Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Back in Tenerife

Hard to believe it is already Novemeber, especially when you wake up everyday to sunshine and seventy degree weather! We were blessed to be able to experience a little bit of fall weather while in the states, yet we managed to escape the snow storm that came to the Northeast at the end of October!

Transitions are always difficult, and after being in the US for almost six months it was hard to say goodbye to our family and friends. While we enjoy living in the Canary Islands, it takes some time to readjust to the culture. We weren't expecting the culture shock upon returning for our second term of missionary service, but it hit us pretty hard. We have felt pretty discouraged at times during the past few weeks, but it seems things are starting to calm down a bit.

We are pretty much back to our daily routine--the girls doing their schooling, and Doug busy with attending the needs of the church and ministry. There will be a time of rebuilding, and some changes as well. We are always being challenged and learning new things in our Christian life and ministry; praise the Lord for His mercy, patience, and comfort as we face the trials of life!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

September Update

I apologize for not updating my blog more frequently. Our family has been traveling the past few months to visit our supporting churches. It has been such a blessing to meet new pastors and their families, and to reunite with old friends from the past. We have been treated really well and appreciate the hospitality shown by all.

We have also enjoyed seeing family in Ohio-- we even got to see the newlyweds for a day, Hannah and David in Michigan, and Jenny and Michael in Indiana. Although our visit was too short, it is encouraging to see them all so happy as they start their new lives together.

Our visit to the states is winding down, and before we know it we will be on the island of Tenerife once again. We received news that our dog Billy escaped from the farm where he was staying, and the woman caring for him has searched everywhere with no success. Billy was Doug's favorite.....hopefully he will find his way home. We are also eager to see all our friends and church people upon our return, and get back to our work in Santa Cruz and San Isidro.

We have meetings lined up in September, and the first two weeks of October. We will be traveling in the south, to Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Florida. Looking forward to what the Lord has in store for us. Then we will return to Rochester and have two days to pack up and head to Raleigh, North Carolina where we will be flying out for our return to the Canary Islands.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Graduation Pictures

Here are some pictures from the girls' graduation at Fairhaven Baptist College.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Good Things Come in Threes

They say that good things come in threes.........and we are celebrating three big events this furlough, the graduation of our two daughters from Bible college this past May, the Bridal shower we had June 2nd with the ladies of our home church, and now the big event, the double wedding July 2nd.

Maybe I should have said good things come in twos, considering each of the events involve a "double" aspect where Jenny and Hannah are celebrating together these milestone events. Some have asked me if they are twins--but there is a four year age difference between them. It just made more sense to have their wedding together, and both girls and their fiances were in agreement. It has worked out really well so far.

I am posting some pictures from the shower.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Culture Shock in Reverse

I haven't dropped off the face of the earth.......Just been traveling, and no time to catch up on my blog.

We arrived in the States May 2nd, and my body is still adjusting to time changes. Sometimes in the evening I can barely talk I am so tired.

After spending a few days in Ohio with our family, my husband and I flew to Seattle Washington to attend a mission conference at one of our supporting churches. Today I am speaking to a wonderful group of ladies, and am eager to report about the past four years and what life is like living on the mission field.

It occured to me that I am experiencing a bit of reverse culture shock. I thought I made up the term, only to do a google search and see many articles related to the term. It will probably take us a few weeks to transition to our life here in America.

One thing that overwhelmingly struck both my husband and me is how friendly and open Americans are as a whole. We are amazed at how people actually talk to strangers and are helpful. We aren't used to that and it is quite refreshing.

