Monday, August 18, 2008

When the World Turns Upside Down

The crowd stood on the dock watching the three ships sail west.  Some shook their heads, some shed tears, few if any thought they would ever see their loved ones again.  Everyone in the world KNEW.  It wasn't that they THOUGHT they knew, they KNEW.  Scholars knew, scientists knew, theologians knew, paupers on the street knew, even little children knew.  It was the truth, undebateable, undeniable, any other thought unfathomable, which is why all thought they were saying good-bye for the last time.


Thus the shock when the three ships appeared on the horizon many months later.  Christopher Columbus stepped off the ship signaling that the universe had changed.  What was the undeniable fact?  The world is flat.  Everybody knew that.  The maps detailed it, religious leaders defended it, nothing else was ever considered.  Yet they had not sailed off of the edge of the world. 


The entire known world had been wrong and had to REORIENT themselves to the TRUTH that the world was round and Chris Columbus was a genius rather than a madman. 


As I look at the Christianity we know in western civilization and contrast it with what I see in the accounts of Jesus by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as well as the early church in the book of Acts, it appears much the same.  Is it possible we have been so inculturated by the American version of Christianity that we think we know, but are missing the truth? 


Here are Jesus' words:

John 14:12 (NIV)  "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."


If Jesus meant what He said, and He did, is it possible we are missing it just as badly as those who thought the world was flat!  Is it possible that the Christianity that we've gotten used to is not what Jesus had in mind?  That it is too passive, too powerless, too safe, too meaningless, too boring, too lifeless? 


Is it possible what Jesus brought is MIRACULOUS LIVING? That is God engaged in our lives in supernatural ways?  Ways beyond the normal "miracles" of birth and love, etc.?  The miraculous living of seeing the extraordinary become the ordinary as if we are in a different dimension?


I think so.  C.S. Lewis had it right when he wrote,


     We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (The Weight of Glory and other addresses, C.S. Lewis.)


Can you imagine how dizzying it was?  How the minds of the scientists, mapmakers, rulers of the world were reeling when Chris Columbus pulled his boat to the curb and unloaded his groceries from North America?  But the journey into the danger and discomfort and unknown was worth it, changing the world and the destinies of millions of people.


It is the same with us.  It will be dizzying for us to take a hard look at what we have long assumed to be true, leave our comfort, risk our reputations, venture into the unknown to live into the Kingdom of God Jesus offers. But the journey will be worth it as Jesus changes our worlds and the eternal destinies of many.


Will you take the journey with me?


Boldly, Herb 


(To listen to Herb via the internet go to )

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sometimes There Just Aren't Enough Hugs

I’ve come to the conclusion there just aren’t enough hugs, that no matter how many times you embrace a person you love deeply, it will never, ever, ever, ever be enough. It is simply impossible to fill up your heart.

Where did this come from? Sending off my kids to college. (Read: tearing my soul apart by letting my kids grow up, become adults and move away from home).

Sent the first one off and was completely unprepared for the antics of my heart. In my head I knew it was right, he was in God’s place for him, he was ready and it was all-good. Yet my heart was in full-scale mutiny, “Nooooooooo. Don’t let him go, bring him back, spin the clock in reverse, hold him tight, protect him and never let him go.” I’ve never had such a civil war in my body. “Let him go – hold on to him-let him go-hold onto him…” During the long 8-hour drive home my heart won and I sobbed like a baby.

One of the hardest pieces of letting go that first time was my perceived regret combined with the finality of the moment. I wished I had spent more time, done more things, had more conversations about the important issues of life, taught more skills, and on and on and on. And I wished I’d hugged him more. As if that would have made it easier to have him out of hugging range. My son now tells me I did enough of all those things (perhaps even too many of some).

So I determined I would do more of those things with the remaining 3 kids. And I did. Probably to their chagrin. The next one went off to school and it still wasn’t enough. I stepped up the effort with the third, she left, still not enough. One more chance, all out blitz in his final year. I dropped him off last weekend and my head and heart rekindled the war. I’m thinking, “C’mon. What more could I have done?” The answer: nothing. It was not lack of effort, it is a reality that I hate living with and can no longer deny.

