Monthly Archives: July 2013

Guest Post: Theodora Ashcraft

Today we have a guest post, written by my dear friend and adopted little sister, Theodora Ashcraft. Enjoy! 🙂

The Hardest Thing To Give Away by Theodora Ashcraft

“It’s the hardest thing to give away
The last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those who don’t deserve…”


What is that scrap of song lyrics referring to? The answer is in the title of the song.

Forgiveness, by Matthew West. (For those of you who want to hear the song, I’ll be attaching a video to the end of this post.)

Forgiveness just might be the hardest thing to take to heart. Let’s be honest with ourselves here – if you’ve been hurt, the last thing you want to do is forgive the person. No, it’s more likely you want revenge. Or, at the very least, you want them to understand that they hurt you; you want them to apologize and, if they can, try to heal, fix, or compensate you for what they did/said wrong.

As the lyrics say, it’s the hardest thing to give. Some would say that it’s easier to cut off a finger or an arm than it is to forgive someone who hurt them. Forgiveness is the last thing on anyone’s mind, especially when your mind is saying, “But they don’tdeserve it!”

Consider Colossians, chapter three, verses twelve through fourteen:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
   – Colossians 3:12-14
God makes it quite clear that He expects us to forgive those who hurt us. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.We did not and do not deserve forgiveness. No one – no one – will ever sin against us as much as we have sinned against God. If He has forgiven you, and canceled the enormous debt you owe, shouldn’t you forgive the smaller debt of someone who has offended you?

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness
I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me
Forgiveness, Forgiveness…”
If we pray, we can – with God’s help –  learn to give others what He gave to us. We can’t do it on our own; I don’t claim to be saying that. But we can with our Heavenly Father’s help. We can learn to love the unlovable, reach the unreachable, and do the impossible.
There is another aspect I want to discuss; it is embodied in this particular scrap of lyrics:
“It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word…”
 
I know it hurts. I know it’s hard. When someone concocts and spreads lies about you, it hurts. When someone you thought was your friend suddenly stops speaking to you, it hurts. And sometimes, it seems like the only course of action is to stay angry, and to hold a grudge against them for a very long time.Forgiving and loving the people that hurt you is probably one of the hardest things to bring yourself to do. After all, the natural response is to become angry. To feel indignant, hurt, and betrayed. Many people never manage to forgive those who hurt them, and at first, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.

“It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge

It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’…”

Many, many people will tell you that you have the right to hold a grudge, and that you deserve some sort of compensation for the pain you’ve been caused. Believe me, I know – I’ve been on both sides of that equation before, both the person who has been hurt and the person saying you have every right to hold a grudge.It’s no surprise then that a lot of people consider the if-they-won’t-apologize-then-I’ll-find-some-way-to-get-back-at-them or the I-will-never-acknowledge-your-existence-ever-again mentalities to be perfectly acceptable when dealing with someone who hurt you.

You can claim to others that you’re ‘over that one incident’ and that you’re not angry anymore. In reality… you probably are not over it, and there is a good chance you never will be.Oftentimes, the inability to forgive has less to do with the hurt you feel and more to do with your pride. Let’s face it. Telling someone, “I forgive you” is very similar (in our minds, at least) to saying, “You were right, you win!” And that’s a tough thing to say, or, in this case, thinkyou’re saying. No one likes to admit that they are wrong. No one likes to admit defeat.

But forgiveness is not defeat. Far from it.

“It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what its power can do

 

So, let it go and be amazed

 

By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you…”
I think that is my favorite verse from that song. It is so true. At first, you might feel annoyed, or even ashamed, by telling someone you forgive them. “This means I’ve lost,” a voice might say inside your head. “This means I’ve been defeated. They’ll be gloating over this for years!”That’s not true. And even if they are ‘gloating’ over it for the rest of your life, who cares?

Look at it this way. If you keep holding a grudge, and let the pain, the anger, and the feelings of betrayal fester… in the long run, it will hurt you even more. You lock yourself into a prison of bitterness. Trust me, I know; I’ve found myself inside of that prison, battling with the feelings of anger and betrayal, more times than I wish to count. Bitterness, as Danae Dobson once said, is like a cancer, eating away at our soul. The result is pure misery.

