Giveaway Winner ... and an Inside Look at the Chapter About Grief


On this past Thursday's post, I announced a celebration giveaway for the release of my new book. Thank you so much for your enthusiastic response!

The winner is: ELISABETH TESSONE! I'll contact you later today so that we can coordinate delivery!


PROCESSING GRIEF

One of the most vital chapters in Without This Ring: Surviving Divorce deals with processing grief.  Professionals generally agree that there are five main stages of grief: denial (isolation), anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

We experience grief when we suffer loss, whether that loss is through divorce, death, job change, or a cross-country move.

During my divorce and for months afterward, I lingered in some grief stages longer than others. You may find that true, as well.

At first, I only saw the unnecessary destruction from one person's thoughtless actions. Eventually, I experienced each grief stage and emerged on the other side stronger by the grace of God.

God grew my faith, trust, and love for Him, which nurtured the confidence to keep walking into the new future He already had planned for me. That is my fervent prayer for you.

Grief Stage One: Denial

The first reaction to learning about or deciding to divorce is to deny the reality of the situation. Rationalizing overwhelming emotions serves as a defense mechanism to buffer shock. We block out words or actions and hide from ugly facts. This temporary shock and numbness carries us through the first wave of grief.

I experienced denial when I hung up the phone after talking with the last woman on the list of the women my husband was seeing. I kept looking at each of those names thinking that it just couldn't be possible for my husband to be involved with so many women.

Where did he find the time?
Had it been so easy to dismiss his wife and a good life?
How could he so thoroughly destroy our marriage covenant without even saying a word?

My denial stage did not last long because the evidence was written in black and white on the page in my lap. Even to this day, I still feel incredulous that all of his relationship rendezvous happened without my knowledge.

As the divorce process moved forward, I experienced denial each time another of his unpleasant actions surfaced. Each incident restarted the grieving process to the point that some days I felt like a caged hamster running mindlessly on a wheel.

But denial doesn't stick around long before the next grief stage, anger, hits us between the eyes.


That's a quick look at the chapter about grief. On Tuesday's post, we'll dig into the next two stages of grief: anger and bargaining.

In the meantime, if you or someone you know is experiencing divorce, I encourage you to order a copy of Without This Ring.

It's a been-there-done-that, heart-to-heart, faith-filled, hope-fueled approach to surviving divorce and thriving afterward.


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Release Celebration Giveaway!



My new book is finally out!

Unending joy gushes as I hold out this offering to you with trembling hands, trusting an uncontainable God to do uncontainable ministry through it.

Because it's all about HIM.
For HIM.
Because of HIM.
In spite of our messes.

What's the book about? Without This Ring: Surviving Divorce provides a road map toward hope and healing following divorce. It provides invaluable tools on how to survive the storm and emerge on the other side thriving, with the help of God. It's drawn from my own divorce experience along with dozens of others that I interviewed. 

Here's a snippet from the back cover:

Dear Reader,
You and I have never met, but I know something about you. I know that when your spouse put that ring on your finger on your wedding day, you didn't expect to take it off, did you? Me neither. 

Here is a road map to healing. It includes testimonies from dozens of others who share their honest confessions of struggle, anger, and grief for the purpose of helping you find your way toward forgiveness, letting go, and embracing future hope.

This is not a twelve-step process that guarantees life will work out the way you want. It's a been-there-done-that, heart-to-heart, faith-filled, hope-fueled approach. For you. God is with you, dear one. He will see you though. 

Each chapter deals with a particular struggle: forgiveness, anger, trust, etc. The chapters start out with telling some of the stories. Then the pastoral consultant (Rev. Mike Mattil) tells us what the Bible says about the subject of that chapter (anger, etc.). Then a licensed Christian counselor (Kristin Niekerk) walks us through practical steps on getting through each of those tough areas.

The end of each chapter contains a section called, "Pausing to Breathe, Pray, and Reflect." It's a place where you can read and meditate on Scripture, answer pointed questions about how you are processing the subject of that chapter, journaling prompts, and prayer prompts. This section is specifically designed to give God the space needed to heal your heart and mind.

