Wednesday, July 31, 2013

should we forgive the unrepentant?

A few weeks ago Deb asked, Can you forgive someone who doesn't ask for your forgiveness?

In other words, "Should we forgive the unrepentant?"

I've always suspected the answer is "yes", even though lots of people I respect answer "no". For a start, I can't imagine how family relationships would work otherwise. I'm not going to wait around for my child, or husband, to say sorry before I get on with forgiving and loving them. I can't defend this view with any depth, and I don't have time to explore it; it's just a hunch.

So instead of doing the work myself, here's a very excellent answer from a friend. Our pastor John posted this on our church's Facebook page:
Here are the wise words of Gordon Cheng regarding this topic:

"I think we can forgive without repentance on the part of the other person.

I don't believe that Jesus' words on the cross, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do', were conditional on the repentance of his hearers.

Of course, their mocking continued, and for some, that state of mind continued until their death, temporal and eternal. There is an unforgivable sin.

That sin, as I paraphrase it, is the sin of not repenting.

But what is ruined, for eternity, is reconciliation.

The word of forgiveness is not taken back.

To use a weak analogy, you've dumped a bag of gold that you couldn't afford to part with on the doorstep of your worst enemy.

Now, no driving past the house to see if the bag is still sitting there, unless you dropped past to add more gold to the pile.

(In which case, add the gold and leave, and only return to keep adding!)"

To which [my pastor John] asked: "So if I understand you correctly forgiveness is offered but without acceptance there is no reconciliation?"

And Gordo replied: "yep, no reconciliation without acceptance of forgiveness.

These things can be partial and implied, of course.

So Joe the sinner might smile sheepishly and shake my hand effusively, having previously refused to apologize.

What should I do then?

I think I should, as far as it lies in my power, accept what is offered.

And more, if I can.

or if God so empowers me to do."

Here's a video by Phillip Jensen where he answers the question:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

online meanderings

What faith is - Faith is not a leap in the dark. It is seeing, yet living with our eyes closed.

My favourite Russell - A story that gives hope when people don't respond to the gospel.

The "good" of suffering and How trauma can lead to growth - There's some profound wisdom here.

7 ways to stop gossip - 'Nuff said.

"Whatever it takes..." - Seven good-and-scary ways to pray for your heart.

The best ministry comes through presence - "Some of the pastor's most precious moments are the ones when you are there."

Mothering through depression and chronic illness - Honest and heart-felt, with some helpful advice.

She strengthens me - A husband writes about his wife, and what it means to be a "helper".

All the known audio of CS Lewis speaking and Tolkien on video and in his own voice - Another great Justin Taylor resource.
How might our neighbors' attitudes change if we told stories of marriage in its gritty beauty, such as the relationship between Eric and Tami Taylor in Friday Night Lights? Collin Hansen

You are tired and weary and you feel at times it is too much for you? Go back and look at your life and put it into the context of eternity. Stop and ask yourself what it all means. It is nothing but a preparatory school. This life is but the ante-chamber of eternity and all we do in this world is but anticipatory of that. Our greatest joys are but the first fruits and the foretaste of the eternal joy that is coming. How important it is to remind ourselves of that. It is the sheer grind of daily life that gets us down. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

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Monday, July 29, 2013

what I'm reading: when the earth's shoes don't fit

One of the hardest things about suffering is that it's difficult to get any perspective.

Suffering befuddles your brain. It strips away the things you once thought you knew. You can't think clearly.

In the middle of this, the Bible invites you to look at things from a new perspective - from the future. Not easy when you're swallowed up by pain!

But these words from Joni Eareckson's When God Weeps invited me to do just that. They made me smile through my tears. 
Time is slippery stuff ... When we recall pain in the past, we do so with a perspective we simply didn't have when going through it ...

When looking back on heartache, the pain fades like a hazy memory. The trauma has dulled like an old photograph. Only the results survive, the things of lasting importance ...

When we come "through the valley of the shadow of death", we are different people. Better, stronger, and wiser ...

The Bible constantly tries to get us to look at life this way. It steadfastly tries to implant the perspective of the future into our present ... It's a view that separates what is lasting from what will fall by the wayside, ... always underscoring the final results - the heart settled, the soul rejoicing. ...

Human nature gags on such a perspective. It tries to rivet you to the pain of the present, blinding you to the realities of the future. Human nature would rather lick its wounds and sneer, "That's pie in the sky. The future doesn't count."

