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    Forgiveness and Reconciliation

    Friday, December 28, 2007, 10:03 PM [General]

    Forgiveness is often spoken about in loose terms, as though we should all know what it is to forgive. This leaves much to the imagination, and many people speculating about its nature.


    We often hear things like “forgive and forget” and “forgive for your own sake, not the offender’s”. Some people think that to be forgiving means to let the offender off the hook and thereby become a doormat. Some people think that it is reconciling with the offender.


    I have gone through some heavy trials at the hands of those who would seek to destroy me, and know how necessary forgiveness is, yes, even for my own sake. But this must be stated with a qualifier as to what forgiveness really is. In my own efforts to forgive those who have offended me, I have researched forgiveness from both a scriptural and psychological perspective.


    What is forgiveness? According to, it is simply to “stop wishing for revenge or to stop wanting to see the other person suffer in some way.” So you let go and cancel a perceived debt. This does not mean forgetting, as if we forget, we are condemned to history repeating itself.


    Let’s look at the fallacy of ‘forgiving and forgetting’. Forgiving and forgetting is nothing more than offering a token of words and then slipping into deliberate repression. The problem with this is that there are usually residual emotions attached to the need to forgive, and if you ‘forget’ then you are not only repressing the memory of that which you need to forgive, but you are also repressing any emotions that might be attached to it. What does this mean? Well, it can mean that you have unresolved emotions simmering in your unconscious, and that might be brewing contempt or anger. This is not genuine forgiveness, as the unresolved emotions make genuine forgiveness impossible. In other words, ‘forgiving and forgetting’ is nothing more than dishonest lip service.


    Another fallacy is that it means letting the offender off the hook, so they are no longer responsible for their actions, thus leading to the offended being the one responsible for justifying the offender’s actions. Take the issue of trust. If a betrayal of trust happens, and you think forgiveness is letting the offender off the hook, then that leaves the door open for further offenses. With every offense, comes a consequence, in spite of the offended extending forgiveness. There is a penalty for an offense. We even see this in competitive sports, like hockey, as we note their penalty box.


    I learned a few interesting tidbits about forgiveness. One is that you can’t really forgive until you have felt the full extent of the pain they caused you. The other thing has to do with sorrow, which seems at first at odds with forgiveness. Forgiveness rises out of sorrow, which comes from the humility of recognizing that just as someone hurt us, we also hurt other people. Therefore, on a human level, we are no better than those who offended us.


    This is where the Bible comes in. Philippians 2:3 says “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” If we consider others as better than ourselves, we recognize that we are also fallible, and that causes sorrow. Sorrow leads to repentance, which is a statement of our own imperfection and need for forgiveness. Recognizing our own need for forgiveness makes extending forgiveness smoother.


    Another fallacy of forgiveness is that it equates to reconciliation. It is true that forgiveness is part of the reconciliation process, though. Reconciliation takes two. It is the process of restoring a right relationship. There are two components: forgiveness and penance. Each component can function independently of the other, but both are required to restore a right relationship between two people.


    We have looked a little at forgiveness, so let’s look at what penance is. It involves three steps: confession (admitting the offense), repentance (sorrow for the offense and a request for forgiveness), and penalty (accepting and paying the consequences of the offense). We need to be careful here, to not confuse the consequences of the offense for the offended person’s desired vengeance. Here is an example. If someone betrayed you, they have broken your trust. The consequence for that is lack of trust, and the time and effort it involves in creating an atmosphere where trust can be re-created. That would be different from the offended person’s vengeance, which might include a reciprocation of broken trust.


    We have often heard that vengeance belongs to God. We also know that forgiveness and reconciliation belong to God, as demonstrated by the Lord Jesus who paid for our offense against God. It is through our confession and repentance, and Jesus’ payment of the penalty on our behalf that brings us into right relationship with God; we are reconciled to him.


    Perhaps, then, the best vengeance we can take is the extension of forgiveness, even when there has been no penance.


