ASTOUND!

Do you remember that I mentioned starting my first non-fiction project a few posts back?  In “Your Child Doesn’t Love God,” I talk about dealing with an ongoing behavior with one child, and feeling the call to write a booklet on the gospel, God’s love, and His greatness for preschool through young-elementary-aged children.

That booklet is complete!  And will be on Amazon in a matter of days!

The Lord has really grown and stretched me through writing this 29-page, pocket-sized booklet, and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to write it!  My husband helped immensely, and an amazing team of beta readers has critiqued the thing’s socks off 😛  until it’s shiny and as perfect as it can be.  🙂

An old California friend, and fellow Christian mom, also graciously offered her services to provide artistic touches throughout, and you can check out the whimsical watercolor artist, Kelli Hoekendorf, on her Facebook page here.

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the first pages of the booklet with her adorable art!

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The booklet has been endorsed by fellow Christian non-fiction author, Bruce Ray:

“ASTOUND is a big concept (sanctification) simplified for little hands and little feet. In these few pages RJ Conte avoids the big traps of legalism and lawlessness and tells children (and their caregivers) that the way to become holy is by learning about God and loving him so much that you don’t want to displease him. Easy to read, but big ideas!”
~Bruce Ray (pastor, police chaplain, author, and grandfather)

and by author, editor, and #WIPjoy creator, Bethany Jennings:

ASTOUND is packed with beautiful, thought-provoking doctrines
for young hearts to ponder, written in a way that makes them
easy and accessible for parents to discuss with their little
ones – Bethany Jennings (mother of 4, author, and editor)

Be watching for the announcement that the ebook version is available later on this week!  (The paperback pocket version will be available in the following weeks.)  Please be in prayer that God would use it for His glory!

Also please be in prayer for me.  I will hit 38 weeks, in this pregnancy, on Tuesday.  I’m getting over a cold, and am still wanting to attempt a VBAC after two c-sections.  I’d love prayer for a safe delivery and healthy baby!

Thank you, everyone!
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Top Posts of 2016!

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It’s time for the list of the top 10 posts of the year!

This was a slower year for me, mostly due to pregnancy and all that comes with that, so I only wrote almost half of the amount of posts of the previous year.  In 2015, I wrote 93, and this year I wrote an exact even 50.  BUT, even with half the posts, I actually, just barely, got more views and visitors this year than last year, meaning that my posts are bringing in more readers than ever!  Hooray for that!

This year, I had 11,687 visitors to my blog with 16,043 views and ended the year with 118 blog followers.  *cheer*  (To follow this blog, click FOLLOW on the right hand side of this page) 

Without further ado, what were the most popular posts of this year?  Well, not all of them were even actually published on this blog this year – some have remained super popular from previous years, and have lived on with lives of their own all over the Internet.

Sitting at #1, by far, with no competition, and with around 35 hits A DAY is:

Anime Characters by Myers-Briggs Type (with 7,164 individual views this year!!)mami_tomoe_render_by_moeblueberry1771-d5evnl7

This post is also #1 on any Google search for “anime characters by Myers-Briggs type and continually brings in guests to my blog.  Kind of exciting, even if it is very niche.  So if you like anime AND personality typing, this is the post for you.  Identified by name, show title, and picture, I have anime characters from various shows in neat little groups according to their types.  🙂

 

The Day I Met Job (with 996 individual views)PCOS Challenge Infographic

This makes me so happy that it’s #2.  This is the deeply personal testimony of what God did in my heart and life last year after suffering with secondary infertility.  It is also about my best friend and her daughter, an appreciation of my mother-in-law, a nod to a fellow author, and mostly a testimony about a hero of the faith I met last year.  Please read the article.  I hope my vulnerability and sharing of God’s greatness touches your heart!

 

An Open Letter to My Pregnant Sister (with 460 views)beautiful-wedding-tiara

Still going strong.  This is a writeup I did for baby showers that I first composed for my sister 2 1/2 years ago, and have tweaked a few times since to share with other expectant moms.  There must be a need for this, as people continually search for this online and find my site.  🙂

 

Tied with “My Pregnant Sister” is: Setting up the Romance Ship (with 460 views)austenland-holding_13254521245

How fun that my breakdown of the smart secret to writing a winning romance story did so well!  I thought this one was a bit obvious until I read (and watched) many people miss this key point to setting up their relationship story. Thinking I had nothing to lose, I threw my own theory out there, and it did very well!

