Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Forgive and Forget....

We hear that phrase a lot, don't we? As with most things, however, it's easier said than done. Forgiveness takes more than we could ever imagine sometimes. And forget? Let's be honest...that's almost impossible to do. They seem to go hand in hand if we are to believe the cliched phrase...but do they?

As Christians, we are called to forgive, if for no other reason than Christ forgave us. I think of the daily list of things I do that I know are outside His will and I cringe sometimes. It may be infractions as "small" as a hateful thought, but it's still less than what He desires of my life. He forgives though, over and over again. So the question then becomes, if He can do it so frequently and easily, why is it so hard for us?

I think that we forget what forgiveness actually involves. As I was recently reminded by the Living It Out, forgiveness is not just a one time occurence. Sometimes it's a process. We may think we've forgiven someone for a hurt they caused us. Then something reminds us of that pain or the transgressor hurts us again. That's where forgivenss changes from a choice to a process.

We must make the choice to forgive AGAIN. It may be harder to do the second time around, but it's even more important. If you have a bruise on your leg and you hit it again, it hurts even more and takes longer to heal. The same idea applies to hurts in our lives. If the same person hurts you more than once, you will find that, not only does it get more painful, it gets harder to forgive them. It must not be an option we give ourselves; we must make it a necessity to forgive. Not just for the perpetrator of our pain, but for ourselves as well.

Forgiving someone is just as much for us as it is for the one we are forgiving. If we ever reach a point where we "can not" forgive someone, we are in danger of causing irreparable damage to our own hearts, more so than anyone else could cause us. First, to say we can not forgive someone is a lie. It's not that we CAN NOT forgive them, it's that we do not WANT to forgive them. Second, holding on to the anger and bitterness does not cause them harm, it causes us harm. It destroys OUR hearts, OUR friendships, and OUR relationship with God.

This is why we must not only forgive, but be WILLING to forgive. In the end, we are the ones destroyed if we do not. But do we need to forget?

I think one of the most difficult things to overcome in forgivness is the idea that it means a relationship stays exactly the same. To forgive someone does NOT mean that the relationship is restored to what it once was. To be sure, there are times where we forgive someone and the relationship can stay the same going forward. There are some hurts though, that are too repetitive or too deep. In this case, it is still imperative we forgive, but to maintain that relationship would ultimately cause more harm than good. It's ok to not "forget" sometimes.

I think it's also vital to remember that our God is a God of redemption...I know I have seen Him redeem hurts I've experienced more times than I can count. It doesn't invalidate the hurt I experienced, but it's amazing to know that He can and will use that hurt for good in our lives and the lives of others. This verse helpes me remember that:

He provided REDEMPTION for his people; he ordained his covenant forever-holy and awesome is his name. ~Psalm 111:9

Forgiveness, redemption....these are all things God wants for us. He has given us the capacity for them. All we need to do is hold tightly to these truths; forgive those that hurt us, whether it's the first time or the 700th time, evaluate relationships that are damaging and move towards healthy ones, and never forget that we forgive because He has and is forgiving of us.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jonah, Me, and a 2014 Version of a Whale

Once upon a time, a girl didn't listen to God and got swallowed by a whale.

Not buying it? Ok, maybe I didn't get swallowed by a LITERAL whale like Jonah did, but I definitely have some stuff in common with that guy. For those of you who may not be familiar, there's a book in the Old Testament called Jonah. In it, we learn that God told Jonah to go and preach against the city of Nineveh. Jonah wasn't too hot on that idea though...he knew his message wouldn't be well received. So he went the exact OPPOSITE direction God told him to go.

Just to clear things up, God did not tell me to go and preach against anyone. He did however, put a very specific whisper in my ear that I ignored.

In the spring of last year, some very good friends announced that they would be moving to Florida to plant a church. When they announced it, I was sad, but at the same time kind of curious about it. I had never thought about church planting before. I told Mark Bernard, who would be the lead pastor and head up the plant, that I was interested.

Over the next couple weeks I kept asking questions until one pivotal service. I can't tell you everything about the service or even exactly what was said. I remember that Steve Hutmacher was in a video, talking about the future of the Church and how new churches were needed...and I knew I was meant to go with Mark and the rest of the team.