Next week we will be traveling to the Chicago area to see our two oldest daughters graduate from college. It is bittersweet, to see them growing up, starting the new chapter in their lives, but also the realization that they will not be coming home for summers to the Canary Islands is a sad thought. From there we will all travel to Rochester to reunite with our home church and make preparations for a bridal shower, then the double wedding. So much excitement! I will try to post pictures later.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Calming Your Children's Fears

Driving home from church last night, Leanna kept asking us "if there was a tsunami here, would it get us here? She was noticing the proximity of the ocean to the highway. Her dad tried to calm her fears, "no, we are up too high--it wouldn't reach the car." A little further down the road, she noticed we were much lower and closer to the shore. "Would it reach us here? " she asked. "Well, responded Doug, maybe here it would." "Then, could you please hurry up and go a little faster?" said Leanna.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Problems with Blogger

I apologize for my last post--for some reason, the program did not make the paragraph breaks, and published it all in one single paragraph, making it very difficult to read. It frustrates me, I have tried several times to fix it, to no avail. The copy and paste function is not working either. If I can't solve the problem, I may have to discontinue "blogging" for a time, perhaps switch to Wordpress. Meanwhile, if you don't hear from me you will know why. We are in the process of getting things ready for our upcoming mini-furlough to the US.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spanish Culture

One of the things I appreciate about living here in the Canary Islands is the orderliness and respect they show toward one another. Having lived in Mexico for several years, there is quite a contrast. In Mexico it was very common for people to jump ahead of others in line at the meat market, and it would really ruffle my feathers when people would exhibit this type of behaviour. Here in the islands, the people for the most part, pay attention to who is next in line, and even offer to let you go ahead if they know you were there before they were. When a new line at the grocery store opens up, they respect whoever is next in the old line--not just whoever gets to the new line first. We always had to be on our guard in Mexico for merchants who would purposely raise the prices for foreigners, hoping to gain an extra dollar or two. Here in Spain, you can pretty much expect that the price that they are charging you is what they charge to everyone. Every store has a "complaint" book that you can ask for if you think you have been mistreated or overcharged, and the government checks it. You can also go to a consumer affairs office and make a complaint if a company has taken advantage of you. It is probably similar to our Better Business Bureau in the states. Also in Mexico you had to be aware that policemen would stop you and want you to pay them directly for made up traffic violations--they were corrupt and regularly accepted bribes. I appreciate the fact that here in the islands you don't have to worry about made up traffic violations, greedy aduana officers, etc. I don't mean to say that all the authorities in Mexico were corrupt, but it was hard to know who you could trust and who was out to take advantage of you. I don't feel that here in Spain. The other day I was in a public place, and the woman's bathroom was occupied, so I asked the next woman in line if she was going to use the "handicap" bathroom, and she replied no--I was in a bit of a hurry, and seeing that no one was around that might not be in need of the facility I went ahead and used the handicap bathroom. The lady reproved me, saying I wasn't allowed to use it-- and it was scandalous to them--she proceeded to share with her friend the error I had committed. Please don't judge me--I don't make a habit of it either--but it is just another example of how the Spanish people respect their orderly life and respect the "rules." Ususally it is the "foreigners" who disregard the unwritten cultural rules--no wonder we sometimes have a bad reputation among them.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Driving in the Mountains

While we are on the subject of driving, I know there are some places I will never drive to here on the islands (well, I should never say never--I once told myself I would never drive a school bus).

I do not like heights--I do not like being on top of a mountain, or being up high and looking down. I get this panicky, sick feeling inside. I think I am doing somewhat better now than when we first came to live here--but it is one of those things that you never know when it will strike, so I try to avoid those situations.

Last week Doug offered to give a man in our church a ride home, and being the thoughtful man that he is, Doug volunteered to take me home first knowing that I don't like going up in the mountains. Since it was night time I figured I would be OK with the heights since I wouldn't be able to see the cliffs as well-- so we all went together. Remi lives on a farm way up in the mountains, about as high up as you can go on this side of the island. Once you get off the main road and past the center of town, the roads are very, very steep and one lane.

Traffic laws are designed with this in mind (being fresh out of driving school the laws are still fresh in my brain), and if two vehicles meet on a one lane road, the person driving up the mountain has the right of way, meaning the person going down has to back up.