You can download a preview excerpt of Without This Ring from Concordia Publishing House here.

This book was never about just telling my story. It focuses on walking people through the various stages and challenges of divorce, along with reassuring you that God WILL get you through--no matter what.

Without This Ring: Surviving Divorce released last Tuesday, and debuted as Amazon's #1 New Release on books about divorce. Praise God!

To celebrate what I am trusting God will do through Without This Ring, it's time for an exciting giveaway!! Here's what's in the goodie basket:
  • A signed copy of Without This Ring;
  • A Kindle Fire Tablet, 7" Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB, black;
  •  $25 Amazon gift card;
  • A beautiful mug, to enjoy your favorite beverage as you read; 
  • A box of my favorite English tea.

TO WIN:
  1. Leave a comment below and tell me why you'd like to receive Without This Ring.
  2. Subscribe to my blog via feed or email [look to the right]. 
  3. Share this Release Celebration Giveaway on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram. Each time you share this giveaway on social media, you earn another entry into the drawing! (be sure to tag @donnapyletx on Twitter/Instagram so I can add to your entries!).
The winner will be announced on Tuesday's regularly-scheduled blog post, so you have a whole weekend to share this opportunity! If you'd like to order Without This Ring: Surviving Divorce for you, a friend, your pastor, or your church's DivorceCare leader, click HERE.

I pray that God uses Without This Ring to heal your heart from the trauma of divorce and draw you closer to Christ, our ultimate Healer. THANK YOU for the privilege of serving you along this crazy, joy-filled journey of faith.

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Monday AM Devotion: Communicating Past Our Hurts





When someone hurts you deeply, being civil is the last thing you desire— especially if you were blindsided. Your natural self-defense mechanisms kick in and you want to lash out and hurt them as much as they hurt you.

Although spewing ugly words may feel good for an instant, it proves extremely harmful in the long-run.
There are two things that we can never recover: wasted time or hurtful words. 
You may think that the behavior of the person who hurt you doesn’t earn them your civility, but there’s much more at stakeespecially if children are involved.

Each conversation you have with the person who hurt you can go one of two ways: 
productive or destructive.

Taking the High Road: 
I remember how ugly names spewed when I confronted my ex-husband with his infidelity six years ago. However, I later repented to God and received His forgiveness. I’m not being super-spiritual, it simply felt awful knowing that I couldn’t unsay those words. 

By God’s grace, I resolved to never repeat that mistake with my ex-husband. The self-loathing that I felt afterward was too high a price to pay.

Perhaps I would have momentarily felt better to rant and call him names each time we communicated, but how many of those names would have been true of me in different circumstances? 

Although I never committed adultery or put another man above my husband, I couldn’t say the same about my relationship with God. Over the years, I have cheated on God by putting myself, my spouse, others, and even my career above Him.  

God could have shouted, “Adulterer!” at me and been justified. 
Instead, He showed grace.

Jesus Communicated Grace: 
As His followers, we are bound to show grace. Even when it hurts. When Jesus hung on the cross as the innocent sacrifice for our sins, He did not curse the ones who hung Him there. He said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” 

I understand that now. Even though I don’t know what drove my ex-husband actions, I cannot believe he fully understood the catastrophic ramifications.

I used Jesus’ prayer for my ex-husband: “Father, forgive him, for he knows not what he does.” In those early days of divorce, I prayed it through gritted teeth. But I learned firsthand that you can’t pray for someone without God changing your heart. Eventually, I prayed it through tears of genuine care and concern.  

God is pretty amazing like that.

Taking the high road in communicating with someone who has hurt you may result in biting your tongue until it’s bloody. I can certainly empathize. But when all was said and done, I could look at myself in the mirror without regretting ugly words said during the divorce process.

