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For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been

clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20

Dear Reader,
Children love recess until a conflict arises. We see tears and hear tattles, and we listen and we help resolve. The boys generally find it easier to forgive and get right back in the game. The girls seem to have more difficulty, and the game usually ends. We can read results of studies that compare the differences between boys and girls in resolving a conflict and, yes, there are always exceptions to the results. Living life is all the study I personally need on this one. In the early years of marriage my apologies were incomplete. My husband, with his usual gentle strength, shared that the “I’m sorry, but . . .” that I offered defeated the purpose of the apology. The hard part is that he is so right on with this one. The “but” that I added on was motivated by pride and built a hedge around every apology I offered. And what about the opportunities we have to forgive others? The hedges of pride grow higher still

around these moments. The words “I forgive you” get lost in the briars. Not always, but often enough. We, the writers, decided to get out the pruning shears for this issue. We offer transparency, humor, candor, and foundational scriptural truths in this special issue on forgiveness. It’s our gift to you and to ourselves because we always need to be reminded to love deeply just as Christ loves us. I pray hedges will fall away and lives will be changed by the grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as you open this gift with the turning of each page. Join me in an open field, with hedges trimmed and running free,

Mary Ann
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Between the Lines is a magazine of the Journey, a ministry of Christ Church Fairview Heights, IL. © 2012, Christ Church. Graphic Design by Michelle Sweeten

Between the Lines • Fall 2012 • Volume 2, Issue 4

This Issue’s Theme: Forgiveness In the next issue: Life Together - What's the importance of community? Verse of the Season: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Eph. 4:32).

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Meet the Contributors
Emily Climaco, Ph.D., is a Journey Team member and the volunteer editor of Between the Lines. The wife of Phil and mom of Caroline, she spends her free time reading magazines, drinking green tea, and being silly with her four-year-old daughter. Angie Farnworth is blessed with an amazing husband and two entertaining kiddos. She left a career in social work for the oncein-a-lifetime adventure of raising and homeschooling her children. Many years ago, she minored in journalism and has been writing, editing, and proofreading various projects ever since. Lindsay Tallman is a freelance writer who writes about family and faith. Her work has been featured in Thriving Family and Family Fun magazines. When she’s not busy writing or tripping over toys, she enjoys reading, traveling, and playing with her quirky kids. She and her family live in O’Fallon, Illinois, and worship at Christ Church. Mary Ann Turner is the leader of the Journey Team at Christ Church. A former elementary school teacher, she is the wife of Mark, mother of two grown children, and grandmother to two precious little boys. She enjoys great conversations, hiking with her family, and encouraging others to grow in their Christian faith. Maggie Wakeman and her husband, Bill, reside in Troy, Illinois, and both are members of Christ Church. For nearly four years, she has served as the prayer team leader on the Journey Team. She has a passion for learning God’s Word and encouraging others with the Word. She enjoys “going on dates” with Bill and spending quality time with her friends.

We dedicate this issue of Between the Lines to the memory of Debbie L. Johnson (1957-2012), mother of Heather Asunskis and beloved friend of the Journey Team.

A Closet-full of Idols and a Prostitute
by Angie Farnworth

The book of Hosea is one of my favorite books of the Old Testament. For anyone not familiar with it, the basic premise is this: Hosea was a trusted prophet of God. One day God tells him to marry a prostitute, Hosea marries her, and she proceeds to do what prostitutes do best. Yes, you heard that right— she continues her lifestyle even after marrying God’s chosen prophet. And what does God do about it? Does he turn her into a pillar of salt? Allow her to be torn apart by dogs? No, he instructs Hosea to forgive her. Poor Hosea rides a rollercoaster of forgiveness as his wife continues in her sin and God instructs him to take her back over and over again . . . ad nauseam. Sounds a bit dramatic and depressing, huh? You might be wondering why that would be one of my favorite books of the Bible. What I love about this book is that it isn’t just a story about a guy named Hosea who lived thousands of years ago. God uses Hosea as a living metaphor for his relationship with

his chosen people. In fact, God doesn’t even try to hide that fact. God says to Hosea, “Go, take yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord” (Hosea 1:2). God is saying, look, I chose these people and made an everlasting covenant with them, but what do I get in return? Unfaithfulness. All through the Old Testament God chooses Abraham’s seed, they eventually turn from him and choose idols instead, life falls apart for them, they repent and he forgives. A little time passes, they choose idols again, life falls apart, and the plot doesn’t change much from there. But what does this have to do with you and me? We are blessed to live under a new covenant—one of grace and mercy that covers our sin and makes us new every morning. God’s message through the book of Hosea really has very little to do with prostitutes, pagan idols,