Lo and behold, we are way up in the mountains when we see the headlights of an oncoming car--and rather than stopping and waiting at the top of the mountain like they should have so we could continue to the top--they proceeded down the mountain, meeting us head on--and there was no space for any of us to pull over or turn around. Both of our cars were at a standstill, just facing one another and waiting for the other to move. I kept thinking to myself, what is this person doing--don't they realize how difficult it is going to be for us to back up, in the dark--on a curvy, steep mountain road and try and get our momentum back to go proceed?

The driver sat there for several moments and it was obvious that if any of us was going to advance in our journey we would have to surrender and back down the mountain. It was night, and I had visions of us backing ourselves off the road and down a huge drop off. When we got to a place wide enough for two cars, she passed by, rolling her window down and thanking us for allowing her to pass. I was not exactly thrilled with her gesture of kindness, politely telling her the rule of the road (I don't have my husband's gift for diplomacy and peace keeping) and she proceeded to tell me how she was German, etc. so I guess that was a good excuse--perhaps ignorance to the Spanish laws.

When we tried to move forward again, the nightmare began. Our van would not move forward! Doug kept trying to get some traction, but our tires were spinning and you could smell the rubber and the transmission burning. Leanna started to scream with fear as we were moving backward. So now what are we going to do?

I pleaded with my husband to quit trying as I too, was afraid, and thought our motor was going to burn up. It was obvious we weren't going to move forward, so my husband started to move sideways. Eventually we decided we would have to try and turn around and go back down the mountain. I feel badly that our friend had to walk the rest of the way home, but relieved just to be getting off that mountain road!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Getting a Spanish Driver's License

Hip hip, hooray! Yesterday I finally passed my practical driving exam, making me an official Spanish, and European driver's license holder. They do not honor driver's licenses from the states once you are a resident of Spain. Many claim that the road to get a Spanish license is a money making racket and they fail you on purpose to get more money. So what's the big deal, you ask?

It has been a nine month process, or I could say ordeal--because truly this has been hanging over my head like an unpleasant toothache. I feel like I just gave birth--going through the pains of labor and experiencing the joy that follows.

Getting a driver's license is Spain is not a piece of cake. I got my US license when I was sixteen--had to take driver's ed in high school, take a 10 minute drive around the block and drive the car through some cones--scored nearly perfect. Then in my thirties I earned my commercial driver's license so I could drive a school bus--not easy--but nothing compares with the nerve wracking experience I have had here in Spain.

One blogger put it this way:

"There are few things in life as difficult or as intimidating as getting a
Spanish driver's license. It is akin to solving Fermat's Last Theorem while
sitting on death row in Texas. If you don't believe me, just ask anyone who has
been through it."

It is quite intensive, mandating that you attend a driving school, pass a very comprehensive written exam which involves all aspects of road rules, safety, car mechanics, first aid, drug and alcohol laws, and even operating a motorcycle. I took it all in Spanish--I could have done it in English but the English manual was poorly translated and not comprehensive enough--I learned that the hard way after taking my first written test in English--I had perfect scores on all the sample computer tests, but on the actual test day there were questions that were not covered in the English manual, so I failed the written test the first time.

When you pass the written test, you sign up for very expensive driving classes on the road with an instructor--and some are much better and patient than others--I learned the hard way. My first teacher never answered my questions--seeminly irritated that I even ask one. He didn't properly prepare my for the "tricks" and complicated intersections that I would encounter on the road test.

After three tries I passed. It requires nearly perfect driving on a road system much different than what we are used to in the states. Roads are often one way, with the signs painted on the road, and often you can't easily find the markings or they have been erased.

Not only did I have to learn to drive a manual, but here in the islands the roads are all up and down hill, which poses a greater challenge. Driver's licenses don't come cheap either--average cost will be at least $1000--1500 by the time you pay the school for instruction and the necessary traffic taxes.