It can get exhausting always taking the high road, but it’s an exercise toward freedom.  
The rewards of self-respect and peaceful sleep—knowing that you honored God with your words and actions—are priceless
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*This is a modified excerpt from my new book:
"Without This Ring: Surviving Divorce",
which releases TOMORROW through Concordia Publishing House.
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Hitting Loneliness Between Its Beady Eyes


One of the most difficult aspects of divorce (or any significant relationship loss) is the intense loneliness you experience—especially in the first year or so. As a bona fide snuggler, it was particularly difficult for me.

In the beginning stages, loneliness may turn into anger and bitterness toward your ex-spouse and God. This stage is where you're most likely to throw the best pity parties. However, stagnating there can morph into unhealthy behavior patterns, depression, and perhaps even emotional or sexual promiscuity.

Ironically, loneliness does not mean being alone. Loneliness may impact us most deeply when we are in a crowd of people. That's because loneliness is a heart issue.

God created us to know Him and be fully, intimately known by Him. Crowds are superficial, not intimate. Even those who know us best still do not know or understand the deepest and most desperate desires of our heart. Loneliness is inevitable.

Interestingly, I never felt lonely while I sat in court waiting to sign the divorce papers. Even though the courtroom was full of complete strangers, they understood the heart issue. They understood through hard-earned, heartbreaking experience the mess that divorce creates in every area of your life.

Most people are uncomfortable with the reality of such highly-charged emotional issues. My close friends helped me get past loneliness by letting me talk about the small, ordinary things from my married life: how my ex-husband sang in the shower, wore a hand towel on his head when he mowed the lawn, or how he snored so loudly that he could pull the paint off of any wall. Reminiscing over good memories helped ease the bad ones that followed.

Mere acquaintances can't ease the hurt of loneliness because they don't care to talk about such simple or tender moments. They prefer to talk about safe, everyday things like crock pot recipes, which left me feeling like an alien from Mars. I needed to talk about real issues, but let's face it, they're a party killer.

There is a very important distinction we need to understand: Loneliness is not depression. 

Loneliness doesn't feel good, but we're still able to function. Depression inhibits our ability to function. In other words, loneliness says, "I don't want to get up and go to work," while depression says, "I can't get up and go to work." Loneliness is more of a state of mind, whereas depression translates physically. Loneliness can certainly turn into depression, so keeping a close tab on your emotional state is crucial.

Although Jesus was God in the flesh, He experienced acute loneliness. In the hour of His greatest need, as He hung on the cross, the disciples abandoned Him. Even God the Father turned His back on His only Son so that God's full wrath could be poured out on Jesus to be judged once and for all. Jesus even taught His disciples about loneliness: "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Jesus' words provide the antidote to loneliness: His presence. 

Two overarching dangers of loneliness are busyness and replacement love.

Divorce, by nature, makes you busy. You're busy reorganizing your home, finances, priorities, and relationships. Although nonstop activity can ease your stress and temporarily distract you from feeling overwhelmed, eventually you need to slow down and let the Lord heal your heart. Burnout awaits if you don't.

It's normal to find yourself longing for someone to replace the love you lost. However, it's dangerous when you are hurting from divorce. The last thing you need during your healing process is for your bed to become a revolving door. Instead of letting neediness make me vulnerable, I shifted my focus. I rekindled and pursued interests that I had put aside when I got married, such as my love for travel and a newfound love of photography.

I have used the past six years since my divorce to invest significant time in my relationship with the Lord: increased Bible study time, writing, teaching God's Word, attending conferences and retreats, and listening to sermon/Bible study podcasts. I asked God to fill my time and He has done so with joy-filled gusto!

Once you center your life in Christ and gain confidence without relying on a spouse, you will be in a much better place spiritually and emotionally to get past busyness and embrace a new, healthy relationship.

Loneliness can erect significant barriers that prevent God's access to heal our heart and empower us to live life to the full. So what's the answer?

Instead of giving into loneliness, lay claim to the nearness of God: "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

How have you handled loneliness in your life? 

*This is an excerpt from my new book: "Without This Ring: Surviving Divorce", which releases next week through Concordia Publishing House. 

