Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Forgiveness: The Path to Freedom

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.”
—Louis B. Smedes

Sometimes we can find ourselves feeling weighed down by some indefinable “sludge” that seems to keep us feeling “stuck” in various areas of our lives.  When this happens, it is always good to take a spiritual/emotional inventory.  Could we possibly be harboring unforgiveness?
What is forgiveness anyway?
Forgiveness is releasing the bitterness.
§  “Resentment is like a glass of poison that a man drinks; then he sits down and waits for his enemy to die.”—Nelson Mandela
§  “Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.” –Anonymous
§  “to accept the fact that the past can’t change.” Oprah Winfry 
It involves understanding:
§  I’m a sinner too, and God has forgiven me.  I need to agree with God.
§  We all sin out of pain and/or ignorance.  Can you empathize with even a small part of why they did what they did?  Remember, understanding is not excusing.
§  He is able to redeem, the most horrible of circumstances; I am not a victim.
§  Forgiveness comes from God.  He will help us forgive if we ask.
o   Remember:  “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”
What forgiveness is not:
It is not always reconciliation.  Sometimes for physical or emotional safety, we need to maintain distance.  Pray about whether a confrontation that might result in reconciliation is appropriate.
§  “It takes one person to forgive, it takes two people to be reunited.” Louis B. Smedes
Forgiveness is not making the offense ok.
§  “When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it.” Louis B. Smedes
Forgiveness does not remove the consequences.  Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is to allow a person to experience the consequences of their actions.  Consequences are different from punishment or revenge.
Why forgive?
Forgiveness is essential to our emotional, spiritual and physical health. We cannot be truly free when we harbor unforgiveness.  It will affect or ability to love, live and be happy.
  • “Let all bitterness, …anger…and evil speaking be put away from you…and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.” Ephesians 4:30-32

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Be Still

Psalm 46:10:  Be still and know that I am God.

We live in a culture that extols ambition, accomplishment, achievement and activity...so many "A"s!  Yes, we make the grade... A+ to all of us over-achievers out there, working our hearts out to feel productive, worthwhile and useful. No wonder they call it a "type A" personality.

We can feel especially justified in our life-style if we are in some sort of ministry or helping profession.  There is such value in what we do.  But sometimes our passion runs dry; we feel empty and ...well....just plain exhausted.  And in the back of out mind we wonder why God feels so far away.

Could it be that we are missing a balance that God always intended for us? How much do we value stillness...taking time in our day to quiet our thoughts and just "be" with God?  I sometimes meditate on Ps. 46:10 when I have trouble turning off all the anxious "noise" in my head.  I was taught a distilling process with this verse that has often brought renewal and clarity to my mind.

I would like to share just a few of my own gleanings from this process.  I hope you will take the time also to still yourself and hear from God in this way.

"Be still and know that I am God".

"Lord, I am not you.  I do not control much of anything in this universe.  I am too small and finite and weak.  Forgive me for trying to control people and situations and all the resulting anxiety this produces.  I release all my cares to you and place you once again on the throne as God...my God.

"Be still and know that I am..." 

Father, you are ever-living in the present.  You speak not "I was" or "I will", but "I AM". You are here in this moment...and I so often miss you when I am preoccupied with the past or the future.  I miss some beautiful gift you are holding out to me...some gentle nudge that will bring blessing to another and myself...some lesson that will direct and give me wisdom for the day.

There are meanings in these words, "I AM" that I can only begin to comprehend...your completeness, your self-generating power and your finality.  I am awestruck as I even stand in the doorway of such truths.

"Be still and know..."

Oh Lord, you are the source of everything I need to know.  You are direction for my life.  Why do I try so hard to figure out life for myself, or look to other, lesser sources.  You are the wellspring of knowlege that will teach, direct and enlighten me on my path.

Why do I keep thinking that I can know you without coming to you, or spending the time and effort to know you?  How can I wonder that my faith is pale and weak, when I have not even sought to know you well enough to know if you are trustworthy?  We are not called to trust a great, unseen one who may or may not help us ... one we have only been told is trustworthy.  We are called to trust our Daddy, who we know and love so intimately.  Who whispers secrets in our ears and shows us hidden treasures reserved only for his dear ones.  The one who has given us endless experiences of His tender faithfulness and care.

"Be still..."

What is it like to be still Lord?  I think it is peaceful.  But as a wise friend once shared with me, "it is peace like a river, not peace like a pond".  It as a crystal clear, slow flowing river that runs deep and whose surface is glassy. The seminal psychologist, William James (of Christian heritage) described a "stream of consciousness" (I remembered his connection to this thought by remembering the James River in Virginia).  Being still is not being stagnant, where all sorts of scum can flourish.  I rather think of stillness as ceasing to swim across or up the river ... to just allow ourselves to float quietly in the slow, peaceful current. He is the river and as we yield ourselves to it's current, we learn His ways.  The Message describes this as learning "the unforced rhythms of grace" (Matt. 11: 28-30).  As we still ourselves, the "noise" of our anxious mind quiets and only then can the "still, small voice" of His Spirit be heard...we are flowing with His current.


Here I am faced with a deep and terrifying question:  "Who am I....really?"  When asked that question, we immediately go to labels that define our activities....what we do.  God's love and acceptance of us has nothing to do with what we do.  It is all about who we are.  Can we envision our infinite preciousness to Him when we are doing nothing?  I have had a few periods in my life when I was without some of the positions that defined me the most.  I felt worthless!  Without that status, that role or identity, I scarcely knew who I was, and I certainly didn't feel very useful to God.  And if I wasn't useful, I couldn't possibly be of any real value.  Wow!  Is that a lie from the pit!  Even when I am still before God, I am nagged by a condemning little voice that says I should be praying.  How 'bout just sitting still to listen?   We must first learn to just "be"... present, valued and loved for our essence.  After all, He created us.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  Our activity: ministry, loving, helping, even praying should be an outgrowth of learning to just be who he created us to be and to be content to sit at His feet in His presence with an open heart.  There I am most myself and most His Beloved.

I am giving up striving for "A"s first and instead seeking the "B"s...being the beloved of my God.

I challenge my readers to commit to meditation, even for a period of time.  This is an exciting adventure that I promise will deepen your Spiritual life and prove fruitful beyond measure.

Now get busy and BE STILL!