Thursday, April 19, 2018

Moving on From the Past, With or Without the Reconciliation of Others

For most folks, the past is like a chewed piece of gum that we step on on a 90-degree day. That gum oozes between and fills the treads of our shoe, and the more we attempt to rid ourselves of it with a stick, the more it spreads, even to our hands and clothes. In short, it becomes a hot mess.

As Christians, one of the ways we allow the past to stick to the present is when we assume that, since we have forgiven ourselves for who we once were and things we once said and did, and God has forgiven us, the people from our past with whom we still interact will too

And when they don't, the guard rail comes down, blocking us from the reconciliation with others that begins with our accepting them where they currently are. 

And where they currently are is this: they don't accept who we are today and, for whatever reason, cannot go to the place of reconciliation with us. 

That is what we need to be okay with in order to move on from the past. 

That’s where I find myself at this stage of the Christian walk: recognizing that other people may not see the change in me, or want to see the change, or don’t believe the change, or hate the change in me. And thus, they have not forgiven me for whatever it is I was to them in the past or they cannot forgive me for who I have become today.

I see now that my response to their reticence has been to revisit aspects of the past: asking myself what I could have done differently, ruminating on where they were at fault, and on and on. 

In great determination I would conjure up new ways to love them: invites to coffee, letters and expressions of love and affirmation.

And while those efforts were sincere and good, when the relationship didn’t improve, I felt that I couldn’t stop picking at old wounds until mutual reconciliation had occurred. 

It was one step forward in loving others, but two steps back when I didn’t receive love in return. The past would come flooding over me once again.

But now I see that my fleshly insistence on receiving affirmation only stagnated me in my desire to progress in living out the love of Christ. I see now that I must progress, I can progress and move on from the past once and for all—either with, or without, reciprocity on my attempts at brokering peace and making amends with others.

I am reconciled with God and thus, with myself. Reconciliation yet may come with others, but I no longer need or expect it.

As I move forward into each new day, and live more and more in the humility of Christ’s love for myself and others, I am seeing that sometimes—often times—for others it is too little too late. And I need to embrace that, especially for those who don’t understand the giving or receiving of forgiveness from Christ’s perspective. 

We can’t expect others to cope in ways that we only learned, and were made well by, in Christ. In complete understanding, I hold them in compassion, not contempt.

And in that, reconciliation to other people on my end has occurred. Finally, I can let the past, in all its entirety, go

Lewis Carroll once said,

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

We can’t expect other people to get that, and ought not be disappointed when they don’t. But we can rejoice and take confidence in the full assurance that Christ certainly does get it. In fact, He’s the one who made our being a different person today, possible.

Copyright Barb Harwood

“Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the LORD,
and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:1-6

“Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
‘Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?’” Isaiah 43:18-19a

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.” Philippians 3:12-16

 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Monday, April 16, 2018


Pettiness comes from a place of lack. Often this lack is the feeling of not being affirmed. 

For the person instigating pettiness, it is often due to insecurity at not feeling affirmed. 

We on the receiving end of someone else’s pettiness, when we allow it to bother us, do so because we are concerned about what the petty person thinks of us. And concern for what people think of us is tied to our need for affirmation.

Sometimes other people’s pettiness bothers us because of our sense of justice: we, or someone else, has been unfairly maligned, and we aren’t bothered so much as angered by our, or another’s, having been misunderstood.

Oftentimes, our reaction to pettiness is one of surprise:
“Really?” we say to ourselves. “You think about me (or someone else) enough to make that petty observation or comment, but you have never found the time to say even one positive thing about me (or someone else)?”

For the perpetually petty, everything in life is a molehill (minor difficulty), with many of those molehills, through the embellishment of sanctimony and self-righteousness, morphing into mountains that the piddling purveyors of “tsktsk” lustily climb and strive to conquer.

And when we are the brunt of the pettiness, it is often true that we react pettily in return.

In that way, pettiness begets pettiness.

What ought to have been slapped away like a pesky mosquito and quickly forgotten, what began as a personal taking of offense, is legitimized by our now being offended too!

In our defensiveness, we may protest that we are entirely justified, that in fact what one might claim to be petty is, to us, quite important. But is it? How can we know? How can we get to the place of waving off the mosquito if it indeed is a mosquito? And how can we get to the place of not being a mosquito ourself?

The dictionary defines "petty" as:

“of little or no importance or consequence”

“of lesser or secondary importance, merit, etc. minor”

“having or showing narrow ideas, interest, etc.”