Monday AM Devotion: Guarding Your Heart and Sexual Integrity


Let’s face it: dating at forty-eight years old looks vastly different than it does at twenty-one. When I got married, I thought my days of dating were behind me for good. Can I get an amen?

Even now, six years following my unexpected divorce, I have not stepped back into the dating world. It took many years for God to heal my heart, so I am a tad hesitant to throw it out into the dating world again.

However, when it comes to relationships in general, I have discovered a few important things:

1) God loves you as you are.

It is never someone’s job to “complete” you. That’s too much freight to put on a relationship. No one else on earth can complete us because we are complete in Christ. God loves you as you are. You don’t have to become someone else’s idea of a perfect friend or mate. As you continue your faith walk and become more like Jesus, you joyfully discover that God made you unique. Lean into that uniqueness—don’t try to be someone you aren’t.

2) Embrace the possibility.

Trust is the very fabric of human relationships. If you’ve been hurt, you’re going to have trust issues. You can’t enter into a new relationship if you harbor feelings that no one is worthy of your trust. Projecting the past onto a new relationship is not fair to either of you, and it provides a recipe for certain failure. Working through those issues with prayer and Scripture places you in a far better starting position.

3) Be observant.

Watching how people interact with others provides excellent clues about their character. How do they treat other people? How do they talk with others? Are they kind? Do they gossip or share other people’s secrets? Although people can put on an excellent show in public their behavior often deteriorates in private. Inconsistency is a red flag, so be alert and ask God for discernment.

Whether friendship or romance, start any relationship by sharing small things. Then watch what happens. The breach of even a small confidence presents a huge red flag.

Trustworthiness with little things generally means trustworthiness with big things.

I'm so thankful that Jesus is ALWAYS trustworthy with both.
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*This is a revised excerpt from my upcoming book: "Without This Ring: Surviving Divorce", which releases through Concordia Publishing House later this month.*
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The Most Basic Bible Study Skill We Need

 

One of the questions that I'm blessed to receive more often than others is: "How do you study the Bible?"

Nine times out of ten, the people asking know much more about Scripture than I do. The question that they are really asking is what techniques I use when studying Scripture.

I cannot tell you how many times I have asked others that very same question. When I sit under a teacher's excellent Bible exegesis and learn nuances within the text that I have never seen before, I love to ask about that teacher's study methodology. Yes, the Holy Spirit is the one who brings forth what we need to hear exactly when we need to hear it, but how those truths are taught makes a difference.

I have tried numerous Bible study methods, but the most basic, invaluable tool (following prayer) is simply this: Read the text in its entirety and read it repeatedly.

Let's say you're studying the book of Philippians. There are four chapters and a little over 1,600 words in the entire book. The average person can read approximately 300 words per minute. That means you can easily read through the entire epistle in five to six minutes.

So, why is that important?

Reading the text in its entirety and reading it repeatedly provides a "helicopter" ride over the book to get a sense of its landscape. Then, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we begin to hike through the peaks and valleys in the book, discerning the overarching theme, the main character(s), and the setting.

Once we grasp those basics, then we can pause to examine every word and phrase, the culture, and the book's author, among other things. What I find consistently is that when I have invested time grasping the landscape, digging deeper impacts my faith walk more powerfully.

For instance, when we dig deep into the background of the book of Philippians, we learn that it's also known as the "Book of Joy." Researching even further reveals that the Apostle Paul (who authored Philippians) was in prison when he wrote this epistle. And our natural question is: "How can a person write a book of joy whilst imprisoned?" Paul provides the answer in the book's last chapter:

"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11-13

That's where God uses the life application of Paul's words to hits us squarely between our spiritual eyes: If God allowed Paul to experience joy and contentment in such desperate circumstances, God can and will do the same in mine.

Another helpful tool is to read the text ALOUD. Yes, that may feel strange at first. But remember the culture into which this book was given? People did not have paper and pens handy. The Old Testament scrolls and letters such as Paul's were read ALOUD to the people gathered. When we read the text aloud, we can hear the story that it conveys. 

Though there are many wonderful techniques in studying God's Word, this one basic skill cannot be neglected: Read the book in its entirety and read it repeatedly.

