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The “Forgiveness” Cocktail

forgiveness.pngThe indisputable truth about an unforgiving mindset is it can (and will) cripple our life spiritually, emotionally and physically. God desires us to be Christ-like in every area and since He has unconditionally forgiven us, I’m pretty certain He expects us to reciprocate forgiveness to others.

“But, you have no idea what he or she did to me and my family!” No, I don’t. I can only speak about my own life circumstances. I’ve had to drink the ‘forgiveness’ cocktail more than once.

Let me share:

Once upon a time I married my prince, or so I thought, but he was actually a toad incognito. Let’s call him ‘Dick’ to protect his identity.  Sidebar: This person is NOT my daughter’s father who remains a good friend to this day.

I gifted this prince my heart. In return, he gifted me a secret life of strip clubs, porn, drugs and lies. Imagine going to work and a co-worker shares, “I’m pretty sure I saw your husband at my in-home nurse visit today. He seemed to be living there.”

It all proved true. Dick’s out of town commercial paint jobs were really nights spent with the ‘other’ woman… or at strip clubs. Once his secret life was exposed, Dick never returned home and the IRS lien notices soon followed. My prince had defaulted on his quarterly business taxes and our home was about to go into foreclosure.

Call it bad choices, ignoring the obvious signs or being blind-sided. The truth is life happens and the ending doesn’t always play out like Hallmark movies.

In the Bible, the Greek word translated “forgiveness” literally means “to let go.” My translation would be closer to this:

I can ‘let go’ after you suffer alive as body parts are dissected for science; or, you experience a forever erection and acquire a disease that requires a lifetime catheter. Yep, you should get what is due you for my pain and suffering.

But then, there is God and His mercy. Hard to ignore when we look at the cross and realize we didn’t get what was coming to us.

“Get rid of all hard feelings, anger and rage; stop all fighting and lying. Put away every form of hatred.” Ephesians 4:31 (NIRV)

God’s ‘Forgiveness’ cocktail doesn’t mean you condom the offense. God forgave King David of serious sins (murder and adultery), but David still suffered the consequences of his actions even after asking for forgiveness. We aren’t’ the judge and jury for how the actions of others impact our life.

“Let go of anger and abandon rage.” (Psalms 37:8). To partake and reap the full benefits of the ‘forgiveness cocktail’ we must let go.

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” – C.S. Lewis.

I had one brief encounter with Dick after he abandoned us. It was at his mother’s funeral. He gave no indication we had ever been married and shared an intimate relationship; but that’s OK. My decision to forgive rather than retaliate has yielded 23 years of marriage to a man who more than makes up for the guy I thought was my prince.

Prayer for today:

Dear Lord, help me to remember Colossians 3:14:

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

Remind me that your mercy flows to me in spite of my faults and failures. Guide me into the freedom of forgiveness. I praise you for the work you are doing in my life, teaching and perfecting my faith.

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The ‘I am Your Provider’ Cocktail

GodsWordinUsPREFACE: In an earlier in post, I determined to share about different areas and seasons in our life that often need holy intoxication. When we allow ourselves to become inebriated with God’s Word and fully embrace it, we experience divine liberation.

Today’s topic is about our struggles with financial insecurity. Count yourself blessed if you are one of the fortunate few who haven’t been through financial hardships.  One of the biggest strains in life is lack of money to meet the monthly bills.

Maybe you lost your job, are going through a divorce, have over-extended your credit card, paying orthodontic or medical bills…there are a host or reasons that put us in a financial bind and limit our ability to stay on top of things.

I have experienced plenty of indigent times when standing in a line for food stamps or accepting State assistance was my only means of survival. I have never forgotten the shame I felt when walking into a local grocery store to pick up the free Christmas ham offered to those on welfare. It was humbling but at the same time I was grateful that there was a program that helped me through the rough times. As a single mom, it allowed me to pay my mortgage and put food on the table for me and my daughter.

We sometimes unjustly judge others without any knowledge of the where, what and whys of their financial circumstances. Thankfully, that isn’t God’s nature; He sees our circumstances through divine eyes and with omnipotent knowledge considers our daily needs.

Unlimited credit card expenditures are the popular trend. The buy now, pay later philosophy has become the acceptable norm. I’m fairly certain the scripture, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” [Philippians 4:19] doesn’t apply to spend binging based on our wants.

God never promised us earthly riches but He has promised provisions for our day-to-day needs. In times of financial woes, we need to open God’s Word and allow Him to teach, lead and restore our trust that He will work all things to our good.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

God isn’t going to wondrously banish your financial misfortune simply because you open the cover of your Bible and click your heels together. He wants to be our provider, but requires a few things from us. God’s remedy to our financial issues are not as difficult as might think.

