The Gift of Confession

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I’m in the middle of a great book.  I recommend it.  The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski is an excellent book on spiritual renewal and growth. It’s not a speed-read.  It is thought-provoking and quite challenging.   I highly recommend it.

It digs deeper than the feel-goods I usually enjoy reading.  It explores beyond the typical, everyday sort of religious conversations into mapping out spiritual practice. 

Recently, I read a chapter on confession.  The practice of confession serving as a healing point for our hearts and minds.  In the particular religious construct I find myself a part of, confession is a private and personal moment between God and me.

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I wonder how many times, though, I am ashamed to truly confess or become too busy for true confession.  There are two components to confession.

One is coming clean before God and the other is coming clean before others. 

Can we really believe confession is beneficial? 

Frederick Buechner said,

“To confess your sins to God is not to tell him anything he doesn’t already know.  Until you confess them, however, they are the abyss between you.  When you confess them, they become the bridge.”

This is powerful.  I often find that I too often offer blanket confession before God. 

Sometimes, a one-size-fits-all type of confession. “Lord, forgive my sin.”  There is beauty in this, but I have to think it isn’t always enough. It is good to be specific and honest with ourselves and with God.  I have noticed when I am open and honest, my openness to His work on my behalf increases. 

In recent months, when I have been honest about my sin, say of unforgiveness, and I name it for what it is and ask for His help in conquering it, I notice a change in me.  I see His hand working and sense He is ready to help. 

Honestly, I miss this too often.  I get busy or lose track, but He is showing me His faithfulness every time. 

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Let’s take this one step further. 

Can you imagine how our spiritual and mental health would improve if we were able to make confession to someone safe as well?  To be able to safely unload our shame.  And in this way, not carrying our burden alone. 

The Bible speaks of confessing our sins to one another. 

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How many of us ever feel safe enough to confess any of our shortcomings and sins to other people?  Our culture is too caught up in having it together. And, let’s face it, often, we know our sin can and will be used against us.  

Many times we find the self-righteous Believers among us and this quickly shuts down the conversation.  But, I want us to consider true confession as a pathway to a whole and sound life.

 This is where our self-righteousness (in ourselves and towards others) needs to fall by the wayside. God sees our suffering in sin as like a cancer.  It is eating away at us and must be handled.  It is not out of vengeance or anger He looks upon us, but, it is with compassion and mercy.  He knows it is killing us. 

And, He has the cure.

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He hates sin.  He hates the death it is bringing.  He doesn’t hate us. 

In His love, He is calling us to Him so He can heal us and make us whole.  So, confession, while initially seems vulnerable and unpleasant, is the answer to our pain. Pulling our sin out of the darkness and flushing it with light, destroys the hold it has over us.  The enemy of our souls thrives in the dark; secret sins have no power over us when they are brought into the light.

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Our sin, which causes a breach, will soon become the bridge after we open wide our hearts to Him and His inspection.  As a recovering perfectionist, I hate to be wrong or make mistakes.  Not just because it means I am wrong, but because, it means somewhere in this heart of mine, I am flawed. 

I don’t like being flawed.  But, I am.  We all are. 

This Savior sees and knows our weakness and failings.  Let’s be honest and open with Him and with the safe people in our lives.  Healing comes when we open our hearts and sweep out the junk we’ve swept into a corner.

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Up and Coming

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I’m not interested in going back.

I choose to live in the future.  Our lives are meant to be faced forward, not dwelling  on past days.

Ahhh, it’s easy to remember the good old days. 

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I find myself tempted by that option. Goodness. My kids are growing up and I’m not as young as I used to be.  There are loads of happy memories and experiences to wander through.  But, I’m not camping out.

What was is done. 

What God gave then–I hold with such fondness so many beautiful gifts.  I love my kids and all their lives mean to me and all those beautiful memories.

But, to stay there is not life.  Life is best lived moving forward. 

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Some folks get caught in the golden memories.  The way things were. 

The answers and miracles and fondness of memories.  I just wonder, though, if by refusing to move forward, what we are really saying is God can not be trusted.  He will not do equal wonders in the future.  They will certainly look different, but they will be no less awe-inspiring.

I choose forward.

God has great things planned for the future.  The future days excite me!

