Armoured Up

Archive for the tag “Forgiveness”

Flashback Friday

flashback_friday

Flashback Friday…the day folks who forgot to post on Throwback Thursday get a second chance to go back in time. I went back in time to a not so great time. You know it’s a trip when you say “those were the good old days,” and those days were not too long ago. I mean, seriously, I can almost look over my shoulder to those days.

I got hurt in church. That’s a fact…yep, it happened. The truth of the matter is that most ALL of the hurt I’ve sustained as a Christian has been at the hands of Christians. That is what has been on my mind on this fine “Flashback Friday!!”

If I were NOT a Christ-follower, I suspect the hurt would roll off of my back eventually.  I’d be irritated, bitter, hard hearted and unforgiving.  I would write off my oppressors and look forward to the day that they “got theirs,” preferably at the hands of another, but hopefully loud enough for me to hear about it.

If I were a Christ-follower I suspect the hurt may or may not roll off of my back, I’d withdraw, say I have forgiven, but be confused about what forgiveness looked like, and I’d probably be bitter, (if I was being totally honest), skeptical and unwilling to engage ever..period!

I was that hurt, bitter, skeptical unwilling to engage ever..period Christ-follower.  It’s crazy to even type that admission after I type “Christ-follower.”  Following the leader usually makes one look and act like the leader, huh? Not always, at least not in my case and I would venture to say I’m not alone.  When I left church on that last day, I knew it was my last day and I left unannounced, uncelebrated, unnoticed…just like I had arrived.  But I left with a secret, since I had a year to sit in my hurt right there at the scene of the crime.

I was pretty giddy as I got into my car that day.  Freedom feels good!!!  My secret?  Some church was about to be blessed big time.  Some church was about to be the recipient of a family who loved God, loved people and was willing to do whatever it takes to follow the leader…Jesus!!

I purposed in my heart to stay at that church and not take all of that hurt with me.

I had a residue when I left and I had to reprogram my heart and that’s where being stubborn and steadfast worked in my favor.  There was no way I was going to allow people to change or alter my course or rearrange my purpose.  Now, I so recognize the walking wounded and it hurts me in a different way.  I’m saddened because there are so many not plugged in…just roaming, some hoping to re-engage some day, some too embittered to want to try again, some giving up altogether.  This topic keeps showing up within me because I keep running into my brothers and sisters who don a fresh limp…a limp that makes me flash back.

Here’s a great quote I ran across in a study I’m doing in a “Think about it” section….

People we love have a unique capacity to hurt us. We are vulnerable to them in a way we are not vulnerable to others. Sometimes, this vulnerability is so painful that we pull away from connection and close off to others, hoping they won’t be able to hurt us again. But when we do so, we also close ourselves off to experiencing joy, happiness, gladness, and delight with them and even because of them.

What courage it takes to expose our hearts again after we have sustained great hurt. I would venture to boldly say that the people who hurt us were sent to heal us if that hurt drives us to the only One who can heal us.

The truth is that the enemy works the hardest within the walls of the church. There is no way he wants the church to be healthy, whole and free.  That would be too great a threat for him and his kingdom.

Be healed church…move forward.  There is a Body…there is someBody and you are the gift which that Body needs.

 

A Lesson in Humility (The last call)

Last-Call-Bar-Broadway-10-24-2009_5878-500x313“He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7 NLT

This is the Prophet Isaiah’s foretelling of the suffering of Jesus.  This ordeal begins with a false arrest, false accusations, a beating which should have ended His life and finally with an ending unbefitting a King.  What has always stood out for me were the words “he never said a word” – “he did not open his mouth.”  How is it possible to be falsely accused and tortured without at least attempting to defend oneself; to be given an opportunity to speak up, but choosing not to?

I am often reminded of those words when faced with a situation where I need to defend myself, especially in light of my background – being number 6 in a family of 7 where there was always something jumping off and where everyone in my family seemingly loved having the last word on a matter.  It’s difficult to hold your peace, especially with my upbringing where to remain silent was most likely an indication of guilt; when I have always been a scrapper, a fighter…where there has never been an altercation I’ve walked away from without administering that final shot.  It’s especially difficult when one’s meekness is mistaken as weakness, but that’s where the humility part reigns.

