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The silence speaks

If he had known the course his silence would chart, he would have spoken.  If he had known that his silence spoke to me lies of my unworthiness to be loved, he would have told me the very opposite – that he loved me more deeply than words could express.  His silence spoke his disappointment loudly and I was too young to understand that it spoke more about him and his pain than about me.  Through the pretense of the everyday as if nothing were wrong, his silence grew to be louder than any other voice my soul could hear.  And it broke my heart.

It was an excruciating pain to know that his eyes avoided mine no matter how close we stood, that his voice would not respond to mine no matter how clearly I spoke.  I stifled my cries as it was clear they would do no good nor bring about any change.  Day after day, week after week, month after month, the silence chiseled the fragile strands of any innocent childhood belief that I was good enough to be loved.

If he had known his silence would create in me a desperation that was easily wooed by sounds of false love, he would have spoken.  I had no warning that my opposition to him would cost so very much.  His silence taught me that the consequences of mistakes in love were to be feared and that I would have to work very hard to be good.  The emptiness left by the absence of the voice I adored most was mine to bear, and I while I gained sympathy from many who knew, deep inside I believed it to be just.  I believed I deserved it.

If he had known that his silence would teach me to be a pretender, he would have spoken because he despised pretenders.  But I had learned in his silence to put on a happy face and do the things before me as if it didn’t matter that I was broken.  By the time he spoke a chasm had formed, but we never talked about that either.  And in that chasm lay the belief that the key to love was to do and say and be what someone else wanted, and to keep silent about myself for no one wants someone who is broken.

I carried all that his silence taught me into the relationships I had and into my walk with God.  It’s easy to hear the message that God is angry when it is what you expect.  It is easy to believe that God can only approve of you if you do what is right.  It is easy to believe that you do not deserve His help if you do not do exactly as He commands.  It is easy to believe that His silence means you are unworthy of His love when silence is the very thing you fear.

My desperation and resulting failure at love were the very things that brought me to real Love.  Having nowhere to run and no place to hide and my pretense in shambles, my brokenness spilled out as if a mighty dam had crumbled.  Every sob I let forth was met with Tenderness.  Every sigh of unworthiness was captured by Mercy.  Every ache of unloveliness was comforted by extravagant Love.  Every effort to “do” was quenched by what was already “done”.  I found I was truly loved.

I am on a continuing journey of learning who He really is and what His love is all about.  And sometimes love is silent.  Like when a mother just looks at her child without a word because there are no words adequate to describe the love that rages inside.  She asks nothing of the child but to let her look, to not turn away.  I have learned that God’s love is like that.

I have to purpose to rest in His times of silent love because it is still easy for me to revert back to my impossible efforts and wrong ideas that I must somehow do something to deserve His love.  Just this week I was asking Him what to do with His silence, and He simply said

“My silence speaks:  Trust me.”

And I was not afraid.

 

The silence speaks” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

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In her shoes

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I caught her eyes several times during the service.  She struggled to listen as she was surrounded by her four children and the activity that invariably ensues when two or more children are in close proximity.  The chapel is simply the dining area with most of the tables removed and only chairs in their place.  She sat at the back with the other mothers of busy children, concerned that they were a distraction but longing to hear anything that might expose a glimmer of hope.

Their faces are like open doors giving a glimpse into their hearts.  I can see some are simply there because it is a place to rest in the air conditioning, a break from the routines of responsibilities they don’t want to do in a place they don’t want to be.  They are disinterestedly polite.  Some smile and nod in agreement as my words confirm what they already know.  Others are so tired from the physical and emotional demands of the day that they nod in a different fashion.  Anger and frustration burn in the eyes of a few as there is no longer a pretense that they are fine even when they come to church.  Especially when they come to church.

She was the farthest from me but it’s as if I can see in her face a silent plea. “I’m hungry!  Feed me something that will last until tomorrow!  Give me more than empty platitudes and churchy phrases!  Please make it real.”  Across the room expressions without words reveal she is not alone in her desire.

