Filling Buckets

15921573_sThere’s a lot of talk about buckets lately.

Top 10 and even top 200 itemized lists of fun-filled activities and freeing ways to spend meaningful time together with our child(ren) are popping up in an effort to generate laughter, a sense of wonder, adventure and best of all, memories in the unstructured season of summer under its sunny, iconic umbrella.

When I read though the lists of ideas they sound tranquil. Breezy. So Zip-a-dee-doo-dah. Oh summer, please come so we can wear flip flops 24/7,  pick blueberries and stay up late without a school schedule hovering overhead.

I have my list, of course. We all do, right? Granted, nobody else might care about taking their kids to see a Red Sox game, drawing on the driveway with chubby chalk sticks or reading picture books aloud on the sofa even though your kids might be elementary age but that’s okay. We all have those things we will do regardless of what our kids think.

Until of course, something gets in its way.

Or someone.

I’m more than capable of emptying my kids’ emotional buckets. At times, resenting the bucket. Even taking the gift of the bucket for granted.

At that time, it’s time for a humility check.

A God check.

A trip out to the pastures to get my bucket in smoother shape.

Which, when am convicted to my core, takes place on my knees. Prayer is there where I am reminded of all the things that I don’t want on my bucket list nor in my children’s internal emotional bucket that I can be guilty of pouring in. It’s time to confess it all and bring my muck to the feet of the One who can clean it up so that I can have a clean bucket.

What does God have to do with buckets and being filled?

Everything.

He the mighty bucket filler. He is Peaceful. Gentle. Loving. Kind. Joyful. Good. Faithful. (Gal 5:22). He fills me each day with the opportunity to develop these attributes so I can have just a smidgeon, a spec, of Christlike character. How can I not turn around and fill my children’s bucket with the same attributes and attitude Jesus has shown me?

Who am I to empty out what Jesus has filled?

That filling began at the cross, when Jesus emptied Himself until there was nothing but a submissive spirit left in His beaten, broken, weakened body. That submission, even though He had asked “…take this cup from me,” (Luke 22:42), led Him to the unthinkable. The horrific. The no-turning-back from what we each would have been desperate to flee and escape from as fast as our legs would move. Yet, as ugly as Jesus’ temporary death was and the events leading up to his death, is as beautiful and permanent as His eternal authority and the heavenly home He has established for each of us who accept His gift of salvation, who believe he died and rose again, defeating death.

Jesus’ obedience to do His Father’s will in going to the cross so that I and the world could have freedom from the condemnation we deserve from our own sin, and having and being an imperfect person day after day, is a fill I don’t think I will ever truly comprehend, and admittedly, on some days treat too casually. I have a life free of eternal judgment and consequence because of the price Jesus paid on my behalf. I am not going where I should.  I am not getting what I deserve, and that’s a fill right there to be thankful about. A life merciful and graciously forgiven is another fill we experience when we believe that God sent his Son Jesus to redeem us with His blood, shed in our place, and set us apart for Himself to live a life empowered by His righteousness instead of my old icky nature.

Which can still rear its head but He helps me keep things in check. Daily.

How?

He convicts me. Corrects me gently. Reminds me to be in His word. Strengthens me.

So this summer, as I try and hit those items on my bucket list (and perhaps you as well), may I/we remember and never forget, the true bucket filler of all. With Jesus as our guide, we can be strong and loving fillers to our children who need a fun bucket list for sure, but even more so, who need strong bucket fillers.

My girls have Jesus, the ultimate bucket filler, and God willing, a mom who can pour into them with Him as her guide.

His bucket fills mine.

All summer and always.

 

When I Don’t Want to Forgive

Nothing-doing.  No way, no-how.

I admit, those were often my go-to words when I needed to forgive.  I know the process should be as easy and quick as 1-2-3, but there were times when I couldn’t even get to zero.

Maybe someone comes to mind for you when it comes to needing to forgive, and the discomfort or pain is as deep as days gone by. Have you struggled with the ease of forgiving in a quick and easy 1-2-3 step? Maybe, like me, you are someone counting to 100 in order to get there….only to arrive at a snail’s pace counting by single digits.

No matter, the act of forgiving can be tough, sometimes coupled with lingering anger that can surprise us when hurt has occurred in our seemingly  safe, Christian, trustworthy circles or bubbles where falling-outs (ideally) shouldn’t go unresolved longer than a Supreme court ruling would allow. We can be challenged in  “manning up” to initiate forgiveness and seek resolution–once our nerves stop rattling from being the one having to do so.