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A new day calls for new ways (Let me be clear—not new truth.) Perhaps to not move forward feels safest and gives a more solid footing. God has future plans that are bigger and brighter than those of the past.  If we stay in the past, we miss the opportunity of bringing along the new people here today. 

The prophet told us clearly,

“God has a plan for our future.  Good plans.  Plans of hope and peace.”

God is always working with the future in mind. 

That was the whole point of Christ’s coming.

photo-1440999189875-aec750e026f4It’s easy to get caught up in the swooning over past memories.  We tend to clean up and spruce up many of our memories.  Sometimes we revise the history in our minds.  Time is an equalizer.  Anyhow, it is no longer with us.

I choose a forward moving life.

It’s a new day.  What was is over. 

Hopefully, I have learned what I can from the past and will be able to carry it into the future. There is such beauty and peace walking into the future knowing God has me.  I am His. 

Give me forward facing folks anytime. 

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They understand the path is not charted and could get bumpy. 

We don’t live in a utopian frame of mind.  We know, because of experience, God is present regardless of bumps and roadblocks.  If I have learned anything over the last years is God never leaves.  Never.  I fought that battle in my mind years ago, and now carry that hard-won truth with me into the future.

I wonder.  Do people not think God will be present if they move forward?  I imagine there could be that fear.  But, that truth has to be won…even fought for…in our hearts.  Better to learn this sooner, rather than later!

Forward.

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It is the seeking of what lies ahead. 

Refusing to be held back by what may have worked or not have worked in the past. Not insisting I do it my way.  Holding firmly to the belief that God is a God of wonders and mystery. Actively seeking a forward moving mindset.

It isn’t saying the past is invalid. 

photo-1444011283387-7b0f76371f12It is saying, “I am good with the past.  I am at peace with the past. But, I am excited at what God yet has for me.”  Pretty simple.

I won’t be defined by the past, but merely informed by and beautifully shaped by it. 

The gifts I carry into the future are beautiful and costly.  Rare and exquisite gifts.  Gifts obtained by tears and prayers and even some sweat and blood.  And, I hold dearly to these gifts as I move forward. 

I am moving forward! 

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Hiding

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This past week the reminders have been quite vivid and stir my soul.  When God works, he does an amazing job.  He unceasingly works on our behalf and I must stop and call attention to his handiwork.

I am amazed when I witness the tender loving care of a Father who knows exactly what we long for and desperately need.  Our need and pain are not lost on him.  When we relinquish control of our will and plans and rely totally on him, he speaks to our need.  We may not even know exactly what it is we need, but he does.

What a loving, personal God. 

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He could have set this world in motion and stepped aside to see what we could come up with.  Watching from a distance.  And waiting. But he didn’t.

And, most certainly, we make a mess out of things.  Our pain comes from our own hands or from selfish desires around us.

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No matter the depth of our brokenness and regardless of how far scattered the pieces of our hearts, his beautiful grace works a breathtaking miracle.  If we let him.  When it is the easiest to hide and shelter our hearts, that is when we must step into the light.

Vulnerable and available.  

He longs to bless and comfort and mend the broken shreds.  But, so often we shrink into the shadows.  People hurt.  Rejection screams.  Loss tears and rips at the fiber of our souls.  And we lay in a heap.  Broken. Devastated. Wounded. Desperate.

Desperate for a loving grace that brings healing.

Truly, desperate to be known, and yet loved.

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He knows our weakness and our vulnerability.  How desperate we are for him.  He longs for us.  He seeks us out.  He searches and finds us.

Do we hide because we are undone and naked?  Who of our fathers and mothers was that again?

Are we the only ones?  Are we walking in the company of a great swell of witnesses? Those who have walked through shadows cheer us on.

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What do we lose if we quit?  Who remains lost because we refused to be known?  He knows and sees anyway.  All is already clear to him anyway.

Why do we feel the need to hide?

He has healing in his hands.  Pours out the oil of gladness and a peace that no man can conjure.  In my depths, I look up for hope.  He is our hope waiting along with peace and joy.  Healing.

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What man and the snake intended for evil, all will be made right.

The gift of the cross made right our broken souls.

It made clear what the serpent sought to do.  Death was in the serpent’s lie.  Death is the tongue and jealous desires of man.  But, no man can ever separate us from the Love of God.  No schemes or plans can ever cause our release from his grip.

It’s a grip.  A grip of grace, of love, of hope, of joy.