Does she know that I see her?  Does she see in my eyes that she matters?  As I look from face to face I pray that the women who sit before me know they are seen.  I haven’t walked in their shoes on the paths they have traveled, but I see these, my fellow Egypt-wanderers.  I have no stones to throw.  We’ve traveled paths we never planned and feared we would never find our way home.  We’ve found our feet unable to move through the muck and mire of our own selfish choices.  We’ve fallen under the burden of someone else’s choices.  We’ve choked in the grips of trouble, desperate to believe there is more than this.  More to life than the struggle.  More to church than a list of do’s and don’ts and the fear of going to hell.  More to God than children’s stories and greeting card verses.

Can she hear me?  Can she fathom the depths of the Love offered her this night?  Can she imagine a life of freedom purchased through Grace where no condemnation speaks?  Can she believe the stirring in her soul is His voice compelling her to come to Him just as she is, loved and accepted?  Can she find the Hope that is her future?

I watch as she walks toward me.  She is tall and beautiful and tired and ready.  Ready to reach out to a stranger who has not walked in her shoes but will take her hand and perhaps point her toward the way out of Egypt.  We pray and hug.  She takes a bible.  There is so much I want to say but there is no time.  We smile and say goodbye.  We will probably never meet again.

God, take me to a place in prayer for her where there is no hint of opinion or judgement, no arrogance that thinks I know what she needs, no pride that considers myself any different as you have delivered me out of my own Egypt-wandering.  Remind me as I pray that I haven’t walked in her shoes.

I am the Lord your God, Who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.

Open your mouth wide and I will fill it. 

Psalm 81:10

In her shoes” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photograph by Kay Stinnett and cannot be used without permission.

 

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The End

 

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The End.  Two words that say “It’s over.  There is no more to this”.  Two words that have caused me to mourn for something beautiful that was lost, even if its beauty existed only in my imagination.  Two words that could make me feel like a complete failure if the ending was not what I had in mind.  Two words that could throw me into panicked attempts to revive what once was, even if it was bad for me.   Two words that would provoke others to ask questions I had no answers for.  Two words I dreaded to hear even when I was the one who spoke them.

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Beauty for ashes.  By faith I envisioned the wonderful life He had planned for me, one that I couldn’t possibly make a complete mess of.  A plan for something beautiful where fear of The End could not steal my love and my peace.  The scriptures told me it was there for me, this life of beauty instead of ashes, but when The End would come and I had no glimpse of the new beginning I did what I had always done.

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Fear distorting my vision and direction, I would take matters into my own hands and choose my own new beginning.  I never planned for it to go badly, who would do that??  And since I was confessing my belief in God’s good plans for me and what looked so perfect for me presented itself so quickly, surely it was from Him…surely it would be right…surely I could make it work this time and it would protect me from my greatest fear – that there was nothing for me at The End and I would have to face the profound emptiness of the unloved.

But it seemed always to return.  The End.  Again.  Finally, I was just too weary to fight it.  And just as I had feared, there was no glimpse of a new beginning when I reached The End.  But I fell into the emptiness of the unloved only to discover that I was extravagantly loved!  It was only in the emptiness that He had room to fill me with the very thing I had longed for – true Love.  It was only in this time between what was and what would be that I would find healing.  This Love became The End, not of itself, but of what had plagued me for as long as I could remember – the fear that I was unworthy of love.

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“…the Lord earnestly waits – expecting, looking, and longing – to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you…Blessed are all those who earnestly wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him – for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship!”    Isaiah 30:18

He is waiting for us to be empty of everything else, so that we can be truly filled.

Don’t be scared.  In His hands, The End is just The Beginning.

The End” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

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She just doesn’t know it yet

He’s been watching her all her life.  He’s whispered to her time and time again but she didn’t hear.  He yearns to hold her and comfort her as she struggles.  It’s going to be all right, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She trembles with the fear of the unknown as her circumstances have stripped her of her identity.  She is strong, she just doesn’t know it yet.