    I used to think that my residual pain from those who betrayed me is the result of unforgiveness. I was wrong. In fact, if I did not have and work through these residual feelings, it would be dishonest forgiveness, and subsequent repression. I can attest to the fact that extending forgiveness is much more difficult when there is no penance. Part of this is due to the decreased chance of reconciliation. Not only is extending forgiveness a difficult thing to work through, there are also the residual emotions from the pain they caused, and if there is no penance and no hope of reconciliation, there is also the loss of the relationship, or at the very least, loss of right relationship.


    Forgiveness is a deep and difficult concept that many people misunderstand, but many aspire to. I think that we must fully experience two things for us to experience the empowerment to extend forgiveness. We must experience God’s forgiveness by our confession and repentance and acceptance of Jesus’ payment of penalty. We must also experience the sorrow of humility.

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    The Power of Words

    Saturday, December 22, 2007, 3:51 PM [General]

    The Power of Words


    We’ve all heard the lie “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Some people believe that we have no power over others; that we can’t make them feel anything. But that is a lie of our culture.


    Here is the truth. Many ancient peoples, and the Hebrews in particular, believed in the power of words, and that words carry good or evil; they take on a life of their own once spoken, and cannot be retracted.


    Proverbs 18:21 says “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (NIV). I like how the Message puts it: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.”


    Proverbs 12:18 says “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”


    And Proverbs 25:11 (NASB) says “ Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”


    This is pretty powerful, and clearly suggests that we certainly do have power in other people’s lives, simply by the words we speak. Ephesians 4:15 suggests how we can have the power of life in our words. It says “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”


    Did you know the Bible uses the word “bless” in one form or another around 700 times in the Bible? The Hebrew (OT) translation is berakah, which means the endowment of the power of God’s goodness and favor. In Greek (NT), the word used is eulogeo, which means to speak well of, or praise. It’s where we get our word ‘eulogy’ from. Why we wait till someone is dead to speak well of them is beyond me!


    Both of these terms suggest to me that the person you are blessing doesn’t even need to know that they are being blessed. However, when you speak highly of someone, it helps other people to form a positive opinion of that person you are speaking about, which is a blessing.


    Do we bless people in our daily lives? How many of us end a letter by saying “Blessings” or “Be blessed”? And yet we do nothing to actually bless that person. Telling someone to be blessed, or saying the word to them is like giving a vial of ginger and telling them to make a gingerbread house with it. It is too raw.


    As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to obey 1 Thessalonians 5:11a, which says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”


    Let us all be mindful that our words have the power to give life or death, to heal or harm, to build up or tear down. Let us all be mindful, especially with those we love, to speak blessings rather than curses. Let us speak life, healing, and encouragement in Christ.


    One of my favorite verses in all the Bible is Proverbs 16:24. “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

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    8 - Cow Wife

    Monday, December 3, 2007, 4:58 PM [General]

    A while back, someone told me a beautiful love story. It has made a significant impact on my life, and on how I try to treat people. While placing value on people is so important, it is also important to know the KIND of value that would make THEM feel valuable as opposed to what makes you feel valuable.

     In the story below, the man knew the kind of value that was important to the women of their community, and he sought to place that very value she needed onto her. I hope you are as touched by the story as I was.





    condensed from Woman's Day Patricia McGerr


    When I sailed to Kiniwata, an island in the Pacific, I took along a notebook. After I got back it was filled with descriptions of flora and fauna, native customs and costume. But the only note that still interests me is the one that says: "Johnny Lingo gave eight cows to Sarita’s father." And I don’t need to have it in writing. I’m reminded of it every time I see a woman belittling her husband or a wife withering under her husband’s scorn. I want to say to them, "You should know why Johnny Lingo paid eight cows for his wife."

