Friday, September 23, 2011

The Innocence of Beauty

Little girls...
Sitting here trying to capture the perfect thought, I just let out a deep sigh. All sorts of images are vacillating around in my mind. Bouncy, swingy, swaying little figures, skipping down a sidewalk with a sweet little song. Pictures of frilly dress up clothes, pink tutus, and plastic strings of pearls--tiny little feet in high heel shoes. In their innocence I see them.

In her best dress, eyes wide and searching, she looks up, "Don't you like it Daddy?"

Or after the debut of her latest imaginative creation, be it a song, a drawing, or her best made-up dance, she simply wants to know... Do you see me? Do you delight in me? Do you think I'm beautiful?

No matter how it manifests itself, every little girl bears this question in the depth of her soul. No one has to teach it to her. She doesn't conjure it up. It is just there. Given to her by the One who created her in his very own image. 

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27, underlining mine) 

One of the ways we bear God's image as a woman is in our desire to be beautiful, seen, and enjoyed.

Isaiah 6:3 tells us the whole earth is filled with God's glory. One evening last week I was driving westward with a couple of my kids as the sun was setting. Breaking through the trees we saw it, perhaps the largest, brightest hot pink sun we have ever seen. We couldn't take our eyes off of it! This summer we stood in awe at the shades of turquoise and deep blues saturating the ocean waters of south Florida. They were mesmerizing! From the delicate vulnerability of a flower, to the snow capped mountains in the Rockies, creation is bursting with the glory of God! And it is beautiful.

In Revelation chapter four, John describes what he saw in a vision as the Spirit led him. "The One who sat on the throne looked like precious stones, like jasper and carnelian. All around the throne was a rainbow the color of an emerald...Also before the throne there was something that looked like a sea of glass, clear like crystal."

David asks only one thing from the Lord in Psalm 27:4, "that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple." 

God is beauty and to say he lavishes it upon us would be an understatement! He wants to be seen, and enjoyed. He longs to captivate our attention. (Jeremiah 29:13) Likewise, so does every little girl...and woman. She speaks something different to the world than a man, through her beauty (Eldredge in Captivating).

I've said before that a woman often despises the demand for beauty. Mostly because it has been mishandled, assaulted and abused, tossed aside, and trampled over. Our world has scared it into hiding with its insatiable appetite and gross advertisement for the physical. On the contrary, the church has often diminished it.

A woman is beautiful both in form and in soul/spirit. It is recorded in Genesis 1:31 that the Lord God looked at his creation when he was finished and, seeing all that he had made, said, "it was very good." Peter also writes, "Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel, rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God." (1 Peter 3:3-4)

Though our dress up days and happy skipping are long past, we must recover the alluring innocence of beauty. Every woman needs to know that she does, indeed, possess a beauty all her own to unveil. And that it is wanted.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Beauty: The Invitation

Continued From Previous Post...

"The only things standing in the way of our beauty are our doubts and fears, and the hiding and striving we fall to as a result." (Captivating)

The woman in hiding:
Remember Toula in the movie, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"?  In the beginning she wore frumpy, baggy, drab-colored clothing that hid any semblance of her figure as a woman. Her hair was just as mousy and her dark eyes downcast behind large framed glasses. Toula worked in her father's Greek restaurant. Though she secretly dreamed of greater things, her father didn't approve. So she remained hardly noticed by those around her, and faded into the background of mere hopeless daily existence.

The striving woman:
Margaret is a high-powered book editor in the hit movie, "The Proposal". Her extra slender frame boasts of her need to exercise religiously, and she works around the clock, even over weekends and while pounding the treadmill. Before she arrives at the office each day, it is teeming with laughter and conversation scattered all across the room. Upon her entrance, one man types the warning on the computer screen to everyone, "the witch is on her broom," and the happy chatter abruptly ceases as workers rush quietly, and hopefully unnoticed, to their respective cubicles. There is no time for play around her; hunker down and get busy. Sure, Margaret's appearance and success are nearly perfect, but they feel forced and contingent upon factors from the outside.

These examples of the hiding and striving woman may be a bit extreme for some of us. Nonetheless, she exists. We see her every day. Maybe in our own mirror. For many of us, we are less extreme than the images of Toula and Margaret, and often an odd mixture of both (as I have been). But no matter, we are hiding and/or striving just the same. And it is soul-killing to us and to those around us.

We strive to look our best with just the right makeup and the latest trendy clothes (I'm not knocking them! Wearing them as I type!) Don't forget the latest diet craze and exercise routines. We hide in the kitchen, behind our books, our office, or mounds of laundry. Women are busy at work, often avoiding eye contact and intimate/vulnerable conversation, or feeding our constant need for control.

It all seems legit, right? I mean, after all, the laundry does have to be folded, and, shouldn't we always look our best? Office work cannot be ignored, and hey, we all need a break with a book or something, right? Yes, and No. What the world, the men in our lives, our children, family, and friends need from us most is our heart.

The excerpt below is taken from an experience John and Stasi Eldredge had several years ago with a woman of deep beauty.

“June is one of the most beautiful women we have ever met. We encountered her a few years ago while doing a retreat on the coast of North Carolina. Her hair was long, swept up loosely and held by decorative combs. She wore unique, dangly earrings and pretty flowing skirts. Her eyes sparkled when she laughed, which she did often, and her smile lit up the room. She was clearly in love with her husband, her face adoring as she gazed at him. June was at rest with herself, at home in who she was. Talking with her, just being with her, made us feel more at rest with ourselves as well. Her spacious, beautiful soul invited others to come, to be, to taste and see that the Lord is good, whatever was happening in your life. She wept at the retreat. She laughed at the retreat. She was gloriously alive and in love, both with her husband and with the God of the Universe…And June was about seventy-five years old…What is the difference?...June’s beauty flows from a heart at rest.”
(Captivating, p. 135)
June reminds me of Esther in "One Night With The King", the beautiful and courageous young woman taken from the pages of Scripture, whose beautiful heart stole the king's.

