Category Archives: God’s Character

What Does it Mean to Really Forgive Someone?

What does it mean to really forgive someone_My husband Dan shared a great message about forgiveness this past Sunday. We know we are to forgive those who have wounded us (see my post on Bullet Wounds), but sometimes the “how” eludes us. I thought I would share what I’ve been going through over the last week to show my own journey into forgiveness.

I won’t go into the details, but a person in our lives has hurt us deeply, so much that when we received the letter from her lawyer, I was in shock and very angry. It is one thing to know there is evil in the world, but sometimes I want to believe there is still integrity and fairness in people since that is how I operate. When you come face to face with reality, it’s a hard blow.

Over the next couple of days, I could hardly breathe. It was like there was such a heaviness sitting on my chest, such a gaping hole, that I could hardly function. Every time I thought of the situation, I wanted to fight back. And we could, our case is much stronger than hers.

But then God reminded me of the parable of the servant who was forgiven a debt of millions of dollars, but then that servant turned around and went after another servant who owed him a measly amount. God showed me with everything He’s forgiven me, $1,400 isn’t much to forgive. I couldn’t shake that image from my mind.

Last night, I woke up feeling wounded, hurt, and angry again. Does that mean I hadn’t forgiven her? I don’t believe so. Real wounds take time. You can forgive, but there is still hurt as the wound heals. You know what you do with the hurt? You take it to God. Every minute. Every hour.

I prayed over and over again last night, even telling God I’m not strong enough to forgive such hurtfulness, that I needed His strength to do it. It took almost two hours of wrestling and crying. There were moments when I wondered if I was being weak since we were choosing not to fight. But then God reminded me the weapons she was using: intimidation and lawyers, were not the weapons for me to use. He also showed me another battle going on: the one for her soul. She is trapped by greed and the things of this world. So instead of hating her, I needed to pray for her.

I’m still hurting this morning. And I probably will hurt for a while. As someone who is a fair and just person, to experience such injustice committed toward my family is painful. But as Easter approaches, I remember the one I follow. At the end, Jesus said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” If Jesus could forgive those who committed such atrocities toward Him, then I can forgive the hurt committed toward me.

Not alone, but with His help.

 

 

How Rescue Animals are Like the Gospel

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows I love animals. Big small, I love them all (even the stinky ones and slimy ones). Because of my love, my house is filled with furry and wet friends and probably smells like the Ark!

Last week another critter joined our family. Whiskers, once one of the many poor goldfish pawned off at carnivals, is now part of the Busse family.

As I prepared his aquarium, it hit me how my animals are similar to how we join God’s family. Each one came from a different background: specially bred, pet store, abandoned, or destined for a life of misery followed by death. Each one wanted, no matter where they came from. Each one now a Busse (yes, we give our animals our last name).

Gracie is our dog. She came from a litter of 15 Vizslas. We went and chose her out and brought her home with us. She’s been with us since she was twelve weeks old and just celebrated her 7th birthday.

Pets
Grace, Rosie, and Rory (who has since passed away)

Butterscotch and Vanilla are our two long-haired guinea pigs. They were just one of many little guinea pigs waiting to be bought at a local pet store. Now they are seven years old and the most spoiled little pigs you will ever meet (or so my husband says).

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Vanilla and Butterscotch

Our cat Rosie and her sister were left in front of a store and hit by a car, leaving her sister with a broken leg. A woman found them and searched for a good family for the two kitties. We were only able to adopt Rosie, but don’t worry, the lady who found the kittens went on to adopt her sister.

Vader, our black cat, was abandoned in a field and left to die. It was his pitiful little meows that alerted my children and me to his predicament. I took him home, fed him, and looked for a permanent home for him. After a month, I knew I had to take him to the local shelter. Then my husband text me and said he had found Vader a home. He wanted to keep the little guy for himself :). Vader is not so little now! He’s a sixteen pound tomcat and a big teddy bear that loves my husband.

Vader loves playing with toilet paper!
Vader when he was young.

And now we have Whiskers, the carnival goldfish.

Just like my pets, each one of us has a back story: perhaps we were loved and from a good family, maybe we were abandoned, or forced to live on the street and fight for survival. Or maybe we felt small and insignificant, just one of the many swimming around in the cooler, waiting to be taken by the next winner, not knowing if life would get better or worse.

