Forgiveness Isn’t an Option

Yes, you can forgive, and you must!

You’ve heard it preached over and over. I’ll even list a couple of scriptures at the end of this post.

You’ve probably even seen articles online that show the benefits of forgiveness. I’ll include some of those at the bottom of this post as well.

But…

Are you one of those who sit there convinced that it’s not possible? Your situation is too hard. The wounds go too deep. The betrayal affected too many people. That person has never asked for forgiveness, so you feel no need to give it.

Still…not optional. Yes, I said it. Forgiveness is not an option. For the Christian, it is a command. For everyone, it is a physical and psychological necessity. If you read the Bible, you can’t avoid it.

Remember what Jesus said on the cross? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” There is a part of me that wants to correct Jesus. “Oh yes, they did! They knew exactly what they were doing!” Doesn’t matter. Even before His death, burial, and resurrection, He was asking forgiveness for the collective “us.” Jesus forgave. We received. (Well, I hope you’ve received!)

Consider the Apostle Paul when he was still Saul. He was hell-bent on destroying the new movement that became Christianity. Those followers of Christ, starting with Ananias, could have refused to forgive him after he met Jesus. If they had, if they had denied his right to minister on the Lord’s behalf, he may never have written what we know today as about 2/3 of the New Testament. But they did forgive, and he did write, and we received.

I could keep on with accounts from the Bible, but let’s bring it forward to today. Bear with me, if you will, as I share two examples from my own life.

I have a friend. I love her dearly, and I hurt for her often. She is a loving and generous person who used to serve God openly, freely, joyously, but something has changed her, caused her to withdraw in many ways.

There is one person, another Christian, against whom she holds implacable unforgiveness. Did the person genuinely do her wrong back in the day? Quite possibly; I don’t know their story. But that really doesn’t matter.

What matters is that the roots of unforgiveness and bitterness have grown so deep and strong that now pretty much every aspect of her life seems to have become choked by those weeds. Yes, she has a hard life, but so do a lot of others who haven’t chosen her path.

Others like me.

Let me pause here and say that I’m well aware I am far from perfect. I know this. What I am, however, is living proof that you can walk through hell and come out the other side victorious.

My story starts over forty years ago when I unknowingly married a narcissist. During those years, he abused me in pretty much every way but physically. I lived under his thumb without even realizing it for a very long time – without understanding that my life wasn’t normal. He had multiple affairs. He ignored everything that was important to me unless paying attention to it played into his plan and made him look good to others. He squandered his really good income so that I ended up having to earn money for the “unimportant” things like homeschool curriculum for the boys and clothes for myself.

Then, when it became hard for him to find a “position,” he stopped working; a regular job was beneath him. This left me doing all I could to pay the bills he easily ignored.

Eventually, we ended up living in a house that was literally falling down over our heads because he couldn’t be bothered to maintain much of anything, ever. Lest you think I exaggerate, first we lost gas because the line started leaking and he “couldn’t afford” to fix it. Then the water pipes started bursting and when his quick patches didn’t hold he gave up. We were left with only electricity for years, and I paid that bill. The walls had so many holes in them that I couldn’t stuff them all well enough to keep anything out. I once ended up in the ER with a bug in my ear as a result of that. And the roof? One room was off limits because half the roof was completely gone, and when it rained it rained inside our only bathroom. Years… Today, looking back, that blows my mind; I felt so trapped in that…place. (NOT just talking the house here.)

And then there were the women. The first affair I know about happened in the early 90s and either he thought I was a complete idiot or he was flaunting it in my face. (Him having the affair was my fault of course. He was an expert at gaslighting.) The last affair he tried to have was in 2014. Strange as it seems, it wasn’t until then that I actually stopped loving him. It was the point at which that tiny flame was at last doused completely.