or minor prophets. It has everything to do with the condition of his chosen people’s hearts. God was saying then, and he is still saying now, I want all of you. He wants us to choose him above the temptations of the world, above the lure of money, the lust of the flesh. But we are a stubborn and selfish people. Or at least I am. Daily I am faced with the choice of waking up and worshipping God, making him the priority of my day—or making my own agenda my utmost priority. And if I am honest, I am too often tempted to choose my own way instead of the Lord’s. According to Robert Robinson, though, I’m not the only one. In his beloved hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” verse three says this:

O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.
You see, we prostitute ourselves daily when we sell ourselves to the

created rather than offering ourselves to the Creator. In this world of iPhones, 24-hour Wal-Marts, and Twitter babble, we are constantly tugged from one “important” thing to another. We have to make a conscious effort to choose God over the clamoring of the world. A Bible study I took once put it this way: if we are not actively running toward God, we are passively sliding away from him. And that’s where forgiveness comes in. Daily, we need to step back and take inventory of our spiritual lives. Are we pursuing God? Are we choosing him first? Do we have any idols that are taking top-billing away from him? If so, we need to ask his forgiveness. Then bask in his mercy, which really is new every morning. g


Reconciling Saul and Paul

Thoughts on Forgiving Yourself
by Emily Climaco
Freshmen were my least favorite group. They were squirrelly and needy, with self-esteem wildly disproportionate to their writing skills. They lacked refinement and perspective. And they reminded me way too much of myself at that age. Of course I’m exaggerating—most of my students were lovely, but the less lovely ones really got under my skin. And instead of empathizing with them, I resented them. Mostly, I didn’t want to be reminded of myself as a freshman: eager for attention, fickle in relationships, self-involved, obsessed with the Spice Girls. A wise man with a regrettable youth once wrote, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new

Paul consistently uses himself as an example of God’s rich, transforming grace to all of us, even “the worst of sinners”

is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17). Okay, to call the apostle Paul’s youth “regrettable” is an understatement. Paul openly confesses to doing hateful things as a young man. If I were the apostle formerly known as Saul, I’d be embarrassed and ashamed of how I’d harassed Jesus’ followers and thwarted their cause. However, he consistently uses himself as an example of God’s rich, transforming grace to all of us, even “the worst of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15-16). Paul doesn’t have to bear the shame of his past because Jesus’ death for Saul the persecutor is an active demonstration of God’s great love: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8b). This makeover from “worst of sinners” to “Saint Paul” is pretty dramatic. But even if your trans-

formation is instead more gradual, reconciling yourself with your past self (for whom Jesus loved enough to die) trains you to understand others at different stages. Through the lens of reconciliation, it becomes clear that we are all beggars at different degrees of desperation. While God doesn’t call us to forgive ourselves, God calls us to the project of reconciliation: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18). I’d contend that it’s easier to reconcile others to God and settle relationships with each other when we have peace with the old self God continually makes new. I’m not saying we embrace our sins but rather that we demonstrate more gentleness toward sinners, ourselves included. In a sense, reconciling with our past selves is an aspect of per-

sonal integrity. How can I be an integrated, whole person if I disown myself? Paul wrote to his youthful protégé Timothy, “God cannot disown himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). God is the essence of wholeness: the perfect, unchanging Truth yesterday, today, and forever. Disowning ourselves—the blemished and scarred, regrettable selves—diminishes the significance of the journey that God brings us through. That is, if Jesus loved me enough to die for me when I was a bigger idiot than I am now, who am I to reject that past self? Let’s live at peace with our past selves, not with the arrogance of No regrets! but with the sober judgment of Praise God— we don’t have to hide scars (Jonny Diaz, “Scars”). g