But it does count. So much so that
everything else, no matter how real it seems to us, is treated as insubstantial, hardly world a snort ... That is why Scripture can seem at times so blithely and irritatingly out of touch with reality, brushing past huge philosophical problems and personal agony. That is just how life is when you are looking from the end. Perspective changes everything. What seemed so important at the time has no significance at all.*
The Bible blatantly tells us to "rejoice in suffering" and "welcome trials as friends" because God wants us to step into the reality he has in mind for us, the only reality that ultimately counts ... God wants his people aflame with his hope. ...

It doesn't happen without suffering. Affliction is what fuels the furnace of this heaven-hearted hope ... Suffering...turns our hearts toward the future ...

Earth's pain keeps crushing our hopes, reminding us this world can never satisfy; only heaven can. And every time we begin to nestle too comfortably on this planet, God cracks open the locks of the dam to allow an ice-cold splash of suffering to wake us from our spiritual slumber ...

Suffering keeps swelling our feet so that earth's shoes won't fit.

*Tim Stafford

Friday, July 26, 2013

some wisdom from The Screwtape Letters

I'd like to print out this 1 sentence summary of Screwtape's letters and stick it in the front of my book.

Here are 5 points I want to remember (a "devil" wrote these, so read them in reverse).

  • Keep him from seriously intending to pray at all, and if that fails, subtly misdirect his focus to himself or an object rather than a Person. I am brilliant at this; my prayers constantly turn into reflections on myself.
  • Make good use of your patient’s series of troughs and peaks (i.e., “the law of undulation”), and beware that the Enemy relies on the troughs more than the peaks. I was just thinking yesterday how easy it is to think that my current emotional state is a true guide to reality.
  • Don’t allow him to experience real pleasures because they are a touchstone of reality. This is why I go for walks, jog, laugh with a friend, enjoy God's good world...they puncture moods of anxiety and discouragement like nothing else.
  • Make him live in the future rather than the present. I have a PhD in living in the future (and the past); I just prayed this morning that God will help me to hand this term over to him, and take it "one day at a time" in the grace and strength he provides.
  • Convince him to use the pronoun “my” in the fully possessive sense of ownership (e.g., “my time,” “my boots,” “my wife,” and “my God”). Got home yesterday, walked in the door thinking, "Finally I can sit down and have some time to myself", when the phone rang and I had to pick up a sick child from school. The result? Grumpiness and self-pity. Better to trust God to give me what is truly best!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

how we're going (and a bit about chronic pain)

Project 365 #192: 110710 Light At The End Of The TunnelWell, friends, it feels like we've just passed through a very dark tunnel; but we're beginning to see the light at the end (cliche, anyone?). Hope feels fragile and uncertain, like we can't quite put our weight on it. But I am so thankful to God for his mercy to our family.

Ben and I visited the OT at the hospital last week, and were actually told - get this! - that we might be seeing too many doctors, and did we want to stop seeing her? We didn't (she's wonderful); but we did put off our next appointment for a month.

Picture me mentally dancing around the room at the thought that we might not have 3-hour-round-trip doctors' visits most weeks, and sometimes twice a week, this term!

If I'm tempted to hopelessness - and I am - I only have to compare the start of this term to the last one. It was a black dog of a term, take it any way you like. Endless trips to doctors and the hospital. Ben still missing heaps of school. By the end, I was battling pretty intense anxiety. In God's grace, I'm recovering; and Ben is looking healthier and stronger.

Looking back, here were some turning points:
  • Ben's diagnoses after a few years of illness: migraines (2012) and chronic daily headaches (2013)
  • a phone-call I made to the paediatrician late last term, when I said, "This can't go on. I think Ben's just going to have to go to school even when he's feeling horrible!" and she said, "Yes." Hard, but good.*
  • attending a pain education clinic and reading a book on chronic pain. I now understand what we did to contribute to this situation (ouch!) and what we can do to help Ben get better.
  • a meeting with the hospital psychologist in the final week of last term, when she said, "You need to stop asking Ben about his pain." I did, and it helps him to focus less on his pain and more on living.
  • 2 weeks holidays and lots of exercise - soccer, ropes' course, boogy boarding - helped Ben regain strength and energy.

Here's what I'm learning about chronic pain:
  • Chronic pain can happen when you respond to ongoing pain as you would to acute pain.
    • You rest, so your body becomes weak. 
    • You protect the area, and your nerves become super-sensitive. 
    • You get help, but begin to rely on others. 
    • You avoid danger, until everything looks dangerous. 
  • The result is that your whole system becomes oversensitised to pain. Your nerves grow extra sensors. Your brain lays down pathways that reinforce the pain. Your nervous system becomes overly responsive to stress. Migraines often turn into chronic daily headaches this way.
  • What's needed is to reset your system. Your brain needs to learn new pathways; your nerves need to be desensitized; your body needs to be strengthened. Normal function generally returns before pain decreases. A slow process!