It is not possible to fill up our hearts. There just simply are not enough hugs.

No matter how many times, we will always wish for one more hug.
No matter how many times, our hearts will break when we have to say good-bye.
It is not something I did or didn’t do; it is the reality of life that doesn’t make any sense to our heads. There is nothing that can keep us from longing for those we love.

And it is not just hugs. You can replace “hugs” with all the other things we enjoy. Smiles, dinners, walks, ballgames, concerts, touches, laughs, and on and on and on. We think, “Just one more…” Take it from a dad who keep giving “just one more” – doesn’t work. There just aren’t enough to fill our hearts.

There are always regrets. But truth is, it is impossible to do everything we wanted to because it would have taken 60 years of 48-hour days. There just isn’t enough time or resources. So choices are made, and our faulty best really is enough. Better be because there is nothing more.

Hence, the empty nest is here. Sure, the youngest two will come home from college and be with us for a while, but not as children. An era is over. It is right. It is good. It is as it should be. It just stinks that my heart can hurt this bad when things are going the way they should!!! But I’ve realized that if I let myself bawl and grieve it, the memories get brighter, stronger and more meaningful as the loss fades. And grieving allows me to let go in a healthy way, develop an even stronger, healthier relationship with these adults that look an awful lot like the little kids that used to run around our house.

Boldly, Herb

Psalm 30:5 (NIV) "weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."

(To listen to Herb via the internet go to )

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

When the Phone Rings

What is your response when the phone rings?  All depends…


First picture.


The phone rings, you pick it up and immediately feel a gag reflex.  That relative who can make a rock frown and keep a telemarketer from hanging up.  You love her but you don't want to take a cross-country trip with her.  She goes on and on and on and on.  Without breathing.  Or pausing.  Or listening.  You could set the phone down on the coffee table, do your laundry, return in half an hour to say, "uh-huh" and she wouldn't notice.  You used to try to tell her your latest news, but get out no more than, "Did you hear…". You love her, but she wears you out.  You look at your spouse, who breathes a deep sigh of relief that you picked up the phone, make a horrible face and moan.  You hit the mute button and almost shout, "We have GOT to get caller id!"  You love her, but you don't want to get caught by her.  Three days later, you pry the phone from your ear and collapse in exhaustion.  Because you love her, because you know she is lonely, because you are a nice person you refuse to hang up rudely, but it is nothing but a DUTY to talk with her.


Second picture.


In the past year our kids, Amber and Chadd, have both spent time out of the country.  Amber in Ireland, Chadd in Thailand.  During those times the ringing of the phone signaled a footrace.  Sheila was especially brutal at elbowing me to get to the finish line.  We longed for the phone to ring because of the limited times when they could call.  We'd schedule phone appointments just so we could hear their voices.  The few times we missed their calls and we got the message they left on the answering machine our hearts would plunge.  We just wanted to hear their voice, to know they were okay, to connect with them in some small way.  The house was so quiet, our hearts were empty with their absence.  If one of them called and Sheila got to talk with them while I was away, I felt cheated.  We reveled in the time talking and the half hour sped by.  It was nothing short of a PRIVILEGE.  When they returned home, well, you'd thought we'd won the Reader's Digest Sweepstakes!


What was the difference?  Same phone.  Same activity. All are human voices.  All take time.  All are relatives. 


The difference? the kind of relationship.  The needy relative is distant, disconnected and a duty.  The kids are our precious, treasured, heart connected loved ones and a privilege.


What is your response when God invites you to talk?  All depends…


If you see God as a duty, it will be something like a gag reflex.


If you see God as a loving Dad who fills your heart with joy, it will be a longing.


Tragedy is that the most view God as a duty while He stands by longing to fill our hearts and lives with meaning, joy, encouragement, instruction, protection, wisdom and so much more.  Truth is there is nothing like conversation with God.  Not duty kind of talking, but real, meaningful, heart-to-heart conversation that connects us with the one Who knows us best and loves us most.