Eve was created to offer life, and one of the most glorious ways we do this as women is through our beauty. It is obvious by now that we are talking about a soulish beauty. Every woman possesses it. We are born with it, granted us by God Himself, as it is one of the ways we bear His image as a woman. (God himself is beautiful, Revelation 4:3, 6; Psalm 27:4; Isaiah 6:3 proclaims his beauty through the created world; just to name a few!)

Think about it. Who are you most "at home" with? With whom do you find yourself at ease and able to truly be yourself around? In those moments, if I were a betting person, I would bet that's when you let your guard down and your heart shows up. In their presence you aren't afraid and you feel secure, no longer needing to hide or strive. No need to flip the switch to survival mode.

This is where we must learn to live no matter who we are with or where we are. Impossible? June would say no. The invitation is to come again, as we explore the depths of beauty and how we may unveil it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Beauty." Why is it an ugly word?

Driving eastward on interstate twenty-four through Tennessee, stands a mountain waiting to be crossed. It's the only straight shot from the music city of Nashville to the valley of Chattanooga. And it is a glorious one! From the top begins the descent with twists and turns and runaway truck paths off to the left in case one loses control on the steep grade. Jagged rock walls stand guard on one side, while tall trees border the other. All of a sudden, as the last tight corner throws its curve, the curtains are thrown back to reveal a mass landscape of flowing hills, mountain peaks, and deep valleys below.

In autumn (my favorite time to pass through there), cascading colors of deep reds, bright oranges and yellows flow for miles down one mountainside and up another, dancing through patches of evergreens. All to a backdrop of crisp blue sky scattered with wispy white clouds. Awing tears wash the eyes at the beauty and lavishness of God's goodness. It sucks the breath right out of the lungs in a deep inhale of the soul. With the exhale, all troubles and perils seem to dissipate for that moment. And the soul rests.
“Beauty may be the most powerful thing on earth. Beauty speaks. Beauty invites. Beauty nourishes. Beauty comforts. Beauty inspires. Beauty is transcendent. Beauty draws us to God. As Simone Weil writes, ‘The beauty of the world is almost the only way by which we can allow God to penetrate us…Beauty captivates the senses in order to obtain permission to pass straight through to the soul…The soul’s inclination to love beauty is the trap God most frequently uses in order to win it.’

God has given this Beauty to Eve, to every woman. Beauty is core to a woman—who she is and what she longs to be—and one of the most glorious ways we bear the image of God in a broken and often ugly world. It’s messy to talk about. It’s mysterious. And that should not surprise us. Women are creatures of great mystery; not problems to be solved but mysteries to be enjoyed. And that, too, is part of her glory.”
(Eldredge, Captivating pp. 133-134, underlining mine)

If this is true, then why has “beauty” become such an ugly word to most of us as women?

We've all heard the saying, "beauty is only skin deep." So we trump that with, "real beauty is from within!" But if we're honest, we don't really believe it for ourselves. Often, a woman despises the demand for beauty. Mostly because it has been mishandled, assaulted and abused, tossed aside, and trampled over. Our world has scared it (true beauty) into hiding with its insatiable appetite and gross advertisement for the physical.

Eldredge further writes that "beauty is the most essential, and yes, the most misunderstood of all the feminine qualities...that it is an essence every woman carries from the moment of her creation. The only things standing in the way of our beauty are our doubts and fears, and the hiding and striving we fall to as a result."

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It is Coming!

For those who are following along through the posts of the past month or so, I apologize for my slowness in getting the next post out! I have fallen behind amidst life and stuff! You should find the next post out by the end of this week, Lord willing. Thanks for your patience and understanding!

Until then, there is plenty to read or re-read from the past year--I have found it takes intention to continue to stay alive to the heart and live from it as Jesus intends and offers. (Proverbs 4:23, John 10:10, Isaiah 61:1-3) Come to him dear sisters, and breathe deeply!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Beauty Speaks

The beauty of a past that has been healed is expressed in The Song of Solomon:

“My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘Arise my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come…” (2:10-12 ESV)

Winter symbolizes deadness. Picture the harshest environment. Gray skies of foreboding clouds set the mood. Trees are barren. Sources of water are frozen solid. The ground disappears under a blanket of white while a piercing silence dominates. You feel trapped inside, and life is scarce.

Quite the opposite is spring. Dancing sun rays dazzle across crystal blue skies. Lush green carpets of grass cushion our steps. Flowers of all colors stand to greet us while trees popping with leaves provide restful canopies of shade. Birds freely flit about singing their happy melodies, while life-giving water flows in abundance.

Before the shattered pieces of my heart--broken by a painful past--were put back together again, I had all but forgotten how to enjoy life. Days drudged on and nights were restless. The mind was forever a torturing instant replay. Smiles were a mask and true laughter was scarce. It was like being endlessly trapped in the dead of winter.

Then the rains came. A flood. Of tears, of questions, of pain (but at least there was feeling once again). With all of that came floods of God's love, His tender words (truthful answers), His healing touches.

Empty spaces popped up every where pain used to exist, and in every place that once bore the mark of shame. Canyons appeared where insecurities had ruled. Confusion set in and I didn't know what to do with all the emptiness. That's when God began to pour His life and His love into those empty places.

The rainy season seemed to last forever...

                    ...until the first signs of life appeared.

Admittedly, it was strange to see it. True life and love were foreign and unfamiliar. It was almost hard to accept at first. Kind of like the first flower to appear amidst a patch of snow that has yet to defrost. A sigh of relief came, as the worst was over.

The more life appeared, the more winter disappeared.

Life crowded out the deadness till all was teeming with color once again! A deep breath inhaled the sweet aromas, and the warmth of the Son brought on a stretch of new-found courage and excitement. Suddenly I felt free as the birds soaring through the bright sky...and, before I could help it, I found myself singing a new song!!

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
      and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
      out of the mud and the mire.

He set my feet on solid ground
      and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
      a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
      They will put their trust in the Lord.

(Psalm 40:1-3, NLT) 

Love and life replace pain and shame. This is the beauty of a past that has been healed.


As that begins to happen, inevitably we begin to relate to others with compassion and love. We find ourselves offering life in the darkest of places so that others may see and be amazed, and also put their trust in Jesus. Beauty speaks. Beauty invites.