In May of last year, a team of 9 of us went to Florida to decide on the final location for the church. There were 3 locations that were looked at: Palm coast, Jacksonville, and Melbourne. At this point, I was doubting my decision to move. When we visited Palm Coast and discussed Jacksonville, I had a sense of relief. If either of these places were chosen, it would be easy for me to stay in Toledo. Then we visited Melbourne.

Melbourne was a beautiful town on the Atlantic coast. About 45 minutes southeast of Orlando, it reminded me slightly of my beloved Myrtle Beach. It had the same laid back, coastal city feel...but without all the garish tourist hype. I fell in love...and my immediate thought was "Crap. I have a choice to make."

When we got back to Toledo, I kept putting off the decision, saying I was thinking and praying about it. The truth was that I had things I was clinging to and wasn't ready to give up...and moving to Melbourne would mean surrendering those things for good. And that's when I was swallowed.

Slowly, over a period of about 6 to 8 months, I saw most of these things I was holding on to begin to disappear. There were several different facets to these things: relational, occupational, spiritual. Eventually I reached a place where I was more depressed and miserable than I had ever been; I was in the belly of a whale, and I wanted out. Then I got a phone call that changed everything.

One of my best friends (and Mark's daughter), Jess, called me while I was at work. I shot her a quick text telling her I was at work and asking what was up. She said that Mark just had a couple questions for me. I told her I'd call him after work. I figured he just wanted my opinion on something for Student Ministries since I had been so heavily involved when he was in Toledo.

The first words out of Mark's mouth were "What do we need to do to get you down here?" I promptly burst in to tears. I'll save you the details of the conversation, but after I hung up, I promised God I was done running.

What's amazing is how everything has fallen in to place since that conversation. Anyone who knows me will tell you I HATE making decisions...and constantly second guess mine. I can honestly say this is the first decision I've made that I've felt total peace about and haven't second guessed. I'm excited to begin my new life in Melbourne and see what God has planned for me there.

There are lots of people in Toledo I will miss. My best friend Kelly, my dear friends the ENTIRE Shortridge clan, my family...I could probably go on and on. But I know that God has amazing things in store for me. He's been faithful in redeeming the hurt in my life before, and He will be faithful again.

Have you ever known that God wanted something of you and run the opposite way? What was it? How did it end up?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Cord of Three Threads....

There is one thing that the entire human race has in common: we are all relational. Whether it is a friendship, a family member, or a significant other, we all have relationships that we value and invest in.

Can I be honest though? There are a lot of times I screw it up.

I decide to just “suck it up” when someone says or does something that hurts me. Other times I’ve made one person so important in my life I can’t seem to function without them. And then there are the times I put on an act to make sure I “mesh” with the people I’m hanging out with.

Any way you look at it, these are mistakes. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has made them. Lately I’ve been wondering if there’s a way to move through life and minimize the damage caused by these pitfalls? I believe there is.

First, we need to realize that healthy relationships require communication. Let’s be honest. No one likes confrontation. But when it comes to those we care about, sometimes it is required. It may be hard to tell a loved one that they have upset or hurt you, but it’s necessary to move forward. Refusing to discuss issues is a one way ticket to an imploding relationship.

Second, realize that healthy relationships are balanced. Every relationship goes through different seasons. Sometimes you need your friend’s support more, and other times they need yours. If you find yourself constantly giving and never receiving, or constantly taking and never giving, it may be time to re-evaluate the importance of that relationship.

The second part of a balanced relationship is ensuring that you don’t revolve your life around one person. Sometimes it is that “best friend” that we can do absolutely nothing without; most often, it’s a potential love interest or significant other. We need to remember that part of what makes meaningful relationships fulfilling and fun is that it involves two separate people…not two people who cannot separate from each other.

Healthy relationships also mirror Christ’s love. These are ones where both people can be totally honest with each other without fear of rejection. We should not need to “perform” to be accepted by those we love. That doesn’t mean that you always agree on everything, but it does mean you accept and love each other for who you are, not how you act or what you offer. If you feel like you need to behave or act a certain way around particular people, it might be time to re-think those relationships.

Finally, the healthiest relationships are centered on Christ. I’m going to make you work for this one…check out Ecclesiastes 4:12. Read it. Think about it. Tell me what it means to you. It’s been pivotal for me.