“mean or ungenerous in small or trifling things”

“showing or caused by meanness of spirit”

We can test whether something is worth even giving a second thought by running it past these standards.

First, if we are the one tempted to be petty, we can ask ourselves,
“Why? Why am I about to speak a negative social commentary right now?”

Second, we can ask ourselves if articulating our potentially petty observation will benefit anyone, or instead merely reveal our arrogance and pride in wanting to lord our assumed superiority over others. Who, we can ask ourself, benefits from anything I might say? Me? And who, in my mind, loses? And if I esteem that I win, I might want to check myself to make sure that in the end, I don’t actually lose.

“He who restrains his words has knowledge,
And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise;
When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.” Proverbs 17:27-28

“He who guards his mouth and his tongue,
Guards his soul from troubles.” Proverbs 21:23

“Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him; the beginning of his talking is folly and the end of it is wicked madness. Yet the fool multiplies words. No man knows what will happen, and who can tell him what will come after him?” Ecclesiastes 10:12-14

Third, we can ask ourselves if we are correct in our estimation of the situation. Do we conclude and speak from a place of informed knowledge, or from the dubious place of hearsay? Do we have all the facts? And again, even if we do, is it actually necessary and beneficial to air our thoughts? (Return to the second point above).

For those on the receiving end of pettiness, we can ask ourselves the same questions as we weigh whether or not it is worth responding to a petty person, and whether we are going to allow ourselves to be inwardly hurt (offended) or concerned by what was said.

It is a matter of Godly discernment to distinguish between ridiculous attitudes and statements—those not deserving of any kind of recognition at all—and those which must be addressed firmly and briefly with a graceful word.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

This does not mean we commiserate with pettiness, join in condemnation of persons or things, or participate in gossip. It means we discount the comments by saying something good or true. We deflect the barb in a way that says “no further comment will be tolerated.”  

If the person has crossed the line of pettiness into serious and flagrant egregiousness: hurtful or defamatory to the point that it must duly be addressed, we do this also in grace, but privately. And be prepared that any going to a person to discuss matters and clear the air may only stir the pot more. It is up to our conscience before God whether or not something is worth addressing in private.

Proverbs is a wonderful place to find wisdom and calm when pulling our hair out over a perpetually petty person in our life.

We all have those people for whom everything we do will be a negative, along with everything everyone else does also. That is key to notice because sometimes we feel as though we are uniquely at the brunt of the petty person’s venom. However, taking a step back and observing them with others we quickly find that this person is shallow in regards to everyone

In that, we can begin to feel sorry for the one for whom everyone else is a threat to the point that they feel they must always attack first.

We cannot wash the insides of anyone. Only God can put a right Spirit within a person. And we must begin with allowing Him to do just that in ourselves.

God wills that we are not petty. That is our reason for wanting rid of such a demeaning and debilitating attitude. 

Since He wills that we forgo such childish dealings, we are empowered to give them up in lieu of the grace He has already placed within us in the form of His Holy Spirit, Who will always give us a way out when tempted (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The sin of offense grabs hold of our sense of self-protection and self-affirmation mightily, and feeds our area of lack like no other.

The more petty we are, and the more we allow other people’s pettiness to get under our skin, the more we can be sure that we are curtailing the winning over of our inner places of deprivation by God’s Spirit.

Copyright Barb Harwood

“The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom;
And with all your acquiring, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7

“And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 13:52

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Base God on God

Some people never allow a relationship between themselves and God to develop because of the way supposed “Christians” treated them way back when, or due to the negative way they claim they see Christians and “the church” behaving now.

Maybe someone was a pregnant, unmarried teen and felt judged by a “Christian” family member, pastor, congregation or some other “Christian.”

Perhaps someone felt inadequate in some way and perceived a finger pointed at them by a “Christian.”

It could be that some folks, in loyalty to a friend or loved one, has heard of bad experiences with “the church” and Christians and has consequently co-opted, as if through osmosis, the same negative attitude.

I have two things to say in response:

1. Often it is one’s own judgment towards one’s self that is being displaced onto others. Many people discern their own guilt and then, as a defense mechanism, attribute any internal complicity to instead being a victim of Christian prudishness and closed-mindedness. 

2. Looking at how other “Christians” unfairly treated us or failed to love us only does one thing: it keeps us from looking at and seeing God. And that’s actually how many folks prefer things to stay: as long as I’m a victim, and the followers of God are the attackers, I’m off the hook for having to even take the time to investigate God or the Bible.