 

Should Married Women Vote Against Their Spouse? (with 349 views)your_vote_counts

This one was a hot button when I first posted it a few years ago, and it continues to be something people search for and find through my blog. Read at your own risk…  🙂

 

Could You Love This Genderless Person? (with 287 views)5

Maybe it was just a catchy title, but this was a very niche article about genderbender dramas that I posted. A “genderbender” is when a guy dresses up and pretends to be a girl, or vice versa, and the opposite sex falls for them.  I explore this trope and why it means so much to women, and maybe what’s spiritually at the heart of this “forbidden romance” story.

 

In Memory of Victoria Mercy Conte (with 262 views)conte-052

A year and a half after the sudden and tragic passing of my husband’s baby sister, this post, written by *him* not me, still makes the top 10 on my list.  Please read my husband’s beautiful, tear-jerker tribute to a lovely life that sits very dear to our hearts.

 

NAME THE BABY! (with 221 views)namebabygirl02

I’m legitimately shocked that this made the top 10!  Last year I teamed up with lovely author Melanie D. Snitker to do a giveaway and promote each other’s books.  Readers named the baby that her main couple was pregnant with, and we got some great responses.  I need to do more on this blog with fellow authors next year!  In the meantime, check out Melanie’s very successful books on Amazon.

 

Asian TV for the American Newbie Viewer (with 188 views)patemainverted_dvd-f

This is a fun list that I kept on my sidebar.  Always hearing me talk about anime and kdramas but have no idea what’s safe or good to watch or where to start?  Not sure you’d even like Asian TV?  I put together a “starter” list of Asian TV for people who don’t like Asian TV, so to speak.  These are storylines and shows that I think any American could love without feeling too “eastern” in the storytelling style.  Give any of these shows a chance, and let me know if they did not disappoint!

 

And last but not least: Sarcastically Realistic Movie Descriptions – Name That Movie!2a3

This one also surprises me that it made the list.  This was a funny little game I posted on my blog a while ago, and it’s done well recently.  Someone must have reposted them.  If you’re looking for a comedic way to describe popular movies, as a game for a party you’re hosting, this might be the post for you.

 

So which blog post of mine was YOUR favorite this year?  Leave a comment!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Which I Say the Big, Bad C Word: Courtship

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Courtship…

…is a hot button these days, and I’m not always sure why.  Some Christians have been the victims of dictatorial, patriarchal homes, but most don’t even have a clue what the word actually means. As a society, I think we’ve swung back and forth so many times on relationship norms that most of us are dizzy.  I think every generation “does it differently.”

Recently, my uncle, Richard Briggs, in an author Q and A query, asked me about my own ideas on courtship (I had a very successful and happy one!) and how it plays into my writing love stories.

Since we’re raising a new generation of children – my own included – and I’m seeing the pendulum swing again to “get rid of courtship altogether,” I’d like to say to look past the big, bad C word.  What even IS “courtship”?  Every single group I’ve ever been in defines it differently.

Let’s just talk relationships on the whole. My girls are young now but it is NEVER too early to start planning for and being aware of this.  You are raising children not just to be obedient kiddos in your home, but to be godly adults out in the real world.  Your home is just a stepping ground for all of life and, let’s face it, most of our kids are going to get married. So that relationship with their spouse will last the rest of their life, and be the most important relationship in their life.

So what are my views on courtship?  Here’s my succinct personal definition:

Committing to love, serve, and honor God by being intentional in doing the best for others and looking at relationships through the lens of future marriage. Being future-mindful and Christ-centered in your relationships, not selfish in your physical affections and giving into lusts, and not causing anyone else to sin, including yourself. Eschewing the worldly, selfish ideas of playing around before finding a spouse.