My primary focus through most of the past forty years has been on staying right with God and growing closer to Him. As a result, I learned to forgive. See, if you’re actively watching your spiritual walk, when things stop feeling right, when you can tell that you’re “off,” you stop. You pause, take a good look at yourself, and ask God, “Where have I gone wrong?” In those early years, it was almost always unforgiveness towards Jack or someone else that nailed me. God had to school me over and over, but I eventually learned how to genuinely forgive and do it quickly. (Note to Self: As soon as you hit “publish” on this post the devil is going to see to it that you’re tested.)

So, my regular readers know that Jack passed away in October. I can honestly say that, regardless of all he had done, all he did until just a few weeks before his death, I forgave him. I chose not to walk in unforgiveness, but in forgiveness, which meant that when unforgiveness popped up I actively stomped it out.

I prayed for him often. I very much wanted to know he was right with God even if he were never right with me. He asked me to pray the sinners prayer with him days before he went into the hospital for the last time, and I rejoice that he did, that now, in Heaven, he is finally the man God always meant him to be.

Decades of abuse could have destroyed me. It did not. I did more than survive those years. In spite of dealing with anxiety and occasional bouts of depression, I thrived. I had to battle each and every day, but just as daily workouts strengthen muscles, those daily battles strengthened me. I came out stronger, and one of the reasons is my determination to deny the devil the option of using one of his greatest weapons – unforgiveness – to bring me down.

Forgiveness isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Forgiveness Verses (There are many more.)
Matthew 18:21
Mark 11:25
Luke 6:37
Ephesians 4:32

Benefits of Forgiveness (There are many more.)
Forgiveness: Letting Go of Grudges and Bitterness
The Many Benefits of Forgiveness
The Power of Forgiveness
The Physical Benefits of Forgiveness

Drop it!

Have you ever seen a dog chewing on something that would potentially harm it, and watched the owner give the sharp command, “Drop it!”?

Twice this week I’ve heard God say, “Drop it!”

The first time was when worry was trying to set in. Having dealt with anxiety and depression in the past, worry is a dangerous thing for me to be chewing on. Nevertheless, I was letting myself dwell on a certain mistake I’d made, and all of its possible repercussions, when I heard God’s voice. “Drop it!”

After I paused and intentionally dropped it, taking control of my thought processes, I had the vision of the owner and his dog. I laughed, and realized this particular lesson is one I’ll remember.

Then, today, I was mulling over how someone had misrepresented me. I know it sounds shallow, but that’s something I really don’t appreciate. The thing is, when you continue to dwell on something like that, chewing on thoughts of how offensive someone’s actions are, you venture into the realm of unforgiveness, which is seriously dangerous territory. I was headed in that direction when, once again, I heard the command, “Drop it!”

Dropping those thoughts took a little more effort, and some help from God, but I got me under control and I thank Him for it. I cannot afford to get into the sin of unforgiveness. I can’t afford to let anything at all hinder my walk with God.

So yeah…

When He says those words, I’m gonna make like the dog and drop it!

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Awaken by Priscilla Shirer

I’ve done a few of Priscilla Shirer’s Bible studies through the years, so when I received this book as a gift I knew I’d been given gold. When I saw it was a 90-day devotional, I dug right in, and after only two days I knew I had to share.

Who is Priscilla Shirer? Well, the bit of information that caught my attention when we began that first Bible study was that she is Tony Evans’ daughter. She is much more, but having known of his ministry for years I felt confident I could trust her and was pretty sure I would enjoy her teaching. I was right.

As well as being a focused wife and mother, Shirer has been in full-time ministry for decades. She’s written books and Bible studies, speaks all over the place, and runs Going Beyond Ministries with her husband. She’s got the spiritual goods.

So… Awaken

The book starts with a two-page introduction. I realize most readers skip the introduction. Don’t. It’ll only take a few minutes to read, and will help prepare you for what’s coming. One of my favorite sentences in this section is, “The majority of what you’ll encounter here are personal whispers from God’s Spirit to my own over the last decade.” This is one of the things I value most about her in all of her works. She speaks to us what He has spoken to her. The adventure, the journey, is real.