It has taken the utmost of self-control in my walk with Jesus to zip the lip and I must say that most times it’s been effortless, with the occasional instance where I’ve had to just about sweat blood not to “lay hands” on my adversaries or at least give them a piece of my mind…something none of us can afford to do!  I need all of my pieces.  Humility can be difficult…it stings, even hurts, but its rewards are longlasting.

And so there I was having written my brother what I thought was a compelling, encouraging letter replete with uplifting scriptures, my testimony and an admonishment to live life to the fullest, with a bit of a rebuke for wallowing in self pity.  (A letter most would receive and regard as one from someone who cares).  Not so with my brother who labeled me a nut, among other things, and was happy to call me long distance in order to serenade me with a perfectly pitched diatribe which included every cuss word in his extensive vocabulary.  We had been quite close as children…him the baby of the family born 19 months after me.  As adults we were making a comeback in closeness, as he had separated from the family quite a bit making appearances from time to time which ended many times in discord.  I was safe from the drama living so far away from the family, so we mainly kept in touch by telephone.  I was kept apprised of his rantings and was able to talk him down most times when he called me and our conversations always ended in an upswing.  I knew when I picked up the phone that this conversation would not end that way.  It would appear that I was the last stop on his cuss out the family tour.  He had never spoken to me that way and I was rattled.  I listened quietly waiting for the screaming to subside in order to tell him I was sorry he felt that way about me; I would continue to pray for him and that I was not going to allow him to disrespect me any further and with that I hung up.  He called right back and began his message (I did not pick up) with “You always have to have the last word, don’t you.”  He continued his barrage, ending it prophetically with “you’ll never see or hear from me again.”

…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.  Luke 6:27

I did just that.  I prayed for my brother.  I had compassion for him.  My once vibrant and handsome, hilarious (we are a funny family and he was the king pin) and brilliant brother was no longer there.  The difficulties he had endured during his life, the losses he had sustained from which he was never able to recover, caused him to turn to alcohol as an elixir for his pain.  He was a master at being stealth so the family was caught by surprise to discover that his condition was life threatening.  A friend later recounted a conversation my brother had with his doctor who warned him that his life would be cut short if he did not stop drinking.  My brother had the nerve to respond by telling the doctor that he enjoyed a glass of wine from time to time with his dinner and asked whether that would be acceptable.  The doctor’s response was blunt…”the only table you’ll be pulling up to will be one at the morgue if you don’t stop.”

As I prayed for my brother, the Lord revealed a need that he had.  I contacted my sister (the one I knew remained in good standing with him) and I hatched a plan to send her some cash for her to forward to him.  I asked her to leave my name out of it knowing that his pride would not allow him to take the gift. She did so and a short time thereafter she received a letter from him thanking her and remarking that out of all of his sisters, she was the most loving (always was) and most sensitive to him.  My sister felt bad receiving that letter and wanted to expose the truth, but I forbid her from doing so.  I was surprised that I felt that way, actually.  Who wants to give someone else the credit for your good works?  My sister had also been talking to him about the Lord and so to me it was just as well that he believed it came from her.

Weeks later we received the news that our brother was hospitalized in dire condition.  I wrote about it HERE if you’d like to read and be encouraged:)  My brother passed away and after the shock had worn off, when I finally had some time by myself en route to Indiana for his funeral, I closed my eyes and ran through a host of memories from our childhood, our high school years, that amazing summer of ’78 when our family had solidified its closeness, (through a haze of marijuana and kegs of beer) – sorry Jesus:).  I laughed at the times he would hand out gifts for Christmas and tell each of us how much they cost.  I recalled the sports talk radio guys who would be on air giving him shout outs and asking for him to call in.  He was so smart and funny.  I remembered the joy he experienced when his daughter was born.  I skimmed over his difficult years (the death of his beloved baby boy being his death blow) and I settled on the last call…not the one that took him out…the one aimed at taking me out (our conversation). I remembered the first thing he said and the words he closed that awful message with that he left on my answering machine and realized they were in fact prophetic!!

