Couragious Forgiveness

background-1135051_1280Sometimes, it takes raw courage to forgive.

This is an ongoing theme in my life. Forgiving, even when it hurts (me). Looking back, I see a line of courageous forgivers. The Amish families who lost their children. Corrie Ten Boom. And further back in history, Stephen (early church deacon who was stoned to death for his faith).

The troubles of my past pale in comparison. But they still hurt. The human reaction for most of us is to hold on to them. To hate the one who hurt us. To punish the perpetrator through our ongoing hate.

Deep inside, I know that kind  of possessive unforgiveness hurts me more than anyone else. Those who committed the worst things that ever happened to me are dead now. They’ve met their fate, and they met it without my spoken forgiveness. I came to this knowledge too late. But I have now forgiven them. Their slate is clean with me.

flower-946502_1280Why does it matter? I no longer suffer under the weight of holding on to someone’s guilt. I’ve been spiritually healed of the pain inflicted on me, because of this passage of scripture… “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (John 8: 14-15 NIV)

Pay close attention to verse fifteen. It holds a devastating truth. Don’t overlook it.

Forgiving others sets you free. When I let go of the pain of my past, something died inside of me. But it was a good death. No longer would I be in its death grip. I am free of the pain. And those who caused that pain are in God’s hands. I am completely free.

Here’s another life-giving realization that came to me when I pondered my freedom: Unforgiveness is one of the strongest tools of the enemy. Satan uses unforgiveness–in your life–to steal your joy, your health, happiness, peace. He uses it to kill, and to destroy. With it, he destroys families…lives. Yours. Not the one who sinned against you.

death-1013386_1920I held my hurt and pain in a tight fist for so long, I couldn’t enjoy life. If anything in my life reminded me of what happened, I curled up in a fetal position (inside, if not physically) and felt dead. Others were hurt and confused by my attitude. Until the day I discovered these scriptures and decided it was time to let it go.

It wasn’t easy. Even after the initial spoken forgiveness, I was reminded throughout the day, every day, of what had been done to me. I’m not exaggerating. So I faced it with courage. I took every thought captive. When the thoughts came, they brought pain with them. I forgave all over again. I took a step further and replaced feelings of hurt and pain and hate with love. But not in my name. “Father, forgive me. Replace the hateful memories. Heal my heart and help me love.”

1-Passion FlowerYears have passed since that time. The hurtful thoughts came less and less. My heart gradually healed. Some babies are born with a hole in their heart. Most are healed naturally, as they grow. The hole closes. Their hearts are healthy. That’s what happened to me, but spiritually. The hole in my heart closed up. It’s sealed and strong. It took courage. I would like to take all the glory for that, but I can’t.

It was God’s love. I am so loved by God. “For God so loved the world, He gave his only Son…” As a believer, my faith has made me whole.

I share this so perhaps you can be whole also. If you suffer under the weight of unforgiveness, consider what I said in the paragraph above. How much joy have you allowed to pass by, so you could hold on to this pain? How much peace?

Take a chance. Be courageous. Forgive, that you might be forgiven.

New in Christian Suspense: Colorblind

Today, I welcome my friend and fellow writer, Amy Blake, back to my blog for a reason that gives me extreme pleasure! The release of another of her books–Colorblind. I’ll let her tell you about it.

1a33b-blake2bfamily2b22b2I’m excited to share with you about the release of the second book in my On the Brink Christian suspense series, Colorblind. The first book in that series, Whitewashed, released last February. The series follows three homeschooled friends–Patience, Christy, and Natalie–as they step into adulthood. Since each book tells only one girl’s story, the books can be read in any order. You can buy Colorblind and Whitewashed in both e-book and paperback on Amazon. I hope you’ll pick up your copies today!

Here’s a little more about Colorblind:

FC---Colorblind---3rd-DraftEighteen-year-old Christy Kane has always been Daddy’s princess. But on the first day of her music internship at his mega-church, reporters shatter her world with terrible news: Daddy’s had an affair with the church preschool director. Christy feels as betrayed by God as the man she’s always considered Prince Charming.

When Mom sends her to Buckeye Lake to help with Aunt Jo’s School of Music and Dance in the restored Pier Ballroom, Christy’s problems only increase. First, the ballroom sits on Buckeye Lake, making her face her greatest fear—water. Second, she must help lead a handful of semi-talented volunteers, who harbor racial tensions and mysterious underlying antagonisms, in a professional quality performance for the Grand Reopening of the ballroom. The stakes are high—Aunt Jo will lose the place if they fail. Third, Christy discovers a diary written by Lillian, who lived near Buckeye Lake in the 1920s, and becomes intrigued by the stories of thousands coming to play at the amusement parks and dance in the ballrooms. But her interest soon turns to concern as tragic events from the diary happen in Christy’s world, ninety years to the date of their first occurrence.

