Doin' It Halfway Since 1996

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus

Tag Archives: Forgiveness

Never Beyond – Mike Tyson: On Being the Prodigal’s Brother

This post is a response to the Never Beyond poster series from People of the Second Chance. The question: Who would you give a second chance?

Christians LOVE the parable about the prodigal son and for good reason. It’s an example of God’s extravagant grace toward us.

Even if we don’t realize all the cultural implications of Jesus’ day in the parable, we love thinking about how God runs to us and lavishes us with his love.

Stop for second and take a minute to read Luke 15:11-32.

Often times, we identify quite easily with the son who has rudely asked for, received and squandered his inheritance. The bitter taste of the world and fair-weather friends still lingers on our tongues. We can relate to his being in the pit of pigs, wondering if he even has a chance to go home and be a servant for his father. We rejoice in the thought of the son’s repentance. We are thankful to know that God loves us as much as the father loved his son.

It makes us feel good. It makes us feel loved. It makes us feel wanted.

But there’s more to the parable. The prodigal is not the only son. There’s another son. A more responsible, diligent, faithful son.

This son, the eldest, has dutifully obeyed and followed his father. He has done all that he was supposed to do as a son. He’s worked hard and taken care of the family business. He’s stayed with his aging father. He’s been the good son.

But then his black sheep brother returns. Repentant.

And the father throws him an extravagant, lavish party to celebrate his return.

The older brother is angry. He complains. He’s bitter. He doesn’t understand why this terrible son receives such a compassionate and gracious reception. He refuses to embrace his brother as the father does. He refuses to come inside to join the party.

The father, full of love, says to him, “‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:31-32)

The parable begs for an ending. We don’t know if the older brother decided to join the celebration or if he decided to stay outside and wallow in his bitterness.

This week’s People of the Second Chance Never Beyond poster depicts Mike Tyson.

You know him, right? If you’re a child of the 80s like me (man, I’m getting old), you probably remember him as a boxing legend. You may have played Mike Tyson’s Punch Out on the old school Nintendo system. You might also remember him as a really bad guy. He has a pretty long rap sheet. I won’t list it here. But do an internet search and you’ll find a myriad of websites that list his sins for all the world to see.

Just like the younger brother, he lived in excess. He partied hard. He was (and still is) famous. He was important by the world’s standards. He’s probably tasted all the world has to offer. The people who enjoyed his success dropped him when things got bad. He hit rock bottom and the entire world got ringside seats to watch his downfall. When he fell, he fell hard. When he fell, those who claimed to love him began to hate him. Everyone believed he got what he deserved, including me.

I would imagine that it’s been pretty lonely for Mike Tyson.

On Sunday evening, Mike Tyson tweeted this:

I don’t claim to know Mike Tyson’s heart. What I do know is that repentant sinners receive lavish love from God the father. If Mike Tyson has God like he says, if he has come to his senses, if he has repented – then God the Father ran with open arms to validate him as son. He gave him a robe. He gave him shoes. HE WAS FORGIVEN. Mike Tyson received the same measure of grace that all the rest of us prodigals have (in case you were wondering, that’s an overabundance, never-ending, gushing with loving kindness, eternity’s worth of grace).

Forget about Mike Tyson for a second. What about the people in your life? You know, that person you can’t stand at work? The mother in play group who is ALWAYS bragging about her kids and putting down your parenting styles? Your black sheep relative who everyone in the family hopes can’t make it to the family gathering? Your neighbor whose dog keeps tearing up your flower bed? What about those people? You might be the prodigal’s brother if the thought of God running to them (like he did you) to lavish his love upon them makes your stomach turn. But the truth is that the fountain of grace from which YOU and I drink is the same fountain of grace offered to them.

When that truth sinks into our thick skulls and hard hearts, do we want to be like the older brother? If that person we despise comes repentant before the cross, are we going to complain and argue and try to explain to God why someone like Mike Tyson (or our co-worker, peer, relative, neighbor) shouldn’t receive a party and someone like us should? Are we going to really believe that our duty to God and all the “good” stuff we’ve done for God gives us more merit? That somehow we deserve more because we think we made better choices for ourselves?

When someone else is the prodigal, especially if it’s someone we don’t particularly like, we have a choice. We can either pout outside the house sipping from the cup of bitterness OR we can rejoice, go inside, and party it up because “he was dead, but now he’s alive. He was lost, but now is found.”

Which will you choose?

If you want to hear the sermon that inspired me this week and helped me write this post, click here. Just want to send a thanks to my pastor Mark Cary for sharing these words of wisdom.