It is time to pick up the phone.


""Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Mat 7:7-11 (NIV) 


Boldly, Herb 


(To listen to Herb via the internet go to )

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Forgiving and Moving On

(This is the cherry on the previous 3 blogs.  I suggest reading them first, then coming back to this one.)


I do not make light of the pain some of you have been caused.  Some of those reading this have been abused, abandoned, betrayed, cheated, stepped on, and harmed in ways that I can't even imagine.  I do not dismiss those offenses or trivialize them.  Forgiving those people is even more important for you, not less.  For your good, your future and those you love.  You are my heroes when you put your full energy in forgiving.


As long as we view forgiveness as a feeling, we will be stuck.  Forgiveness is a mental transaction. A choice in opposition to our feelings because we know it is the right and best thing to do.  The truth is "forgiveness" can seem "touchy-feely." Nothing could be further from the truth – it is AN ACT OF THE WILL, a calculated decision often made in conflict to our strongest, raging feelings.  It requires all the strength of character within and God's strength poured into us.


It takes a real man, a real woman to forgive when all within cries out to give into emotions of anger, hate, bitterness and revenge. 

So when we pray, "Forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12) it is one of the most courageous, self-sacrificing, strength of will actions possible by a human being.


How do we do that?  In previous blogs I described the first steps:  realize forgiveness is best and receive God's forgiveness.  Once we have done that, here are the rest of the practical steps to choosing to make the willful transaction.


FORGIVE MYSELF. The extent of our acceptance of God's forgiveness and forgiving ourselves determines the extent that we can forgive others. The transaction is the same, I choose to release myself from the guilt of my actions, I pardon myself and cancel the debt.  We will always have regrets, but the guilt must be forgiven.


SEEK FORGIVENESS OF OTHERS.  Do you know the definition of major surgery?  Major surgery is my surgery; minor surgery is your surgery.  We tend to amplify the offenses of others against us and minimize the offenses we have done against others.  We excuse ourselves and hold others to a high standard.  We need to reflect, identify anyone we have hurt, and ask for forgiveness.


GRIEVE THE PAIN.  One of the reasons we don't like to think about forgiveness is that it brings the original pain back to us, often in vivid Technicolor.  To truly forgive, we need to grieve the pain that was caused and the pain of what will never be.  If we lose a leg because of someone's negligence, the leg is lost. Gone. Never to grow back.  We need to grieve the pain involved just as we grieve the loss of a loved one until we can come to accept the circumstances as they are, not as we want them to be.  (In another blog I talk about living in reality rather than fantasy.)


TRUST GOD WITH THE PAIN AND JUSTICE.  Forgiveness does not mean the other person gets off the hook.  Justice will be delivered, but we are not the ones to exact that justice.  God will hold them accountable and justice will be given, in His time and His way.


Remember the Old Testament story of Joseph? His eleven brothers sold him into slavery out of jealousy, his master's wife accused him of attempted rape, he was thrown into prison and left there for over ten years.  In God's time he was promoted to vice-president of the world (read it, it's in Genesis chapters 39-50), in charge of selling food to the famined world.  His brothers come, don't recognize him, he tests them, finally reveals himself, tells them he forgives them, moves the entire family to Egypt and they prosper.  Some years later their father dies, the brothers believe Joseph will now get even so they concoct a story to protect themselves, "Dad told us to tell you that you have to take care of us…" Joseph is dumbfounded at their fear.  He forgave them long ago.  (SIDENOTE: notice how unforgiveness and fear hurts those who hold on to it more than those who forgive?  It had left Joseph's mind over a decade ago.)  Joseph responds, as we all should as we trust God:


"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20 (NIV) 


RELEASE THE OFFENDER.  Choose to remove the chain of guilt and unforgiveness that binds you to the other person and place it into God's hands.  With the chain gone, both of you are free.  Even if they never ask.  Even if you never see them again. Even if they are dead.  How did Jesus forgive us?  Completely and before we even knew we needed forgiveness.