The love that had been her foundation has been ripped away.  She yields to the new identity that presses in on her:  the unlovable.  She is immeasurably loved, she just doesn’t know it yet.

This roller coaster ride of choices makes her sick.  She hates herself because of her weakness.  His opinion of her remains unchanged, she just doesn’t know it yet.

Loneliness is her constant companion as no one wants on this ride with her.  She is not alone, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She goes through the motions of living while she entertains the thoughts of ending it all.  Her earthly life has eternal purpose, she just doesn’t know it yet.

Defeat hangs over her like a thick black cloud as she cannot go back and change the past.  Her knees buckle under the weight of the consequences.  She is redeemed, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She grasps to find hope in the words she reads and the messages she hears, but it seems she is grasping at air.  She is full of hope, she just doesn’t know it yet.

Her tears are constant from the pain of this deep, gaping wound from which she believes she will never recover.  She is healed, she just doesn’t know it yet.

She heard the words again today.  The same words she’s heard over and over, but this time something is different.  Can it really be true?  He loves her?  Something stirs inside her as she considers this possibility…something life-changing…

Her life is changing, she just doesn’t know it yet.

 

She just doesn’t know it yet” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

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A scarred life

I love how little boys are proud of their scars.   Oh, wait, it’s not just when they are little…many little boys grown into men are still proud of their scars.  It’s not unusual for them to offer up the story behind a scar, details of their exploits proudly woven into the retelling of the time they were wounded.  The marks on their bodies remain a kind of badge of courage no matter the size, even those that have faded with time.  The scars are a visible reminder of where they have been and what they have done and how they have survived, a beautiful (in a manly kind of way) something to be proud of.

I suppose it is our western cultural perception of beauty that teaches girls very early in life that scars are ugly.   We see them as imperfections that must be perfected if possible and hidden if not.  They carry the same kind of stories of childhood exploits or adult experiences, but we do not see them as a part of our beauty that we can be proud of.

It is a rare individual who bears no scars.  Life has a way of leaving its mark on us.  Sometimes the scars are the result of our own foolish ways or sinful choices and sometimes it is another’s choices or sin that has left us wounded and marked.  Either way, we are not proud.  Shame and embarrassment prompt us to keep our scars covered and our secrets hidden because they are ugly reminders of where we have been and what we have done and what has been done to us, nevermind the fact that we survived.

There was a time in my life when I was one of the walking wounded.  Not realizing how deep my own wounds were, I was living in turmoil and this had a direct and greatly negative effect on the two young babies I had – I was wounding them.  Afraid to tell anyone of this ugliness, I struggled in my misery until I just could not bear it any longer.  I chose a well-respected woman in our church upon which I would bare my soul in the hopes of finding healing.  I arrived at her home nervous and very afraid – the idea of being so open and vulnerable was literally making me shake – what if she judged me? condemned me for my thoughts and actions?  What if I would be labeled an outcast, no longer welcome in our ladies group?  What if God could never use me because of my mistakes?

God in His sovereignty and goodness and mercy led this woman to begin the conversation.  My discomfort was evident, so as she served me a glass of water and something to eat and without knowing the reason for my pain, she began to share what her life was like when her children were small.  In an easy and unashamed way, she told me of the struggles she had as a young mother – the exact same problems I was dealing with.  I will never forget the blanket of love that I felt had just been lain over me as I began to weep in relief.  This woman told me her story as she revealed her scars and they were beautiful to me.  She bore these scars as a great woman of God and it gave me hope.  She gently and boldly prayed over me that day and I was never the same.