Then God came and invited us to be part of His family. He gave us His last name and a new home. I love my animals, but my love is nothing compared to God’s love for us. His love is eternal, and nothing can snatch us from His hands. What an amazing love!

Goldfish
Whiskers in his new home!

 

Moments of Wonder

A week ago I was at a friend’s house celebrating the Fourth of July. With dusk came the fireflies (or lightning bugs as they call them here in the Midwest). Having spent most of my life in the Northwest, I rarely saw a firefly, let alone hundreds of them. But here on a warm, summer evening you can find them glittering above the grass and bushes just as the sun sets.

I was captivated by the hundreds of little sparkling lights, so much so that I wasn’t even paying attention to the fireworks. My friend noticed. “Don’t lose your wonder,” he told me. At first I didn’t understand what he meant, then I realized he was referring to the fireflies.

How many of us “grow up”, move on, and in the process lose our wonder of the small things around us?

I spent the next day thinking of all the things that awe me: the peaceful sound of rain hitting the window panes, a thunderstorm blazing across the open plains, a cat’s purr. Newborn babies, gardens, the scent of a flower, the sound of the ocean’s waves.

It is in these moments of wonder I see the fingerprints of God. They connect me to my creator.

I can still be distracted by all the busyness and demands of being an adult, a mother, and a writer. But I don’t want to lose my wonder.

How about you? What are moments of wonder for you?

 

Jesus Wept

WeepingI wrote this post two years ago and still find comfort in the truth I discovered during a dark time in my life: that God still cares about us even when He is working everything for good.

If you have been a Christian for any amount of time, you are told that all things work together for good and God’s glory. The suffering that comes into your life will make you a better person. Just give it to God.

Then you find yourself hit by life. The pain is far beyond what you thought it would be: It goes right to the core of your heart. And suddenly those platitudes you have heard uttered by Christians give no comfort whatsoever. You see no good in what you are going through. And you see God as a stoic being, moving around the pieces of life like a chessboard. You are only a piece to be moved around so God receives the glory.

I felt like this a couple weeks ago. I knew all things work together for good. I knew that my life is not my own, but for God to use for His glory. But I felt like God didn’t feel for me. That God was up above, moving around my life with a look of disinterest. I was only a means to an end. And my suffering meant very little in the grand scheme of things.

Then I read began reading the book of John. And God showed me a picture of himself. Yes, He is orchestrating all of our lives for good and yes, He does all of this for His glory (for when God receives glory, we bask in the warmth). But He is not looking down on us with a stoic expression. He is moved by our hurt.

Sometimes He weeps.

As a child, it was a contest to see who knew the shortest verse in the Bible. And in case you didn’t know, it is “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35). But I never understood the full power of that verse until a couple weeks ago. As I read John 11, I felt moved by the story of Martha and Mary and their brother Lazerus.

Lazerus is deathly sick. So his sisters send word to Jesus. They know Jesus can heal their brother. They have seen His power and miracles. But Jesus never comes. And so Lazerus dies. Can you feel their shock, their feelings of betrayal? Why did Jesus heal so many others but never came to help them, His friends? They bury Lazerus, probably along with their hope.

Now let’s look at Jesus’ point of view. Jesus receives word that Lazerus is deathly ill. But He has a plan: a plan for good and God’s glory. So Jesus waits. And waits. Until Lazerus dies. Then he tells his disciples they must head back to Judea so he can awaken Lazerus.

However, you do not see an unemotional Jesus in this chapter. Look how He responds when he sees Mary and the others who are grieving with her: “When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.” (John 11:33). Jesus was moved by the grieving he saw.

They head out to the tomb. And at this point Jesus weeps. He sees the grief and hurt of the people around him. My friends, God sees the hurt and grief going on inside of us too. He is not callous to our battered hearts and lives. Even while God is using us for good and for His glory, I believe He is also weeping with us. We have a God who has also suffered. “Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” (Hebrews 2:18).

Jesus wept. What a powerful verse. Those two simple words opened my eyes. I no longer see God as a stoic being above me, moving around the pieces of my life with a calloused hand. Instead I see a God who weeps with me.