But when you wholeheartedly forgive those people, and tell them so, you are set free from that prison of bitterness! And while you may feel ashamed for a while. But in the end, you will feel much better – free from the burden of hate that you carried. It truly will set you free.

Forgiveness, by Matthew West
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Wisdom from Teeth

Hello again. Yes, I know it’s unusual for me to show up mid-week, especially when I already have a post planned for the weekend. So what in the world is going on? Well, a couple weeks ago I got scheduled to have my wisdom teeth removed, which they were yesterday. In the process, I learned and relearned some things, a couple of which I wanted to share with ya’ll, and I didn’t want to wait a whole week to get it out of my system.

Fear Factor

*Looks down at the most recent post* Oh yeah, I just posted about fear, didn’t I? Guess what…It was because I was learning about it. Again. *Laughs* Something I’m known for doing is anticipating things WAY ahead of time, and when they’re things I’m dreading, that’s not a good thing at all. When I first found out a date had been set for getting my teeth removed, I felt so scared I was almost sick to my stomach. Not good at all. So I had to go through the process of giving my fear up to God…again, and again, and again. The fun thing about fear is that it’s not just a one-time deal that is over and done nice and quick. It’s a constant process of surrender. And in the two weeks or so leading up to getting my wisdom teeth out, that’s exactly what was happening.

Oh, but I learned something new from it. Want to hear? I learned that when I spent an hour or two every morning reading my Bible, devotions books, memorizing scripture, and praying, it was a lot harder to be afraid. I’m not even kidding! I would look for the fear, and it just wouldn’t be there. That was a real blessing, and just one more good reason to develop the habit of spending time with the Lord. I encourage everyone to make it a habit to get up early and spend an hour or two in the quiet with God.

Attitude of Gratitude

Ooh, this one is a lot of fun. I found out the hard way yesterday that the pain medicine the doctor prescribed for me is not very effective, so I haven’t had much in the way of comfort since getting my teeth out. (Besides the squishy canned peaches I’ve been eating. Those help a lot. *Wink* Actually, cold packs help a lot more.) In predicaments like this, it’s extremely easy to get focused on the pain. And when you focus on the pain, it’s really easy to get negative really quick. But that’s not the only option. See, pain can either turn us inwards and focus us on ourselves and our miseries, and thus weaken us, or it can turn us outwards and make us count our blessings, and strengthen us.

It’s easy to find things to complain about when you’re in pain. (And believe me, I’m well practiced at it.)

“My jaw hurts!” “These stitches are driving my tongue insane!” “I want to eat real food!” “The pain medicine isn’t working!” “I can’t get enough sleep with the pain keeping me awake for four whole hours at night!” “My cheeks are so swollen I look like a chipmunk!”

While these may be valid complaints, they only make me more aware of the pain, and thus much more miserable. And they don’t build character. They tear it down.

But what happens if I look for the good in all those complaints?

“My jaw could hurt a lot more if they had damaged a nerve. I’m glad it only hurts as much as it does.” “I’m sure glad these stitches are dissolvable so I won’t have to go back to the doctor to get them removed!” “You know what, squishy peaches and apricots are nice to eat, and it’s all part of the healing process. At least I get to eat!” “Hey, the pain medicine may not be killing any pain, but at least it’s not giving me nasty side effects either!” “I’m so glad I had four hours last night to mentally write up that blog post!” “Hey, at least my cheeks aren’t fuzzy like a chipmunk’s, so my sisters don’t pet them!”

See what I mean? We can either focus on the clouds of life, or we can focus on the silver linings – and the Son that they reflect. And ultimately, that’s what all pain is designed to teach us to do – to look to Christ more and more. The best place to start is with an attitude of gratitude. *Smiles* And you know what I’ve found? When we look for things to be grateful for, the pain suddenly isn’t so very painful after all.

 

Maybe wisdom teeth are called that because of the things they teach a person when they get removed, rather than a supposed wisdom they bring to those who keep them. *Smiles a little* If so, it’s worth the chipmunk cheeks they’ve given me.

Categories: Ponderizations | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Only a Mountain

Fear…It’s something I’ve struggled with all my life. Over the past few years God has been working on me, slowly revealing just how much a slave to fear I have been. It has been an eye-opening, faith-stretching experience, as along the way He has also been teaching me to fight that fear. And there have been times when I truly felt God’s presence replacing the ever-crushing fingers of my persistent fears. And after experiencing that, I don’t want to go back to the bondage of fear again. As expressed by Justin Parks, “God is too good for me to limit my faith in him because of my fear.”