"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13 (NIV) 


MAKE FORGIVENESS A LIFESTYLE.  Give people the benefit of the doubt.  Don't be easily offended.  When hurt, release it as quickly as possible.  Get some perspective on what is important and let things go.  Lighten up.


Most important, pray blessings on those who offend you.  It is impossible to hold on to hurt and unforgiveness when you pray for blessings on that person.  Jesus knew this.


"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," Matthew 5:44 (NIV) 


Forgiving others, no matter how hard it is or how deeply they have hurt us, is worth it. 

Holding on to hurt and unforgiveness, no matter how it seems to satisfy, is not worth it.  Ever.



Boldly, Herb 


(To listen to Herb via the internet go to )


Monday, June 02, 2008

If Jesus Did So Can We

What is forgiveness?  Here's a definition: "canceling a debt, pardoning an offense, releasing an offender from guilt."


Imagine this…

      You loan me $2000 interest free because you think I'm a dependable guy and you are a very nice person.  You're not wealthy, so it's a stretch.  A few months later I do some electrical work on my house and I blow the thing up.  I know, I know, I should leave that to the professionals, but I don't.  Now I'm in a heap of trouble and have even more financial woes.  You decide, again because you are a nice person, to forgive – cancel the debt.


      More serious:  You invite me to your house I have no place to live or eat, (remember I blew up my house). As I pull into your drive way, I run into your classic car.  A car that has all original features from bumper to fenders to upholstery.  That dent means it will no longer be original equipment.  I have damaged it in a way that can never be corrected – repaired, yes, but not corrected.  I can't tell you how bad I feel.  I'm devastated as I walk into your house to confess, offer to fix the car and give you the $2000 someone loaned me.  But no matter what I do, the car will never be the same because the fender will not be original.  I beg you to forgive me.  Though you are deeply hurt, you forgive.  You forgive - pardon my offense.  It does not go back in the past and make it never happen, but you no longer hold me guilty. 


      Even more serious:  Your child is driving when another driver has a mechanical failure, crosses the center line, hits your child and kills him.  The most devastating experience ever.  Through no fault of anyone, the child is taken from you.  The driver comes to you devastated, begs you for forgiveness, sobbing in sorrow.  Not because you feel it (forgiveness is not about how we feel), you choose to pardon the offense, to release the offender from guilt.  THAT IS FORGIVENESS.


      Most serious:  Someone sees your child, stalks and targets her for no reason, follows and brutally murders your child.  Senseless.  Heartless.  A child taken from you and nothing will ever make it right.  The murderer is caught, tried, convicted.  While in prison Christ gets hold of his heart and he is miraculously transformed.  He comes to you, sincerely expresses his sorrow and regret and then asks for forgiveness.

      "Herb", you might be saying, "What kind of hurtful picture is that?"  THAT is exactly what we did with God.  We deliberately chose to turn our backs on God, go our own way and the price was the death of His Son.  By our sin we brutally murdered Jesus. 


      Deeper and stronger:  Back to the saved, repentant stalker - the time comes for the death sentence to be carried out for the murderer of your child.  You meet the executioner and murderer in the hallway to the room where the lethal injection will occur.  You stop them, take the handcuffs off the murderer, put them on yourself and walk into the death room to take the murderer's place.  That is what Jesus did for us.  Not only forgives when we ask, but before we even knew to ask, He took our place, writhing in the punishment we deserved, paying the price for our offense and offering deliverance. 

Romans 5:6 (NIV)  "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly."


Here's the formula of forgiveness, whether it is us with God or with another person, whether we're on the giving or receiving side of forgiveness:

Offense  Ú  pain  Ú  responsibility  Ú  choose to release from guilt


For me and you:  An offense occurs (I hit your car)  Ú  pain follows (for me and for you)  Ú  someone has to take responsibility (me to fix the car, you to hear out my apology)  Ú  you have to choose to pardon, to release me of guilt or hold on to the hurt, anger and unforgiveness


For God:  we sin (the offense) Ú  causes pain for God (Jesus has to suffer and die, we experience the damage of sin)  Ú  God takes responsibility to pay for our sin with Jesus' death  Ú  God chooses to offer us forgiveness, pardon, release us from our guilt before we even ask.