Perhaps you’re holding onto bitterness that resulted from an unresolved exchange, dialogue or circumstance that erupted into a parting of ways or break in connection.  “Now what?” you’re asking. Maybe you’ve already reached out and took the stand to be the “bigger person” or are hoping the other person will be the one to stand tall and initiate contact or an apology. On the other hand, maybe you’ve parked yourself in anger and resentment with no plans of pulling out from that space.

To be honest, for me, staying steamed felt better than cooling off.  With one person in particular, I felt justified in remaining mad. Afterall, I was wronged, and even when I tried to bring about resolution, I was met with disinterest. Why continue to make amends when that person won’t even take ownership let alone be willing to connect to discuss the matter so resolution can happen?  What’s the good in that?

Jesus.

Jesus is the GOOD in THAT.

As a result of that goodness, I’m not paying the price for my mishaps and mistakes nor having to suffer judgment (not necessarily consequences but judgment) I deserve today, the rest of my earthly days, and days thereafter–all because of that GOOD Jesus did by dying on the cross.

That’s THE way Jesus chose.

He didn’t choose anger, He chose forgiveness toward those who sinned against him.  “And Jesus said: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ ” (Luke 23:34) HIS way of responding to a battle is opposite from our natural tendency to either pull back or rage ahead. Jesus released and continues to release all trespasses committed against him and all the offenses we commit against Him and one another. That right action makes my inaction, willful, weak and wrong in comparison. Once I understood that, I had to make different choices around my not-so-forgiving attitude.

A forgiven sinner forgives others–a truth we hear in our Christian circles that can convict us to the core  because we’re on the hook in having to forgive, and that’s not always easy when we have been wronged or deeply hurt. It can be tough, yet, in order to experience full freedom and model Christ-centered behavior as moms and women, we have to give out out of obedience what we have accepted in gratitude.

Grace. Mercy. Forgiveness.

Jesus gave it to us as quickly as 1-2-3.  Shouldn’t I?

I have to tell myself that kinder feelings about the person with whom I am angry at, will  have to catch up (or not) as I step out into obedience to forgive and give hurt an opportunity to drown rather than stay afloat.  If I wait until I am in the mood to forgive or for my feelings to shift from anger to love before I act, then I am following myself, not the LORD. Truth is, I may be waiting for a long time. I can take the step to forgive, and Jesus can then help to get my feelings or perspective in order and change my outlook and heart, all of which are really secondary to the forgiving piece anyway.

“Jesus already forgave –why must I?” asks that immature child in my spirit.

For starters, we forgive because He forgave us. He’s our model because He is supreme, creator, God. We forgive so we can  live and benefit from the affects of forgiveness and be released from the power  that anger and resentment hold in our entire being which then trickles into our relationships. Bitterness breeds bitterness and that will be our fate when we keep it alive. I see how the effects can grow and cause more pain, and subsequently, create reactions that call for more forgiveness! It can be an endless cycle. Jesus loves us so much that He wants us to be free from those painful effects that keep us trapped and spinning in the same volatile direction.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live  at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

We forgive to eliminate having divisiveness in our relationships. Jesus died to deliver peace. If I am following my Lord and Savior, how can I act any differently? I am His child and that means irritation and anger really can’t take up permanent residence or I’d be a hypocrite. Letting the anger go, doesn’t mean it’s easy. THAT part, God has to help me with and that’s okay. He’s up for the job of healing my hurts and helping us grind out that hard, internal stuff that we struggle against.  The process might be lifelong, but I think as long as we are leaning on Him, we’ll get there under His guidance with a work being done that only He can accomplish.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

God will deal with all people accordingly and hold each person accountable for their actions.  Let’s leave the judgment of peoples’ hurtful actions to God and the choice to move forward in forgiveness to us. God will equip and enable us to overcome the sorrow of hurt actions when we invite Him into our emotional mess that He can clean up and restore to a right and beautiful condition.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…” (Acts 1:8)

We receive the power to forgive others through Jesus and only Jesus. His power to do so is readily available when we call upon Him to depend on His strength to do that particular work. If it takes me till 100, that’s on me, as it probably means I am going through the process in my own strength, rather than His.

Thankfully, His forgiveness timeline is as short and sweet as 1-2-3.

Who might God be calling you to forgive this week?  With the Lord’s help, can you make the process be as quick as 1-2-3 and depend on Him in the process of moving through the process of forgiving?