After the introduction, you head straight into Day 1, which hits you right in the heart in a good way. She likens our need for God, for all He has to offer, to the Israelites’ need to gather manna first thing in the morning before the sun came along to burn it all off.

It took even less time to read this devotion than it did the intro, but I’m still thinking about it. This is a parallel I’d never considered, and there’s a lot to unpack. In other words, it did exactly what it was supposed to do. It made me think and keep thinking.

After each devotion, you’ll find two more pages set aside just for you. Entitled “He Speaks to Me,” this section gives you the chance to answer a question, to see how what she has shared applies to your life. I encourage you to really think about your answer and take the time to write it down in the journal space she’s provided. You may not be comfortable recording your thoughts in this way, but I’d like you to remember two things.

  1. This is your book. No one else needs to see it, so it’s a safe place.
  2. There are probably many times in the past that God has shown you exciting, even astounding, things but you forgot them. (Or is that only me?) Recording triggers remembering.

The book is a 90-day devotional. That’s only a 3-month commitment if you do it every day. And if you choose not to do it daily? Well, I certainly won’t judge you. I will say, however, that I’m sure you’ll gain something every time you choose to dive in. I have, and I’ve only just finished Day 2.

So why didn’t I wait until I’ve done more before writing this review? Two reasons. I “know” Priscilla Shirer, and am confident in her consistency. Also, it’s December 29th, which gives you time to grab a copy for yourself and start on January 1. I can’t think of a better way to begin a new year than to focus on getting ever closer to God.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Need a Hand?

Do you need a hand with your Christmas list?
Do you want to start 2023 off right, or help someone else do the same?

Getting into the Bible can feel intimidating, but it shouldn’t! The Bible is literally the most awesome book on the planet, and for the Christian’s growth it’s as much a necessity as food is to the body.

So if you want to give a truly amazing gift this Christmas, give a Bible and, if you want to lend the recipient a hand, I suggest pairing it with my book. It’s both a guide and journal, and in it I strive to take out the intimidation and turn on the fascination.

You can purchase Experiencing the Bible right HERE!

Merry Christmas!

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Watch Your Mouth

In James 3, God repeats the classic parental command and makes it very clear that He’s serious. Yes, He says here that no one can tame the tongue, but the context of the chapter makes it clear that He expects us to try.

Luke 6:45 tells us that what comes out of our mouths reveals what is really in our hearts. We can say it isn’t so, but where else would the words come from?

If I’m truly walking in the 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love that God desires from me, if that’s what fills my heart, then the words that come out of my mouth will be words of love. I won’t be calling another driver an idiot (or worse). I won’t be bad mouthing the mother who isn’t controlling her screaming child.

I won’t be, as James puts it, cursing a person who was made in God’s very image. And, whether we want to admit it or not, EVERY man was made in God’s very image, even the one whose views don’t correspond with our own.

If I do catch my mouth saying things it shouldn’t (or my fingers typing things they ought not) it’s time for a heart check.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Never Pray for Patience

No, I’ve not been foolish enough to pray for patience; I know better! You’d think I have been, though, with all of the frustrating things that have happened with this book. I keep having to remind myself that this is a process and I will eventually make it through, no matter how many little bugs try to get into the system.

But it IS coming! My goal is for Exploring the Bible: A Guide and Journal to be released by the end of this month. My fingers are officially crossed!

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Do I Pass the Test?

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Is Tammy patient?
Is Tammy kind?
Is she jealous, or boastful, or proud?

Is Tammy rude?
Does she demand her own way?
Is she irritable?
Does she keep a record of wrongs that are done to her?

Does Tammy rejoice at injustice?
Or does she rejoice when truth wins out?

Does Tammy give up?
Does Tammy lose faith?
Is she always hopeful?
Does she endure through every circumstance?