 

When God Says No

When God says NoMonths ago I started reading a book. For the life of me, I cannot remember the book or the author. But the author made a statement that has stuck with me ever since: It is easy to have faith when God says yes and everything happens the way you want it to, but it takes a deeper faith when God says no. The moment I read those words, I wanted that kind of faith.

I should know by now to be careful what I wish for. In order to develop a faith strong enough for God to say no, I have to let Him say no. And that’s not easy. In the last few months, I think that is about the only word I have heard from God: no. In big things, like selling our house, to little things, like finding Philip’s lost glasses. I have asked…and not received. After a while, it has weighed down on me and made me ask what is faith really?

I think we subconsciously view faith like this: if I have enough faith, God will do it. If I don’t, then it’s my own fault. And that has paralyzed me. I am a woman of little faith. Some people have the gift of faith. Not me. I have always been a logic, scientific kinda gal. I need to see it to believe it, figure it out, understand how it works, and then I will accept it. So because of my natural inclinations, does that mean I will see less of God’s blessings? Because I don’t have enough faith?

Then it hit me today: that kind of thinking is the same kind as hoping I am good enough for heaven. People who strive to be good enough for God always have a fear in the back of their mind, “Am I good enough?” Same with faith. “Do I have enough faith?” And when a loved one dies, or the bank takes the house, or you lose your job after praying hard on your knees, you can’t help but think you didn’t have enough faith, so God didn’t provide.

But in the end, doesn’t that place everything on ourselves? That we need to first have faith, then God will work?

Perhaps our view of faith is wrong. It is not about what God does, but who He is. Because if our faith is set on what He does, then we are going to be disappointed. But if our faith is set on who He is, then we will be confident no matter what happens because we know that He is in control. When He says no, we will not be shaken. We will  believe He has a reason for saying no, a reason we may not see or understand (after all, if we truly understood everything God did, then He wouldn’t be much of a god, would He?).

I still have a ways to go in developing this kind of faith, a faith placed squarely on God. But I want it. And I will continue to pursue it.

How about you? Has God told you no before? How did you react? Was it hard? Did your faith grow from the experience?

Where is God?

I recently found out some friends of mine just lost their sweet little baby son. When I read the news, I was devastated. Having been through some life shattering events in my own life, my heart broke for them. I know if I was in their place, deep inside my heart I would be asking where was God?

Why didn’t He heal my son? Why didn’t He step in? Where was He? Does He see me now, crying? Does He care? Or am I simply a pawn in His cosmic game of chess where in the end everything turns out for good, but right now all I feel is pain?

How will I go on? Can I go on? Everything around me is so dark I can’t see the way. All I want to do is curl up in a corner and cry. I am drowning from the pain inside.

In a time like this, there are no words that can bring comfort. Platitudes are just empty sayings. Reminders that God is there, or that everything will turn out does not help a devastated heart. All we want is our life, our child, our hope back. But life has been altered, and it will never be the same again.

So where is God in all this? From my own experience, I can say He is there. I wrote a post over a year ago titled Jesus wept. Dan had just been let go from the church we were serving at. Not only did we lose a job, we lost a church, we lost friends, we lost community. It was the darkest time of my life. And nothing anyone said could pull me out of the pit of despair. Until I read John 11:35.

Jesus wept.

Yes, God is working everything for good (Romans 8:28), and yes, God is working everything for His glory. But we are not alone. He is also walking beside us and crying with us. He is not immune to our grieving hearts. Good will come from our hurt. God is in control. Someday, we may see the big picture and know that it was all worth it.

But until then, God will carry us.

How about you? Do you feel like God has abandoned you? Are you facing a devastating loss? What helps you keep going?

 

God Keeps His Promise

When I shared the Christmas story with my Sunday school class this past Sunday, I didn’t start with a baby in a manger, I started back in Genesis when God created the universe. I wanted my students to realize the powerful implication of the Christmas story: that the maker of the entire universe, the all-powerful God, bigger than any of us, came to be a human being.

As I shared the story of creation, I realized something: the world waited thousands of years for God to keep His promise by the time Jesus came. You see, when Adam and Eve sinned, and sinned entered both the world and our very hearts, God made a promise: to come back and make things right.