Beyond that, my ideas are so simple, and yet so foundational.  I think, when you muddy it up with more than this, you get into legalism. Let’s leave out all the common sense physical rules like what’s your curfew, if you’re chaperoned, if you kiss before your wedding day, etc. etc.  That’s up to your home and your child. My husband and I haven’t set any of those in stone. We’ll see what we decide when the time comes and where the child’s heart and temptations are.  And our “common sense rules” may be different from yours – and there should be no judgment from house to house on those types of safety rules.  But honestly, that’s not what I’m thinking about or looking for when I’m training my children to be spouses.

I want only three things.

A. I want them to so love God that they’re committed to honesty, morality/godliness, and Him most of all.

(See the previous blog post in the link above.) It’s why I’m seriously, seriously addressing sneakiness and dishonesty and selfishness and other traits now.  My child lies to me or selfishly hoards me or is disloyal to friends?  He’s going to be those things to his spouse too.  They don’t just disappear in marriage or adulthood.

B. I want to so strongly have my kids’ hearts – be such good friends with them and be so close to them that they trust me and communicate with me.

It takes two to tango on this one.  I can only do my part, and pray that God leads them to value me as their mother and counselor and friend.  ❤

C. I want them to so love others and think much less of themselves that they’re committed to protecting and doing what’s best for the opposite gender always.

At the heart of the “courtship model” that I know is protecting others because you value them so much as fellow human beings, and you love and care about their safety, their hearts, and their emotions.  Leading the opposite gender on when you have no intention of marrying or committing to them – whether it’s through mass dating or just being too affectionate as friends – can injure them greatly.

At the heart of relationship values that I was taught was protecting and loving others as better than yourself. (Philippians 2:3)

This starts in just sharing toys as toddlers and choosing to go last to getting your piece of candy.  These foundational things prepare them for why they choose what they do with the opposite gender in the future.

 

2DRJ Conte is a Christian, realistic, issue-driven fiction authoress with six books on Amazon, including the novel, Heartsick, for young adults. In Heartsick, the main character, a homeschooled college student, who has devised a picture-perfect courtship model with her father, turns her back on it to get entangled with a guy who has a very mysterious and dark past.  The novel has been likened to A Walk to Remember meets Hitchcock, and is recommended to any young Christian lady starting out on her own.

$2.99 on Amazon.com

 

Your Child Doesn’t Love God

I have a child, a young child, who is currently actively rebelling and deceiving me daily.

It breaks my heart to watch it happen over and over again, even in the face of constant correction. Sure, she’s very young – not even a teenager – and so her mistakes are small in the grand scheme of things, but sneaky deception and disobedience are not small issues, even if it just involves hiding her toys that she was playing with when she was supposed to be cleaning her room.  No matter what her age or offense, watching your child do these things is always crushing.  But I get an opportunity NOW, while she’s very young, to tackle some of these issues at their root, before she becomes a chronically lying young adult like her mom was at one time.  I have been convinced, up to this point, that she is a born-again Christian, so my tactics with her can be very specific to a baby believer.

At first, I lay in my bed mulling over what this meant about me.

“How could she do this to me when she sees it upsets me every time?”

“Does she not care about her parents?”

“Am I just a terrible disciplinarian?”

“Where have I failed?” etc.

But if you ask yourself these questions when your child struggles in an ongoing sin, you’re probably missing the mark.  Sure, as a parent, it’s important to make sure we’re setting a good example, leading in Scripture and prayer, and being consistent, loving, and patient, but the truth is, your child isn’t sinning because he doesn’t love you.

Your child doesn’t love God.  

Not like she should.

It hit me, as I prayed and mulled and thought last night over discipline tactics, that nothing was quite right.  I thought about assigning her Bible verses to write and/or memorize on truthfulness and obedience.  I thought about taking away any TV watching for a week.  I thought about giving her more chores.  But everything felt so superficial, like they were tedious activities that wouldn’t actually speak to her heart.  Yes, she needs to have a consequence for her ongoing disobedience, but then what is the training I can start to incorporate?

The root problem is that she doesn’t know God enough to be intimately in love with Him and want to obey Him.

That hurting Him breaks her heart and that His commands are precious to her, like gold and silver. (Psalm 119:127).