I was reminded in study this week of what James wrote to the church…

Confess to one another therefore your faults – your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins – and pray also for one another, that you may be healed and restored to a spiritual tone of mind and heart…    James 5:16a

Many that are hurting and struggling need to see our scars.  They need to know that scars do not disqualify us from experiencing the greater things of God.  They need to hear our stories and know that viewed through the eyes of His Spirit, our scars are beautiful, even those that are the result of our own doing.  The wounded need to be enfolded in the love and compassion that comes from the healed as we pray for their healing and restoration.  The rest of the verse above holds a wonderful promise…

…The earnest, heartfelt, continued prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available – dynamic in its working.  James 5:16b

Tremendous, life-changing power was in the prayer of that wonderful woman who prayed over me.  Had she only listened and prayed for my situation, I still believe that it would have had a positive effect on my life over time.  But I truly believe that my healing came that day in that prayer because she spoke to me from personal experience before she prayed.  Healing came to me through her beautiful scars.

 

“A scarred life” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

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This hope we have

 

 

I could hardly understand what she was trying to say, her words were so choked and broken by sobs.  In the aftermath of choices that have irrevocably altered her life, she is powerless to stop the ripple effect throughout the waters of those who love her, a ripple effect that has produced their choices as well.  No doubt she will never return to the way things were.  The damage has been done.

“You have destroyed your life.”  This is the lie the enemy relentlessly screams to her as if her life is over and there is no point to her existence any longer.  It sounds true.  It feels true.  Others have even voiced those words.  It must be true.

What do I have to offer this one in the grips of despair?  Hope.  Not empty words of the sun shining again, although it will.  But a deeper hope that transcends the multitude of mistakes we make.  Hope that is the very answer to despair.  Hope that holds the future in His hands and Hope that is unwilling to settle for less than the impossible.  It is why He came to earth.

Here is a portion of a beautiful song by Kathryn Scott entitled At the Foot of the Cross that captures the wonder of this hope we have…

At the foot of the cross
Where grace and suffering meet
You have shown me Your love
Through the judgment You received

And You’ve won my heart
Yes You’ve won my heart
Now I can

Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
At the foot of the cross

This is the hope we have:  that we can take all the ashes of our choices, our mistakes, our sin to God and He does the impossible – He turns it into something beautiful.  For this burdened friend of mine, her mistakes have brought her to His feet where her suffering meets His grace, where He lifts her head and crowns her with His loving forgiveness, and where her life will begin again.  She will grieve over what is lost, but will rejoice in what is found as she discovers the mercy that is new every morning.  She will find Hope.

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! 

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not one of all His benefits— 

Who forgives every one of all your iniquities, Who heals each one of all your diseases, 

Who redeems your life from the pit and corruption,

Who beautifies, dignifies, and crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercy; 

Who satisfies your mouth – your necessity and desire at your personal age and situation – with good so that your youth, renewed, is like the eagle’s – strong, overcoming, soaring!   Psalm 103:1-4

 

This hope we have” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

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Missing the point

If you’ve been following this blog recently, you saw a photograph I had made of my children.  I had a wonderful young photographer take two precious pictures and unite them to show that while my son is in heaven, he is still with those who loved him, particularly his sisters.  Lest you misunderstand, I do not believe that he is hovering around in a ghostly form nor does he appear when summoned.  That is a topic for another day…

Most people who’ve seen the photo get it.  They understand what it represents.  A few do not.  It doesn’t really matter to me whether others understand, I only care what my girls think.  I had it made it for them.  I know that when they look at it they completely understand my motivation and my heart.  It was an expression of love that says to them “I know.” “I know that you are grieving.  I know that you love him and miss him so very much.  I know that you hold the same hope as I that we will see him again.  I know.”

I can only imagine my anguish and disappointment if they had received this labor of intense love and simply said “Thanks.  That’s nice.”  It would have broken my heart if they missed the point, if they did not let it bless them and comfort them in some way.