Fast forward. In the little town of Bethlehem, God finally came as a baby human. The foretold promise. But who knew? Who was watching? When it finally happened, hardly anyone showed up. Angels told shepherds about it. And of course Mary and Joseph knew. And Simon and Anna from the temple. And maybe a couple relatives (Elizabeth knew). And some magi from the Far East started heading that direction.

But where were all the people who had been waiting for God’s promise? Did they think it wouldn’t happen in their lifetime? Had they forgotten? Or perhaps they couldn’t imagine it would happen the way it did: God born to a poor couple in a barn, not to a kind and queen in a palace.

God always keeps His promise, no matter how long it takes. The Christmas story teaches us that. But it doesn’t always happen when we think it will, or where, or even how. That is one thing I’ve definitely learned this year, that God’s ways are not my ways. And the way He goes about keeping His promises are usually not how I would have done it.

How about you? How has God kept His promise to you? Did He surprise you by how He did it?

 

God and Santa Claus

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town.

My children were watching the old claymation Santa Claus is Coming to Town the other night. As I listened to the story and heard the song, something struck me. I found myself grateful God isn’t like Santa Claus.

Haha! Funny, right? Look at the lyrics. You better do this. You better not do that. Why? Because Santa is coming!

I have a suspicion that Santa was a means for parents to get their children to behave. “Susie, if you keep throwing a fit, Santa won’t bring you anything this year.” “Tommy, if you hit your sister again, Santa won’t bring you anything.” So for decades children have tried to behave during this time of year in hopes that if they are good enough, they will have presents under the tree.

But have any of us ever been good enough? I know I’ve cried. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve been a little less than loving towards those who cut in front of me in line as I try to get out of the store during the Christmas chaos.

He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake! Oops! Santa saw! And now there will be coal for me in the stocking.

God sees too (much more than Santa sees). And He sees all the darkness inside our hearts. But did God leave coal for us on Christmas? Nope. Despite our crying, our pouting, our anger and hateful hearts, He still gave us a gift. The gift of His son Jesus.

Jesus came so that we could be saved from our sin. You see, no amount of being good on our part could ever be good enough. So God himself stepped in, took our place, freed us from the bondage of sin, healed our hearts, and gave us hope. God gives a us a gift apart from how good or bad we are. It is free for the taking. Jesus died for our sins. Will you accept his gift?

“’Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10,11

The Day My Heart Stood Still

It started on Thanksgiving four years ago. My daughters were recovering from croup. Having dealt with croup for a couple years, it didn’t scare me as much. I knew what to do, and my children recovered quickly. So as I fixed Thanksgiving dinner and heard Caleb (my youngest and 2 at the time) start coughing, I knew he had caught it too.

As night came, I stayed with Caleb, making sure to give him medicine and cool mist breathing treatments. Halfway through the night, he seemed to be getting worse and worse. I finally told Dan that he needed to see the doctor in the morning.

By seven in the morning, having stayed up all night with Caleb, I finally dozed off on the hide-a-bed couch I had been sharing with him. Next thing I know, Philip is waking me up and telling me Caleb was blue. I found Caleb on the floor and screamed for Dan.

Dan immediately started CPR on our son while I called 911. We lived in a small town out in the country and were told it would be faster if we could drive our son to the hospital rather than send out an ambulance.

Caleb continued to labor for breath as we climbed into the car. I will never forget looking back and seeing the faces of my other 3 children in the window of our living room as we drove away. We could not reach anyone to stay with them and with our son dying, we had to trust God would take care of them as we raced to the hospital.

Caleb barely breathed as we raced 90mph down the highway. Then he stopped. His eyes went still and his body limp. It’s that look when the soul has left the body. I can’t describe it, and movies do not capture it.  That look in the eyes that there is no life inside.

In that moment, I felt the most helpless I have ever felt. If I could have, I would have breathed for my son. I would have traded places with him and died in his place. But I couldn’t. Instead, all I could do is cry out to God.

Dan talked me through CPR as I tried to administer to it to my son. His skin was pale blue, his lips too. Nothing.

Then I finally screamed in the car, “God I can’t do it! I need a miracle here!”

Before this point, Dan and I had been through one of the toughest years of our lives. We had lost a job, a home, and almost everything we had. I couldn’t bury a son too.