These are the areas we will move into over the next few posts.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Punt #6

"Back up and Punt." That is exactly what we are continuing to do this week to set the stage of our hearts. All so we can move forward and continually achieve the goal of life and freedom we long for. In a recent blog (Bold Love) it was mentioned that repentance for the wounded includes a refusal to be "dead," a refusal to mistrust (not care about) others, and a refusal to despise intimacy and passion. Before we can embrace these themes, we need to be reminded of how God fiercely loves us and experience more of his fierce love. To help accomplish this, I have been reposting a few key blogs throughout the past week and part of this week.

Repost #6

God's Love, Part XII:  "Personal and Authentic Experience"

Imagine a most magnificent garden. Colors of every kind high and low, dancing up and down winding pathways—each turn a new wonder. Various aromas tease the senses as you pass by gardenias at your feet, and jasmine winding up tall trellises. Tall trees provide shade in quiet, restful corners, while sunlight streams over an open pond laden with lily pads.

Such stunning beauty and enjoyment takes time and careful attention to create. It does not happen overnight. Intimacy in relationships is much the same way. And a relationship with God is no different, requiring time and intentional effort.

Remember how our desire for romance found a way to express itself when we were little girls? (God’s Love: Part VII, “To Experience”) What was it that romanced your heart then? Was it the strength of horses, or the playfulness of puppies? The smell of coming rain in the air? The first snowfall of winter? Or crashing waves on a white sandy beach? Maybe it was a favorite book or movie that moved you.

God’s way of romancing us is deeply personal. He knows what you enjoy, and what things stir your heart. And He will often bring things back from your youth, awakening your heart to open up again. Many times we miss it because we have closed up our hearts in order to endure the pains of life. (I know I did.)

Ask Him how He is romancing you now; to open your eyes to see how He is coming for you. It might be different than you expected. And it will always be exactly what you need. As you move forward on your healing journey, you will need to keep your heart open to receive what He brings.

Before moving further, it is important to expose our enemy here:  Beware of the lies Satan uses when it comes to experiencing more of God’s love. I was once unaware of such lies. They became obvious while attending a “Captivating” retreat several years ago in the Rockies of Colorado, based on the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge, and led by their team. It is specifically designed to awaken and bring healing and restoration to the feminine heart.

Waking late and feeling poorly one particular morning left me alone and late getting ready for the morning session. Isolated from the others, a barrage of questions stormed relentlessly, creating doubt about God’s love and experiencing it. The women speakers had such amazing stories to tell and spoke of God’s love in such a way that caused a strange, deep longing. A feeling of void crept in where the longing stirred.

Do you really love me, God? How can I really know? I mean, I know you died on the cross for me and all. I know I experienced You when I asked You to forgive my sins and live in my heart a long time ago, and a few other key “spiritual” moments in my life. But, what about now? Is there more? I don’t have any experiences like the ones these women are sharing. How do I know you love me now?

The questions turned to conclusions to just believe what God says about His love and the cross, and that there is nothing more. That nothing new and ongoing and current is needed. (or, that God even wants to offer it…) Determining such experiences were just for the other women, and not for me, I headed out to the next session. Yet, the ache in my heart for more could not be quenched. Walking to the conference room, I told God I was jealous. Not of the women, but jealous for HIM.

The first morning session was very intense and left us to ask what was keeping us from seeing the ways God wanted to romance us. The speakers had described very personal experiences of God romancing them, but few of us attending had such stories of our own. New questions erupted, compounding the first. I don’t have experiences like theirs; do You love me like You do them?

Later in the morning, we dug deeper into God’s romance and pursuit of our hearts. Old familiar feelings of being a disappointment (even to God) arose, and I began to think as I often did, that something was wrong with me. This piled on top of earlier conclusions that such experiences were only for the other women and not me.

Next, one of the ladies told us how the enemy will lie to us, hoping we will agree with him, therefore stealing the experiences God has for us. She led us in a time of prayer, asking us to listen for God to show us what agreements we’d made, and then renounce, or break them—naming each one—in Jesus’ name. Immediately, all my thoughts from the morning were on instant replay. Thinking maybe those thoughts were my agreements, I gave it a shot and, in a whisper, renounced “disappointment, and thinking that I was a constant disappointment,” and “that this is for the other women and not for me.”

No sooner than the words had left my tongue, the speaker said in a prayerful mode into the microphone, with passion and firmness, “You are not a disappointment to Me. You are not, you have not, nor have you ever been a disappointment to ME! This is not just for the other women, this is for YOU.

Four hundred women in the room, and God, having known my every thought that morning, and all my life, chose to speak LOUD and CLEAR to me. Collapsing in my seat, I wept loudly. It was obvious God saw me, heard me, and LOVED me—and did, indeed, want to offer such new experiences of His love to me!!

Believe He longs to offer this to you!

Moving on, it is equally important to understand that intimacy is a two-way street. Just as we long to be pursued and loved, God longs for us to pursue and love Him. We were made to worship—no, I’m not talking about going to church and singing hymns.

Authentic worship is abandoning ourselves to another, offering our hearts in stunning vulnerability. John Eldredge describes it as “what we give our hearts away to in return for a promise of life.” We just misplace it into things of this world. Shopping, food, other people (even a boyfriend or husband), fashion. Books or movies.

Every one of us worships something and/or someone. We cannot help it. But Jesus is the only one worthy of such devotion.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Jesus, in Matthew 22:37-38)

Get alone in a private place (it doesn’t have to be indoors!) with some worship music that moves your heart—music that speaks of an intimacy with Christ. Many times we’ll need to ask Him to create in us a hunger for Him; and to woo us into bringing our desire for life to Him. I’ve known women (Beth Moore is one of them) who close the door of their room and dance for Him as they worship. Others play an instrument or draw pictures of what He stirs as they worship. Sometimes I simply lie face down, with everything else shut out around me.