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Never Beyond: What I’m Expecting

All week long I’ve been posting about grace, forgiveness, and second chances – all inspired by the Never Beyond Poster series initiated by People of the Second Chance.

On Tuesday I wrote about Absent Parents.

On Wednesday, I wrote about Forgiving the Ex-Boyfriend.

On Thursday, I wrote about Giving myself second chances.

And today, I’m posting my first vlog (video blog). It’s my first, so be gracious.

People of the Second Chance (POTSC) website

People of the Second Chance Facebook Page

@POTSC Twitter Feed

AND . . .

After making my video today, I found out that they are also on Pinterest. So, check them out there too.

I really look forward to taking this journey and I hope you are too.

Never Beyond: On Giving Myself a Second Chance Every Day

This post is a response to the Never Beyond poster series from People of the Second Chance. The question: Who would you forgive?

All week I’ve been posting on Grace, Forgiveness, and Second Chances.

Tuesday I posted about Casey Anthony and Absent Parents; Yesterday about broken relationships.

Flickr Photo by user darrenjsylvester

If I had two personalities, I’m sure that one would be named Judgmental Jackie and the other would be named Martha the False Martyr.

Here’s a conversation the two women would have regularly:

JJ: Wow Martha, you sure slept in late today. Do you plan on even doing anything today?

MM: You’re right. I stayed up too late last night. The day’s almost over. I might as well go back to bed.

JJ: You know, I have this friend who has ten children. She gets up at 5, nurses her baby, gets breakfast going, has her children ready to go by six. Then they all have devotions at the kitchen table before sitting down to a five-course breakfast. She also homeschools and all her children play at least three instruments. They’re very intelligent. The three oldest ones are spelling bee champions. I think she only cooks whole foods, in fact, I’m sure she does. Her children are all so well-behaved, polite and responsible. She and her husband have the perfect marriage. They never argue and they’re so happy. Even though she’s had ten children, she still looks as fit and young as she did on the day she graduated from high school. I think she’s working on writing her third novel too. She’s amazing. You could never be like her.

MM: You’re right. I’m a terrible mother, a terrible wife, and just an all around terrible person.

JJ: You know what you need? More prayer time. More devotion time. More Bible study. I’m pretty sure that you aren’t doing all you can to be closer to God. You’d better work on that. I have a friend who is a missionary overseas and she cares for orphans. She’s pretty amazing. You could never be like her.

MM: You’re right. I’m a terrible Christian. I could try and try and try and I’ll never be as good as your overseas missionary friend.

JJ: You know what else? Your house is a wreck. Why can’t you keep it clean? It’s amazing that you can get anything done in this house. You need a schedule. You need to clean more.

MM: I am a pig. An awful, terrible, no good, can’t do anything right pig.

JJ: There’s something else I’ve noticed about you Martha. You have a lot of anger. You yell a lot. You aren’t patient. When you do yell, you are very, very mean. You’re also very ungrateful. Don’t you know that people would kill to have what you have? But you’re just so angry all the time.

MM: I’m a terrible, terrible human being.

JJ: And you remember how you were such a terrible friend to that one girl when you were in middle school? You were so mean to her! You talked behind her back. You made fun of her to other people. You pretty much ruined her life. Even though you haven’t talked to her in years, you probably made her lose faith in all humanity and are the reason why she can’t have healthy friendships.

MM: Wow. I didn’t even think about how badly I might have hurt her. How can anyone even like me? I can’t believe that anyone is even my friend.

JJ: I’m pretty sure you’re the worst person ever.

MM: I’m pretty sure you’re right.

All day long, Judgmental Jackie would verbally quarterback sack Martha the False Martyr.

All day long, Martha the False Martyr would believe it all, take it to heart, and fall into a very deep depression because she was such a terrible, weak, unloved, ugly human being.

Do you ever tell yourself your own set of lies? Do you find yourself believing those lies?

I have hated myself more than anyone else ever could.

I have disappointed myself in so many ways. I haven’t lived up to the unattainable perfection I’ve expected of myself. I accuse myself almost every day of not being smart enough or good enough or Christian enough or diligent enough or whatever enough.

I am the accused. I am my own judge, jury, bailiff, and prosecutor. Every day, I’m on trial.

And every day, I give myself the same sentence, “GUILTY!”

Guilty of pride. Guilty of anger. Guilty of disbelief. Guilty of lust. Guilty of hatred. Guilty of doing what I shouldn’t and not doing what I should. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

At the end of every trial I throw myself into the cell of false rehabilitation in the prison of if you just try harder.