Try it! I'd love to hear how God uses it in your study time.

What are some of your go-to Bible study skills that you can share with us? 
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Is Organizing Your Closet Spiritual?


This is not a random internet picture of a tornado's aftermath. It's a picture of my closet on Saturday morning. 

I know, right? (Don't judge.)

Over the past several months while on my book deadline, I fell into a practice of keeping my favorites outfits within reach, ignoring the mess, and quickly shutting the door to prevent hidden monsters from escaping. But it came to a head last Saturday morning.

After morning Bible study time, I pulled out my planner and began praying through my schedule and upcoming travel and teaching commitments. I looked at my writing deadlines, this summer's live Bible study taping, family fun time, church commitments, and community involvement.

May through August will be a blur.

These next four months are filled with incredible ministry opportunities, personal spiritual growth, actively serving the body of Christ, and fun. As I prayed through my schedule, a mental picture of my bedroom closet popped up in my head. What? Out of all the things that the Lord could bring to mind...why my closet?

I laid my planner aside, walked into my bedroom, and opened the closet door. An empty piece of luggage chose that moment to slide to the floor and fall into the mess. PLOP. Then I realized what God wanted me to see:

If I don't get a handle on the ignored chaos, that piece of luggage will be me -- empty and sliding to the floor in a burned out mess by summer's end. 

The closet had been on my cleaning "to do" list for a long time because I continuously thought, "I don't have anything to wear." I spent entirely too much time each morning deciding what to wear, finding all the pieces, and digging out my shoes. ENOUGH.

The day had arrived to redeem the mess. I blocked off the day, set up a card table next to my bed, booted up my favorite music playlist, took a deep breath, and dove straight in.  


The emptying stage alone took three hours. I made four piles: (1) love it; (2) store it; (3) donate it; and (4) toss it. The "store it" pile only consisted of winter coats and scarves that I will love wearing again when chilly temperatures return.

When my closet was finally empty, the donation pile completely covered the card table in four high stacks on each corner.  Isn't the cat photobomb too cute?


Some items still had tags attached! I found an incredible wardrobe organizational tool online called the "Capsule Wardrobe" on The Every Girl blog. It made complete sense, so I followed it. Seriously, it's the best thing since sliced bread!

I dusted the closet shelves, sprayed air freshener in the chest of drawers, and vacuumed the carpet. CLEAN! Little by little, I hung all of my "love it" dressy items and scarves in neat sections, and folded the casual items in the freshly emptied drawers. Plus, I re-discovered some super cute Christmas socks that I had forgotten about.



There was even enough free space for beautiful homemade gifts ... and my blue hair (don't ask).





 And here is the result:


WOO HOOOOO! Yes, it took me ALL day Saturday, plus finish-up time on Sunday afternoon with the help of my youngest sister. But it feels WONDERFUL.

Throughout this closet cleaning journey, I learned a few key spiritual truths.

1) The chaotic, neglected areas in my life spill over into every other area. 

Even though the chaos seemed minor, it impacted my routine every single day. I had created an unnecessary source of stress and anxiety simply because I was too lazy or busy to store each item where it belonged in the first place. The mess affected my time, peace of mind, and created shame (as I hoped no one would ever open that door). Well, now everyone has seen it, so guess what? No more shame. Though perhaps a slight blush.

2) Structuring my time now derails last minute stress and long-term exhaustion later

When I pulled out my planner on Saturday morning to pray through my schedule and commitments, that closet was the last thing on my mind. But God brought it to mind first. How can I be sure it was Him tapping me on the spiritual shoulder? Because I was actively seeking Him in that exact moment about my schedule and time management. It was an immediate answer to my very specific prayer. Listening during prayer is important. 

3)  Taking care of what God provides saves money and opens opportunities to bless.

After unearthing all of those clothes, I have plenty to wear! Reality was simply buried beneath the chaos. My summer wardrobe is set and I won't be shopping for clothes any time soon. And that card table piled high with "discards" filled up FIVE huge bags with clothes that I will donate to TEAM (Tomball Emergency Assistance Ministries) later this afternoon to bless those in need.