Between her shattered past, her uncertain future, and her dangerous present, Christy doesn’t know where to turn. Does Daddy’s God really exist? If so, does He care enough to rescue her?

Award-winning author Amy C. Blake is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four. She has an M.A. in English from Mississippi College. and has written articles, devotionals, and short stories for a number of publications. You can connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. She’d love for you to visit her website at amycblake.com for tips on homeschooling, advice for the rookie pastor’s wife, and helps for the Christian life. You can also find more information on her website about her novels–Whitewashed, Colorblind, and The Trojan Horse Traitor.

 

The Translation of Annabelle’s Ruth

Ecuadoran Women
Photo by Tiffany Sexton Riggs

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, or my Facebook page, you already know about my upcoming trip to Ecuador. I’ll be ministering to women while I’m there. These women have specific needs. More than anything, they need love and the assurance that God is for them. No matter what life has dealt them, His redeeming power can help them overcome. Take for example, the women of the Book of Ruth.

After losing everything, Naomi returned to the land of her birth. She felt God calling her back there, where she’d be safe, among her family. Her daughter-in-law Ruth didn’t have to go with her. Naomi excused her from doing so. But Ruth insisted. Her love for Naomi kept her by the woman’s side. God saw Ruth’s obedience and great sacrifice. He chose to bless her. Not only that, but He provided for Naomi through Ruth’s obedient service.

Annabelle's Ruth FRONT final CoverI knew Annabelle’s Ruth was special as soon as I began writing. Actually, even before that, when the idea “popped” into my head. As the story fleshed out and became real, I knew in my heart, it was destined for greatness. Not long after it was published, the comments started coming in.

“This story is such a blessing!”

“Annabelle’s story has revived my hope, when I thought all was lost…”

It’s good to know that so many are enjoying the story and being blessed by the message of the book. So, I was especially excited to learn that Annabelle’s Ruth will be translated into Spanish. In fact, the process has already begun.

What excites me even more—the first printing of the Spanish version will be sold to benefit Unsion Ministries in South America.

In order for this to be possible, we need partners who would be willing to help pay for the preliminary printing of five hundred books. The cost will be an estimated $2500 – $3000. With the cost of printing the books paid in advance, we’ll be able to use all the proceeds from the sales to bless the women’s ministry in Ecuador.

I’m not asking anyone to give the full amount, though that would be amazing! Whether you can give a few dollars or a few hundred, that would help us on our way.

If you’d like to be part of this opportunity to be a blessing, you can click the link below to make your contribution (and please type “Annabelle’s Ruth” in the comment box):

https://giving.ag.org/Give/Details/600001-693941?MinistryName=unsion&Page

If you have any problems with this link or have further questions, please contact me via the “Contact Me” tab above this article (or contact me through my Facebook page).

God bless you, and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you!

For more information about the mission trip to Cuenca, Ecuador:
https://bettythomasonowens.com/2016/01/26/into-all-the-world/

https://bettythomasonowens.com/2016/01/19/when-youre-not-looking/

Will You Be My Valentine?

valentine-1170622_1280Remember the Valentine cards we passed to all our classmates in grade school? I was always very careful of two things–make sure I had one for everyone in my class, including the teacher–and be certain to send the mushy cards to the correct people. I didn’t want any trouble.

I had my first “Valentine” in second grade. His name was Brent and he had such a crush on me! He sent me notes throughout the day, which got me into trouble because–embarrassed by his apparent adoration–I stuffed them in my desk. The teacher found the crumpled notes and asked my mother to come in for a conference. She expressed concern that I was far too young for such an amorous conversation with a boy. As I sat there, my discomfort quickly escalated to mortification. I hadn’t actually carried on a conversation, it was mostly Brent, but I suppose I was guilty by association. Or something like that.

As I remember, he was planning something special for Valentine’s Day. But…we moved to a new school district before that happened. I don’t remember even saying goodbye.

I was a new face in the classroom many, many times over the next few years, so I don’t really remember any other outstanding Valentine’s Days from my childhood. What about you? Do you have poignant or happy memories of a particular Valentine or Valentine’s Day? I’d love to hear about it!

valentine, valentine's dayBack to me–fast forward to the day when I met the love of my life. My forever Valentine. The scene changes drastically after marriage, doesn’t it? The Valentine cards are more intimate and usually more expensive. Men sometimes chafe at the holiday, blaming the card, chocolate, and floral industries. And perhaps it is an overblown holiday, but many of the feminine gender have known the discomfort of sitting behind an empty desk while the other women’s work areas are festooned with lovely gifts and displays of affection.