After my test, my driving teacher tried to trick me, making me think I didn't pass. The examiner got out of the car, didn't say a word, nor crack a smile. I was sure I had blown it. Then my teacher started to tell me the things I did wrong, but then chimed in, "you passed!" I was in a state of shock and relief that lasted the whole day because I had prepared myself for the worst possible scenario in case I didn't pass. I gave my teacher a big hug and cried tears of joy!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Could Volcanic Eruption In the Canary Islands Cause Next Tsunami?

Mt. Teide in the background

In light of the recent tragedies in Japan, I have been thinking about the risks of living on an island and how vunerable we are to being swallowed up by the Atlantic Ocean that surrounds us. I did a google search and found that in 2004 there were several small earthquakes on our island of Tenerife, and that Mt. Teide, the volcano that towers over our island (which is the third largest in the world, and highest point in Spain), erupts approximately every 100 years, and we are overdue since the last one was in 1909.

There is another scientific prediction that if there is a volcanic eruption on the island of La Palma (our neighboring island) it would cause a huge landslide-- a large chunk of volcanic land mass could very easily fall off the island, causing a huge tsunami or tidal wave that would hit the east coast causing mass devastation. Am I worried? No, I don't lose any sleep over it, as I know that God is in control and that my life is in His hands.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Missionary Wife Almost Gets Arrested

I must be totally naive--I'll admit, I am not a sophisticated world traveller, so when I get in certain situations I probably appear as a clueless tourist--not as someone who has lived in the country for nearly four years.

The other day we decided to take a day off--the rest of the country was celebrating Carnival season, and schools were closed. Much to our daughters' delight we took a picnic to the south side of the island, exploring a new town we have never visited.

Doug stayed back at the boat dock and explored the town while the girls and I ventured onto a beach where there weren't many people. I saw some nice beach lounge chairs-- and felt lucky to have found some that were unoccupied. I layed my towel down to take in some sun while Leanna and Rebekah played in the water. We were having a great time.

After about 20 minutes a young girl approached me and said I owed 3 euros (nearly $5.00 US) for using the beach chair. What? That's crazy!! Who ever heard of paying to sit in a chair? I thought she was one of the many panhandlers that pester tourists for money--so I refused to pay. I was not about to be taken advantage of by someone out to make a buck from unsuspecting tourists! I had never paid to sit in a lounge chair before--surely she was trying to pull the wool over my eyes. Afterall, if there was a fee for sitting on the chairs shouldn't they make it clear--and post it somewhere so people know? There were no signs telling of any chair rental fees.

She kept insisting, making me more upset as I was not about to be exploited--afterall, whoever heard of such nonsense--paying money to sit on a chair! In reality, I didn't have three euros in cash, nor did I have any intention on paying. Finally said she would call the police if I didn't pay. Again I looked around for a sign that said there was a fee for the chairs, but there weren't any. I was pretty upset about how this young girl was giving me a hassle, and stood my ground.

We promptly packed up our stuff and left--I was a little ruffled so I stopped in a tourist information office to complain about the young woman that was meandering the beach-- I truly believed she was a fraud. Come to find out, she did work for the city, and yes, there was a fee for the chairs. I defended myself by asking her why they didn't put a sign up telling people about the fee, and she responded that "everyone knows" that the chairs on beaches here in the Canary Islands are not free but rented for a fee. I suggested that it might be a good idea for them to post some signs, and also have the girl wear some type of "identity" badge so people like me would know that they are legitimate city workers.

They found one ignorant American that didn't "know" the rules--and I shudder to think what kind of scene I could have caused if she would have called the police for my refusal to pay! I thought the chairs were placed there for the enjoyment of the people and to promote a beautiful atmosphere to attract tourism. I am thankful that Rebekah and Leanna didn't sit in the chairs--they told me they prefered the sand. I am far too thrifty to pay for the luxury of sitting on a lounge chair--and looking back, now I realize why they were all empty. No one else wants to pay for them either!! I learned my lesson, and from now on I will be much more careful where I sit.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Family Pics

Any of you that have ever tried to get a decent family photo can relate to how difficult it is to get a picture of the family, one that everyone looks good in. No matter how hard you try, there is always something that isn't "just right."