Then Caleb gasped. A flicker of life came back into his eyes and he looked at me. He could only take a breath every few seconds. I told him to keep breathing, to hold on, because we were almost there.

The hospital staff met us at the door and immediately started working on Caleb. They had no idea what was wrong with him. One of the doctors came to me and said he needed to be transferred to a bigger hospital in the town north of us. So Caleb and I got into an ambulance and raced up to the next town.

The staff there started working on Caleb, doing everything they could to keep him breathing. But they could not stabilize his breathing and could not figure out why he was having problems.

Finally, the pediatrician on call pulled me aside and said she had no idea what she was dealing with and the fact that he had went from a healthy boy to dying in less than 12 hours meant it was something serious. She advised that Caleb be flown to the children’s hospital in Portland.

I hate flying. And the smaller the airplane, the scarier. But one look at my little boy and I knew I would get on that plane, if it could save him.

However, his breathing would not stabilize enough to make the flight safely. And it was coming to the point where they would need to hook him up to a machine to breathe for him.

But again God worked, and Caleb stabilized long enough that we could fly.

So to Portland Caleb and I flew while Dan drove. By now we had finally reached people who could take care of our other kids. I found out later that when our friends arrived at the house, they had found Philip had dressed his sisters and fed them breakfast.

In Portland, the doctors began all sorts of tests. Caleb had to stay in the hospital crib, what we dubbed “the cage.” He wouldn’t stop crying, and that made it hard for him to breathe. Finally, the nurse told me I could go into the “cage” with him. So I crawled in, lay down, and placed Caleb on my chest. Immediately he calmed down and just looked around. I stayed there all night.

It took until that morning for Caleb to stabilize. We stayed there 2 additional days. In the end, no one really knows what happened. The doctors hypothesized that it was a mutant strain of croup never seen. I don’t know.

I am a very logical and factual person. Faith has never come easy for me. But I know within my heart that on that day four years ago, God answered the frantic prayer of a mother and worked a miracle on a dying son.

Because of what happened, Thanksgiving took on a new meaning for Dan and I. All we have to do is look across the table at Caleb and know that God still works miracles. And that we have much to be thankful for.

What is Faith?

Here is a quote I came across a couple months ago: Faith is not believing God can, but that God will!

But what if He doesn’t?

I couldn’t help but look at those words and ask what about the people who have lost loved ones? Or parents who prayed and prayed for their child to live, but their child died anyway? Or the man who lost his job and eventually his home?

Did they not have enough faith? Did they not pray enough? Or is faith something more?

Last year I found my faith stretching beyond anything I had ever known. For the first time in my life, I believed God could do anything, not just with my head, but with my heart. That faith carried me through some of the darkest moments of my life… until nothing happened.

God didn’t come through.

I couldn’t believe it. It was the biggest letdown ever. I had prayed, prostrated myself before God, and thought for sure that God was behind us. But He didn’t show up.

I felt alone and devastated. Was my little kernel of faith just not big enough? Mentally and emotionally I felt like I was being sucked down into a vortex of darkness. Could I trust God anymore? And what is faith really?

It was the story of three men that made me start to think there is more to faith than just believing God will do something. The men’s names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Most people know them by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were three young men taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar and sent off to Babylon where they served him.

In Daniel chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar creates a statue of gold and commands his people to bow and worship it when the music starts to play. The music plays, and everyone bows… except for those 3 men.

They are brought before Nebuchadnezzar. He tells them he will give them a second chance. But if they fail to obey and bow down, he will throw them into the blazing furnace. “And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” (Daniel 3:15)

Here is their response: ”O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.

But even if He doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18).

Did you catch that? These men knew God could save them. They had faith. But their faith wasn’t based on what God would do; it was based on God Himself. That is why they could say even if He doesn’t. Even if God did not save them, they would still follow Him and not bow down. They completely put their faith in God to do whatever God was going to do, even if God’s plan did not include saving them.

Wow.

Do I put my faith only in what God is going to do? Or simply in God Himself? Do I trust God so much that I place myself in His Hands and know that no matter how dark the outcome, He has a reason for it?

That is a different kind of faith than the quote up above. A faith that has allowed Christians in the past to face torture and death. One that allows me now to see beyond my current circumstances. A faith in God alone, not in just the outcome we want from Him.