God created us to be relational and wants us to have fulfilling relationships. We’re never going to get it perfect…we’re human. But I believe that if we keep these principles in mind, our relationships will flourish like we’ve never seen before.

What’s one area you need to strengthen when it comes to your relationships?

Friday, February 14, 2014


The following is an adaptation from a post I contributed to the Living It Out bible study.

We crave human interaction and touch. It’s comforting, reassuring and can even be healing. Premature twins have even been shown to do better when placed next to each other in the NICU. There’s something essential about human touch and interaction.

So imagine how it would feel to be cut off from all human touch and interaction. The disease of leprosy did just that...it separated the person from all human contact. Those infected with leprosy were required to announce that they were unclean any time they were in a public area. They were not permitted to touch others, or even to enter the temple to worship. They were cut off physically, relationally, and spiritually from all of society.

Today, while leprosy may not separate people, there are a host of other illnesses and conditions that do. It could be an aggressive cancer that keeps someone isolated in their hospital room...or maybe it’s insecurities that prevent people from forming healthy, meaningful relationships. Whatever the “sickness” is, it cuts people off from valuable, life giving relationships.

How often do we make time or go out of our way to care for these people though? Maybe if it’s a close friend or our obligatory once a month volunteer day at a homeless shelter. The truth is that most of us get so caught up in our own lives, we don't stop to think about caring for the sick. We could stand to take a lesson from the following passage in Mark 1:

40 “A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” 42 Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed.”

Jesus didn't care that this guy interrupted what he was doing. He didn't care that he was sick and exposing him to his illness. He saw someone hurting and was moved to do something.

If we are truly honest with ourselves, I bet a lot of us really struggle with this. We may find it easy to take care of our best friend or our significant other if they are sick...but that is not what Jesus is calling us to. We are to care for all the sick, the lonely, the hurting, even if it inconveniences us and causes us discomfort.

We live in a hurt, broken, infirmed place. There are people who are physically ill and can't afford proper healthcare. Some are devastated by circumstances in life that have left them homeless or feeling outcast. There are those who have internal struggles that are silently crying out for compassion. We need to step out of our cozy little nests that we've made and see the world for what it is...and then do everythying in our power to follow Christ's example.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Here's to a Healthy 2014!

Most people begin the new year with a resolution or promise to themselves to finally "get healthy." Gym memberships spike, produce supply gets depleted faster at the grocry store, and social media posts toting a "new healthier me!" flood our newsfeeds.

But it's February now. The treadmills aren't quite as hard to access at the gym, fruits and vegetables are more available, and most of our health obsessed friends have gone mysteriously quiet.

To be sure, there are some who stick with their goal and are still posting their progress. The committment they've made is a serious one and they should be applauded.

But how healthy are they...really?

Far too often, we associate being "healthy" with eating right and exercising. But it's far more than that. Our lives and how we live them speak volumes more about our health than the number on the scale or the number of reps we can push through.

Most of the time, we don't even realize how unhealthy we really are. So what if we go out for drinks and have a few too many? Who cares if we're prideful and boast of our accomplishments? (Please understand: there is a difference between being proud of an achievement and elevating yourself above others.) Why does it matter if we alienate people who care about us if there are others who are willing to affirm the choices we make?

In the last 2 years, I've lost 60 pounds, compelted several 5k's and even my first half marathon. (#2 is slated for October of this year, wish me luck!" I'd say that physically, I'm far healthier than I've ever been.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that our bodies are temples. Taking care of this temple does not just mean routine maintenance. It means making sure that the inside is in as good of condition as the outside, that not only is it in good physical condition, but it's a pleasing, welcoming, wholesome place as well.

There are areas where I am far from healthy and I've ignored them for a long time. I'm guessing you have some too. My areas may be different than yours...I may struggle with thinking positively of myself, you may struggle with a party life style. This year has been very eye-opening for me. Not only has it been about continuing on my physical health goals, I've become much more aware of the other areas of my life that need to be "new and healthier."

The first thing on my list is the most important: to know and truly understand how valuable and loved I am as a daughter of the most high God. I firmly believe that it's from this lack of belief (a VERY unhealthy habit) that most of my other, non-physical health issues have sprung.