We are in the process of making new prayer cards and a ministry presentation for furlough, so it was necessary for us to get an updated family photo. We are downsizing, since two of our daughters are getting married in the summer--now it will just be the four of us, (sniff** sniff). The Lord has graciously given us time with Jenny and Hannah during the summer months while they were away at college, and now shortly it will be time to let them go permanently and start families of their own.

So here is a preview of our new family photo.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The National Anthem the Way it Should be Sung

I did not watch the Super Bowl the other night, but I saw clips of a botched performance of our national anthem by a pop culture rock star. I understand we are all human, and anyone could forget the words. I just don't like the way they add all the extra junk to the melody--the inflections of the voice as if they were singing a sensual love song. Now if you want to hear a "real" performance of our national anthem that will make you proud of our country and its finest men and women of our armed services, then watch this video. It will give you goosebumps.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Faith in the Storm

The apostle Paul decribes being shipwrecked three times, and the perils he faced during his life--in journeys often, in perils of waters and perils in the sea, in weariness, and painfulness. Sometimes we find ourselves in the storms of life, and feel overwhelmed.

A friend of mine posted this acronym on her facebook status about how NOT to be shipwrecked. It was F.A.I.T.H. It encouraged me, and I am going to take a little liberty and put my own twist to it, and hopefully encourage others along their journey.

F: Follow the Light

God's word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple. Order my steps in thy word. When darkness is surrounding our soul, we need to look for the light of God's word and not make any decisions based upon how we "feel" but cling to the light God has given us and what we know to be true. Our feelings will try to deceive us and convince us to jump ship when the going gets tough, so we must cling to God's promises to comfort and give us the grace we need to endure the temptation.

A: Abide in the Ship/Adjust Your Course

In the account of Paul's shipwreck in Acts 27:31, he told the centurion and the soldiers, "Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved."

John 15:4 tells us "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me." Jesus goes on to say in the next verse, "for without me ye can do nothing."

It is during the storms that we need to seek God's face even more. The Bible also tells us that is is good for us to be afflicted--we all know that we learn to rely more upon God when going through the tempest than we do when everything is sailing smoothly.

It often seems to make sense to find a way to escape the storm by jumping out of it--we seek to give up when the going gets tough--but this is the worst time to make important decisions, unless God is just absolutely directing us through our circumstances in the storm. There is safety in the ship--and as long as we stay in the center of His will he will protect us.

The "A" could also represent adjusting your course. In Chapter 27 the apostle Paul admonished the men that the voyage they were about to undertake was dangerous and would bring hurt and damage, and could possibly cost them their lives. Nevertheless, the centurioun and master and owner of the ship chose not to listen to Paul. Later they had to adjust their course.

"And when the had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore. .....And it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land." They obviously had gotten off course, but God used it for the furtherance of the gospel as he was able to witness to the Barbarians on the island of Melita. In the following chapter they resumed their journey.
Acts 27:40, 44

We need to seek God and ask him if there is anything he is trying to tell us, show us, or teach us during this time of affliction. Have we gotten off course? Is there some sin in my life that he is trying to purge, and that I need to make some adjustments for? Is he trying to direct us into a more perfect direction? We need to be open, and have a good conscience before God so that he can lead us during the storm and bring us safely to land.

I: Instant in Prayer

The storm draws us to our knees. We have no strength in ourselves, we look up to God. Sometimes all we can do is cry out to God to save and deliver us, but he hears us, and cares about us. Paul also fasted during the time of the storm--and prayer and fasting go hand in hand.

T: Trust

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto your thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6. We need to trust in the wisdom and lovingkindness of God, that He knows what is best for us, and that no matter what happens, he is working in our lives for our good.

H: Hold Fast

I Thessalonians 5:21 ...."hold fast that which is good."

Hebrews 10: 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

Hebrews 3:6...."hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end."

Revelation 2:25 "....hold fast til I come."