In my quest to vanquish my fears, the Lord has given me many helpful verses; one of my favorites is 2 Tim 1:7 which says,

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

This verse is very meaningful to me, especially because I have often felt so powerless in the face of the spirit of fear. And the thought that the God of the universe has given little old me the power to battle, and, yes, even defeat that fear was a revelation to me.

Maybe it’s because I have struggled with fear so much that it is such a burden for me when I see others in the same predicament.  I have tasted God’s goodness and seen His strength, and I believe that our God is too great and too good for us to waste the power He’s given us by cowering in fear. We have His strength; why don’t we use it? He didn’t give us a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind just so we could lock it away in a box like Frodo and the ring. But what exactly is this ‘spirit of power, love, and a sound mind’? And more importantly, how do we use it?

It seems to me that the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (some translations say self-control) is basically the Holy Spirit within us. After all, it’s only through the Holy Spirit that we can have these things fully. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the power to overcome obstacles and trials, the ability to love unconditionally, the sound mind (or self-control) to resist temptation. And it is this same Holy Spirit that allows us to defeat the spirit of fear.

Okay, so it’s easy to say that the Holy Spirit helps us defeat fear, but how? We now have the weapon, but how do we wield it? I believe the answer lies not in strength, but in weakness. Not in trying to “power up” and muscle our way through, but in admitting that we aren’t strong enough to fight fear alone. (And in all honesty, we aren’t strong enough, so why don’t we go ahead and admit it?) See, it’s by coming to the realization that we are helpless on our own that we allow God to help us. The only way (that I’ve found) to successfully fight fear is to embrace the fact that I am too weak to handle it on my own, and then to cling to the truth that God is strong enough. When I submit my fears to Him, He is always faithful to remove the spirit of fear far from me and open the floodgates of his power into my life.

I believe this is what gives birth to that child-like faith that takes God at His word when He tells us, “if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.” (Matthew 21:21) The same power that can remove a mountain can also remove the spirit of fear.

This is only a mountain

You don’t have to find your way around it

Tell it to move, it’ll move

Tell it to fall, it’ll fall

This is only a moment

You don’t have to let your fear control it

Tell it to move, it’ll move

Tell it to fall, it’ll fall

~ Jason Castro, Only a Mountain

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Of Contact Lenses and Christianity

What in the world do contact lenses have to do with Christianity? Well, not a whole lot, unless you happen to be in the business of making analogies. I’m *cough* rather fond of analogies and comparisons myself, so when we had a little lecture at STEP about using analogies to convey Christian ideas, I was very excited. And today I’d like to demonstrate how it works.

So let’s say that you have an idea or concept that you want to convey to the world – for example’s sake, let’s say the role of God’s power in the life of a Christian. How would you communicate this to others?

First, pick an object. Any object will do, but the more common it is, the better. You want people to recognize what you’re talking about – otherwise, the analogy will be lost on them. So for our example, I have chosen to use contact lenses, and I’m going to use them to show the relationship between God’s power and the Christian. So far so good.

Okay, so you have a concept and a common object. Now what? How do you connect the two in a way that makes sense? How do compare something like hand sanitizer to the importance of family relationships, or pens to applying God’s word to one’s life, (real examples from STEP, by the way) or…contacts to God’s power in the Christian life?

Well, let’s start by listing off the properties (or attributes, or whatever you want to call them) of the object you picked. What does the object look like? What does it do? What makes it unique? Let’s go back to our example with the contact lenses. Contacts help people see things clearly. They are only good for a certain period of time. You have to use saline to clean them, preserve them, and make them work. They are very thin. They come in individual packets that squirt saline everywhere when you open them.

Since we don’t want to ramble all over the place and bore people, let’s just pick two or three of those attributes to use for our analogy. I’m going to use three: Contacts help people see things clearly, saline cleans, preserves, and makes them work right, and they come in packets that squirt saline everywhere when you open them.

Now all that’s left is to take those attributes from your object and use them to explain your idea! This is where the fun begins. *Grins mischievously* So let’s see what happens when we try it with our example, shall we?