  • Acknowledge and accept Him as your savior. He can’t help if He you don’t know who He is and what He can do in your situation. He knows you, but He won’t invade your space unless you personally invite Him into your life.
  • If financial issues are self-inflicted due to overspending, then stop unnecessary spending and live within your income! If it means cutting up credit cards, then do it.
  • Seek the help of a professional planner to help guide and advise you in resources available to you. Financial instability leads to a feeling of a lack of control, which can increase anxiety and stress. Research1 reveals that financial insecurity can actually cause bodily pain.
  • Focus on God and what He is doing in you rather than your circumstances. Allow your current situation help you grow closer to God. There will be times of excess and times of need in our lives. Money and possessions aren’t included in our suitcase to Heaven, the only thing we have to carry through this life and into the next is our faith in and relationship with God.

God is full of wisdom but we need to be to listen and heed what He says to improve our financial situation. It’s unlikely a new job will drop in your lap while you’re watching TV. We must forth effort and on God’s end, He’ll give us favor, but we have to make the first step.

Prayer for Today:

God, your truth is more important than how I feel or what the circumstances say. You are big enough for every situation; free me from worry, anxiety and stress with the knowledge that you are in control and will provide for my needs.

“…we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 2:18 (NLT)

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The Perfect Cocktail

coppa-martiniDo you know the Bible has the perfect cocktail for every situation in life?

Bartenders are aware that the most important rule of mixology, the rule that supersedes everything else, is that balance is everything. The same is true in your Christian walk with Jesus. Forget about a splash of this scripture or a splash of that scripture.

To grow in God’s grace, we must look deep into His Word to truly understand and receive the balanced life Christ intends for us to enjoy.

We are quick to assess our Christian cocktail based on needs. A couple parts of joy mixed with a little kindness and love; we throw in a pinch of mercy for good measure. Or, I’ll take two shots of a miracle, one shot of peace, followed by three shots of forgiveness.

If only the Christian walk was that simple. It’s not! Bible cocktail recipes are based on sound doctrine and principles. We can’t just throw things into a shaker and expect it to yield a perfect and balanced Christian life.

The right cocktail of scriptures mixed with prayer is the only way we find balance for whatever weakness, need or struggles we face.

What does God’s perfect cocktail look like for you?

I invite you to visit my blog (DeniseMarksBlog.com) every Monday and Friday for the next five weeks as I share my thoughts on God’s perfect and balanced cocktail for our imperfect life situations. God truly desires for us to find consistency, balance and divine intervention in all things.

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Silence: Blessings in Disguise

“The loveliest gifts sometimes come wrapped in the ugliest paper.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo

 

I call out to God, but the heavens are silent. My words seem to fall on deaf ears and my suffering continues. In anger I cry out to God, “where is your goodness, where is your love”– I know you hear my voice, why don’t you answer, why don’t you respond to my desperate pleas?

If your relationship with God sometimes feels like this, you are not alone. When stretched to our limits and in the fight for our life, when darkness seems to be winning and we are overcome with betrayals, addictions, health issues and we can’t find answers, we question God.

But what if our tears, hardships, pain and suffering in this life is really blessings in disguise. What if God purposes these situations to remind us this is not our home, to draw us closer to the cross and to thirst after Him? I believe God hears our cries; he listens and is continually proactive in our life.

We will never understand the inner workings of God in our life but one thing is certain, when life frightens us or gets us down—or when life seems like a battle ground and we feel like we’re alone on the battlefield—our omnipresent God is with us in every moment of any life situation.

In our valleys, when the heavens are silent, when doubt, fear, and transition overwhelm us, we must encourage one another and cling even closer to God. There is no nook and cranny of space that is absent of His presence. Whether you’re aware of it, or not, God is there.

I too, experience seasons of silence in my faith.  Sometimes they are short-lived, other times they seem like forever. Right now is one of those forever seasons for me.  It’s a conscious effort to forge ahead when God is mute and I am overcome by doubt and spiritual aloneness.

My journey with God has become a test of trust, a time to embrace and accept that His silence may actually be a blessing in disguise. Is this a time of training; is there something He wants to teach me? Whatever the reason, it will take as long as it takes and in the process my companions will be darkness and loneliness.

But dawn always follows darkness; loneliness is dispelled at daybreak and intimacy is restored.

“If you let God’s silence do its work, you will come out the other side knowing that you’re not alone, that God longs for deeper intimacy with you, that he’s worth trusting for the journey, and that you’re stronger than ever.”   ― Verla Wallace

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God’s Appointed Seasons

fall-leaves-on-deck

There was not the usual gentle, graceful swaying of tree branches on the lake today. Gusty autumn winds prevailed as if driven by a higher power with a divine purpose. I watched as leaves fluttered to the ground fated for a season of change.