Yes, I'm still sore from scalp to toenail, but I am breathing the fresh air of FREEDOM! It took me about thirty seconds to put together an outfit for work this morning. And opening my closet door made me smile. BIG. I even have room to twirl! Not that I would. But maybe I did a little.

So, is organizing your closet spiritual? It certainly was for me.
God has prepared me to embrace an amazing, crazy summer with a LOT less stress.
He is always faithful to redeem our mess in order to grow us and bless others.
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Has this inspired you?
What ignored mess could you tackle to reduce unnecessary stress?
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Were You There?



The darkness is almost palpable as the sanctuary lights extinguish.
Only candles illuminate the enormous wooden cross behind the altar.
The organ pedal grumbles low as a lone tenor pierces the silence: "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"
Each hymn verse progressing through the events of Good Friday toward Easter Sunday.
"Were you there when they nailed him to the cross?"
Mary was. Mary, the mother of Jesus, stood in silent anguish while the Son hung high in His.
What reserves of faith and strength would a mother need to witness her son endure such incomprehensible pain without risking life and limb to save him? Her unwavering trust in a faithful God shines bright in the darkness.
I wonder if she ever stopped remembering those images when she closed her eyes at night.
She realized Jesus had not been pierced and crushed because of what HE did, but because of what WE did. Christ, the Light of the world, drowning in the blood of our sin.
A slow gurgle of grace.
"Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?"
John was. The disciple whom Jesus loved. He stood at the foot of the cross with Mary and Mary Magdalene as Jesus entrusted His mother's care to him. They were the last words Jesus said to his beloved disciple.
I wonder if he felt relief when Jesus' suffering was finally over.
John knew that Jesus was blameless of the Pharisee's trumped up charges. The very ones who should have recognized Jesus first saw Him not. They perceived the perfect Son as a poisonous sideshow.
Yet Jesus promises that even when we exchange God's plan for worldly gain, He still faithfully offers us the wellspring of life.
A soul gushing of grace.
"Were you there when the stone was rolled away?"
Jesus was. Raised to life from death because that was God's plan all along. Those nails didn't keep Jesus on the cross — His love for us kept Him there.
Jesus suffered to save us from hell's eternal grasp.
He suffered to remove the veil that denied us direct access to Him.
He died so we would have the chance to LIVE.
A tidal wave of grace.

Yes, we were there — the sin of all mankind pounding His bloody nails in deep. And yet, He still whispers: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) 

There's no statute of limitations on His grace — it never runs out, runs dry, or runs away. He extends it to us — an upward calling to fulfill our inward longing. An open invitation to be loved like we've never been loved before.

You can't fall too far. At the end of your rope, you'll find His ladder of hope. If you don't have the strength to climb it, He'll carry you out. Today. Right now. Exactly where you are.

Amazing Good Friday grace.
God's blessings as you walk toward Calvary during this Holy Week.
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Have I Forgiven? Four Litmus Tests



One of the questions that I field most often after speaking at any event where I mention forgiveness is: "So, how do I know that God has enabled me to forgive?" 

It's a question that I asked myself after walking through divorce six years ago. Any unexpected life change is difficult, but surviving that season came by God's grace alone. God pulled me through each moment, so I knew He would faithfully enable me to eventually forgive.

But how long would it take?

I had asked God from day one of that stormy season to work forgiveness in me, then through me to my ex-husband. The problem was that I didn't want to forgive. The hurt was catastrophic, so my prayers to forgive were ground through gritted teeth out of strict obedience to God's Word. As far as I was concerned, my ex-husband could take a long walk on a short plank.

But that doesn't line up with God's love, so I prayed for months for Him to work that miracle of forgiveness in my heart. After the divorce was final, I could tell that God had softened my heart. But is softness actually forgiveness? How could I know? I kept asking God to clearly answer whether or not He had strengthened my faith enough to extend forgiveness.