You say, RJ, this is a big task.  I, as an adult, don’t even love God like I should, or want to obey Him like I should.  I know!  Me too!

So maybe, in preaching to her, I can preach to myself.

51r9pfxl22bl-_sx327_bo1204203200_The first book I thought of, that really cultivated a love for God in me, a book that spoke so highly of God, His character, His plans, and His love for me, and my should-be love for Him, is Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Because He Loves Me – a fantastic book that describes the high grandeur of the gospel in new ways you’ve never thought of.  Makes you truly love God for who He is and what He has done!

But much of the writing might go over my little one’s head.  How does one cultivate a high view of and passion for God in an young child?  Or an elementary student?  Why is almost nothing written to kids that give them a higher view of God?

I’ll never, ever forget what my best friend in CA told me while I was out visiting her last month.  She said, “The thing I can’t stand about most Sunday schools and programs for Christian kids is that it revolves around the child.  That they are the center of the universe and God just wants to dote on them and love them and that they are just perfectly wonderful little balls of perfection.  That, from a young age, we aren’t showing kids that they’re one cog in the great wheel of God’s plan.  That He’s sovereign and powerful and mighty.  That He demands our obedience, and we are desperate sinners, but He loves us immensely.  That we are called to love and pursue Him and have a relationship with Him.”

Our children’s faith can be so intellectual.  So rote.  So tedious.  So dry.

Our relationship with God, even as children, shouldn’t be dry.

Who among us has seen a child light up with absolute passionate wonder at a fireworks display?  When meeting Santa Claus?  When seeing a magic trick?  When decorating the Christmas tree?

There is so much wonder and awe in children, and yet it is either snuffed out, or completely ignored when it comes to the most Wonderful Being in the universe: their God and Savior.

So, as of this moment, I’m ditching all of my other writing projects for this new one.  I had so little motivation lately anyway, and maybe this is why.  I’m writing a pamphlet.  A booklet.  For my child.  For me.  And maybe for your child too.  And it’s going to be on the amazing wonder that is our God, and the fact that we get to love Him!  Like Elyse’s book, it will be on how the cross is applicable to daily life, but it will be in the language of children.

Pray for me and my children.  I will pray for yours!  Pray that this is a God-led project that I can do to benefit and convict and excite and cultivate God’s love, not only in my daughters, but in myself even more and more!

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” Philippians 1:9

 

Being a Minor Sufferer

I have the most mediocre, run-of-the mill trials.

I mean, really.thinkstockphotos-469098080

And, since I know You’re listening, Lord, that doesn’t mean I want them ramped up to a Daniel or Job on the scale of suffering!  Just making sure You know I’m okay with my Mary and Martha level.  I’m good with that!  😉

Unlike my Job-like friends I talked about in this article, I’m kind of this mediocre sufferer.  My trials are always highly obnoxious, only a little scary, and a bit sad.  Not real earth-shattering.  Let me make a “RJ’s Suffering List” in a Paul-like way.  You remember the Apostle Paul’s list, right?  Involves a lot of beating, people trying to kill him, and even a shipwreck? AND his list is all stuff done in the name of Christ!  Like real persecutions for his faith.  MY list is just regular life woes.  Would only count as “thorns in the flesh”!

So, that disclaimer being said, RJ Conte’s very vulnerable, honest, and pretty complete list would go something like this:

Separated her shoulder and ankle ligaments – twice each

Had hormonal imbalances.

Had a doctor perform the wrong test, which scared her senseless for a bunch of years

Had to deliver two healthy babies by emergency c-section – couldn’t have her perfect births

Lost relatives to spiritual and physical death

Went through 18 months of infertility after having two children successfully 

Lost some cartilage on one side of her knee 

Has chronic environmental allergies to everything, including most animals

Gets pneumonia or some other respiratory infection once a year from colds

Has a couple ex-friends who won’t talk to her due to her infuriating stupidity in her young adult years

Has had other friends get caught in serious sins

Has occasionally been treated selfishly and not loved the way believers should love one another

Has a daughter with a massive amount of food allergies – none that are life-threatening, but all that lend itself to obnoxious hives and maybe vomiting