Repeated attempts to clear the avalanche of leaves from the deck proved futile and I gave up. This was a God appointed season change; my continual raking wasn’t going to change anything.

 “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—“
Ecclesiastics 3:1

We have two choices when God assigns a seasonal change to our life–take pause or face down. In past years, I would have assumed a face down attitude… “You want to get confrontational with me, God? Well, you got it!” That demeanor didn’t set well with the Master of the universe.

And so, He gifted me with life experiences that fused rebellion with knowledge. It forever changed my view of God’s seasonal changes within my personal life. I now see autumn’s fallen, withered leaves as heavenly compost that conditions the soil of my soul to sprout new growth.

God’s ebb tide for the seasons of our life continually changes.  From the time of our conception, a spiritual blueprint was designed for each of us. It is divinely drafted to meet not only our eternal needs, but to point us in the seasonal direction of our earthly needs.  That’s the beauty of our Lord.

Are you are being tossed and swayed by current life circumstances?

My past life reads like a best-selling novel and certainly not something you would expect from a preacher’s daughter. But God’s grace changed the seasons of my life into something miraculous. I encourage you to trust in the Lord and let Him orchestrate the season of your imperfect life.

 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”  Matthew 10:30-31

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When Silence is Golden

silence_is_golden

To discover peace in the midst of commotion and uproar is absolutely precious. I sometimes fall prey to the emotional abyss others unknowingly heap upon me (or I willingly accept). Silence becomes my golden egg.

There is a risk of being buried alive when we allow our purpose and goals to be driven by the emotional needs of others. It is self-sabotage to ingest a daily influx of someone’s personal garbage that causes us to spout off and speak our mind when silence might have been a better choice.

When confronted with life choices gone badly we feel vulnerable and threatened.  We assume a combative attitude toward those we love when offered unsolicited opinions, opposing views or words of encouragement. In frustration, a verbal warfare is set in motion.

In those moments when our motives seem to be driven by anger, remorse or lack of judgement, it is best to cloak oneself in silence. Silence is not an inherent trait of mankind; it is learned through careful consideration of what we value as important in our life.

I love this quote by Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook (movie).

“We sit silently and watch the world around us. This has taken a lifetime to learn. It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash and impatient, must always break the silence. It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. This is the great paradox.”

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!  –Psalms 141:3

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Beep of Death

communication-1472636_640 There was urgency in the continual beep heard down the hallway. It clearly indicated something was wrong and I sensed it wasn’t good. Overtaken with panic, my steps quickened as I hurried to find the source of the warning signal that pierced the air.

When I opened the door, computer monitors and tangled cords greeted me. I pawed through the jumbled mess and located a thin black box. The back-up drive was no bigger than the palm of my hand and contained years of photos, business documents, e-mail archives and personal data. It was my lifeline in the event damage occurred due to hardware malfunctions, viruses or corrupted files.

As the beep of death resonated from my lifeline all hope of restoration was swallowed into the abyss of digital darkness. Years of effort vanished in an instant.  It was a wake-up call that gave pause to how I had outsourced the back-up plan for my spiritual life.

Computer memory is very different than biological memory. A computer receives and stores information in the form of data. The human brain, on the other hand, takes that same information and processes it into knowledge which is stored as a living memory.

There is an advantage to a living memory over stored data.  When we commit something to memory we are less likely to lose that knowledge. This is especially important for Christians.  To outsource our spiritual life to digital technology is an open invitation to the beep of death.

There is no digital equivalent to physically opening your Bible to read and memorize scripture. It is a process that takes God’s Word from our minds, to our heart, to our lives. His Word become alive within us and is a lifeline that never malfunctions.

Knowledge benefits our life. Information, on the other hand, is merely an accumulation of facts that can overload us with useless information. This type of data clutters our back-up lifeline. The risk associated with fragmented data is the beep of death

The acquisition of more information doesn’t necessarily increase knowledge or wisdom. In fact, the plethora of stimuli and data at our fingertips can invoke a feeding frenzy where information is ingested, but never digested. The influx of information is more likely to bring distractions.

To continually ingest information but neglect to cultivate that information into knowledge deprives us of wisdom.

“The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.”
–Proverbs 19:8

Do you have a back-up plan in place for your spiritual life? At a moment’s notice, a life malfunction could trigger the beep of death and spiral you into darkness. Would you be able to recover?

You are not a Jeopardy contestant; there is no value in useless information. Instead, focus on the pursuit of knowledge so that you may acquire wisdom and seek understanding in all things.