People spend decades remembering or reimagining how people have treated them, thus blocking all opportunities to learn how God actually does and desires to treat people. Their worldview of the past and people in the past prevents them from getting to know God now. They are missing out.

I’ve no doubt that Christians, including myself, have wronged people. But Christians aren’t God.

I heard a great story over the weekend:

A man out riding his bike was chased and bitten by a dog. The cyclist went to discuss the incident with the dog owner, and after hearing the facts of what took place, the dog owner responded,
“Well, he’s just a dog.”
To which the man on the bike answered, 
“That’s why I’m talking to you.”

We may have been “bitten” by people: gossiped about, misunderstood, cheated on, lied to and yes, even judged (fairly or unfairly).

But people, even Christian people, are just people. Which is why we talk to God. Which is why we get to know God. Which is why our faith and life are in God, not people or their opinions, experiences and judgments.

One isn’t really rejecting God if they don’t even know the truth about Him.

All one is rejecting is the god of someone else’s assessment, or the god who, we tell ourselves, failed us in our unpleasant episode with “the church.”

But Jesus presents a better way:

“Jesus went out, along with his disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ They told Him, saying, ‘John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.’ And he continued by questioning them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said to Him, ‘You are the Christ.’” Mark 8:27-29

copyright Barb Harwood

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Matthew 28

"Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightening, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.' 

And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and they will see Me.'

Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, 'You are to say, "His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep." And if this should come to the governor's ears, we will win Him over and keep you out of trouble.' And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'" 
The Word of the Lord, Matthew 28

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Jesus' laying down of His life in the crucifixion, which believers will mark at the end of this week on Good Friday, is what makes possible forgiveness and new life. 

So I thought I would post some excerpts from an excellent article on forgiveness written by James Cain of In Touch Ministries, titled, The Field Guide to Forgiveness.

Here are the highlights from the article. (I have underlined his words in places, for emphasis). 

“In the end, forgiveness often changes the one forgiving more than the one being pardoned. This is true because forgiveness forces us to admit our powerlessness and trust God...."

"Pursuing vengeance makes us feel strong, empowered. Forgiving, on the other hand, acknowledges that we may not receive the 'justice' we thought we deserved."

"Change also happens because forgiveness creates space for restored fellowship. Giving up our claim against the offender moves us from weakness to strength, as we invite the peace of the Holy Spirit to restore our relationship with God and neighbor. Denying forgiveness, on the other hand, breaks fellowship not only with our adversary, but also with our Father (Mark 11:25)."

"When we forgive, we make renewed relationship possible, if not with the person we forgive, then with the Person who has forgiven us."

"The apostle Paul suggests that our duty to forgive others depends on recalling the pardon we received from God. ‘As the Lord forgave you,’ he writes, ‘you do also’ (Col. 3:13). Not only should we remember that God forgives us; we should also imitate how He does it: graciously, freely, and completely."

"We might be tempted to keep a ‘record of wrongs,’ but love precludes that (1 Col. 13:5). The unbelieving world tends to nurse grudges against whoever has wronged them, but as followers of Jesus, we forgive freely, without expecting anything in return.”

"...forgiveness requires gracious inward action before we can pursue gracious outward action...Much of this internal work can be done without the offender’s knowledge."

(We must) “actively and energetically oppose the natural inclination toward assaulting the other person, physically or verbally, or withdrawing from relationship with him. Either approach is a way of withholding forgiveness and will impede the healing process for both people."

"Avoid assaulting or withdrawing from others by looking for opportunities to celebrate your offender’s successes. Do not rejoice when he suffers, but grieve along with him. Prayerfully seek to ‘relieve’ the person, and seek the right moment for reconciliation. All this heart work will enable you, when the time comes, to offer authentic forgiveness."

“...the work of forgiveness begins with a prayer to remember God’s grace towards you. One of the Holy Spirit’s tasks is to ‘convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment’ (John 16:8). He alone can bring about the change of heart necessary to see your own sin, to recognize Christ’s righteousness, and to see that judgment belongs to God alone."

"Ask God to show you your sin and remind you of His grace...mindful of your own faults, ask for and extend forgiveness. Pray for the well-being of the wrongdoer—not just that he’d see the error of his ways, but that God would protect and prosper him."

"Offer mercy quickly, leave justice to God, and make sure you don’t allow resentment to find fertile soil.”  
By James Cain, from the article, The Field Guide to Forgiveness.

Read it in its entirety here:

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us." Ephesians 1:7-8a

"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." Matthew 6:12