1.  I did have the last word; and

2.  I never saw him or heard from him again.

It was hurtful to be spoken to that way by someone who was supposed to love you.  Growing up he always had my back and would have fought King Kong if he had to defend me.  It made me angry that he disrespected me that way.  I had only been kind to him when others weren’t so much.  I had entertained his foolishness when others had grown tired of him; I was so undeserving of his wrath.  With everything in me I wanted to strike back, but I held back and then only with the grace of God was I able to pray for him; to bless him.  Humility stings, it does hurt, but self control is necessary in order to maintain one’s peace so that one could hear clearly.  In the end, my reward came knowing that after all the hurt he inflicted, I was still able to hear, obey, forgive and bless and I did all of that never opening my mouth…but I did have the last word. 😛  I love you R…I miss you!

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A Foolish Mentor…A Wise Mentor…And a Mentee Who Knows the Difference

Mentoring is a dynamic relationship of trust in which one person enables another to maximize the grace of God in her/his life. – John Mallison, author of Mentoring to Develop Disciples and Leaders

My children remain in the “train up a child” phase of their upbringing (I dare say they may always be in that phase), but I’ve noticed my husband and I sliding more and more into the role of mentor to them. There’s still a whole lot of correction, but it seems the training, encouraging, teaching aspect has gotten deeper; the conversations more profound and heartfelt. When there is a need for correction I recognize the importance of treading softly over their heart so as to not kill their spirit. Being constructive, not condemning…adding some sweetness to an area of difficulty during correction to keep their heads up and in the game. That takes skill because I could be a bit passionate and semi dramatic (well more than semi) – and one of my cherubs is sensitive and requires my approval while the other is built to play poker! Mentoring can kill a spirit…this I know for sure.

I was a party to a relationship (strange way of phrasing that, I know) that had the underpinnings of a mentor/mentee deal. After knowing her from a distance, I had an opportunity to get to know her up close finally. I liked her from far away and grew to care deeply for her as I got to know her more intimately. I would have done just about anything for her (and just about did), always gladly. I defended, encouraged, prayed for, covered and served, expecting nothing in return. I thought this was a forever friend until the wheels came off the bus sending the bus careening out of control. (I told you I’m dramatic, right)? hehe

Why am I suddenly hearing the music to a Temptations song (Papa was a Rolling Stone)? There was something in the air during that time, and our conversation turned into accusations being hurled at me..instead of being asked questions, I was being told about something I had done, places I had been, people I had been with; my motives were being questioned and I was compared to people from her past whose actions were determined to be shady and unworthy of trust. I was stunned and couldn’t even form my thoughts in a way to present a coherent defense. I squeaked out a few words and the conversation ended with a knife and a plunge. I was told I was being “corrected” and then accused of having lost my prayer edge. (Oh man, them there was fighting words to me.) Somehow nothing that was said was more hurtful than that. I was sentenced to prayer and given times to do it. Um…huh? Here’s the part where the Lord just closed my ears to the rest of what was being said…He does that sometimes to protect me (or maybe the other party:)! Thanks, Lord. I stepped away from that assault conversation knowing that what had just occurred was not constructive and so not healthy; it was not correction…it was an attack, straight up and the accusations…all of them were false. The only thing I took away from that beat down conversation was that I, in fact, needed to pray…pray that I could get away from the situation as quickly as possible with no casualty count.

I was reminded of this incident this past week when I ran into a woman the Lord used to help me become the woman warrior I proudly am today. Someone who embraced me, poured into me, encouraged me, corrected me (not attacked and insulted me); promoted me in ministry…someone who believed that God’s hand was on me. I saw her and just about cried as I made my way to her. We hugged and held each other and hugged some more and after class we gravitated toward one another again and caught up, promising not to lose contact again and hugging some more.

Seeing Mrs. Bishop reminded me that I have been blessed with some rich relationships, strategically placed in my path to push me along in my destiny. Women who have taken the time to speak life into me; women who have seen in me what I probably would not have seen as clearly; who have celebrated my rowdiness and have loved me enough to reel me in. Strong women…no nonsense women. Those who taught me how to be quiet enough to hear the Lord; who taught me about the importance of submission; how vital a teachable spirit was. I knew the difference between correction for growth and correction as a weapon and I learned that under Mrs. Bishop.