*Drumroll* 😉

We, Christians, are like contact lenses, and God’s power is the saline. It cleanses us, preserves us, and is the key factor when we try to make a difference in people’s lives. (Try putting a contact lens in without the saline! It doesn’t work very well. [And yes, I speak from experience…]) Without God’s power, we dry up and become useless.

You know how contacts come in those individual packets? Those are like our comfort zones. We are surrounded by God’s power, we’re clean, fresh, and…comfortable. But, just like with contact lenses, we have to come out to be used. Have you ever noticed how the packages always squirt saline everywhere when you open them? It kind of makes you stop and watch what you’re doing, doesn’t it? That’s what happens when we come out of our comfort zones and reach out through God’s power. It ‘squirts’ His power everywhere, and goodness do people notice!

Now, a contact lens’s primary purpose is to help people see clearly. Our purpose as Christians is to help others see Christ clearly. Not just by our example, but by interacting with people, and talking to them about things that matter more than just the weather. (After all, contacts do more good if you wear them instead of just looking at them.) But don’t forget your saline! Remember, we don’t function very well without God’s power sustaining us. So don’t be afraid to squirt people!

 

See what I mean? If I had started out by saying “Don’t be afraid to squirt people!” you would have laughed. But once I explained the entire thing, it made perfect sense, and meant something to you besides what it sounded like. Aren’t analogies so neat?

Categories: Ponderizations | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Mounting Up Like Eagles

Doing hard things is…well…hard. (That was brilliant…) At STEP there were a lot of new and hard things that I had to learn to do…like getting up at 5 AM and running. I am definitely not a runner. Since Mondays were designated running days, I dreaded them. A few minutes into a run, my knees and ankles start to ache, and I get a stitch in my side. Not a lot of fun for me. So anyways, one morning we were starting our run, and my feet hurt really badly from all the walking we had been doing. Maybe it sounds silly, but I had a feeling that I would not be able to finish that run – at least, not without help. The only thing I could think to do was to pray “God, just give me strength for the next step!” over and over again. The cool thing was that in that moment, God brought to memory a verse (and actually it wasn’t even a whole verse) that says “they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint”. The phrases kept pounding through my head, over and over, and it was really neat how it gave me just enough strength to finish the run well and (even better) with a cheerful attitude. I was amazed to have God answer me so promptly and perfectly, and I had to look up the entire verse. …And found this:

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:28-31

Yikes! I think you can see how that has become one of my favorite passages in Scripture. There haven’t been very many times that God has so directly given me a verse when I needed it, but that was one of them. The funny thing was, I didn’t dread running after that. I almost looked forward to it (but not quite). Just for the record, that in itself is a miracle.

So you see, you don’t have to be afraid of hard things. *Smiles quietly* Yes, they are hard. (Duh) Yes, they are intimidating, tiring, and sometimes discouraging. But the Lord, the everlasting God, gives power to the faint, and strength to those who can’t go on anymore. And when we stop trying to do things by ourselves and let Him do it instead, we can finish the race. By His power, we can do the impossible. We can mount up with wings like eagles.

Categories: Ponderizations | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggedy Jig

I’m hoooome! *Pictures a tiger bursting through the door to tackle her* 😉 Okay, so I’m not Calvin, and I don’t have a pet tiger. (Sadly…) *Cough* At any rate, I’m home from STEP now, as of Saturday evening.

One word to describe the experience? Sorry, that’s impossible. There is no way to condense a month of amazingness into one word. At least not with my limited intellect. STEP was hard, stretching, hot and sweaty, sore, and sometimes scary. And yet…it was rewarding, amazing, beautiful, and taught me more things than I can count.

If you look at the brochure, you might think that STEP mostly just impacts people via the skills it teaches. It doesn’t. More than just the emergency skills, STEP teaches teamwork, love, openness, confidence, humility, selflessness, and trust – in both one’s team members, and the Lord. The biggest thing I took home with me was not how much I now knew how to do on my own, but how small I am and how much I need God’s presence and strength every day. There were countless other thinks and lessons along the way, but I won’t trouble you with a list of them. However, many of them may/will make it into future blog posts.

STEP was absolutely amazing. It was hard, it was painful in some ways, but it was good, rewarding, and life-changing. So much so that I’m beginning to consider returning next summer for STEP Advanced. *Grin* Anybody want to come with me? 😉

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