Category Archives: freedom

The Shack

I read the book “The Shack.”  Twice.  I also saw the movie … with a friend who also read the book.  We both teared up watching God’s love in action.  For one broken man, lost in his grief and drowning in his anger.  A man who lost much, including his faith.

The Shack

A fictional story.  But one I believe is totally possible.

 

Now let’s stop here for a minute.  Because you may want to argue and fuss and disagree with me.  To convince me I am wrong.  To badger me into changing my mind.  But you won’t.  So please save us both the headache.  I am not asking you to agree with me.  I am not asking you to affirm I am right (or good).  I am only asking you to respect my faith as I respect yours.  I know who I am, and I know who God is – and these deeply rooted truths cannot be swayed with any argument or persuasion.  So if you don’t agree with me about this book, please, let’s agree to disagree – respectfully.

 

Yes, I know “The Shack” is a work of fiction.  But I believe “The Shack” can happen.  Today.  To anyone.  Because I believe in an all-powerful God who performs miracles all the time.  I believe in an agape-loving God who loves us more than we will ever know and works us toward maturity within that love.  I believe in an omniscient God who knows all and therefore knows how to get us to the best version of ourselves.

 

I believe He is a loving Father who meets us exactly where we are.  In our mess.  In our anger.  In our suffering.  In our pain.  In our fear.  In our hardheartedness.  In our apathy.  In our indifference.  In our carelessness.  In our selfishness.  In our angst.  In our hopelessness.

 

And none of this scares Him away from wanting to be with us.  None of this causes Him to leave us or walk away from us.  None of this effects how much He loves us.

 

In fact, I think any of these things compel Him to pursue us.  Because He knows we need Him.  Because He knows only His love can fill in our gaps.

 

Which is, again, why I believe “The Shack” is possible.  Because Mack was lost.  Mack was angry.  Mack was hurting.  And Mack was so wrapped up in his great grief that he wouldn’t let God’s love, mercy, and hope in.  Mack was so consumed in his great anger that forgiveness would never be an option.

 

And Mack’s darkness and anger were so great that he was stuck.  He was clinging to the past and slowly destroying his family in the present.  He was constantly reliving his grief, slowly massacring hope and peace in the present.  He was refusing to forgive and let go, slowly eroding his sanity and compassion in the present.  And as he ruined his present, he was also ruining his future and that of his children.

 

And here is the brutal truth – we are all Mack.  We all have at least one person, place, or thing that has hurt us deeply.  Possibly shaken the core of our faith and caused us to doubt God’s love.  We have all come to the intersection of pain and truth and had to choose which way we would go.  We have all had to wrestle with our feelings that were pulling us away from God.  Just like Mack.

 

And eventually, like Mack, we come to the place where our pain is so great that we have no choice but to face it.  We return to the shack, the place or event that broke our spirit, and we wrestle with truth in the quest to find it.

 

And there we find ourselves.  For we are the shack.  A broken place more prone to darkness than light, with an air of desolation and unworthiness.  A place of pain and sorrow – whether self-inflicted or at the hand of someone else.  A lost place in the middle of a forest, stuck in isolation and separation.

 

And just as God met Mack at the shack, at his lowest point, so too He meets us.  He invites us back to our place of pain – and mixes our tears with His love to sprinkle it over our desert-laden heart.  Where He plants the seeds of love, joy, peace, hope, forgiveness, endurance, steadfastness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness within us – cultivating out the weeds one at a time as we accept His work in us.  And the whole time He whispers “I am especially fond of you” to us, encouraging us to (once again) believe in His love and surrender to His grace.

 

God wants us to love at all times.  Just like He taught Mack.  The man whose hardest moment was having to say, out loud, “I forgive you” toward the man who killed his youngest daughter.  It was so painful for him, having held on so tightly to his anger, to even consider opening his heart a little to let love in.  But he had come to the place, with God’s help, of wanting to be free of the pain that was eating him alive.  So he said it.  And with every step he took from the cave containing his daughter’s body back to the shack, he repeated it.  Praying with each declaration that it would take root in his heart and he would be able to say it and mean it and finally be free.

 

And the best part of the story is that Mack does find freedom.  He does come to embrace the love God so openly and graciously offers him.  The love that he realizes never left him.  The love that inspires him to go back and live life to the full.

 

And so too can we.  As individuals.  And as a group of believers.

 

Because we are each part of God’s story.  We are included in His chapters of love, grace, hope, and forgiveness.  We are worth redeeming.  Just like Mack.  Just like the shack.

 

So if you didn’t read the book or see the movie, here’s my takeaway – God loves you.  More than you can ever imagine.  Mack is proof.  His story may not be real, but God’s love always is.