Has had to move a little bit often, and leave churches a couple times

Doesn’t make money on her novels…

Because her novels are overtly Christian, and the world isn’t quite down with that

Had to have Accutane because the acne went on FOREVER. And, even now, in adulthood, some of it has come back

Has been insulted on her physical appearance…

Maybe because she’s never at a perfect weight, but always has those last 15 pounds she’d love to lose…

And what do you know? Finds out she has gestational diabetes in her recent pregnancy, and probably some insulin resistance, which probably caused her infertility to begin with…

Therefore, has to give up regular Mountain Dew  *sob*

 

Woot!  That’s my LIFE Trial List!  I put ALL of those on there so that you can hopefully identify with one or two or five or all of them.  See?  I’m a normal human being like you. Please tell me Paul isn’t laughing up in glory. No offense to anyone whose list is identical to mine, but it’s kind of measly.

What do you do when you’re the “normal friend” with the normal, daily life trials?

The person who doesn’t have much to say or help to give out because you’ve not gone through much of anything that interesting – or that every other Christian hasn’t gone through to some extent?

And sometimes you wish you could trade in the whole group of the small guys for one big, God-glorifying trial that’s over a few days after it begins but makes you this awe-inspiring Christian with a great testimony?

And then you’re ashamed of yourself for saying so, because the Elijahs and Jobs of the world look at you like, “You’re thirty years old, for grief’s sake, and have it all.  Seriously?”

Okay, maybe they don’t do that, because they’re freakin’ Job, for goodness sake, and have so much love and compassion and godly character that they could drown you in it.  But you’re convinced they probably are tempted to think that way about you.  That they’re secretly wringing their hands at home, staring at your Facebook posts, and hating your guts. Right?

I have a dear person in my life whose short years are littered with a few, scattered, mediocre trials.

“I kind of had a crush on someone but they didn’t like me back.”

“I have some big fears.”

“I didn’t make the grades in college that I liked.”

“My managers didn’t treat me well.”

“Someone close to me moved away.”

But this person has completely walked away from the Lord. They can’t see beyond their own suffering, which they see as horrendously awful, even though very few in their life have any clue what would warrant their dramatic, victim response.

The little ongoing things are REAL, folks.  They’re sneaky.  They creep in and go on and on and on, making us think our life is less than perfect, will never BE perfect, and drive us crazy with their prickly itchiness.  Sure, we may not have lost our entire family to death or been tortured for our faith or be stricken as a paraplegic, but things are still NOT RIGHT.  And, as pathetic as we can feel, those things linger day after day after day and break down the joy that we’re supposed to have.

I’m going to introduce a radical concept: all trials are trials.

Call out!  Ask for help.  Reach out.  Ask for prayer. Get godly advice. Don’t be ashamed.

Sure there’s some validity to saying, “Wow, I’m a stupid, babyish ninny.  Get a grip and move on with life, and don’t let these little things bother you.” But I really don’t think that’s always helpful or productive, and few human beings are in that kind of place. And God totally gets that.  You don’t hear him calling us “stupid, babyish ninnies.”  God only gives us the trials He knows we can survive and also come out the other end (1 Corinthians 10:13). So for some, those may seem “smaller” but there’s no belittling comparison scale in the kingdom of God.

And His GRACE is sufficient for ALL of them.

If you or I are really struggling in a little Martha trial (“My sister drives me NUTS, Lord.  Make her clean house and play host with me!”) chances are, that’s where my spiritual idols are.  And the feeling of being used as a slave by one’s lazy sister, whether the right perspective or not, has the same capacity of driving us away from the Lord as the massive shooting of one’s whole family does for someone else.

DON’T let that make you feel small, pathetic, or worthless.  All things that make us believe that God is making a mistake (Martha: “Jesus, why are you letting her SIT there?  Jesus, do something differently!”), all of those things that make us doubt that God is good, drive us from Him.  And, before you know it, your “mediocre list” has become a gigantic battleground for the devil.  It’s a fight for your very soul.