      So what do we do?  Accept it.  It is free, but it is not cheap or easy.  It cost God everything.  It will cost us ownership of our lives.  If we truly believe Jesus gave everything for us, the only way to receive the forgiveness is to do the same in return. 


I hope you will.


Boldly, Herb 


(To listen to Herb via the internet go to )


Friday, May 30, 2008

Forgiveness and the Big White Box

Why do we struggle so to forgive? to ask for forgiveness?  to address the problems in our relationships?


Most often it is because we don't want to face the pain.


Picture this: 

      You move into a new home to find a big white box in the kitchen next to the fridge.  You've never seen one before so you don't recognize it.  It has a flat surface you use to stack stuff, cut vegetables and set your coffee mug.  For three years.  Then one day a friend comes to visit. While there he asks if he could make a snack.  He pulls out a pan, sets it on the front right black circle of this white box, turns a knob on the back of the white box, pours the ingredients into the pan and makes the best snack of all time.  Popcorn.  You're amazed, dumbfounded and excited.  Not because of the popcorn, but because he was able to make it on the counter you've been using.  As you inspect this contraption, you put your hand on the black circle and scorch your hand.  Pain, oh the pain! You say not very nice things about this box, the very same one you raved about a moment ago.


QUESTION:  For the next three weeks, when you walk through the kitchen and see the stove, what comes to mind?  Do you think about the three years you put your hands all over the burners without consequence or the ONE TIME you burned yourself?  It's the ONE time, right?  You rub your hand, scowl at the memory, creep along the opposite wall.  In fact, it may take quite some time before you are even willing to THINK ABOUT using the thing again.  Sound extreme?  Yet that is what we do in relationships where hurt and unforgiveness resides.


TRUTH:  Relationships are what life is all about.  But one of the few guarantees about relationships is that we will have problems, confrontations, disagreements and struggles every day. Blame Adam and Eve.  Forgiveness is the number one issue in relationships.  Of all the phrases in the Lord's Prayer, Jesus chose forgiveness as THE phrase to add additional commentary.  Why?  Because He knows that hurt, anger, bitterness, grudges and distance are all forms of unforgiveness.  Develop a lifestyle of forgiving everyone and many of the relationship issues are quickly resolved.


No one, except people who should be carried off in a special white jacket and locked up in a windowless room, really likes the idea of confrontation because we have in our minds the times when we've been burned.  And we HAVE been burned.  Like walking through the kitchen with the demon stove, when we think about confrontation and forgiveness we remember the big blow-ups when it did not go well and caused searing pain.  Truth is that we actually have relational confrontation daily and have to forgive often but most of the issues are minor or quickly resolved or automatically overlooked because we have learned how to take care of them.  Like your friend navigating the stove to your awe.  We don't even think of them as confrontations or issues of forgiveness.  They are like three years of having the stove in our kitchen without getting burned. 


The moral of this story:  take on relationship confrontation and forgiveness head on.  Quickly, lovingly, with the desire for resolution and reconciliation.  Don't back away out of fear or you'll miss the joy of relationships. Relationships cannot be good and strong without it.  In fact, they cannot be good and strong without going through it.  You'll still get burned once in a while, but it will be worth it. 


""Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV) 



Boldly, Herb 


(To listen to Herb via the internet go to )


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Life in Your Universe When You Don't Forgive

Life is about relationships.  Everybody, raise your hand if you have relationships in your life.  Good, everybody confesses.


Relationships mean we will get hurt.  Sorry.  But it is the truth.  When we are in relationships we are guaranteed to get hurt.  Comes with the territory.  Then comes the great decision.  What will I do with my hurt – hold on to it or forgive.  Do I allow the hurt to turn into controlling anger, bitterness and grudges or do I let it go by forgiving? 