So I'm on a journey...to be a newer, healthier me. As my friend Sammy recently posted, this journey is a marathon, not a sprint. I encourage you to join me. I promise, it may be hard and painful at times, but only good things will come of it. :)

It may be difficult, but evaluate your "non-physical" health. What areas need a newer, healthier you?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

RePurpose Your Pain

The following is an adaptation from a post I contributed to the Living It Out bible study.

There is pain in the world. No one denies that statement. There is a debate, though, on whether that pain has a purpose or not. Realistically, it depends on your response to it. Some people choose to stay in the hurt and not move past it. It enslaves them, and in one of the ugliest ways possible. Everything in life is viewed through the tainted glasses of pain and bitterness that they now wear. Tragedy happens and they can no longer relate to anyone else. Their minds are consumed with the thoughts "Why me?!" and "It's just not fair!" These thoughts consume every other thought. Life becomes almost unbearable and sometimes they forget what it is to not feel so broken.

Is this the only option though? To be sure, there is a time for grieving and sandess in the tragedies that criss-cross our lives. But, what if we were to move past that tragedy and repurpose the pain? What if we looked past the hurt and wondered, "How can I be stronger or better from this?" I find myself asking that question a lot, especially lately. The phrase "when it rains, it pours" has echoed through my mind more times than I can count. If there is one truth I know though, it's that God will use the pain I experience in my life to answer that very question. Sometimes the pain is because of unwise choices I have made, and sometimes it's because of circumstances in life. Either way, choosing to stay in the same, broken state, viewing everything through that pain is not what God desires for me. And it's not what he desires for you.

In the same way that an old, worn-out, rickety chair can be sanded down, refinished and reupholstered, our pain can often serve to refinish us into newer, stronger people. It will be easier in some situations than others, learning from the pain of a break up is usually easier than moving through the pain of a loved one's death. In all situations though, Christ wants redemption for us...

He provided redemption for his people;
he ordained his covenant forever—
holy and awesome is his name.
Psalm 111:9

That is his purpose. When tragedy or heartache occur in our lives, we are to turn to Christ. It's through his strength that we look at the pain and know that we will not be overcome by it. So for me personally, I choose to cling to that verse, and know that God has already redeemed my pain and is moving me towards something even better.

What struggles have you encountered in moving through painful situations in your life?
Have you been able to overcome them?
How have you been made stronger or better through the experience?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What was I thinking?!?

Have you ever come across an old photo of yourself? I don't know about you, but usually my first thought is "What was I thinking?!?" Most often it's because of some terrible haircut I had or some atrocious piece of clothing. Remind me to tell you about the time I inadvertently matched my 60 year old substitute teacher...did I mention I was in 7th grade at the time?

That's the simultaneously great and awful thing about photos. They freeze a moment of our history for us to look back and reflect on. Sometimes we even stare in horror at the choices we made, but at the time of the photo, it was a good choice. (Luckily, I've developed a much better fashion sense in the years that followed that tragic 7th grade moment.)

I feel like that's a good comparison for life though. At any stage of our lives, we are making choices and decisions that we are convinced are good. It's only as we get older that we look back at those choices and see that maybe they weren't so great after all.

Sometimes it's tough for me to reconcile my actual age with the way I feel...which is about 18, maybe 22 on a good day. I feel young and energetic and excited for life, just like I did at those ages. The amazing thing is though, I would not go back to being those ages for anything in the world. I look back at the "issues" I had that caused me so much anxiety, realize how silly they were, and am eternally grateful that, for the most part, I don't need to subject myself to that again.

I'm by no means saying that I have life completely figured out. And I'm definitely not saying all those angst ridden moments never occur now. I'm entirely sure in another 10 years (let's not bring up what age I will be then, thank you), I will look back at moments now and wonder what I was thinking with the choices I made.

I guess what I'm saying is that as tough as it is for me to admit I'm 34 (DANG IT! I wasn't going to tell!), I love where I am in life. I can look back at the last 10 years and see what I did well and what I needed to change so that over the next 10 years, I can continue to do those things. And as those changes happen, life gets even better.

My hope is that as we get older, we continue to do just that...make fewer and fewer poor choices and more and more wise ones. If we do, then every year of life we live, we will grow up a little more, grow a little closer to Jesus, and learn a little more about who He created us to be.

What ares of your life can you look back on and see where you've grown?