One month later, one of my pastors walked our congregation through Luke 15 and the story of the prodigal son. As he explained the forgiveness process over several weeks, one Sunday he said:

"You know that you have forgiven when you're more sorry about who that person has become than what they've done."

That was it! His words explained why I had began to shed tears while praying for my ex-husband. I no longer held against him what he had done. I was sad for him over the good marriage, church life, and Christ-centered friendships that he no longer embraced.

If you have not yet reached that point to forgive someone who hurt you, don't lose hope. It takes time and relentless prayer. Following that season, I discovered that there are concrete ways to ascertain if we have forgiven our trespassers. I call them the Four Litmus Test questions.

1) The general thoughts test.

What is the first thought that pops into your mind when you think of them? Is it positive or negative? Do you struggle with thinking any positive thoughts about them at all? Are the positives buried way down the list after all of the negatives? If so, continue asking God to work forgiveness in you.

2) The failure test.

When someone hurts us, the last thing we want is for them to succeed in life. Oftentimes, we want them to lose their job, their house, and suffer miserably in any future relationship. But forgiveness means you want them to do better in their life. Do you truly wish them well or do you want them to fail? If not, continue asking God to work forgiveness in you.

3) The revenge test.

Do you still fantasize about ways you would get even with them? I want to be clear that following a necessary court procedure to resolution is not revenge. For instance, there may be legal consequences which need to come for them that you need to see through to protect others from future physical or sexual abuse. What I mean here is does your heart want to hurt them?  If so, continue asking God to work forgiveness in you.

4) The opportunity to help them test.

If they were in trouble and you could help them, would you? I'm not suggesting that you subject yourself to further abuse or harm (or that you are even obliged to help them, or should). But would you want them to prosper or see them come to harm? If harm, continue asking God to work forgiveness in you.

How did you score? I know these may be hard tests. However, they are spiritual markers to help determine whether or not you are allowing God to work forgiveness in your heart.  

The prayer that I recited daily asking God to enable me to forgive was simple but effective: "Lord, let me see him as someone You died for."

Forgiveness is where you want to live. It means freedom for YOU and sets your heart free to embrace joy and love again. With God all things are possible. Continue praying and believing. God is faithful and still has an incredible plan for your life.

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36
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God Got Dirty To Wash Us Clean


CONGRATULATIONS to Sara Pike and Heidi Goehmann
for winning the signed copies of "
The Executioner's Redemption"
and a $25 Starbucks gift card!! I'll reach out to you today.

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Sometimes, I wish the Bible had started at the beginning.

But it doesn't.

We pick up the story in the middle with God hovering over darkness. The cosmic confrontation between God and Satan had already taken place. Satan and his fallen angels were already cast down to earth.

Then God begins the extraordinary work of separating light from dark. Sky from water. Land from sea. Then He simply spoke and all living creatures -- animals, fish, and birds of the air -- came into being. 

Except for mankind.

We were too precious for God to remain distant. Speaking from afar simply wouldn't do. So we were hand-crafted by a huddle of hearts -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

"Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." [Genesis 1:26]

God moved in close. The finest Master Artist scooped up dirt and began shaping and molding. He sculpted every beautiful detail of Adam and then breathed into Adam His pneuma -- His breath of life.

The authority of God made all of creation.

But it was the affection of God that made all of His children. 

God, our Creator and Lover of our souls, formed us with love ... for love. 

When it came to you and I, God chose to get in close. He opted for relationship. Adam and Eve opted for forbidden fruit. And the relationship between the created and the Creator was changed.

When it came time to reconcile us back to Himself, God sent His Son -- to get in close. Not to speak to us from a distance, but to re-enter the relationship. Jesus chose to touch, love, and heal. He chose to get His hands dirty.

Again.

Our Savior ultimately chose to be lifted on a cross so that we would never have to descend into Hell.

His suffering paved the way for our Salvation. God's perfect Son became our perfect sacrifice to pay sin's ultimate price.

God didn't mind getting dirty when it came to us.

He knew it was the only way He could make us clean again.
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