Even if our handsome Valentine has planned a wonderful evening, we still stifle feelings of envy over said display. This puts unfair pressure on our significant others. No wonder they generally dislike the holiday. It’s an expensive struggle, to find the perfect gift, or plan the memorable evening. I remember many times when my husband did a stellar job of planning and carrying out the perfect getaway. But honestly, I can’t recall whether it was Valentine’s Day, anniversary, birthday?? I’m not sure it even matters.

If as a couple, you’ve talked about it, and come to an agreement ahead of time, there’s no reason why you even have to celebrate that day. Just so you don’t overlook the important events of your life. I remember one Valentine’s Day early in our marriage, when money was tight love-letter-530346_1920and going out alone together was rare. We stopped by our local Target and looked at the Valentine cards. We each chose one we really liked. Then we exchanged them, read them, and returned them to the rack. The sentiments we found written in the cards passed between us and it was free. We still laugh at that memory. Most likely, if we’d paid the price for those cards and brought them home, they’d have ended up in the trash. I would not have remembered them half as well as the memory of that night.

If you’re struggling with a plan for Valentine’s Day, don’t forget that the small things count. Can’t afford a big night out? Find something else that means a lot to your love. Go for a long stroll (weather permitting), window shop, or stop in at your favorite coffeehouse for a treat. Make your own card, or better yet, write a letter (or a note), and let your beloved know you care. Show your Valentine that though your budget may be tight, your heart is not.

Love is the key that unlocks the heart.

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Love Without Prejudice

BiblestudyJesus was once asked the question, “…which is the greatest commandment in the law?” He answered with two commandments He felt were on equal footing. The first, of course: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The second, he said, was “like it” or similar to it. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He said, “All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40, New International Version)

Why are these the most important? Can you narrow it down? I can, in one word: LOVE.

If you LOVE God as outlined in the first commandment–with all your heart, soul, mind–and if you LOVE your neighbor as yourself, won’t you be living out the rest of the law? If you truly love God, will you willingly break his commandments? If you love your neighbor, will you willfully hurt them? If you truly love yourself, will you purposely self-inflict pain?

heartWe all know the answer to all of these can be Yes, we can. But in a perfect world, or perhaps if we ourselves are perfect (as Jesus was), we would not hurt the ones we love.

These scriptures also shine a light on another aspect of our beliefs. Who is our neighbor? Those who live on this planet, regardless of race, origin, nationality, personal beliefs…the list goes on.

Your redneck, hillbilly neighbor with the ancient fridge and washer on the front porch, the rusted-out cars sitting around the ill-kept property, and the noisy barking dog chained to a tree in the back…he’s your neighbor. Those scruffy construction workers who whistle and yell catcalls at you as you pass by their work site? Neighbors. The third cousin who shows up drunk at holiday dinners, also your neighbor.

In the days when Jesus walked and ministered throughout the region of Judea, there were the Samaritans, who were considered pond scum by most Hebrews. Each one thought the other one was right in their beliefs, and the rift between them was insurmountable. The Jewish believers avoided Samaritans. To illustrate this very passage of scripture (as told in Luke 10:25-37), Jesus told a story–a parable–about a man who was brutally attacked on the road and left for dead. A priest came along, saw the man lying there, and crossed to the opposite side of the road to get past him. A Levite came through next, but did as the priest had done. Finally, a Samaritan happened along. He took pity on the poor man, tended his wounds then transported him to the nearest inn, where he took care of him. The next day, he paid the innkeeper to look after the man and promised to return and reimburse him for any extra expense not covered.

Jesus asked his listeners which of these three was the good neighbor. The choice was easy. It wasn’t the priest or the Levite, both respected religious leaders of the Hebrew faith. It was the good ole boy neighbor from the wrong side of the tracks. It was the Samaritan who reflected God’s LOVE, went out of his way, delayed his journey, spent his own cash.

Jesus wasn’t glorifying Samaritans, he was saying that anyone, even the outcasts–the ones we look down upon–can show God’s love. Sometimes we’re surprised by the ones who do. Reaching out to someone in distress usually requires some sort of sacrifice. But everything you give up for the Kingdom of God will be returned to you at some point. Every sacrifice made from a pure heart shows your love not only for your neighbor, but for God, who created that other individual as well as you.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.–Matthew 5:16

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