Neighbors had warned me of the dog down the street. Over the past several years, the dog has attacked at least three dogs in the neighborhood. I had hoped my dog and that one might never meet.
Three weeks ago, I was walking my dog before dinner, and suddenly the dog came tearing out of its open garage and into the street. It grabbed my dog’s back leg and then pinned her down and grabbed her throat in its jaws. The attack continued for what felt like forever, but really lasted only a few minutes.
While my dog survived the attack, she was badly wounded and had to have surgery the next morning. She has had complications and numerous vet visits since. She is recovering, probably better than I am. That’s the beauty of dogs. They live in the present moment.
My sweet pup, healing and enjoying the sunshine (You can see that weeding the yard was not a priority for me during her recovery. Dandelions will take advantage of a neglectful gardner.)
Before we get started with the final sign of the tree sign series, I’d like to ask a favor. Wherever you live and whatever is pressing on your heart, would you please lift up a prayer for the fire fighters, the residents displaced, those who are grieving a loss of home or beloved animals or livelihood because of the California wildfires? Would you also pray for quenching rain to fall on the flames?
Now back to the final tree sign of the series.
I knew this last sign existed, but the day I walked along the road to take photographs for the series, I could not find it. I knew which direction it faced but looked and looked and looked. The road is not the sort of road that’s safe to walk along, and despite picking an especially quiet morning, I had to give up and go home without a picture.
My sweet husband drove along the road later that day while I sat in the passenger seat with camera in hand. We had to make a couple of passes before I finally spotted it, high up and partially hidden in prickly leaves.
I’m not sure it’s coincidence that this sign is so elusive. Its word is hard for us to grasp and can be covered in prickly emotions:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:31-32
Forgive. What does that word conjure up for you? A moment, a memory, an act, a hard thing, a blessing?
In Old Testament times, God’s followers had to follow specific rules about sacrifices that would earn God’s forgiveness. The New Testament brought change to the need to exchange sacrifices for forgiveness: Jesus’ death became the ultimate sacrifice.
I’ve written about forgiveness both here and in my book. It never ceases to be one of the most difficult concepts for me to tackle, perhaps because I don’t enjoy thinking about those I have yet to forgive and those who have yet to forgive me. Yet forgiveness lives at the heart of faith and is essential to our relationship with God and one another, and to our own emotional well-being.
Why does it have to be so darn difficult?
Some of us cannot believe God forgives certain sins (and sinners). Sometimes we ourselves have committed “unforgivable” sins. Sometimes we look at others and deem their sins unforgivable. The uncomfortable truth of a life of faith, though, is that we must forgive one another. In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis reminds us there’s no escaping this requirement to forgive, but he also offers excellent advice on how to tackle the challenge of forgiving others.
I have to admit: knowing someone as amazing as C.S. Lewis struggled with the concept of forgiveness makes me feel better. If forgiving others were easy, our faith might remain weak and simplistic. Instead, learning to forgive builds strength, character and a reliance on God for help.
If forgiveness is a struggle for you, I highly recommend Forgive & Forget by Lewis B. Smedes. I’ve reviewed his book here before (scroll to the last bullet of the post) and cannot say enough good things about it. It’s one of those books I imagine I’ll go back to again and again throughout my life, ever needing to learn how to forgive, and ever needing to beg for forgiveness from others.
It feels like the Bible contains a bazillion “forgive” references, and choosing one for this week’s sign was a good exercise in reminding myself of God’s requirements and great love and sacrifice for me. So why did I choose these particular verses? Quite simply, the ideas of letting go of bitterness and anger, embracing kindness, and being tender-hearted fit best with the rest of the signs. These two verses provide the perfect ending to the series. If we could remember and live out all seven of these every day—kindness is free, you matter, love never fails, hug a stranger, u r loved, peace = kindness, and forgive— how would we change as individuals? How would the world around us change?
Just for fun before we leave the series, would you let me know which post or sign you liked best? Did you miss a couple along the way? You can catch up on all of them here.
If you could add any sign to this road, what would it be and why? Please leave your answer and any other thoughts about forgiveness and the other signs in the series in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you!
A dear friend of mine sent me a new year’s greeting with wonderful words from T.S. Eliot:
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language/ And next year’s words await another voice. … What we call the beginning is often the end/ And to make an end is to make a beginning.” (from Little Gidding, II and V)
These words resonated with me for so many reasons, not least of which is that I wrote the last words of the last chapter of TheFlourishing Tree book on the last day of 2012 (well, the first draft anyway). They are last year’s words. And now that I’ve made an end, I’m ready to make a new beginning.
There’s still editing to do to the book, and there’s the daunting task of finding an agent and publisher, but I’m excited about other writing projects I’ll begin in the year ahead. These projects have patiently awaited my attention and my voice.
Your end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 may not have as much to do with writing, but I bet there are words involved, nonetheless.
Are there words of hurt or shame or pain that you have carried over into this year from last year? Perhaps a friendship that ended with a hurtful email? Or the sting of being overlooked by your boss for a well-deserved promotion? Or words spoken in anger to a spouse or child that threaten your most precious relationship(s)?
Let me invite you to heed Eliot’s advice: let last year’s words belong to last year’s language and begin to look for a new voice to embrace. A voice that is full of love and healing and soothing. Continue reading →
I’ve mentioned before that this first week after the time change isn’t my most favorite one of the year. Maybe you feel it, too? The body’s confusion about why all of a sudden we have to get up even earlier than usual. Even my dog isn’t ready to get up first thing, but she has enjoyed getting dinner earlier than usual.
The weather is gorgeous, though, and Spring is definitely here, making it practically impossible to sit inside for long lengths of time. And the light lasting longer in the evening means I can sit outside and read. Here’s a list of some of my favorite reads from the last few months that might inspire you to grab a cold Izze and head outside to read.
A few of the books I've been reading, along with my favorite soft drink: grapefruit Izze!
I hope you won’t mind a shorter post this week, as I’m still catching up on rest after many blessings this Christmas: presents to wrap and open, many good things to eat, and a house filled to the brim with loved ones. Most especially – I found the blessing of forgiveness at our Christmas Eve service in offering a communion cup to someone who had deeply hurt me. The moment was the best gift for me this Christmas.
I wish these same things for you in the coming year – blessings that fill your home and heart to the brim, forgiveness for those who need it, and, most of all, the comfort of loved ones near you. Thank you for reading through the year. You – my blog readers – are a treasure to me.
A gift from a dear friend, a favorite “treasure” on this year’s tree