Just begin to offer your heart to Him. Make time for Him in your schedule. Guard it, and fight for it. Make no mistake, it will be opposed by our enemy. For he knows what deep experiences of Jesus’ love will do—he fears who you are (a glorious image bearer of God) and who you can be once you are set free by the Lover of Your Soul.

As you and Jesus work together to cultivate this garden of love, not only will your heart begin to heal, but it will expand for more. You will be free to let Him love on you, and reciprocate such love back to Him. You will also be free to love others and allow them to love you. Much like the quiet, restful shade provided by lush trees in a beautiful garden, experiences of God’s love provide a spacious place of rest and peace for our souls.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Punt #5

"Back up and Punt." That is exactly what we are continuing to do this week to set the stage of our hearts. All so we can move forward and continually achieve the goal of life and freedom we long for. In a recent blog (Bold Love) it was mentioned that repentance for the wounded includes a refusal to be "dead," a refusal to mistrust (not care about) others, and a refusal to despise intimacy and passion. Before we can embrace these themes, we need to be reminded of how God fiercely loves us and experience more of his fierce love. To help accomplish this, I will be reposting a few key blogs throughout this week and next.

Repost #5

God's Love, Part XI:  "Experience the Height"

“And I pray that you, having been rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 17b-19)

Which one of us has not marveled at some time in our life, at the billions of stars winking to us each night? Or pondered the magnificence of the sun and moon? How free they appear in all their glory. Oh that we could ride the waves of the Milky Way, and explore the mystery of the planets...and of our own souls. To rise with them to such heights where we are no longer captive to the troubles of this life.

Close your eyes and envision the person you long to be, all that you dream you could be…no longer at war within yourself, confident, sure, free of all shame and the labels of your past, both other- and self-inflicted.

It is possible dear friends. By it’s height, God’s love entitles us and raises us up to a most excellent happiness and glory through Jesus.

“He [Jesus] climbed the high mountain, He captured the enemy and seized the booty. He handed it all out in gifts to the people. Is it not true that the One who climbed up also climbed down, down to the valley of earth? And the One who climbed down is the One who climbed back up, up to the highest heaven. He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts.” (Ephesians 4:8-10, The Message)

Through His death, bearing all our sin, Jesus went to the very depths of the earth. In doing so, He seized our enemies (According to Matthew Henry, Commentary, all that “had conquered us—such as sin, the devil, and death”). All that held us captive, He took captive unto Himself. He then rose to the highest height, carrying the booty with him—everything the enemy had stolen from us and all the things we’ve given up. And the best part is…He gives it all back to us!

In doing so, we are freed to experience the height of His love.

A little word study might help us out here. Webster’s New World Dictionary and Thesaurus define “height” as the topmost point, the highest limit/extreme, the very distance from the bottom to the top. The word “high” in the same book is defined as superior, and greater in size, amount, degree, etc. than usual. The same word used in our key verse, Ephesians 3:18, stems from a root word in the Greek language meaning “for the sake of,” and “over, beyond, more than.”

In simple terms:  On our behalf, God’s love—which is superior to all—reaches to the uttermost depths to rescue us; lifting us to the highest height, over and beyond all that we could possibly hope, imagine, or dream. Joy and peace return to us. Life returns, to the fullest! Enjoyment and laughter. Hope. Courage. On and on the list goes.

Such love surpasses mere knowledge, as the beginning scripture states. It can only be understood by experience! The reason God’s role as Lover is so important and key to our story is because it is His love that woos us and draws us into a relationship with Him. All that He has done for us through His Son, He did so out of love to free us from captivity and win us back to Himself.

It is more than a “get out of hell free” card. God’s love invites us into an epic adventure, with the freedom to explore all His mysteries, which are even greater than the mysteries of the stars and space. We can trade our sin and shame, and all the labels of our past for a freedom and a love that catapults us to new heights. This is how high God’s love is…and even then, it exceeds our prayers, desires, hopes, and dreams.

Believe it's true. Believe it's for you.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me [Jesus, Luke 4:18-21],
      for the Lord has anointed me
      to bring good news to the poor.
   He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
      and to proclaim that captives will be released
      and prisoners will be freed.
 He has sent me to tell those who mourn
      that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
      and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
 To all who mourn in Israel,
      he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
   a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
      festive praise instead of despair.
(Isaiah 61:1-3, NLT)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Punt #4

"Back up and Punt." That is exactly what we are going to do this week to set the stage of our hearts. All so we can move forward and continually achieve the goal of life and freedom we long for. In a recent blog (Bold Love) it was mentioned that repentance for the wounded includes a refusal to be "dead," a refusal to mistrust (not care about) others, and a refusal to despise intimacy and passion. Before we can embrace these themes, we need to be reminded of how God fiercely loves us and experience more of his fierce love. To help accomplish this, I will be reposting a few key blogs throughout this week and next.

Repost #4

God's Love, Part X:  "Experience the Depth"

“And I pray that you, having been rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

It is known that in the deepest, darkest oceans lie the scariest monsters of the sea. No one knows all that lurks there. Thousands of miles down under where there is no light, swim creatures with fangs and gruesome fish that eat their prey from the inside out. It is not a place most of us would want to go, given the opportunity.

Ironically, if we’re honest, almost every woman feels a bit that way about her heart. Deep unchartered waters of our past, insecurities that grip our present, painful things we have been through, and the sin we have clung to—not to mention all the labels we carry from these things. Oh how we fear exploring the depths; and we most certainly wouldn’t take our men there to look around, maybe not even our best friend. Heck, we don’t even want to go there ourselves!

If they knew the true me, they would surely run! We feel we are just too much for anyone.

Even those who have joined the women’s lib movement, the one who appears so sure of herself and in control. Both the false confidence and the liberalism are often a mask to the scars that fuel her control and need to compete. Scars that hide deep below the surface.

Our depths seem so dark because of the weightiness it holds. Others have mishandled us, and we in turn have mishandled ourselves. The sin and darkness and all the labels we carry feel like the truest things about us. Who could possibly love us enough to go there? We believe the depths of our hearts may even be too deep for God’s love to reach.

Some of the things we’ve been through, and some of the things we’ve done (or fear we’re capable of doing), feel like hell to us.