Forgiving Others
Are you withholding forgiveness from someone who has hurt you? Do hurtful thoughts come up often in your mind and heart? Have these thoughts become a focal point? Focal points can become idols in that they take our gaze off of Christ. We spend more time focusing on the pain than on the healer of our pain. Have unforgiving thoughts become an idol in your life? Do you long for the rest that only Christ can give? Do you desire to love and forgive in the same way that he has loved and forgiven you? Read Isaiah 44:6-11 and Mark 15:21-39 Realize Isaiah 44:22a. Receive Isaiah 44:22b. Forgive Colossians 3:12-17 and Ephesians 4:32-5:2. -Mary Ann Turner

photo by Julie Crask,

Photo by: Julie Crask

It was August 1998 and my husband and I were newlyweds living in our first apartment in a city far from home. First comes love, then comes marriage, and then comes reality. During our engagement, we were laid-back college students with ample amounts of time and no stress in the mountains of Colorado. Our first year of marriage consisted of my husband flying and studying around the clock in pilot training and me scrambling to finish my last year of college in a new state on a budget of practically nothing. It was nothing like I had imagined. Instead of endless deep conversations and romantic dinners, we spent our time arguing over important details like how to properly dispense toothpaste, how much time should pass before dirty clothes find their way into a hamper, and asking questions like, “Who folds towels like that?” By Christmas of that year, I was reaching my breaking point. My husband had some coworkers over to study and asked me to go out and pick up some study supplies for them. I reluctantly left my studying behind and gathered the supplies. When I returned

home, I discovered our first Christmas tree and all of the ornaments scattered on the floor. My husband informed me that our new kitten had climbed the tree and crashed it down. As I surveyed the damage, I found the only broken ornament was the “Our First Christmas” airplane. The husband in the airplane was still intact, but the wife had lost her head. The irony was not lost on me as my anger and frustration exploded, and out of my mouth came the bitterness and disappointment of the last six months. My husband stared at me confused as I slammed our bedroom door behind me and, through the blur of hot tears, caught a glimpse of my suitcase under our bed. For a moment, I considered packing it. Six months into a lifetime of marriage and a lifetime suddenly seemed like a very long time. I was so confused. Where had I gone wrong? I married my best friend and the love of my life. Weren’t we supposed to fly off into happily ever after? The funny thing is, we didn’t have any big problems. But when reality and stress set in, I became preoccupied with my own wants, needs, and desires. It wasn’t long before bitterness

and disappointment took root in our relationship. I had no idea that being married would mean learning to forgive the little annoyances of living together on a daily basis. Ruth Bell Graham once said, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” I couldn’t agree more! What would I do differently if I could go back to the beginning of our marriage? I’d start with a few principles from Ephesians Chapter 4: Be honest. Ephesians 4:25 says, “Stop lying to each other; tell the truth, for we are parts of each other and when we lie to each other we are hurting ourselves.” Being honest with our spouse means being willing to be vulnerable and have the tough conversations. It means staying at the table until we can come to a place of common ground. Our spouses are not mind readers. Work it out. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “If you are angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge. Don’t let the sun go down with you still angry— get over it quickly; for when you are angry you give a mighty foothold to the devil.” Keeping anger inside can cause us to grow bitter and resentful. Venting anger carelessly will cause us to hurt others. Learn to lovingly express your feelings when you are angry in a way that focuses on building the relationship. Choose your words carefully. Ephesians 4:31 says, “Stop being mean, bad-tempered and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives.” There is a difference between being open and honest and intentionally hurting someone because we are hurting. Let your love of Christ shine

through in all you say and do. Don’t sin in your anger. Choose a time to discuss things when you can both be calm. Forgive and move on. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ.” A spirit of forgiveness in a marriage will keep us living in harmony and moving forward. As we grow in Christ, we should view our spouses the way God sees them. By praying for our spouses and practicing kindness, we will find it easier to move forward into a better marriage. We laugh about that Christmas now, but at the time it wasn’t funny. It’s been almost 15 years since that first Christmas and we no longer have the cat (don’t worry, she lived to knock down more Christmas trees), but we do have a wonderful marriage. When I think about those early years, I can see how far we have come. True forgiveness takes practice, and marriage provides the perfect opportunity to practice forgiveness daily! With God’s help, we can move from where we are to where we want to be. I crazy love my husband and can’t imagine a day without him, but the truth is that day will come. And when I ponder that reality, a lifetime of marriage just doesn’t seem long enough. g





Recommended Reading: Becoming One
by Joe Beam

Sacred Marriage

by Gary Thomas

As for Me and My House

by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

A Balloon full of Forgiveness
Guilty as charged! The cold verdict stood from the self-appointed jury consisting of me and my siblings. Over and over again I put mother back on trial for the same thing. Had I not suffered abuse from her hand, my life would have been better. I would not have suffered from depression. I was a tough, merciless jury member not giving thought to my own sinful condition. The sentence was not to speak with her or care for her as she grew older. Fortunately for her, my oldest sibling was the most merciful and made sure her needs were met.