But my verdict doesn’t matter.

Because forever and always I wear a crown on my head that says, “NOT GUILTY!” And underneath it says, “Debt is Paid In Full”.

By my standards I am an utter failure. A mess. Unforgivable.

By God’s standards I am loved. I am chosen. I am Forgiven.

I have to stop living in my self-made prison of lies and accusations.

I have to believe what God says about me, not what I say about me.

I have to believe that I am never beyond his extension of grace, that I am never beyond his healing touch, that I am never beyond his using me to glorify himself.

I have to forgive myself for being human. Because He has.

He’s paid for my fallen humanity.

He’s paid for yours too.

Never Beyond: On Forgiving the Ex-Boyfriend

Today’s post is a continuation of the beginning of the Never Beyond series inspired and encouraged by People of the Second Chance.

Yesterday I wrote about Casey Anthony and Forgiving absent parents. If you missed it, click here to read it.

Also, I’m guest posting over at Speaking in Faith for her Wedding Wednesday post, sharing about the “for worse” moments in marriage. She and I would both love it if you swung by to take a peek.

This post is a response to the Never Beyond poster series from People of the Second Chance. The question: Who would you forgive?

All week I’m posting on grace, forgiveness, and second chances.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Nichelle <3 [Misses Flickr!

There’s this guy I dated. A long time ago. Before my husband. Before I was really a woman. Before everything changed.

I think that he liked me. Before I got all crazy girlfriend-ish.

He may have even loved me a little bit. I’m just not sure that it was the right kind of love.

And he took a lot from me. He only took it, though, because I gave it.

The kicker is that about three months into the relationship, I knew it wasn’t right. I knew in my heart of hearts that he wasn’t for me. Forget the whole “The One” thing. We just were not supposed to be together. Period.

But I thought I could change things. I basically told God that he didn’t know what he was talking about and I was going to do what I was going to do. That was my first act of disobedience.

Then a few months later, I felt him slipping away. And I really, really liked this guy. And I really, really wanted him to like me back.

So, I gave him the one thing I hadn’t given him yet.

I gave him all of me. More disobedience.

He stuck around for awhile. Because it was easy to get what he wanted.

We had a few good times, we had a few bad times. We argued a lot. We were on-again-off-again for awhile. I’d always initiate a break up because it was my way of seeing how serious he was. But we’d always get back together.

Because I had given him all of me, because I had led myself to believe that I was going to marry him (whether he wanted to marry me or not), I expected that he give all of himself to me too. I started to get insanely jealous. I was jealous of his friends. I was jealous of his time. I was jealous of everything that he was ever involved with. The disobedience continued.

But, eventually, he got bored. Eventually, my jealousy was too much drama for him. Eventually, he decided that I wasn’t enough.

One day, he dropped me. He told me that he didn’t love me anymore. He let me go.

I was devastated. I was disappointed in myself. I was ashamed.

I still remember sitting on the floor sobbing. I don’t think I was sobbing for having lost him. I think I was sobbing for having lost myself. For having let myself go so far off the path I knew to be right to pursue a lie.

I felt like a shattered mirror, like I couldn’t even recognize myself in the broken shards of glass; the reflection was not who I ever expected or wanted to be.

It was my first rock-bottom.

It was the first time I realized that in my own strength, I have NOTHING to offer God.

It was the first time I realized that a broken heart and contrite spirit were the ONLY offerings I could bring.

It was the first time I had to truly forgive someone who hurt me deeply.

It hurt for a very long time. In some ways, I’ll always be wounded from that relationship. But I forgave him.

Fast Forward 15+ years later. I’m such a different person from the girl sitting on the floor sobbing for her lost identity.

It’s amazing to see what God does when you bring sin to light.

Grace is so peculiar like that.

One of my favorite passages is John 3:19-21:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

When we come out from behind the shadows, from the darkness that is so inherently our nature, when we are honest with ourselves and each other about our sin, amazing things happen.

We learn that we’re not alone. We realize that we’re pretty much all alike, that without Christ’s work on the cross, we are nothing.

When we come into the light, when we embrace truth, we can start to heal. We can start to love. We can start to forgive each other.

I still try to hide in the shadows every once in awhile. It’s where I was born and it’s difficult to shake off the old.

But being Christ’s means I’m always being pulled back into the light. The truth about me becomes quite obvious.

I don’t have it together. I’ve made many, many mistakes. I don’t love like I’m supposed to. I hold onto grudges. I’m prideful, judgmental, and arrogant. I lie and cheat. I don’t honor my parents like I should. I envy my fellow man almost every day. I am a complete and utter failure.