But what if…just maybe…God’s love is deeper than the deepest hell?

In Job chapter eleven, we find the deep things of God are described as deeper than hell. That would include His love. The Psalmist in chapter one-hundred-thirty-nine exclaims that even if he makes his bed in hell, lo and behold, God is there! And if God is there, His love is also.

Jesus personally knows the greatest depths; He’s been there. He took on all our sin through the cross. He prophesies of His own death, and how just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a whale, so the Son of Man would be in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40) Because He conquered death (and sin) by rising to life again, and furthermore ascending to heaven, He holds the keys of death and hell itself. (Revelation 1:18)

Whatever dark and scary things you fear lurking in your heart, your Jesus has already been there. He has already conquered the depths of hell, the sin and the shame. He holds the keys to unlock the depths of your heart and set you free.

Set us free for what? What if the sin and shame, the wounds and labels really aren’t the truest things about us?

We have heard much about original sin, but very little of original glory. If you’ve been in church much, heard the creation story, or read through all these posts on God’s love (Aug., Sep., & Oct. 2010 archives), you will remember we were created in the image of God, and that we bear His image. There was a glory about us before the marring of sin. And that glory, His image, is written on our hearts.

He longs to set us free from all that holds our heart captive so He can restore that image. But what might it mean to bear His image? To bear His image as a woman? God knows some of us have tried to make our hearts masculine to survive in this world where the male sex dominates (God’s image on his heart is marred, too.) “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” the saying goes, right? But the world needs our feminine heart.

The full explanation is too much for this post, but since we’re talking about the deepest part of our heart and about love, God’s love, we’ll concentrate on that. If the deepest, truest thing about God’s heart is love, then it stands to reason the same is true of the image He stamped upon us. He gave us the most sacred thing of all, a heart with the ability and capacity to love, and to receive love.

Not just any love, but passionate love. Love is relational, and we are relational to our very core, as God is. We, as women, are not satisfied with just any kind of love, but the kind that relentlessly pursues us and actually desires us. A love that uncovers the darkness and reveals the beauty inside. We long to be romanced, to be fully known, and to know fully. A love that woos us!

It isn’t too much to ask. In this way, we bear His image. We want this because God wants this.

“You will… find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

“You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes…” (Song of Solomon 4:9)

“Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”” (Matthew 22:37)

The problem is, we’ve allowed the wounds of our life, both self and other inflicted, those dark and scary, hellacious experiences to convince us that we are too much, and not enough. That we might as well keep those places off limits because nobody, even our own self or God, can handle them or knows what to do with them. Yet we fear being found out.

We’re not willing to go there. But go there we must. It is not as scary as you might think. And we don’t have to go alone.

The same Psalm mentioned earlier also says there is nowhere we can go that His Spirit cannot follow, and no place where we can escape His presence. Jesus is able and willing to go with us to our depths, to heal our hearts and restore His image upon us. Because of His love, God will explore the unchartered waters of our heart that He might reach the dark places within us and usher us back out into the light. To heal and restore the things which were once lost or stolen. By doing so, we are freed to experience the fullness of God’s love, and to love fully in return.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Punt #3

"Back up and Punt." That is exactly what we are going to do this week to set the stage of our hearts. All so we can move forward and continually achieve the goal of life and freedom we long for. In a recent blog (Bold Love) it was mentioned that repentance for the wounded includes a refusal to be "dead," a refusal to mistrust (not care about) others, and a refusal to despise intimacy and passion. Before we can embrace these themes, we need to be reminded of how God fiercely loves us and experience more of his fierce love. To help accomplish this, I will be reposting a few key blogs throughout this week and next.

Repost #3

God's Love, Part IX:  "Experience the Length"

“And I pray that you, having been rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Not many of us are long distance runners. For most, the very thought causes us to cringe. “No thanks!” It takes stamina and endurance, a great resistance to the elements within and without the body. A good runner must be able to endure pain, heat, cold, and resist fatigue. He or she must be able to persevere when the body urges to quit before the race is over, keeping his/her eye fixed on the prize ahead.

I don’t know many people who want to willingly put their body through such harsh conditions and training. We usually find ways to avoid this, not only physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually in our lives. Give us the easy way out.

Since we’re apt to look for the easy route, or the great escape, in some form or fashion, maybe that’s why we have a hard time believing God’s love can outlast us. Surely He’s given Himself a scapegoat. There are times we don’t love ourselves, so why on earth would He still love us?

We may understand God went to the greatest lengths any one could for another…loving us enough to give His only Son, Jesus, to die in our place for our sin. Ransom. (God’s Love:  Part IV, “Love’s Response”) But do we believe His love is just as strong for us today as the day we first believed? Do we question whether He still loves us at times?

Several years ago, I began what I like to call a “head on collision with my past.” I explained my healing journey in general terms in my testimony, “Where to Begin.” My heart was hemorrhaging from unhealed wounds of long ago, and I had developed unhealthy styles of relating to others because of those wounds. Our arch enemy had also taken liberty to fill my mind with lies in those wounded places.

God came to rescue me from my pain and from myself, giving me courage to face past abuses and other wounds, both other- and self-afflicted. He did so in order to shine His truth on each situation, and bring much needed healing. But surrendering my old habits wasn’t always easy, and owning the truths for myself was downright hard at times.

Our enemy does not want us to receive such healing and freedom, either. And some days I would almost buckle under the weight of his whispers. You’ll never make it. It’s too hard. Just give up.

I remember one particularly difficult day while the kids were at school. I was folding laundry, and keenly aware of my pain, my mess-ups with old habits, and the enemy’s voice. Finally, I sat down, exasperated. I blurted out to God, “I’m afraid Your grace will run out on me!” I couldn’t believe the sound of my own words; I wept, fearing His response.

So tenderly and lovingly He said to me, from His very Word in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace IS sufficient for you.” The easiest way to dispel a lie is with the truth! And I knew this to be true in my mind, but never believed it in my heart until that moment. In the Scripture context, Paul was describing his weakness (we all have them!), and how, as he struggled with God over it, this was God’s answer. The Lord went even further to say, “My power is made perfect in weakness.”