Put things into God's perspective. II Corinthians 4:17-18 "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Let us not forget that we are pilgrims in this life, and that we have a hope that one day God will wipe away all tears from our eyes, there will be no more sorrow, sadness, sin, disappointment, death--for the former things will be taken away and He is going to make all things new. Sometimes we just have to keep holding on--not in our own strength, but in God's. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. I Thessalonians 5:24

I Peter 5:10 "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strenthen, settle you.

Of course, faith is the element that bonds all these things together, because faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11 :1, 6

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Job Description of a Missionary

Men seem to be happiest when they get to follow their passion in life and devote their entire career toward that end. This doesn't always happen, and sometimes we have to learn to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves in, but I rejoice in knowing that my husband is able to dedicate his life's work to doing what he is best suited for, and he is truly happy with the job that God has given him to do.

Many people don't really understand what a missionary does. Often when the Spanish people ask what we are doing here, if you answer "we are missionaries" it brings a blank stare and perhaps a bit of misunderstanding. Most of the time I just answer that my husband is a pastor of an evangelical Baptist church here in Tenerife--if you say that then they have a little more sense of where you are coming from. Most of them have never heard of "Baptists" either--that is why we throw in the term evangelical, because they probably have heard that term before--in their minds most religions fall into two categories--catholic or evangelicals, which can include all types, unfortunately even cults.

So what exactly does a missionary do? I have come up with a few "job descriptions" that I can apply to my husband's work.

First of all, he is a fisherman. Jesus said "come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men." When you come to a foreign field, after you learn the language and a bit of the culture, you start "fishing." A good fisherman knows where the fish are biting, what time of day to go out, what type of bait is effective with the type of fish he is trying to catch, etc. Sometimes you can toil all day and not catch any fish. You can't let this discourage you, as if you keep at it diligiently, eventually you will bring in a harvest, as God's word will not return void.

Many times, a missionary is a linguist/translator. He must learn languages, dialects, etc. and learn to effectively communicate with the people where he is called. Often missionaries go into regions that don't have the Bible or gospel literature translated into their native tongue. This requires a lot of patience. If you have studied a foreign language you can appreciate the hard work and hours of study that this involves. It can be very frustrating too, as often we struggle to put into words what we are feeling but don't have the vocabulary to express ourselves.

A missionary is a teacher. He trains others for the work of the ministry to be carried out among their own people. My husband loves to study the Bible and share what he is learning with others. He really gets excited about what God is teaching him and it gives him great joy to share that knowledge with others.

A missionary is a shepherd. He watches over the flock that God has given him, protecting them from wolves that would destroy them, directing and gently leading them into the best pastures where they can grow and prosper.

A good shepherd is a counsellor, servant, and friend. My husband spends many hours of his week talking with people who need help. Some are trying to overcome addictions, dealing with marriages that are failing, have financial burdens or are discouraged because they have no work, or perhaps they are physically sick and want prayer. People call and want someone who will listen to them. They need to know that their pastor cares and is someone they can confide in. The old adage is true, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Nationals will be suspicious of you as a foreigner, and it takes time to build their trust and respect.

A missionary is a builder. One purpose of a missionary is to start churches, and this may include building a physical building to meet in and have worship services. There is a great deal to know about building, especially on foreign soil and dealing with foreign laws and permits. He also is an administrator, and has to oversee the financial apects of the church. Spiritually speaking, he is building lives and administering the true riches of Christ.

Sometimes a missionary/pastor is a judge. He must mediate between brothers or sisters in a church who are at conflict with one another, and try to encourage them to settle their differences in a scriptural and peaceful manner. He must be impartial, and not listen to gossip, but direct them into reconciliation with God and each other. So often people want to tell us negative things about other people in the church, and my husband has to tell them to go directly to that person and try to settle the issue first, following a Matthew 18 principle.