But I belong to Christ. And gosh darnit, he’s going to keep working on me. He’s going to keep pulling me out into the light.

In the light, my imperfections are quite apparent. But, just like a lump of clay on the potter’s wheel, he molds and shapes and makes me into vessel of his love and mercy and grace.

Day by day I’m learning to be more comfortable in the light. I’m learning that imperfections = beauty, when they are held in God’s hands.

Never Beyond: On Forgiving Absent Parents

This post is a response to the Never Beyond poster series from People of the Second Chance. The question: Who would you forgive?

All week I’m posting on forgiveness, grace, and second chances. Join me?

POTSC Never Beyond Poster - Casey Anthony

Casey Anthony.

If you don’t know who she is, I’d be surprised. Her trial was one of the most highly televised trials in our country’s history. Twitter and Facebook allowed for to-the-minute updates about testimonies, and ultimately her verdict. I barely followed the trial. I was on vacation when I heard she was not guilty. BUT I heard about her. I knew the gist of the case. I understood why people were so angry when she received a verdict of NOT GUILTY.

The trial revolved around her lying, her excessive partying, the absence of remorse that her daughter was missing, and then evidence showing that she killed her own child.

The prosecution could not prove to a jury that she did it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

So, today, she walks free.

A lot of people are mad about that.

When I consider Casey Anthony, grace, and second chances, I’m forced to reconcile my opinions about absent parents.

You know, the ones who left. The ones who checked out emotionally. The ones who’ve shrugged their responsibilities and expected someone else to pick up the slack. Even the one who the entire world just “knows” killed her own daughter.

I believe parenting is one of the highest responsibilities we as humans can have. We are supposed to love our children. Protect them. Give them the best that we can give. I take my responsibility very seriously.

I’ve known a few absent parents in my day. I don’t like them.

If you know me at all, if you’ve spent any time with me fact to face, you know about one in particular. You know how I feel about her, about how she acts, about what she did, about who she is.

If you don’t know me personally, let’s just say that my opinion of this particular person is low. I’ve yelled at her like I’ve never yelled at another human being. I’ve said things to her and about her I never thought I would say. I find her to be the worst brand of parent. I have placed at the same level others have placed Casey Anthony. Without classifying it as such, I’d say that if I were to hate another person, how I feel about her is as close to hate as I can get.

Those are not words of a person redeemed by grace.

The truth is that a person who embraces grace should never feel that way about another human being. A person who embraces grace loves. A person who embraces grace forgives.

But for this particular woman, I’ve drawn the line in the sand. I’ve put her into a box labeled, “unforgivable” thrown it on some random storage shelf in the back of my mind and tried to forget all the horrible things that transpired in our dealings with each other.

I put her in that box because it’s easier to focus on all her faults than to accept my own blame. It’s easier to focus on how much I think of the awful things she did than to own up to my own sin. It’s easier to nitpick at all her splinters and attempt to hold them up to my plank and say, “See! She’s so much worse than I am.”

But when I think about People of the Second Chance, when I think about Never Beyond, when I think about Casey Anthony, I’m wondering if it’s time to get that box back out, sort through every single heart-wrenching reality, accept what happened, forgive her, forgive myself, and move on.

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to do that. I’m still very mad and hurt by everything that happened.

I still wear it on my sleeve like a combat badge because I want the world to see how I was wounded in the battle, but I still survived the war.

I want people to agree with me, to tell me I’m in the right, that it’s ok to still be mad.

I want to give up on this woman who I consider to be as bad as everyone thinks Casey Anthony is.

But that’s not what grace looks like, does it?

God hasn’t given up on me. God hasn’t given up on Casey Anthony. And God hasn’t given up on the woman at whom I can’t seem to stop pointing my finger.

I have held onto this anger and it has become a millstone around my neck. I’ve fallen further and further into the depths of my own self-righteousness. I’m drowning myself in my own bitterness and self-pity. To hold on to this is to dig my own grave.

My duty isn’t to judge and evaluate every single action, weighing it against some high moral code that I myself can’t even reach. My job, no my privilege, is to forgive. Not once. Not twice. But seventy time seven. To remember what happened, to confess it, to lay it down at the cross, and realize that everything that happened is cancelled debt.

Cancelled debt. Paid for. Made new. Whole. Restored. Reconciled. Renewed. Holy and blameless in His sight.

That’s what forgiveness looks like. That’s what grace makes us.

Both of us.

Her AND Me.

Who is your unforgivable person? What would it look like if you forgave?

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