As I sat in our church’s “Healing for Damaged Emotions” class in 2005 ready to put her on trial again, I was baffled at the foreign concept of forgiveness as stated in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Colossians 3:13b says, “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” I learned about the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35. Was I the unforgiving servant? God’s powerful Word shattered this tough juror’s heart and turned it from stone into a heart that was free to love others. I began to see our mother through a new set of eyes, God’s eyes. As our aged mother lived in a nursing home about 80 miles away, I wondered if I would see her again. However, in God’s providence, Mother was moved to a nursing home five miles from our house. In June 2010, my mother and I began to enjoy

a new, restored relationship. On September 14, 2011, I celebrated my mother’s 89th birthday by bringing her a piece of cake and a balloon. Her weakened condition made me wonder if the end was near. When I returned she had shown much improvement, which she quickly attributed to her birthday balloon, stating in a simplistic and child-like manner, “Everybody needs a balloon.” As I left, I could not stop thinking about what she said, and I knew she was right. Everybody needs a balloon of love and forgiveness as mother joyfully experienced from me. God was gracious to allow me to be by my mother’s side as she died on December 18, 2011. As we buried her remains I released a final balloon into the air, knowing I was no longer captive to the prison of unforgiveness. I had been set free by the power of God through Jesus Christ. Who do you need to give a balloon to today? g


Every Story Whispers His Name
Maybe it’s been a while since you paged through a brightly-colored children’s storybook. Whether you have small kids or not, we highly recommend The Jesus Storybook Bible (Zonderkidz, 2007) by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Jago. Lloyd-Jones tells familiar Bible stories with an inspiring slant: every story is placed in the context of Jesus’ redeeming work. As the subtitle says, “every story whispers his name.” Here we offer a handful of our favorite lines from the creation stories, with selected truths from scripture:
“But all the stars and the mountains and oceans and galaxies and everything were nothing compared to how much God loved his children. He would move heaven and earth to be near them. Always.”
–Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible

The Jesus Storybook Bible:

“One day, he would get his children back. One day, he would make the world their perfect home again. And one day, he would wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
–Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible

Receive him, and he’ll forgive you. 1 John 1:9 “You see, no matter what, in spite of everything, God would love his children—with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”
–Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible

God loves you. John 3:16 “Whatever happened, whatever it cost him, he would always love them. And so it was that the wonderful love story began . . .”
–Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible

We’ve all sinned. Rom. 3:23 “God loved his children too much to let the story end there. Even though he knew he would suffer, God had a plan—a magnificent dream.”
–Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible

God offers you his abundant life. John 10:10 “And though they would forget him, and run from him, deep in their hearts, God’s children would miss him always, and long for him—lost children, yearning for their home.”
–Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible

Jesus died for you. Rom. 5:6-8


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A Second Wind
One very special day, an unexpected slap of bitter cold wind hits me right at the heart; it hurts and stings long after the wind dies down. Why this sudden turn seeking to destroy years of warmth and welcome? Was it just a show of power? Or perhaps it revealed the depth of her own pain? “I have to forgive. I have to forgive here, and I have to forgive now.” In the following days and months my recollection of the hurtful moment still haunted me. In desperation and exhaustion, I asked God to help me yet again. Please. Yes, I know that hurting people hurt others. I, too, have hurt others. In my mind I could muster thoughts of compassion and love for the person, but in my heart I was still so far from where I knew I needed to be. “Forgive them for they know not what they do,” Jesus said. “She knew exactly what she did.” “Forgive seventy times seven,” Jesus tells me. “The perfection of that kind of forgiveness eludes me just now.” “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.” “As myself?” “Yes, love your neighbor as yourself. And love God more than anything.”

by Mary Ann Turner

Love God more? More than my unforgiving thoughts? More than the thoughts that I have nursed and coddled and held in such high esteem? Love my neighbor as myself? As one that stands in need of forgiveness? “Yes.” Hurt becomes forgiveness withheld. Forgiveness withheld becomes an idol. Idols cannot save us from ourselves. The realization that my unforgiving thoughts had become an idol brought me to the depths and heights of godly sorrow and forgiveness and love. Only by remembering the cross where Jesus Christ in perfect love died for me, do I receive what I need to let it go. All of it. We do not truly know how to love others until we truly learn to forgive as God, our Father, has forgiven us. Considering the truth of the cross and the gift of forgiveness and life I have received, I can no longer resist. I release my grip and the hurt slips through my fingers and is carried away by the wind of the Spirit of Christ. The burden is released. My heart rests, cradled in the heart of God, right where it belongs. g


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