One problem is that we live in an angry society where the opposite of forgiveness is applauded and encouraged.  Phrases like, "Go ahead, make my day" and "Hasta la vista, baby" are part of pop culture language.  It feels good to be mad and to give into it.  So what's the big decision?  It is about the aftermath, not the moment. 


So why should we forgive?  The irony here is that it is hard to think clearly when we are angry, but try to put any anger aside, any hurt that is controlling or unforgiveness that you believe is justified for just a couple minutes and consider the reasons below calmly.  YOUR FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT.


Here are some good reasons to forgive, to let go of the hurt and anger.


1. We damage ourselves.  What does holding on to anger look like?  Chains.


Have you ever met an angry, bitter, harsh, hurtful person?  If you listen to them you discover QUICKLY that they were hurt and they are RELIVING it over and over again.  Have you ever met a kind, loving, caring, helpful person that everyone seems to want to be around?  Listen to them long enough and you will discover, though it may take much time, that they were hurt but they have let it go.  And sometimes the attracting person has been hurt worse!


            Unforgiveness does more harm to me than to the one who hurt me.


O Physically

Some physical symptoms: unable to sleep and constantly feeling tired; rapid heartbeat, headache, stiff neck and/or tight shoulders, backache, ulcers, increased blood pressure and cholesterol, upset stomach, nausea, or diarrhea.


O Emotionally

            Unforgiveness builds a wall around my soul so that I cannot develop relationships, enjoy friendships, laugh, cry and live emotionally healthy.  An unforgiving person will become irritable and intolerant of even minor disturbances, feel irritated or frustrated, lose his temper more often, and yell at others for no reason, feel jumpy or exhausted all the time, worry too much about insignificant things.


O Mentally

            Unforgiveness slows the ability to think, blinds, distracts, gets obsessed with hurt.  That person will find it hard to concentrate or focus on tasks, will doubt ability to do even common things, and imagine negative, worrisome, or terrifying scenes.


O Spiritually

            Matthew 6:15 "But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

            It is impossible to connect with God and hold on to unforgiveness at the same time because I have to turn my back on God to do so.  My prayers will bounce off of the ceiling, the Bible will seem foggy, worship will be a duty rather than a connection with God.  My soul dries up.


2. When we refuse to forgive we damage our relationships.


Obviously we damage the relationships where we have the hurt, but it is bigger and broader than that.  We damage ALL our relationships when we refuse to forgive in one.  The problem is unforgiveness leaks.  We can try to hold back the anger from other relationships, but the consequences above leak on to others.  We can get to the place where people just don't want to be around us.


3. When we hold on to anger, we damage the future.  Our future and the future of others.


      I rob myself of healthy relationships now and in the future.  I also rob others of the healthy relationship they could have had with me, and I prevent them from experiencing the value I could have added to their lives. 

      I cannot set off a bomb and not have collateral damage, and that damage goes into the future.


4. When we refuse to forgive others, we separate ourselves from God and remove ourselves from His blessings.  In this life and in eternity.

            Matthew 6:15 "But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

1 Peter 3:7 (NIV)  "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."


It is not that God so much punishes us, but that we turn our backs on God by our disobedience.  God is our loving Heavenly Father.  Literally, our Daddy.  He looks down on us, sees the damage that anger and unforgiveness causes and does not want that for His kids.  He disciplines us when He sees us doing wrong so that we will stop hurting ourselves. 


Holding on to anger, hurt and unforgiveness is choosing the temporary rather than the long term.  Feels good for the moment, but it causes immeasurable damage as we go forward.  And we can get so used to it that we don't realize the depth of the damage. 


In the days ahead we'll look at this more.  Until then, would you commit to let go of the hurt and anger – FOR YOUR OWN GOOD?  Not because you have to, but because you truly want the best for yourself and those around you.


Boldly, Herb 


(To listen to Herb via the internet go to )