Well, what does grace have to do with love, you might ask? Everything! Even the Webster’s New World Dictionary and Thesaurus describes grace as the “love and favor of God toward [mankind].” Meaning, we can trust that God’s grace, love, and favor will be sufficient for us, no matter our weakness!

Hebrews Chapter four takes it all a step further, describing Jesus as our great High Priest with ready access to God—and able to understand our weaknesses since He faced them all Himself, yet without sin. He is not out of touch with our reality. We can come boldly to him for help, where we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (verses 14-16)

Like a runner, God is no stranger to endurance. The phrase, His love endures forever, appears thirty-six times in the Psalms alone. Why so many? Maybe the Psalmist knew how much we’d need reminding and convincing!

In the same dictionary I mentioned earlier, endurance is described as “having the ability to last, stand pain, etc.” His love can withstand the pain of our sin and weaknesses, without wavering. Why on earth would He bother?! Because Love hopes—hopes that we will turn to Him and accept His help—hopes for you. (I Corinthians 13)

It was passionate love that fueled Jesus to his death; the greatest display and length of love. He endured the cross for you and for me. Hebrews 12:2 describes Him as enduring the cross because of the joy awaiting him. Think of it as the prize for winning a race. Jesus fixes His eyes on the prize that will bring Him the greatest joy—us—you. Whatever it takes, however long it takes, the length of God’s love will find you.

And the best part, Love won't leave you where He found you, but will bring you along for the race, and take you places you only dreamed possible.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Punt #2

"Back up and Punt." That is exactly what we are going to do this week to set the stage of our hearts. All so we can move forward and continually achieve the goal of life and freedom we long for. In a recent blog (Bold Love) it was mentioned that repentance for the wounded includes a refusal to be "dead," a refusal to mistrust (not care about) others, and a refusal to despise intimacy and passion. Before we can embrace these themes, we need to be reminded of how God fiercely loves us and experience more of his fierce love. To help accomplish this, I will be reposting a few key blogs throughout this week and next.

Repost #2

God's Love, Part VIII:  "Experience the Width"

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, having been rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

The dimensions Paul spoke of in this passage concerning Christ’s love for us are four:  width, length, height, and depth. It is simply a means to show the magnitude of the vision that opens before us as we seek to comprehend such love. A love that is more vast than the deepest and widest ocean, yet without boundary!

Picture yourself in the center of that mighty ocean. Just as the water envelops you as a glove, with each dimension, so does the love of Jesus! Underneath you, all around you is the current of His love! (taken from the song, “O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus,” by Samuel Francis) You cannot move, and His love not move with you. Its compass is complete, and penetrates every fiber of our being.

Though Paul offered this vision as a whole, breaking down each dimension may help reveal more truths of God’s love, and dispel any lies from our enemy. Lies that seek to steal our believing such love and our full experience of God’s love!

Job 11:9 tells us His love is broader, wider than the sea. Imagine a door opening that wide—wide enough to allow all of humankind to pass through. The love of God is that wide. He does not pick and choose whom He will love. He created every one of us, including you, and His love is extended to all ages, gender, races, nations, and ranks.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” (John 3:16a) That includes all of us! Even though we have betrayed Him, and while we were still sitting in our stench, God loved us enough to send His Son to die for us. (God’s Love:  Part III, “What Happened?”) Not because He had to, but because He chose to. (Part IV, “Love’s Response")

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Yet, something still whispers in the heart of a woman that we are somehow, or in some way outside the scope of God’s love. (men, too, but we’re focusing on women right now) Society has dealt us a raw blow, belittling our worth. Sadly, the church has not always served us better. Our role is diminished, misunderstood, and our very creation is often viewed as an “afterthought.”

In God’s love:  Part II, “Creation’s Story,” we explored how the order of things God created grew in detail, complexity, and awe. Like a symphony, it builds and builds; a crescendo, until finally, it reaches its climax. God, having created every living thing, including Adam, assesses His handiwork and realizes it is not complete.

Enter Eve. The astonishing crescendo. The final touch of God’s masterpiece. The Crown of Creation, as she is referred to in Captivating. Paul writes that man “is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.” (1 Corinthians 11:7) You are not an afterthought.

I can hear some of us scoffing, Yeah, right. Try telling that to society and much of the church. We’ve been duped to believe we are a lesser gender, and that we were created to be man’s slave. We feel unseen, unsought, and uncertain (Captivating). With such thoughts, we either take control, or fall in a heap of worthlessness.

We must not look to a fallen world to tell us our worth. What if the part we were given in this story is much grander and vital than we’ve been made to believe? Thankfully, it is!

“When God creates Eve, he calls her an ezer kenegdo. ‘It is not good for the man to be alone, I shall make him [an ezer kenegdo]’ (Genesis 2:18 Alter). Hebrew scholar Robert Alter, who has spent years translating the book of Genesis, says that this phrase is ‘notoriously difficult to translate.’ The various attempts we have in English are ‘helper’ or ‘companion’ or the notorious ‘help meet.’ Why are these translations so incredibly wimpy, boring, flat…disappointing? What is a help meet, anyway? What little girl dances through the house singing, ‘One day I shall be a help meet’? Companion? A dog can be a companion. Helper? Sounds like Hamburger Helper. Alter is getting close when he translates it ‘sustainer beside him.’
                The word ezer is used only twenty other places in the entire Old Testament. And in every other instance the person being described is God himself, when you need him to come through for you desperately.
                Most of the contexts are life and death, by the way, and God is your only hope. Your ezer. If he is not there beside you…you are dead. A better translation therefore of ezer would be ‘lifesaver.’ Kenegdo means alongside, or opposite to, a counterpart.”
(John and Stasi Eldredge, Captivating)

WHOA. This is Eve. This is woman. This is you. And I dare say this is why God loves you. Not because He “has to.” He sees who you can be, and He longs to redeem the ezer kenegdo hidden inside.