    Johnny Lingo wasn’t exactly his name. But that’s what Shenkin, the manager of the guest house on Kiniwata, called him. Shenkin was from Chicago and had a habit of Americanizing the names of the islanders. But Johnny was mentioned by many people in many connections. If I wanted to spend a few days on the neighboring island of Nurabandi, Johnny Lingo would put me up. If I wanted to fish he could show me where the biting was best. If it was pearls I sought, he would bring the best buys. The people of Kiniwata all spoke highly of Johnny Lingo. Yet when they spoke they smiled, and the smiles were slightly mocking.

    "Get Johnny Lingo to help you find what you want and let him do the bargaining," advised Shenkin. "Johnny knows how to make a deal."
    "Johnny Lingo! A boy seated nearby hooted the name and rocked with laughter.
    "What goes on?" I demanded. "everybody tells me to get in touch with Johnny Lingo and then breaks up. Let me in on the joke."
    "Oh, the people like to laugh," Shenkin said, shruggingly. "Johnny's the brightest, the strongest young man in the islands, And for his age, the richest."
    "But if he’s all you say, what is there to laugh about?"
    "Only one thing. Five months ago, at fall festival, Johnny came to Kiniwata and found himself a wife. He paid her father eight cows!

    I knew enough about island customs to be impressed. Two or three cows would buy a fair-to-middling wife, four or five a highly satisfactory one. "Good Lord!" I said, "Eight cows! She must have beauty that takes your breath away." "She’s not ugly," he conceded, and smiled a little. "But the kindest could only call Sarita plain. Sam Karoo, her father, was afraid she’d be left on his hands."
    "But then he got eight cows for her? Isn’t that extraordinary?"
    "Never been paid before."
    "Yet you call Johnny’s wife plain?"
    "I said it would be kindness to call her plain. She was skinny. She walked with her shoulders hunched and her head ducked. She was scared of her own shadow."
    "Well," I said, "I guess there’s just no accounting for love."
    "True enough," agreed the man. "And that’s why the villagers grin when they talk about Johnny. They get special satisfaction from the fact that the sharpest trader in the islands was bested by dull old Sam Karoo."
    "But how?"
    "No one knows and everyone wonders. All the cousins were urging Sam to ask for three cows and hold out for two until he was sure Johnny’d pay only one. Then Johnny came to Sam Karoo and said, ‘Father of Sarita, I offer eight cows for your daughter.’"
    "Eight cows," I murmured. "I’d like to meet this Johnny Lingo."
    "And I wanted fish. I wanted pearls. So the next afternoon I beached my boat at Nurabandi. And I noticed as I asked directions to Johnny’s house that his name brought no sly smile to the lips of his fellow Nurabandians. And when I met the slim, serious young man, when he welcomed me with grace to his home, I was glad that from his own people he had respect unmingled with mockery. We sat in his house and talked. Then he asked, "You come here from Kiniwata?"
    "They speak of me on that island?"
    "They say there’s nothing I might want they you can’t help me get."
    He smiled gently. "My wife is from Kiniwata."
    "Yes, I know."
    "They speak of her?"
    "A little."
    "What do they say?"
    "Why, just..." The question caught me off balance. "They told me you were married at festival time."
    "Nothing more?" The curve of his eyebrows told me he knew there had to be more.
    They also say the marriage settlement was eight cows." I paused.
    "They wonder why."
    "They ask that?" His eyes lightened with pleasure. "Everyone in Kiniwata knows about the eight cows?"
    I nodded.
    "And in Nurabandi everyone knows it too." His chest expanded with satisfaction. "Always and forever, when they speak of marriage settlements, it will be remembered that Johnny Lingo paid eight cows for Sarita."
    So that’s the answer, I thought: vanity.

    And then I saw her. I watched her enter the room to place flowers on the table. She stood still a moment to smile at the young man beside me. Then she went swiftly out again. She was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. The lift of her shoulders, the tilt of her chin the sparkle of her eyes all spelled a pride to which no one could deny her the right. I turned back to Johnny Lingo and found him looking at me. "You admire her?" he murmured. "She...she’s glorious. But she’s not Sarita from Kiniwata," I said.