Can I highly, highly, highly recommend One Thousand Gifts, which I’m re-reading for the51vwntxh1sl-_sx347_bo1204203200_ 2nd or 3rd time? Ann Voskamp is a very, very average homeschool mom and housewife.  She had her one “big tragedy” in young childhood when she was hardly old enough to even get it. But, besides that, her trials have been run of the mill.  Compared to anyone else maybe.  However, Ann saw that bitterness, ingratitude, and a coldness to God were sneaking in right under her nose while she washed dishes and did laundry and made dinner for the millionth time day after day. And, in beautiful, poetic words, she explores the beauty of all of life – everything God gives – the great and the impossible. And how her entire life’s perspective changed.

This Christmas I asked for butcher paper.  Yep, this giant, larger-than-life roll.  My sweet mother-in-law, without question, went and bought it for me, and it sits under my tree like a giant possibility of gleaming white.

I know what my very first use of it is going to be – the making of a floor to ceiling list.  Of gratitude.  That the Conte family can walk by and add to at any time.

So that those little bugs don’t get in the way – my shoulder is aching again as I type this, and I’m really, really hankering for a piece of holiday pecan pie that I shouldn’t eat.  (Man alive.  Die, taste buds, die!  You cruel villains!) Because those little bugs grow and grow and grow in our hearts to become the most giant of Godzillas. To become life or death to our souls and our First Love (Revelation 2:4).

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This guy has it all.  Pure happiness in liquid form, baby.  😛  😀

So no one is a “minor sufferer” at all.  Even giving up the Mountain Dew can be a giant
battle that leaves you a little breathless, a bit bruised, and more surrendered for the kingdom of Christ.  Hey, if you’re going through a sugar detox, come to me, and I will WEEP with you, bro!

 

It all matters in the Great Fight that is this Christian life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I WILL Love Perfectly

This blog entry is going to be shamelessly ripped from my pastor’s sermon and Jonathan Edwards’ thoughts. It was so encouraging to me that I had to share it, and I hope it’s something that warms your heart and fills you with hope as it did me! Thank you to Daniel C., my pastor, for faithfully sharing the Word!

The greatest apologetic that the world will ever know is our love.

But what will love look like in heaven?

It will NEVER END.

So much else in this world passes away, but love endures forever.  Love will always exist – always be active. Love is vastly superior to the other gifts.

Love in Heaven

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There is coming a time when our love for God will be radically different.

If we were honest with ourselves, there has never been a portion of a moment where we’ve loved the triune God with our whole heart, mind, and strength as we should. Most of us start our prayer time with, ‘Sorry I haven’t loved You like I should this week, God…”

Do you realize that a day will come when we WILL love God rightly?  In Eternity!

What a beautiful day to look forward to!  That spark of love that feels like a fragile ember? God will fan it into a flame for eternity.  Our hearts will NEVER be cold towards God again!  The believers in heaven will have NO difficulty expressing their love.  it will be a wildfire.

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There will also be an overflow of God’s love for His people.

Heaven is a place where God’s presence and love dwells, so uniquely, that we haven’t fully experienced it here on earth. God is an infinite fountain of love, all sufficient, overflowing, and inexhaustible.  He is unchanging. He won’t turn to us, 100 years in, and say, “I think I’ll be different today.”

We will know what it means to be loved by God in new ways for all eternity.

If this love awaits you:

  • Do not love the things of the world.
  • Love and long for the things of heaven.
  • Be content with difficulty because keep in mind what God has in store for you!
  • Fix your eyes on Christ in heaven.
  • Love God and His people now.

It’s not that heaven puts into people what was never in them to begin with. This love is growing there through the continuing work of the Holy Spirit.  You are already growing in love, believer.  ❤

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You’re Invited to My Pity Party!

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You’re invited! Right here on social media – my special pity party.  All 637 of you on my friends list get to come!

I promise to be vague, I promise to provide lots of emoticons, and I promise to give you just a few details so that you can guess the individual that’s hurt me but I don’t say her name outright. Sounds like fun?  Bring your popcorn and gallons of ice cream because I’ll be crying my eyes out.  You’ll know because I’ll make it very obvious.  No leaving your office chair, and all sympathy welcome!  Warning: This post will have a lot of goofy meme examples.  😀

 

Ever been to one of these? Ever found yourself forced to attend one of them even though you never RSVPed?