I clearly recall telling the Lord that I would serve where the need was greatest…”Lord, use me,” I said. Well, shortly after that declaration I was approached by a leader asking me if the Lord had been speaking to me about serving in the youth ministry, where the need was great. “Uh, that would be a no,” I said and quickly high tailed my way outta there. I felt bad enough to call her when I got home and left her a message saying that I would do it if she really needed me. I didn’t hear back from her…Whew!!! I thought! I went before the Lord one more time and said “okay Lord, the next time I’m approached I’ll submit…I won’t seek a position, Lord…You’ll have to drop it in my lap, okay..in Jesus’ name.” That Saturday as I was running out of church leaving church after a women’s fellowship (I wasn’t the hang around and fellowship type:) I was followed by one of the female ministers who said “Mrs. Britt, you need to serve in the prayer room. There will be training next Saturday..report to Mrs. Bishop.” “Uh, yes ma’am”..and so I began my time of service in the prayer room under the leadership of Mrs. Bishop.

It took no time for me to realize that this was my calling and before long I found myself being promoted to “lead counselor” where soon my leadership-ability would be tested…my ability to make a judgment call and then deal with the consequences of that call (could I handle correction?) Would I pass the test? After service one cold and rainy night I was met in the prayer room by a woman who was desperate for prayer. During our conversation she divulged that she no longer wanted to live and the more she spoke, the more I realized that this situation was way over my head. I looked around and found that I was alone in the room, so in the absence of counsel, I made a split second decision to call for our Pastor who was steps away (something we had been told never to do). As I was preparing to leave that night Mrs. Bishop caught up to me and laid me out. Correction wasn’t even the word for the tongue lashing she gave me. I took it, apologized for overstepping my boundaries and walked away confused because I knew that I had heard from the Lord to consult with Pastor. I left that night deciding not to take offense at the way I was spoken to and I felt the peace of God. I saw Mrs. Bishop a few days later and after service, she approached me and knelt down next to where I sat. She took my hands and looked me in the eyes and asked me to forgive her for the way she had spoken to me. She told me that I had heard from the Lord and that I had made the right call and that Pastor had acknowledged the seriousness of the situation in that had he not intervened, there was a great chance that that woman would have done harm to herself that night. It took great humility for her to apologize and I loved her more than ever at that moment. She and I grew even closer after that day and when she became President of the women’s fellowship, she asked me to be her Vice-President.

The lessons I learned from my mentor were invaluable, many which have remained with me. How important it is to be humble (not to think highly of oneself); how freeing it is to submit, to yield; how empowering it is to forgive and seek forgiveness; how valuable it is to remain teachable and correctable; how vital it is to know when you have heard from the Lord and to stand your ground; how necessary it is not to allow those who lead you to break your spirit.

I was so grateful to the Lord for having Mrs. Bishop and I cross paths again. One of the women I lead in small group witnessed our “love fest” and approached us and after I introduced her to the woman who was instrumental in teaching me how to pray, she said some really nice things about me, to which Mrs. Bishop responded…”Arlene had it in her all the time…God is using her.” That was amazing coming from her…it was real coming from her…I believed it coming from her. Thank God for true mentors!

“It is essential that mentors be loving enough to correct (Proverbs 27:5-6) and caring enough to affirm (Hebrews 10:24).”

Hurt hurts

“Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” Luke 10:19

Hurt hurts!  I learned that the hard way.  One of the toughest seasons for me began when I noticed this scripture several years back.  What I thought was a great revelation for me to be able to share in a teaching atmosphere turned out to be preparation for what I would endure.  Actually, I believe it was the Lord prompting me to prepare for what was to come and instead I was preparing a message.  In the end I was the one who learned the lesson when all of hell raged against me to prove that I was no match for my adversary…that I had no authority.

My heart was broken after two very special people passed away back to back and I had barely recovered when an all out assault against me began by people who were considered my “friends”…my “sisters,” people I had opened my home to and with whom I shared myself, my family.  You know, the enemy strikes most times when we are at our weakest point.   I was hurt, then shocked, then offended, then irritated, then angry, then bitter, then hardened, then unforgiving, then withdrawn, then silent.  I saw each step of this hideous chain reaction unfold in my life, unraveling my purpose, threatening to choke the life out of me…I had the notes for this process; was prepared to teach on how to guard against living this process and here I was smack dab in it.  It took a year to climb out of that hole.  The irritating part was that I had a heads up and ignored it.