    "There’s only one Sarita. Perhaps she does not look the way they say she looked in Kiniwata." "She doesn’t. I heard she was homely. They all make fun of you because you let yourself be cheated by Sam Karoo."
    "You think eight cows were too many?" A smile slid over his lips. "No. But how can she be so different?"
    "Do you ever think," he asked, "what it must mean to a woman to know that her husband has settled on the lowest price for which she can be bought? And then later, when the women talk, they boast of what their husbands paid for them. One says four cows, another maybe six. How does she feel, the woman who was sold for one or two?" This could not happen to my Sarita."
    "Then you did this just to make your wife happy?"
    "I wanted Sarita to be happy, yes. But I wanted more than that. You say she is different This is true. Many things can change a woman. Things that happen inside, things that happen outside. But the thing that matters most is what she thinks about herself. In Kiniwata, Sarita believed she was worth nothing. Now she knows she is worth more than any other woman in the islands." "Then you wanted -"
    "I wanted to marry Sarita. I loved her and no other woman."
    "But —" I was close to understanding.
    "But," he finished softly, "I wanted an eight-cow wife."

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    In Pursuit of Happiness

    Saturday, November 24, 2007, 7:01 PM [General]

    Have we found the secret to happiness? If we have, who would want to keep it a secret? There is interesting research that suggests we can control about 40% of our happiness.

    I was trying to read this afternoon,  but the tv was on and I got distracted by a Canadian newsmagazine called W5. Well, today they had a rerun of a story they first aired in June, 2006, called "In Pursuit of Happiness", where psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and comedian Jon Dore went across Canada in search of happy people.

    Anyway, it was fascinating, and I want to share it with you. Are you a happy person? What makes you think you are or aren't? What do you think would make you more happy? Read on....

    50% of our happiness comes from genetics
    10% of our happiness comes from circumstances
    40% of our happiness is something we can control!

    Here are 7 characteristics of 'naturally happy people':
    Savor life
    Have goals
    Have good social support

    We have more money than ever, we are healthier than ever, and we have more education than ever, and yet happiness levels have not increased with them, Therefore, money, health, and education do NOT equate with happiness.

    In fact, they found that the happiest people live in Newfoundland, the poorest province, but one of the most community/socially minded, and the most unhappy people are from Alberta, the richest province, but also the one with the most stress, highest divorce rate, and less social support.

    Happy people have a higher capacity for recovery (from illness, adversity, change, stressors) than unhappy people.

    We have a baseline for happiness (the genetic component), and no matter what our circumstances are, we tend to gravitate back to that base level. The good news is that because genetics makes up only 50%, we can control 40 of the other 50%. So how can we become happier people? Go back to the characteristics and work on those areas. One lady also suggested to not engage in self talk. We can change the way we think, so we can become more optimistic and more appreciative, we can set goals for ourselves, and we can make deliberate attempts at increasing our social support network. We can do things that make us happier, too, like being more helpful, following a spiritual path, and savoring life.

    Wow, eh? Maybe we have found the secret to happiness!
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    Everyone has a Story

    Friday, October 19, 2007, 9:43 PM [General]

    We all have a story.

    This was briefly mentioned in a private conversation, and it got me thinking about stories. I love to hear them - especially when they involve someone's testament to God's love and grace. There are certain people's stories I'm really interested in, although I like to hear from anyone.

    The funny thing is, though, that today when some gentlemen came from the church to help move my things to storage, we finished early and one asked me what my story was. I was stumped, not knowing what to say. I was not sure of what part of my story he wanted to hear, or even which part I could tell him that wouldn't bore him silly. It made me realize that I, too, have a story, even if I do think it's a boring one.