I am very concerned about the amount of memes and passive aggressive pity posts I have seen on Facebook.

Things like this:

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I feel like these things make injured people feel like they are “being the bigger person” while not-so-subtly letting all their friends know they’ve been hurt.

But instead of being the bigger person, I feel like we are wounding the cause of Christ. When I see Christians post these things, I cannot help but think of one thing only: this is a person who has not forgiven.

We may say you are working on forgiveness, and it is true that we can be tempted to bring back up old (or recent) scars, fighting the temptation against bitterness, but there is no “working on forgiveness.” There is only “forgiving” and “bitter.”  Each and every day that you choose to not get angry about a person’s sin, not dwell on it in your own mind, and not bring it up to others, you have forgiven. Every time you indulge to gossip about that hurt, you choose, in that moment not to forgive.  There is no state of “I will be fully un-bitter and fully forgiving in a matter of months. Every day I might be getting better and get angry about it less.”  There is only, “Today I chose to forgive.  Yesterday I sinned against God and chose to stew about it and talk about it to others.”

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times…”

“…Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-22, 32-35

Every day that you publicly invite questions because of passive aggressive memes and statuses, hinting about how someone has hurt you, is a day you make your Father in heaven angry – the Father that forgave the sins you commit against Him day in and day out.

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Another thing to think about when we post our pity party invitations and proclaim our unforgiving hearts online (or even privately to listening ears) is that we have failed others too.  We have been that erring friend.  We have been that bully. We have been that loud mouth or insensitive jerk. All of us have been there.  And God has brought us through a period of cleansing out our messed up hearts. Some of us have had lots of relationships restored.

When we post our hurts on our pages to all our friends, when we mention “that friend” that did such and such, we give God NO room for reconciliation and restoration.

God is the same God over your friends’ lives and hearts as He is over yours. In only thirty short years of living, I have seen SO many relationships restored to me.  Relationships where I thought the other party would never forgive me – where I was an immature rebel.  And relationships where I thought the other person would never apologize, where they had offended me.  And yet, I’d say about 75% of them have ended with restoration and reconciliation – in the way Christians are supposed to behave with each other.  As they and I have prayed quietly for each other, seeking counsel only from one or two wise counselors (but keeping the whole situation under wraps) restoration and repentance has happened.  Then, when those friends are welcomed back into fellowship with you or you with them – sometimes it’s taken years, but I’ve always been so in awe of the Lord when He makes the impossible happen – you don’t have bitter memes that are clearly about them littering your wall.  You don’t have hundreds of people who have become little detectives in the meantime, totally figuring out which friend hurt you so they can take up offenses for you. They – or you – can humbly walk back into friendship and fellowship knowing that your reputations have been preserved safely. That all has been forgiven and ugliness has not been spread.

Meanwhile, the people who choose not to post but to daily forgive and zip their lips from speaking (and their fingers from typing) are known as gracious, kind, trustworthy individuals. People do not fear messing up around you, people do not walk on eggshells around you, and people do not keep secrets from you, knowing you’re not talking in back alleys about them.

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Do unto others as you would have them do to you.  If you were that friend who sinned and messed up a relationship, would you be thrilled knowing the other party was posting memes about how they were the bigger person and you weren’t worth a second chance?  Is this how God treats us?  No, like the father of the Prodigal Son, He restores us, choosing to forget all that was behind, and pressing forward in celebration of getting His son back.

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Obviously, there are wicked people who shouldn’t be welcomed back into your life and who have done unspeakable things, but that still doesn’t mean you are exempt from forgiving them.  As far as the east is from the west, so are our sins removed from God in forgiveness.  How can we refuse to stop talking about what others have done when we know they will never sin against us as much as we have sinned against God?

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25

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Let’s wait in quiet hope for our offenders to repent, only seeking godly counsel from one or two, telling people to pray instead for US that we would have pure and godly and forgiving hearts, giving 70X7 endless chances, not thinking ourselves “deserving” of anything from anyone, and not filled with pride that we would not fail in the ways we’ve been failed against.  There but for the grace of God go I.

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