You are not outside the scope of His love! No matter what you’ve done, no matter your background, God loves you. Jesus spread His arms “wide” enough to bear the world’s sin on the cross to ransom us. To ransom you. That is love! You need only to choose Him. (God’s Love:  Part VI, “Our Response”) Then, you will be in a position to fully experience the extravagant dimensions of His love!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back up and Punt

"Back up and Punt." That is exactly what we are going to do this week to set the stage of our hearts. All so we can move forward and continually achieve the goal of life and freedom we long for. In a recent blog (Bold Love) it was mentioned that repentance for the wounded includes a refusal to be "dead," a refusal to mistrust (not care about) others, and a refusal to despise intimacy and passion. Before we can embrace these themes, we need to be reminded of how God fiercely loves us and experience more of his fierce love. To help accomplish this, I will be reposting a few key blogs throughout this week and next.

Repost #1

God's Love: Part VII, "To Experience"

When my three girls were younger, they had a large assortment of small dolls and more accessories than you could imagine. Several large tubs full. In the world of pretending, they were inevitably drawn to create the perfect wedding, complete with the perfect bride and groom. Today, the older two love reading books with great adventure and purpose, and, more importantly to them, two characters destined to fall in love.

As a child, I was more apt to be riding bikes, climbing trees, and racing the guys in the neighborhood on my 4-wheeler (except when I was being mommy to my family of Cabbage Patch Kids)! But I had a strong affinity for horses. I was drawn to their strength, and daydreamed often about the intense love a girl and her horse seem to share. I longed for that experience. I ached for it.

Whether we were a girly-girl or a tomboy, our desire for romance found a way to express itself when we were young. Now that we are women, it finds its way into the movies we love and the stories we enjoy. It’s the sigh of our hearts in The Proposal when Andrew realizes his love for Margaret, and when Edward returns for Elinor in Sense and Sensibility. It is Jack and Rose in Titanic out on the bow of the ship.  
I’m well aware that for most of us, our hearts have been mishandled, maybe even abused and misused. We may have buried this longing, or even abandoned it altogether. But it cannot be fully silenced. Can you at least see that you long for this?

We want to know that we are the center of someone’s attention. Do you see me? Do you delight in me? We want to know fully, and to be fully known. To know beyond any shadow of doubt that we are, indeed, loved. This is written on our hearts by the One who created us in His image! 

While man was intended to love a woman in this way, the fulfillment of our longings for romance doesn’t have to wait for a man. God wants us to know that HE loves us this way! He wants you to know that you are the apple of His eye. (Psalm 17:8, Zechariah 2:8) Yes, He will sometimes love us, romance us through a man, but He also longs to bring this to you Himself.

Now, in order to understand this and embrace it, we must remove the religious veil and see the heart of God as Lover. The Lover of our Souls. Jesus refers to himself as the Bridegroom (Matt. 9:15; Matt. 25:1-10; John 3:29), which simply means fiancĂ©. “Lover.” This metaphor is an invitation to the kind of relationship and intimacy Jesus longs for with us. (Stasi Eldredge, Captivating) If your heart fills with question and hesitancy in this, as mine once did (given my wounded heart), it just means there is healing for your heart here.

For most of my life, I felt like I had to be doing everything “right” in order for God to love me. Consequently, I lived in a hopeless state of believing I was a constant disappointment! Sometimes we feel He loves us because He “has to.”

A few years ago, during a time I struggled to understand how God loves me, I brought my anguish before the Lord. In the quiet with my eyes closed, He gave me a vision of myself as a newborn baby. Having felt the intense, almost inexplicable love for my own children as newborns, I could sense Him smiling in deep delight over me then. Pictures of my childhood flashed, and once again I could feel the love of God smiling over me.

Then He brought to mind a picture of myself in the present, as a woman. It felt as though the lights had gone out. I had no problem believing He loved me when I was a baby and even as a young child…but as a woman? How could He love me the same now? With all my failures and weaknesses?

Paul prays for us in Ephesians 3:18 that we would be able to understand the love of God. How high and deep, how wide and long it is for us! God wants us to believe His love endures all things, even our failures and weaknesses, and that it will never fail us even then. (1 Corinthians 13:7, 8)

But how will we know?

To understand God’s love is to experience His love. All day long my husband can tell me that he loves me; but if he never puts actions to his words that show his love for me, if there is never any experience of his love, then I cannot possibly believe or understand it.

Our God longs to heal us and mature us through His love into mature women (and men) who actually know Him. He wants us to experience verses like I mentioned in my personal testimony (click here to read): “Therefore I am going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her” (Hos. 2:14). To experience what it means to be quieted by His love, as I did through a time of restless questioning (click here for more). And, “you have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride.” (Song of Solomon 4:9)

Oh how we long for this!

Our Enemy does not want us to experience God’s love in new and fresh, tangible ways. He tells us that we must be productive and useful to be loved by God (and sadly, even by others, especially in the church). Shame exaggerates our hearts, and we are pressed to believe that we are not enough, or even that we are too much to be loved. So we settle for less through duty and productivity, believing obedience is all we have left. We are convinced that understanding God’s love is simply an acquired knowledge of the mind, and we shut down our hearts.

“Faithful obedience to God is vital, but it is not all God draws us to. It is not sufficient for our healing, no more than doing the laundry is sufficient for a marriage. And it will not be enough in the long run to carry us through. The persecuted Church is vast today. More Christians are being martyred in our lifetime than in any other time in church history. It is not obedience that is carrying our brothers and sisters—unwavering, steadfast, eyes ablaze—to their deaths. It is holy, fierce passion. Hearts afire.”

“What would it be like to experience for yourself that the truest thing about His heart toward yours is not disappointment or disapproval but deep, fiery, passionate love? This is, after all, what a woman was made for.”
(Stasi Eldredge in Captivating)

We are no longer children, and we’ve put away childish things such as our dolls and toys. But we are called to be childlike—there’s a difference. Our longings as a little girl are not far off base. They are not so foolish after all. In fact, they are telling us the key to experiencing God.