In Monday night bible study we are digging deep in to the book of James.  James was writing to a fellowship of Jewish believers.  Jews who had been steeped in the Law yet had discovered Grace.  His instructions in this particular letter indicate they were struggling with the letting go of the demands of the Law they had spent their lives endeavoring to follow.  As we discuss the verses, we often allow a little speculation and imagination as we try to understand how James’ audience was responding to his words…

They knew that Jesus had died for their sins and that He taught that the Law had been fulfilled, but I wonder how many of them still quietly slipped into the temple area and continued to make the sacrifices they had always done.  Just in case.  Keeping the Law as their back-up plan in case they had misunderstood this Grace that says sacrifice was no longer needed…

I am pursuing this Grace with a determination to get it.  To understand more and more what it is and what effect it is supposed to have on my life.  Yet even while I read the words and know with my brain that Grace says no more sacrifices are required for sin, I still often find myself caught in self-condemnation or works of penance, spending hours or even days mentally and emotionally beating myself up when I have missed the mark.  Part of it is habit – I’ve spent a lifetime believing that this was the correct response to sin in my life. But I wonder how much of this is my back-up plan, the efforts put forth just in case I have misunderstood the freedom of Grace…

How this must grieve the heart of my Father!  He provided the perfect sacrifice for me, a price paid that is beyond my comprehension, so that I could be blessed and comforted and helped and delivered and free.  I want to fall with abandon into this Grace.  I want to live my life in the freedom purchased for me, not wasting my time trying to obtain something that has already been given.  Big Daddy Weave is a group of Christian artists who produced a wonderful song entitled “Redeemed.”  I love the song and it’s in my top 10 favorites because much of it speaks to me.  But there is a particular line that rings so loudly in my soul every time I hear it and I leave you with it today:

“Stop fighting a fight that’s already been won.”

 

Missing the Point” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

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Where are they?

I’ve written of this woman before, but as I’ve been in this state of receiving His grace more and more, her story will not leave me.  My previous observations were more about the accusers.  Today I am thinking of her and imagining…

She had been dragged to stand before Him.  Her head hung in shame and humiliation, their accusations cut to the core because she knew they were true.  She was guilty.  She hadn’t planned her life as it was, it just happened.  One disappointment led to another and after a while it just didn’t seem to matter any more.  She was embarrassed at her lifestyle but helpless to break the cycle.  Self-worth?  She had lost that a long time ago. This man’s attention turned her way had disguised itself as hope, love, and healing, but it the end became the reason she stood accused.

The crowd who had been sitting listening to His teaching grew strangely still.  All eyes were on her.  She couldn’t bear to look up so she just stood there with here eyes clinched tight.  She certainly couldn’t look Him in the face.  She had heard about Him.  She knew He was righteous and good, unlike the men who had captured her and most certainly the very opposite of herself.  The angry men loudly announced her indiscretions, and when He did not respond they persisted.  The ugliness of her sin repeated again and again, every word a hammer blow to her soul.  She had lived with the fear of discovery for quite some time and now must be her reckoning.

What was He doing?  He hadn’t answered the angry men.  With her head still low she dared to peek.  He’s stooped to the ground.  He’s lowered Himself as she still stands.  This is enough to get her attention and still more, the fact that He seems to be in His own little world writing on the ground as if oblivious to all that is going on around Him.  How very strange!  It appears He plans to ignore their question of what to do with this sinner but then He stands.  He speaks to them and gives them permission to stone her.  IF they are each without sin of their own.  Then He returns to His strange writing on the ground.

She cowers and braces herself for the pain.  These men never see themselves as wrong.  They are the proclaimed righteous in the community, the ones who are always pointing the fingers of blame at everyone else, the ones who fill the temple courts regularly.   The seconds following His words seem like hours.  Her eyes clinched again, her own mind screaming “GUILTY!” over and over, she doesn’t notice what has taken place.  Then His voice breaks through:

“Where are they?”

What?  He is speaking to her and she looks up.  The angry men have left!  He looks her in the eyes and asks:

“Has no man condemned you?”

She can hardly grasp it and she stammers in amazement “No one!”

“I don’t either.”