    There are parts, though, that are not boring - at least not to me, because they directly involve the difference knowing God has had in my life. Take the time I heard him as plain as day - I was in the pit of despair, having lost 9 friends and family to death in the previous two years, becoming a mom, and my husband leaving me with a newborn. It was also the year I nearly lost my dad in an accident, I lost my grandmother to a stroke, and her funeral was on my 30th birthday. I was so alone in the world! I called out to God and suggested that he promised that he would not give us more than we can bear.

    His answer was immediate. He said, "If the joy of the Lord is your strength, then you will have strength for anything. It is the strength of Jesus Christ you will have, and Jesus is strong enough to bear anything. Anything. Therefore, you, through taking joy in the salvation of the Lord, are strong enough to handle anything."

    It was like all my sorrows melted away, and a burden was lifted that night. I was freer than I had ever been to go ahead and grieve, while at the same time focusing my mind and heart on Jesus, allowing myself to be joyous in his salvation. I have heard his voice since that night, with similar 'revelations'. I call them 'light-bulb moments' because the truth was always there, but my vision was too dark to see it till the light came on.

    There are also times when I have not heard his voice and desperately wanted to. Those are the times of growth in faith - that is to believe and trust that God is still sovereign even when we can't see him, hear him or sense him. It is still believing that he will keep his promises even though it looks like he has deserted us.

    I love stories, and sometimes I even love recalling mine.
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    Right in my Heart

    Tuesday, October 16, 2007, 7:38 PM [General]

    In one of the threads, someone suggested that I am doing what I feel in my heart is right as well as I can.


    Am I? Really?


    It was nice of the poster to think so, and certainly nice to ‘hear’. A very encouraging poster, indeed.


    As I reflected on those words, I really wondered if I am doing what I think is right.


    In spite of doing what I feel is right in my heart, every decision I make lately has been disastrous and/or expensive (not just monetarily).


    Yes, I want to do what is right. But if I am living so ‘right’ then why has my life been so disastrous these last few years? Is there some lesson I’m oblivious to?


    I guess doing what I think and feel are right doesn’t necessarily mean that it is right. What would feel more right than what I am doing right now? Social work is the right occupation for me, but am I getting the education in the right place? If I were, wouldn’t I be in a place yet? Maybe pursuing social work is right, but I am in the wrong place.


    I have heard it said that it is we who get into trials and troubles based on our own choices and actions, and nothing by simple circumstance, or worse yet, by God’s intervention. Did I create my own situation?


    Am I doing the right thing? I don’t know, but until I know for sure that it is the wrong thing, I will keep on doing it. Many thanks to the poster who gave me such a valuable nugget for my bag of gold.

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    Who Am I?

    Sunday, October 14, 2007, 7:13 PM [General]

    Ah, the fundamental question we must all answer if we are to come to a healthy understanding of our meaning in this life. Who am I?

    I love what Carlos said in Yalom's book "Love's Executioner." He said, "I am not my shoes." Too often when we consider our own identity, we see ourselves as others might see us - we define ourselves by our job, the genre of music we listen to, the style of clothes we wear - including our shoes - who our friends and sub-groups are, and the culture in which we live. These are all ways that others can identify us.

    But we are really the only ones who know our selves. Only we can answer the big Q. One lady had a very clear vision of her identity, and she is someone I would like to learn from. She said, "I am a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I happen to have a job as a dental hygienist." I do not know this woman, nor do I even know the book that quoted her, but I love what she said.

    So in my own answer to the big Q, I am using her description. I am a disciple of the Lord Jesus, and I am a student of social work and human relationships. My spiritual tendency is Evangelical Christianity, as I attempt to share the gospel of Christ with others in word and in deed. The most important things to me include my faith, a few very special people, a pet, and social justice. My values reflect those taught in the Bible, and I strive toward Christ-likeness, while recognizing my very human limitations.

    In class, we did an interesting exercise. We wrote our values on a sheet of paper, and one by one, we had to give them up, leaving us with only the one value we treasure the most. Mine is my faith. More than anything, I value my faith. I am a disciple of the Lord Jesus. Without that, I am no one.

    Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you.
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