 

Marie Fremin.  6/4/17

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Power of Shame

Shame has great power over us. Sometimes we don’t realize it we’re dragging it around with us. We carry it around as we (silently) suffer with it daily. We call it out as we talk about it. We give it attention (and power) by thinking about it.

 

But until we realize it has a great hold on us, we’ll never be free.

 

The woman in Matthew 9 realized this. After 12 years of suffering with an issue of blood, she was desperate. She was at the end of her rope – physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, and medically. There was no human cure for her ailment, as she had visited every doctor she could afford. In fact, they had only made her suffering worse (“[she] had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse” (Mark 5:26)). There was no human care for her, since by law she was to be isolated and outcast. There was no human hope for her, for she had suffered so many years and had exhausted all known resources. And then she heard about Jesus, and there was a small spark of hope. Jesus, the man who had a reputation of entering a town and healing the most desperate and hopeless. Jesus, the man of miracles who sought out the untouchable and unlovable of society. Jesus, the man who could heal with words or touch. Jesus, her last source of hope.

 

So she goes against the law and goes out into public. She is so desperate she has to see Jesus. But she decides it isn’t enough to see Him. She determines that “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well” (Matthew 9:21, Mark 5:28). So not only has she been bold enough to enter into society’s stream of people, she is even bolder in touching Him. She was that desperate and that tired of carrying the shame of her disease. She had tried everything else, and maybe this man with miraculous healing power would be the answer she longed for. So she reached out, with great expectation, and touched Him.

Power of Shame.jpg

And Jesus met her. Jesus knew her pain, her shame, and her suffering. And with great compassion, He met her right was she was and healed her. In that very moment. Mark 5:29 says “Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction”.

 

She felt it. In that moment she touched Him, she felt different. She felt acceptable. She felt healed.

 

And then there was the moment of panic when Jesus wants to know who she is. Will He be mad? Will He take away her miracle? Will He condemn her? She wasn’t sure, but she couldn’t keep quiet. In Mark 5:33, she comes forward: “But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth”. Because maybe the miracle wasn’t a fluke. Because maybe He was as generous and gracious as His reputation suggested. Because maybe she could finally be free.

 

And He responds as only a loving and compassionate Savior could. She was healed. Finally. Completely. With the assurance of a different life. For He tells her “’Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction’ And the woman was made well from that hour” (Matthew 9:22, Mark 5:34, Luke 8:48).

 

No more carrying her pain. No more being burdened by her shame. No more physical pain or suffering.

 

And Jesus wants to do the same for you. No more dragging around the pain of your past. No more being weighed down by the shame of your mistakes. No more being strangled by the lies of the enemy. Just Jesus. Just grace. Just forgiveness.

 

Healing completely for us emotionally, physically, and mentally.

Unconditional love that will fill all your empty places with His grace.

Grace flowing freely that will cover any and all bad experiences and choices.

 

Shame doesn’t have to be our partner, our friend, and our companion. Shame doesn’t have to be our master. Shame doesn’t have to be our source.

 

When you allow Jesus to be in your life, shame must flee. Pain must run. Guilt must leave. Sadness must go. Because Jesus is the Light that overcomes all the dark things that keep you down.

 

So run to Jesus and touch Him. The woman with the issue of blood did, and her life was radically changed. He will do the same for you. Are you ready?

 

Marie Fremin, 1/6/16

Forgiveness: Breaking the Chains

Forgiveness. It’s a big word with big implications. And they are all about us.

We readily receive forgiveness from God. We expect it from God.  But how easily and readily do we give it to others?

Ouch! It hurts me to even think about it. Because I want to hold onto the hurt and punish the person who caused it. Because I want to see justice done and people get what’s coming to them so I am vindicated. Because in my illogical human emotions I think I deserve to be right in being wronged. And don’t we always have our handy list of reasons and excuses why we can’t forgive?

  • But God, he (she) is wrong and needs to admit it.
  • But God, this person is being willfully disobedient.
  • But God, he (she) made me so mad and doesn’t seem to care.

And to every excuse and reason we give, God has one answer – FORGIVE. He always says forgive.

  • You want someone to admit he (she) is wrong. And God reminds you that you are wrong quite a bit. How readily do you admit it and ask for forgiveness? How often do you admit it to God and repent?
  • You want a stubborn person to conform. And God reminds you how often you disobey, voluntarily. Him, your parents, your boss, your spouse, your pastor.
  • You are upset that someone doesn’t care he (she) made you mad. And God reminds you that you are often ambivalent to people’s feelings. How often have you apologized for unintentionally hurting someone when they bring it to your attention?

And so He says you must forgive. With every insult, every objection, every injury, every hurt, every thoughtless action. No exceptions. No excuses. Always forgive. Much to our chagrin.