How can this be??  This wonderful, pure Man is fully aware of her guilt and yet offers no condemnation.  This undeserved forgiveness found not only in His words but also in His eyes floods her entire being.  She realizes she has come face to face with true Love.  She cannot fathom why He chose this, but her desperate soul offers no argument because in this moment she knows somehow she is changed.  She feels a freedom she had believed was lost to her.  She feels strangely empowered, able to hold her head up now and experience real Hope.  She knows without a doubt that she will never be the same so His next words are not burdensome:

“Go and sin no more.”

She can’t help it – she breaks into a smile and it is all she can do not to dance in the lightness that is now hers!  The crowd that had gathered around Jesus’ teachings is still there.  She looks around and finds the faces that were stern and uncertain when she arrived have softened. For while they weren’t the accusers that had boldly approached Him, their hearts were pierced as well when He spoke to the angry ones.  They knew of their own sin and realized that the miracle she had just received was there for them as well.  A few offer kind smiles.  Several pat the ground next to them as an invitation to sit and listen to more of what He has to say.

“I am the Light of the world.  He who follows Me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the Light which is Life.”

This day she sits with new friends, new hope, a new life.  This day she met Grace.

(John 8)

 

The post Where are they?  was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on Our Passionate Purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mushy oatmeal and another hard-to-swallow thing

As a child I often found myself the overnight guest of my best friend.  She was an only child and I the middle of five.  She lived with her parents and her maternal grandparents and I saw her as the center of their world. I so enjoyed my time in the midst of their love and laughter.  While I very much felt at home there, I was still bound by the rules of my upbringing, one of which was very difficult to follow on a particular morning.

My friend had fixed my breakfast.  Instant oatmeal.  My mother often made oatmeal for us but it was the real kind – old fashioned Quaker Oats that had to be cooked on the stove.  I don’t believe I had ever tasted instant oatmeal prior to that day and I must admit I found it awful.  It was mushy and flavorless and no matter how much milk or salt or butter or sugar I added, it still tasted terrible.  And while I could hardly swallow it, I stuck to the training of being a good guest, determined to eat what was served.  I certainly did not want to hurt my friend’s feelings and made a valiant effort not to let my face show that I found her oatmeal disgusting.  I failed.  One look from her Granny and she exclaimed “Get her something else to eat!  She’s gagging!!”  Granny rescued me and I was ever so thankful.

This morning I read an article that made my heart hurt.  It was just one of the many stories and posts so prevalent in today’s culture that I find hard to swallow – the public shaming of a child.  A child’s photo posted on the internet for all the world to see, their actions recounted for all the world to read, their souls most surely wounded.  I ache for them.

I confess, I used methods of correction with my children that I now see were too harsh.  I was a very strict disciplinarian who now wishes she had been gentler and kinder.  I’m sure every parent looking back would change quite a few things.  But I was a mother raising children quite a few years before the internet.  The disciplines done in the privacy of our home were not events that were broadcast to the world.  Oh, we young mothers talked among ourselves about what our children did and how we handled it.  But it was never with the intention to humiliate them into obedience.   We didn’t use shame as a method of correction.  We didn’t publish their sins.

Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].  1 Peter 4:8

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that correction is absent.  As parents we correct.  As teachers and employers and friends there are times that actions must be confronted and redirected.  But living in the kind of love just mentioned will lead us to deal with the issues at hand while also protecting the one who has erred, giving them mercy instead of shame.  This love refuses to broadcast their mistakes.  This love is full of grace.

I will be merciful and gracious toward their sins and I will remember their deeds of unrighteousness no more.  Hebrews 8:12

Jesus gave His life to provide our absolute, complete forgiveness and promised to remember our sins no more!!  His forgiveness doesn’t mean correction is absent.  But He bore the shame and humiliation of our sin and therefore He will never use those as a method to correct us.  He gently leads and corrects and guides.  His love covers ALL our sin.

He rescued me and I am ever so thankful.