These longings cause us to ache; to ache for the love we were made for. And to ache is to be alive; it is a good thing. We must ask Jesus to come for us here in these longings. To rescue us, to romance our hearts. Keep pressing, keep asking. Love is His specialty—and He wants to experience it with you. New. Fresh. Everyday.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What it Is and Isn't, and Longs to Be

In wrapping up the sub-series on forgiveness, I offer this compilation (below) of the main points from the previous 7 blogs. To address every unique situation would be nothing short of impossible, and the full topic of forgiveness and bold love can only be contained not in one book, but several! Each of us must look at our own relationships and carefully walk with God through prayer, listening, and studying his Word (along with the wise counsel of others with experience) to find the best individual route.

A person’s sin against us is the taking of something that cannot be returned by the offender. Lord knows I’ve wanted to grab hold of some of my offenders and shake the living hound out of them, demanding they give back what they’ve taken! But forgiving is to release them—and to no longer demand from them the debt they owe. It is recognizing they cannot return what has been stolen, and turning to the only One who can.

This is because we are speaking not of things, but the sacred:  innocence, joy, security, trust, etc.

Yet some of us are waiting to feel something first, as though forgiveness means we should have some ushy-gushy feeling of releasing the person. Much as I did when seeking to forgive my greatest offender. That is when a prayer counselor said to me, “It’s not about a feeling. Forgiving is an act of the will. Feelings come later.” If we wait for feelings to come first, they will never come! Yet if we want our heart to follow, we must choose to forgive.

A common myth is that forgiving is to say the wound didn’t matter. Forgiveness is not saying the wound didn’t matter, rather, the opposite. It is saying it did matter, and it hurt me deeply. What you did was wrong, and I release you to God. I will not be your captive any more. (John and Stasi Eldredge, Captivating)

It took a while for my own heart to catch up, but I found it to be true that as long as I was unforgiving, I was bound to my offenders and to the messages of their wounds. Not only does the act of forgiving release the person to God, but it also releases our own heart!

Several key verses (Matt. 6:12, 14; 18:21, 35) use the word “forgive.” The Greek word is aphiemi, which means “to send away.” Furthermore in these verses it means “to let go, give up a debt, by not demanding it.” The prefix, apo, is described as “any kind of separation of one thing from another by which the union or fellowship of the two is destroyed.”

By forgiving we give up the debt the wrongful person owes us and choose to no longer demand it from them. Instead, turning to Jesus to heal and restore us. “I [the Lord] will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…” Joel 2:25. In doing so we peel off (like an onion), separate if you will, another layer, destroying the union between us and the wrongdoer.

But what happens if we don’t choose forgiveness?

A root of bitterness is conceived.

And if that root is left unattended?

“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”
(Hebrews 12:15)

Allowing bitterness to take root undoes the work of the Lord, and therefore puts layers back on, weighting us down once again. When bitterness gives birth, Webster’s dictionary describes it as sharp, unpleasant, disagreeable, and harsh.

If this is you (as it was once me!), I urge you to take courage, invite Jesus back in to heal and to help you peel off those weighty and undesirable layers.

Often, an insatiable appetite for vengeance grows where we are unwilling (and even unable) to forgive. Those who hurt you, those you long to hurt in return, already are suffering because of their sin. (unless they have come to repentance and turned completely from their sinful ways, Act 3:19; though even then they may still suffer consequences)

“But your sins will eat away at you from within and you’ll groan among yourselves.”
(Ezekiel 24:23b, The Message)

Those who remain unrepentant and deny their sin against you are already suffering.

“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,’ says the Lord.”
(Romans 12:19, NASB)

Enough said. That arena belongs to God. And we need not get in his way or take matters into our own hands—as hard as that may be sometimes (and lest we sin ourselves in doing so!). For those whom we find it more difficult to forgive, we must call upon the help of the Lord, who promises that vengeance is his and that he will repay their sins.

Back to those “layers”… As we choose to forgive, we must not be surprised by our grief. We grieve what was lost and stolen by another’s wrong action. Grief is painful and intense. The deeper we walk into our wounded heart, the more intense it gets.

Inviting Jesus to go with us and heal our broken hearts will inevitably bring us to the choice to forgive. As we do, He is then able to do His work and “close up” that layer.

But then He takes us deeper, and another layer of our wound is revealed. There, more healing must take place. More truth must replace the lies we’ve believed. More needs to be restored. And another opportunity to forgive presents itself.

The next time you are surprised by your emotions and thoughts after choosing to forgive, remember the onion. Forgiveness over even a single issue is rarely a one-time, final event. Layer by layer we heal, and layer by layer we forgive.

Finally, Jesus gives us specific instruction towards our brothers and sisters in the faith. (Keep in mind the timetables will vary greatly, with no exact steps or techniques for every circumstance.)

"If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend.”

And if he or she doesn’t listen…
“…take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won't listen, tell the church.”

And if that doesn’t work…
“…you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love.”
(The Message, Matthew 18:15-17)

Whoa. This is not something we see everyday. Nor is this permission to gossip or tattletale if the offender does not listen to us. Such an act must flow from a heart aiming for redemption in another, AND be preceded by MUCH prayer. With God’s grace at work within us, we can boldly go where few people do—loving by way of confronting, and with the goal of restoration for another human heart.

Evil expects us to recoil in fear and shame. To hide in its shadows, giving way to death as we bar the doors of our heart while refusing passion and intimacy. It thrives in such conditions, seizing control over its wounded. For most of us, it’s how our heart responds to hurt.

“On the contrary:  ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
(Romans 12:20-21)

This is the hope and possibility when we live by the wisdom of Paul in Romans 12:20-21.
Paul strikes a death blow against evil when he tells us to give evil life. It is like pouring life-giving water on the Wicked Witch of the West—she melts. Life and death do not mix. And when life, light, and love—in all its humble beauty, broken strength, frail boldness, and passionate other-centeredness—encounters evil, evil must flee or be transformed.
(Dr. Dan Allender in The Wounded Heart, pp. 244-245)

In conclusion, as we choose forgiveness, we grieve and allow Jesus to heal our wounded hearts while separating the unholy union between us and the offender. Boldly we confront, in love, and even courageously offer kindness in the face of evil. For evil cannot last in the light of bold love. All the while experiencing the freedom and life for which we desperately desire.