As a Christian, these are questions I MUST ask myself.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

From Separation Springs Life

Photo: Tammy Cardwell

I raise succulents, and my favorite is a pot of hens and chickens that came from my grandmother. Occasionally, leaves will fall from that plant, and when they do something marvelous happens.

New life

Hidden within the leaf is the power to create a whole new plant. While on the mother plant, the leaf is beautiful, but when you take it away from the mother plant new life springs forth.

This can happen anywhere. These leaves in my garden will eventually take root and flourish right where they are, but the new growth happens even if the leaf falls on the sidewalk, and it will continue until all of the fallen leaf has been sucked dry by the new life.

This is much like the life of a new Christian. First, they must be taken out of their old life. Until that happens, they can’t grow. Pull them out of the world, however, and you’ll see new life spring forth. Even if they’re out there on their own, on the sidewalk so to speak, they’ll flourish on their own for a while.

But like these leaves, they must eventually be planted. They must put down roots and stay where God wants them so they can grow spiritually. If they don’t, if they fail to find and latch on to the spiritual nourishment they need to survive in this world, they’ll be like the leaf on the sidewalk, eventually shriveling up once the initial burst of life is over and the cares of this world leave them empty and dry.

Life, especially spiritual life, is a precious thing. We must care for it and encourage it in ourselves and others. I’ve made mistakes with leaves like these, moving tender new plants into the wrong place and forgetting to care for them, and they’ve died. The results are a good reminder of what not to do where my relationship with God is concerned.

Sometimes I need those reminders.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Suck It Up

Photo: Tammy Cardwell

I love succulents! They are amazing in so many ways; one of my favorites is their ability to suck up water when it rains and store it for use during dry seasons.

I want to be like that! I want to stay full of the Holy Spirit, full of the Word of God, and full of love so that dry seasons, times of trials and troubles, don’t catch me unprepared. Yes, I may take a beating and look less than my best in the midst of the battle, but when it’s over I’ll still be standing!

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

My Thorn

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul shares about his “thorn in the flesh.” Theologians have tried to determine what that “thorn” was for centuries. Other than what we learn from Scripture, that he felt it was to keep him from pride, we don’t know that much.

We do know that Paul repeatedly asked God to remove this affliction, but God simply reassured him: “My Grace is sufficient.”

I am Paul. I have a thorn too. It’s called anxiety. Now, I am well aware that bi-polar disorder and depression are issues in my family. I get the science. I also know that my childhood was particularly anxiety-triggering, so I get the psychology.

Several years back, I spent about three months on an antidepressant, and twice in my life I’ve had to keep anti-anxiety medication at hand for those times when it got out of control. As a Christian, I hate this. Like Paul, I feel like I should be able to pray the right prayer or quote the right Scripture and it be gone forever, but I’ve learned it doesn’t always work that way.

“My Grace is sufficient,” God said…and still says. The Word also says, in 2 Corinthians 9:8, that God will cause all grace to abound towards me so that I will have every sufficiency for every good work. And this “every good work” may well be the key.

I heard something the other day that struck me: “Good lumber doesn’t come with ease. The stronger the wind the stronger the trees.” Hearing that woke me up, in a sense. It’s the battles that make us stronger. Paul was a mighty man of God, strong and fearless. Why? Because he’d fought many battles – and won many battles. I think that thorn in the flesh, or rather his ongoing war with it, helped keep him spiritually strong.

And I think the same thing is true about me. Like Paul’s thorn, the anxiety is an almost ever-present thing. I’m constantly at war with it, fighting and winning most of my battles, and losing a few. It’s intentionally, purposefully, faithfully fighting those battles that helps me grow stronger spiritually.

Knowing that I deal with this, and must DEAL with it rather than whine about or ignore it, keeps me aware of the importance of not letting my guard down, of staying vigilant and being careful to properly tend to both body and spirit.

Do I like waging a constant battle with it? Not on your life. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. What I do appreciate, however, is the way God uses something that originated in the pits of hell to help me become stronger in so many ways.

God’s grace is sufficient.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C