I sought Godly counsel, I confronted the offenders (once I was able to do so in love, of course) and I forgave them.  I may have lost the battle, but I refused to waste another minute and lose the war.  I stepped into my authority as a believer and used the word as my weapon…to live again, to love again!!   One day my sister asked me if I had gotten over that time and whether I had really forgiven those involved and I told her I thought I had.  I measured that response by the fact that I could be in their presence and not want to spit, so of course I had forgiven, but now that she brought it up I was wondering again.  I guess not wanting to spit was not good enough so I asked the Lord to show me whether I had really forgiven and the answer came .  He’ll answer if you ask, you know.  I learned that a good way to measure when hurt has healed is when you can talk about it and it no longer hurts or elicits any other unhealthy emotion; when your experience can become a lesson by which someone else can heal.

I learned that while we are healing if we continue to discuss the issue and rehearse the hurt, it takes longer to heal, to forgive, etc.  When I no longer talked about it to garner sympathy and I finally stuck a fork in it, I found myself taking back the authority I had given the enemy.  I knew not to run from the situation or those involved so I stayed put until the Lord released me, once the lesson was learned to move forward and away to begin again.

Hurt hurts…but He heals!

Praying for those who have experienced hurt..that you would allow the healer of the broken hearted to do a work in every area that has been breached by the enemy; that you would stand in the midst of the hurt and release the Word of God over your situation; that you would seek Godly counsel who would encourage you, agree in prayer with you; that you would forgive those who have come against you so that you too would be released and propelled into your destiny in Jesus’ name..Amen and so be it now!

My Friend Ruth

I was blessed with an opportunity to teach at our church’s school of ministry on the subject of prayer, one of my favorite subjects ever!

Pause for a bunny trail…you know if you ever wonder what your strength is or what your calling is, take a look at your book shelf for a hint.  If you were to take a peek at mine, you’d see mostly books on prayer.  I love prayer…I see my prayers…I see myself in the throne room; I see myself seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus.  I love prayer…I’ll probably touch that subject another time…back on track now.

Towards the end of the class I was sharing about prayer hindrances, unforgiveness being one such hindrance.  I told a story of a friend who had called me for prayer.  I knew that she and another friend of ours were involved in a scrape of some sort and I listened as she shared her prayer request, noticing that it was something that she had been anguishing over for some time.  I told her to get her bible and turn to Mark 11:23-24 “For assuredly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.  Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”  She was squealing with delight as she read these scriptures aloud and I could hear her highlighter screeching across the page.  I then asked her to read the next verse...”And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”  “Hello, hello, are you still there?”  <silence>.  Exactly!!!  I shared with the class that I didn’t know if she ever “got it.”  She claimed she and our friend had settled their differences…I knew they hadn’t at the time.  I encouraged my class to pursue peace, seek forgiveness early…release in order to receive.

After class, there were people who stayed behind for prayer mostly and I noticed a woman in her seat watching me.  She got up from her seat when everyone else had left and asked me if she could speak to me.  She told me her name was Ruth.  She was a petite woman and I towered over her in my heels and my instinct was to remove my heels to come down a little closer to her.  She was crying as she asked me to forgive her.  Huh?  I asked her whether we knew each other.  No, she said, but I have talked about you, I’ve said mean things about you.  I was a bit surprised.  This was a first for me.  “Have we met?  Have I been mean to you?”  She said, “No, you asked me to move over a seat in church.”  I asked her if I was rude and she said I was not and she realized it was her…all her.  I just melted as I listened to her ask for forgiveness as she tried to make sense out of something so senseless.  We embraced and I took her hands and we prayed and of course I released her.  That took some boldness.  Ruth is my hero!!  I have made it a point to look for her at church to squeeze her.  Ruth has become one of my greatest encouragers.  She has no idea, unless she reads this, that the Lord used her in a mighty way to encourage me.  She had grown accustomed to seeing me in a particular seat during a particular service.  She had not seen me and reached out on more than one occasion to encourage me and to reiterate how much she missed seeing me in my normal spot.  She was looking for me…she was missing me.  I’ll not forget that!  Thank you Ruth, mi hermana!!  Te quiero mucho!!! ❤

And when you least expect it, you find yourself forgiving someone for something only they were being tormented over; and when you least expect it, you release and encourage a new friend; and when you least expect it your new friend becomes one of your biggest blessings.

Forgiveness….necessary…empowering…strengthening…healing…building.

“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.” James 5:16 The Message Bible

“Be…quick to forgive an offense.  Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 The Message Bible

Me and my friend and sister, Ruth

Me and my friend and sister, Ruth

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