Lastly, (I like this one best), a missionary is an ambassador for Christ. Maybe it makes me feel important ; ) but we represent the King of Kings here on earth. Every believer has this calling, and it is our duty to represent our Lord in a way that brings honor and glory to His kingdom. Everything we do and say is being watched by a world that doesn't know our God. We must endeavor to let them see God in us.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Does Forgiveness Have to Forget?

I have heard the cliche "forgive and forget." Sometimes I wish it was that easy. Sometimes I wish we could have selective amnesia--because part of the difficulty we face in forgiving others is releasing the anger, hurt, and betrayal we feel because of past wrongs they have done us. We like to nurse our wounds, and sometimes even use our hurt feelings as a way to manipulate another person by trying to make them feel guilty for the suffering they have caused us.

In the ministry, there will be ample opportunities to exercise forgiveness. We don't expect our fellow brothers or sisters to "hurt" us, whether intentional, or unintentional. Or perhaps you have been helping someone, bending over backwards to minister to them, and all of the sudden they just disappear from your life--or decide to attend a different church where "their needs are better met." This can really hurt if you don't keep your heart in the right place and learn to forgive.

If we are in Christ, God promises to remember our iniquities no more, and cast them into the depths of the sea. But He is God and we are human. I personally don't believe you have to "forget" to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice you will have to make, and continue to make when your feelings don't agree with your deliberate choice to forgive. We will be tempted to dig up the past, recall past injustices, and relive situations that have caused us pain. Forgiveness is a decision we make, but healing and restoration can be a process.

Over 20 years ago, I struggled for two years forgiving a person who had spoken publicly against my husband and his ministry, all of it untrue. Every day I would wake up with bitter feelings against this person, and would have to pray and ask God to help me forgive them. I don't know why I let it bother me so, but it seemed to be the focus of my attention. This man never asked for forgiveness; perhaps he never realized himself the hurt he caused my husband or us, his family.

It took a few years, but I can honestly say I hold no ill will towards him today. Every day for a few years though, I had to continually practice the act of forgiveness. When I was tempted to be angry or hold a grudge, I would tell the Lord about it and ask Him to help me forgive. I would quote scripture about forgiveness. Eventually the anger and pain subsided, and healed completely.

Realizing how imperfect I am, and how much the Lord has forgiven me, helps remind me that I need to forgive others as well.

Monday, January 3, 2011

"Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, faith looks up."

I don't know who said this, but there is an element of truth in it. As we begin a new year, I am reminded in my Bible reading to "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before," Philippians 3: 13

We can learn from the past, but there is a point where you have to quit dwelling on it. We often look back and wish we could do things over again, but we can't. Of course we have regrets.....if only I had done this, things would have turned out differently. That is where we have to come to terms with the decisions that we have made in the past, and trust God to work them out for good. Sorrow is not productive and will only drag us down.

Worrying is not trusting God with your situation and not believing that He cares for you, promising to meet every need. We are commanded to cast our cares upon Him. When you are tempted to worry, turn it into prayer and supplication.

Worry cares what other people think. We often spend energy worrying about what others will think about us if we step out in faith and do what God commands us to do. It might not be a popular decision. Sometimes it even goes against what our social circles expect. If you live your life worrying about what others think you will never have the freedom to obey God fully.

Worry also lives in the world of "what if." What if this happens......My dad always cautioned me not to worry about the "what ifs" in life that will probably never happen. As a little girl, I worried our house would burn up in the middle of the night, or a tornado would hit us. I worried that I would go blind after watching a movie about Helen Keller. I had a wild imagination, and even now as an adult, as I get older I find myself worrying about the future, such as getting sick with cancer, losing a loved one, etc.

While those things do happen to people in real life, we have to trust that God will give us the grace to face the specific trial when we need it, and only then. We have to trust that the same God who brought us through all the yesterdays will give us the grace to face all the trials in our tomorrows. That is faith that looks up. It also includes hope. We have the promise that God will never leave or or forsake us. He will never give us more than we can handle, although at times we seem to collapse under the weight of our burdens. His grace is sufficient.