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Hiding causes us to miss it.  In the moments of hiding and closing off our hearts, God holds the remedy.  A salve only found in him.

He does all things well.

The Psalmist of long ago cried out with such beauty and desperation I feel it in the depths of my soul:

“I think about the heavens.

    I think about what your fingers have created.

I think about the moon and stars

    that you have set in place.

What are human beings that you think about them?

What is a son of man that you take care of him?”

(Psalm 8:3,4)

Yes! That is me!  My human self!

My micro self in the sight of a macro God. There is awe in the reality.

  Why in the world should I hide? 

I am known by him and yet I am desperately loved.

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I’m not a burden or disappointment. Ever.

I am my beloveds; he is mine.

And, you, too.  Created and kissed by God.  He created us and called us good.

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I am safest when I hide in his hand.

Not hiding from his hand.

Healing is in those hands.  For he has engraved us upon his palms.

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Do Over!

 

photo-1429277158984-614d155e0017Starting over.

It is exhilarating and terrifying–all at once.

It’s a quirky thing.

When you have no urgent need to start over, well, one doesn’t really feel the urge. 

You might look at your circumstances and see no real avenue for starting over. But, when the moment comes, it’s amazing what you can do.

We never anticipated the opportunity to start over would come so quickly.  We had a long-range goal of changing things up.  A few years out. Making the grand leap.  But, life quickly and unexpectedly launched other plans into our laps.   Plot twist!

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It’s what I think a hot air balloon ride might be like.  We’ve untetherd and now we are gliding…praying and waiting and letting the air gusts take us further and further.  It’s quiet up here.  The view is spectacular! We see a landing spot, but we may end up being a little to the left or a smidge to the right.

Sometimes that feels incredibly amazing and other times it feels more unnerving that exhilarating.  All I know to do is keep our eye on the prize and the God that is directing us home.

It’s cool to be front and center in the hot air balloon.  Not on the ground below watching from a distance.

bXoAlw8gT66vBo1wcFoO_IMG_9181I have no idea what the final portrait will look like.  But, God keeps dropping bits and pieces before us.  This great mystery is ever so slowly revealing itself—one twist and turn at a time.

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Have you ever started over?  

If I am being completely honest, I sometimes dreamed of doing something other than pastoring a church. Making a difference in a new way.

We lived out this calling for 25 years and watched amazing God-moments unfold before us.  And, as life goes, struggles and challenges came, too.  It’s all in a life’s work.  So many miraculous results and some comical failures to round it all out.

But, here we are.

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Starting over.

And, honestly, I am excited!

Someone asked us yesterday if we miss what we were doing before.  And the answer is a pretty simple no.  We miss some of the people.  But, we are looking forward and ahead.  We are not dwelling on what has been, but on what will be.

I don’t know where you stand.  But, it’s a great time to start over. 

I recently read Ann Voskamp’s blog post, at A Holy Experience, about June being a great month to start over.  You should check it out here.  It sparked me to think.  What a joy to be able to have a do-over in life.  To move into new dreams.  Hope and excitement bubble up inside when I think we are actually doing it!  Honestly, there is no room for fear.

People usually think of starting over when the calendar rolls over to January each new year.  A new calendar; a new start. But, June. Now, is the best time ever!

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It’s a fresh new season.  New motivation!  New, fresh drive.  The dark and dreary is behind.  Studies show starting new health habits and changes may actually be easier in the springtime than in January–a dark and dreary month.  The winter often lends itself to hibernating and digging in. Spring brings motivation and new life and busting out!

So, here we are.  It’s a new day; it’s a new, fresh season.

Not just on the calendar, but for your life as well.

If you are ever as blessed as us to have a do-over…take it! 

photo-1445249029690-d729bbc73bcfNow is the best time. Go for it!  See where your passions and the pulling of your heart are. Follow your dreams! Listen to your heart’s desire. Don’t wait another day!

It’s a beautiful day for a do-over.  

It doesn’t have to be a complete, whole-sale do-over like we have done.  Maybe there is simply an area of your life that needs change and a fresh start.  Throw open the windows!  Why not?

Do it now!

Give yourself permission to explore the landscape and the possibilities.

Be brave and courageous!  It’s beautiful up here!  You’ll love the view!

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I would love to hear how you are taking a do-over in your life!  Leave a comment.  Join in on this discussion…life is better together!  Here’s to new beginnings!