Even the disciples were like “really, Jesus?” when it came to forgiveness. They thought once or twice and then no more would be acceptable. But Jesus says just as God’s forgiveness toward us is limitless, so too should we forgive without limits. When asked by Peter in Matthew 18:21 “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”, I can almost see Jesus rolling His eyes as He realized that once again Peter didn’t see God’s standard (yet). So in Matthew 18:22 Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’”

He didn’t mean only 490 times in your entire lifetime, so you can stop counting.  He meant keep doing it, without end and without counting. Jesus picked an unusual number to make His point.

Do you think God is keeping track of how many times He has forgiven us? Do you think He says “489. Hmmm. One more time and then I have to write her (him) off. Oh, well. Too bad she (he) couldn’t stop at 480.” Never!

God is about unconditional love and forgiveness. That means 490 is just the beginning. He forgives us 490 times per day – and more, if we need it. And He expects us to do the same!

He expects us to forgive freely, willingly, repeatedly, completely, wholeheartedly, graciously, humbly, and always. No exceptions, excuses, rationalizing, or limits. Just as He has forgiven us.

Ouch again!

And we can try to argue with Him – “But God, she (he) has expressed no remorse and won’t even acknowledge the wrong”. And God’s response is FORGIVE. He tells us to “let it go and let Me deal with her (him). You deal with you and be right with Me. I’ll take care of her (him) as I choose.”

So it’s obvious He wants us to forgive. But what does it mean to forgive? God talks about it almost 100 times in the Bible. There are 43 mentions in the Old Testament with 4 Hebrew words: Kaphar – to cover, cancel, cleanse, appease, make atonement, be merciful, pardon, purge, put off, reconcile; Nacah – to lift, bear, burn, carry away, cast, ease, lift, pardon, spare, take away; Calach – to pardon, spare; and Callach – ready to forgive. There are also 55 mentions in the New Testament with 3 Greek words: Aphiemi – to forsake, lay aside, leave, let go, omit, send away, yield up; Apoluo – to free fully, relieve, release, dismiss, let die, pardon, depart, loose, put away, let go; and Charizomai – to pardon, rescue, deliver, freely give.

I love the definitions for forgiveness. They all represent a physical act of freeing ourselves emotionally of any hurt, anger, bitterness, offense, harshness, resentment, rejection, embarrassment, pain, and sorrow. They show us that forgiveness brings freedom!

So purge your emotional baggage, laying it aside and leaving it instead of dragging it around another day. Let go of (cancel, burn) all your reasons and excuses and emotionally pardon the offenders. Allow God to fully release the pain and dismiss the charges you hold so you can be fully free and rescued from the pit of despair that comes with holding onto your grudges. Allow God to deliver (carry) you out of the pit of self pity and bad choices into the light of His love and grace and joy.

Free yourself from the bondage of holding a grudge. Unshackle yourself from the chains of unforgiveness. Unburden yourself from the harmful effects of carrying (dragging) your anger around.

Forgive and be free. Forgive and live. Forgive and thrive.

Show your love for God by forgiving. Show the world how to walk in grace by forgiving. Live life to the fullest by forgiving.

It doesn’t matter how many days and weeks and years have gone by. Choose today to forgive and live in the present.

Forgiveness

It’s hard, and it often takes repeated effort to truly mean it. But the decision to start is easy – do you want to stay bound up in the chains of bitterness, anger, and offense? Forgiveness is the key to opening the chains and living in freedom. Start today. Say “I forgive you” as often as it takes for you to feel the bondage (weight, hurt) lifting. If you say it often enough, it will soon penetrate the walls around your heart and break them down.

Remember I started by saying that forgiveness is all about us? That’s because forgiveness isn’t about the other person acknowledging anything, asking for forgiveness, or even trying to make it right. I often have to remind myself that the other person may not even know I am upset or may not care about the offense. So it’s my choice how I respond. Forgiveness is a choice I make for me.

God tells us to forgive because He doesn’t want us to be burdened with thoughts of payback or playback (repeating and rerunning the story). He doesn’t want us to be so weighed down in the past that we are incapable of living in, enjoying, and sharing with people in the present moment. God wants us to be ready and available to influence people, and when we refuse to forgive, we are not open to be a positive influence, an encouraging word, or an understanding ear.

God wants us to be free to love people and see people as God loves and sees them – and forgiveness allows our heart to not be polluted with things that keep us from loving and reaching out to people. Forgiveness allows us to cleanse ourselves of anything that will chase us away from God and opens us up to be available for unlimited possibilities. Forgiveness keeps us from missing the potential God has for us.

So what choice will you make today? Will you forgive?

Marie Fremin, 5/2-5/3/15

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NOTE: Here is a bonus selection of material – my study I did on forgiveness years ago. It continues to be one of my favorites.  Click this link for the PDF: Forgiveness.