’t meet our expectations we are disappointed and depressed. We need to realise God can be our everything!

The Parable of the Sower explains how our fruitfulness can be choked by desires, cares and riches. We need to be careful to be chaste and pure and put God first in our thoughts and deeds, so that there is no room for our strength and virtue to be given away and for us no longer to be fruitful.

The Blessing of Being Early

I have had a revolutionary week. I implemented one small change in my day and it had amazing results! A friend gave me some advice which I have heard before but never figured out how to fit it in my day. She suggested I prepare the dinner straight after breakfast, and just fit the homeschooling in after that.

I thought I’d give it a try, and the results were amazing! Dinner has always been one of the most stressful times of the day – I’m tired, the kids are tired, everyone’s hungry. But if most of it is ready, it is all so easy. And it also means dinner is more likely to be on time, which means I have more time afterwards to get everything else done before the kids go to bed and I hit a wall. I have been a lot more relaxed as a result – which helps with everything else too, like patience, and saying the right things, and loving my husband and children!

So I think God is trying to impress on me how doing some things ahead like that can really make a difference. I read the other day how Abraham, having been told to sacrifice his son, got up early the next morning to journey three days to obey. It really struck me that he got up early to do something that must have been very hard. If you do things before they need to be done you save yourself so much stress, and get things done better and on time.

I think we need to look at our lives every so often and think, what is it that is causing me a lot of stress or tiredness? What is there that I can do early?

The fruit of being a stay at home mom

Often I catch myself thinking thoughts like, ‘No-one sees what I do’ and ‘Whatever I clean up just gets dirty again’. And when I was in a room of people and they went around the room and everyone had to say what they did, it seemed like the bottom of the pile in terms of what people think of someone being a stay at home mum.

But recently it struck me when someone complimented me on the children, that people may not see your job as worth much, but they do see the fruit of it. And even if it is not attributed to you, the point is that it is great fruit! If I do my job well as a mother, my children will benefit, for example the Bible says that if we train a child in the way he should go, then when he is old he will not depart from it (Pro 22:6) and if I do my job well as a wife, my husband will be so much better for it. If I look after my home and make it inviting, make meals for people etc. then so many people can be helped and encouraged from being invited there and having fellowship they would not otherwise have had. We can make such a difference by doing our job well, not only to the lives of our husbands and children, even just helping them feel contented and loved, but also to the people that they meet who are impacted by them. And then we can do even more through serving in our church and doing good to other people.

So though we should do everything we do to please God, we can also encourage ourselves in the thought that there is great fruit from working hard at what we do, as a wife, mother, and homemaker . It may not be noticed, but God knows and we know, how fruitful we can be. And of course to bear real fruit we need to stay close to God, so that should be an encouragement to keep God our top priority too! “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5