Here's the plan (otherwise known as "how to deal with chronic pain in children 101"**):
  • get on with life despite the pain, slowly and steadily, as you are able. Don't focus on the pain (and, if you're a bystander, don't ask about it); instead, do things that distract you. This turns down the brain's awareness of pain.
  • set achievable individual goals - e.g. a 2 hour visit with friends every weekend - and build up slowly
  • pace yourself: 16 hours playing with your brothers on the weekend is great, but you need regular short breaks to rest, or you'll overload your system
  • gradually work your way back into normal life as your system re-adjusts - we're planning Ben's first full day's school next week (now put off by a week due to migraines - such is our halting progress!). By the end of the year, our goal, God willing, is for Ben to be doing full weeks.
  • get daily exercise: swimming, walking, strength training ... Some kids have to start by walking to the door and back again. Thankfully, we're further on than this, but it takes perseverance and commitment.
  • learn to do relaxation exercises, because anxiety contributes to chronic pain. Ben dislikes these, so we're still working on this one!
  • learn to read your body, manage your stress, and know when you need rest. Ben is getting very good at this.

So we start this term with new energy and new hope. Last week, Ben did 4 1/2 hour school days, as planned, though he was in pain every day. This week a full-blown migraine shortened his days, but he's making it to a bit of school each day - a great achievement. If he goes downhill, we'll rethink things. But at least we now understand what is happening and what to do.

Thank God for his mercy and his grace, and keep praying for us. God hears and answers your prayers.

* If this sounds remarkably like advice I received many months earlier, let's just say that it takes time and experience to realise just how much pain it's possible to be in, yet for it still to be the right thing to go to school.
** Disclaimer: I am not a professional, and this is not medical advice. You can find a good practical guide to some of the current thinking on chronic pain at MoodJuice.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

online meanderings

Lay aside the weight of "not feeling like it" - Part of a great series by Jon Bloom.

Why I love psalm 137 - Putting our hope in the unseen.

Where was God when I suffered? - Helpful answers to a hard question.

What makes a church beautiful? - I always enjoy what Elisha Galotti writes.

The passive-aggressive pride of self-pity - I found this challenging.

Embracing sufferers for the things they offer you - Profound and helpful.

When past sin blindsides you - Some reflections on regret and guilt.

Teaching the Bible to kids - How not to turn it into a moral story.
It is a sorry friend who tries to talk someone out of conviction for their sins. Wendy Alsup

Remember this, all the sighing, mourning, sobbing, and complaining in the world, doth not so undeniably evidence a man to be humble, as his overlooking his own righteousness, and living really and purely upon the righteousness of Christ. This is the greatest demonstration of humility. Thomas Brooks

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CS Lewis on how to read books from a different time

Ben's English teacher (or, as a French textbook might have it, The English Teacher Of My Son Ben) has encouraged him to read some books from Ye Olde England. Guess I'll be reading along.

My mouth is watering. I finally get to fill in some of the yawning gaps in my education!

When you do science all the way through school, and only come to Arts several years later (after an abortive attempt at Medicine), and then choose to study lots of modern literature (what was I thinking?!) ... well, let's just say that I've got a lot of catching up to do.

On the list are The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Beowulf (translated from Old English) and Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (Middle English). Also Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, although I'll check the content first.
But how do you read books from such different times to our own? CS Lewis told his friend Arthur Greeves, who was obviously struggling with Beowulf and Malory,
Remember that nearly all your reading is confined to about 150 years of one particular country: this is no disgrace to you, most people's circle is far smaller. But still, compared with the world this one little period of English is very small and tho' you (and I of course) are so accustomed to the particular kinds of art we find inside it, yet we must remember that there are an infinite variety outside it, quite as good in different ways.

And so, if you suddenly go back to an Anglo-Saxon gleeman's lay, you come up against something absolutely different - a different world. If you are to enjoy it, you must forget your previous ideas of what a book should be and try and put yourself back in the position of the people for whom it was first made.

When I was reading it I tried to imagine myself as an old Saxon thane sitting in my hall of a winter’s night, with the wolves & storm outside and the old fellow singing his story. In this way you get the atmosphere of terror that runs through it—the horror of the old barbarous days when the land was all forests and when you though that a demon might come to your house any night & carry you off.

The description of Grendel stalking up from his ‘fen and fastness’ thrilled me. Besides, I loved the simplicity of the old life it represents: it comes as a relief to get away from all complications about characters & ‘problems’ to a time when hunting, fighting, eating, drinking & loving were all a man had to think of it.
(Letters, 143; Nov 1st, 1916).