Enlarge Your Future – Teaching

We’ve spoken in before on the importance of forgiveness. At the time, we brought up the topic of self-forgiveness. However, we didn’t really delve into the topic. I’d like to examine self-forgiveness today. Our quote reminds us that when we don’t forgive, especially ourselves, we limit ourselves and reduce our possibilities of living and loving fully.

Quote

Forgiveness doesn’t change the past,
but it does enlarge the future.
~Paul Boese

Thoughts

Recently I have had the opportunity to speak with various individuals, and to discuss some of the challenges they are facing. These challenges include drug addiction, alcohol addiction, self-doubt, anger, and a host of others.

In these discussions, one theme kept recurring – forgiveness. And, more specifically, in each and every case, there is a need for self-forgiveness.

Research

While researching the topic of self-forgiveness, I found a wonderful website: http://jamesjmessina.com/growingdowninnerchild/selfforgiveness.html by James J. Messina, Ph.D. and Constance G. Messina, Ph.D. I’ve pulled some of information from each of their sections, and I’d like to share it with you. For the complete information, I recommend visiting their website.

“What is forgiveness? Self-forgiving is:

  • Accepting yourself as a human who has faults and makes mistakes.
  • Letting go of self-anger for your past failures, errors, and mistakes.
  • The act of self-love after you have admitted your failure, mistake, or misdeed.
  • The spiritual self-healing of your heart by calming self-rejection, quieting the sense of failure, and lightening the burden of guilt.
  • The act of letting go of the need to work so hard to make up for your past offenses.

What negative consequences can occur in the absence of self-forgiveness?

  • Unresolved hurt, pain, and suffering from self-destructive behaviors.
  • Unresolved guilt and remorse for self-inflicted offenses.
  • Being caught up in unresolved self-anger, self-hatred and self-blaming.
  • Being overwhelmed by fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of non-approval, low self-esteem, and low self-worth.

What are some signs of the absence of self-forgiveness? Lack of self-forgiveness can result in:

  • A loss of love for yourself.
  • Indifference toward yourself and your needs.
  • An emotional vacuum in which little or no emotions are shown or shared.
  • Chronic attacks or angry outbursts against self.
  • Disrespectful treatment of self.
  • Chronic depression.
  • Chronic hostility, sarcasm, and cynicism.

What irrational beliefs keep you from reaching self-forgiveness?

  • I am sick over what I did; how can I ever forgive myself?
  • I must be inherently evil, and I am despicable. No forgiveness will ever change that.
  • There are some things I can never forgive myself for.
  • I do not deserve any self-kindness, self-compassion, or self-forgiveness for what I have done to myself or others; I’ll see to it that I am never able to forget it!
  • I resent myself for hurting myself or others. It is better for me to be hidden behind my wall so I don’t hurt anybody again.
  • If I could treat myself or others that way, then I am undeserving of being forgiven, loved, or cared for.

What new behavior can be developed in order to forgive yourself? In order to forgive yourself you need to practice:

  • Letting go of past hurt and pain.
  • Trusting in your goodness.
  • Letting go of fears for the future.
  • Overlooking slight relapses or steps backward and getting back on the wagon of recovery immediately.
  • Developing a personal spirituality.
  • Developing trust in yourself.
  • Open, honest, and assertive communication with yourself concerning hurts, pains, and offenses experienced.

What steps can be taken to develop self-forgiveness?

Step 1: In order to increase your ability to forgive yourself, you need to recognize what this behavior involves. Answer the following questions in your journal.

  • What do you mean by “self-forgiveness”?
  • Have you ever forgiven yourself before? How did it feel?
  • What beliefs block your ability to forgive yourself? What would be necessary to change these beliefs?
  • What new behaviors do you need to develop in order to increase your ability to forgive yourself?
  • What role does the existence of spirituality play in your ability to forgive yourself? The lack of it?
  • For what do you need to forgive yourself?

Step 2:  Now that you have a better picture of what is involved in self forgiveness, you are ready to work on a specific past failure, mistake, error, or misdeed.

  • List a failure, mistake, error, misdeed, or event for which you are unable to forgive yourself.
  • What feelings come to mind as you recall this past hurt?
  • What did this event do to your self-esteem and self-worth?
  • How can you forgive yourself?

Step 3: Once you have thought out how to forgive yourself for this past mistake, failure, error, or event, use this self-forgiveness mirror work script. For the next thirty days let go of your self-anger, self-blaming, self-hatred, self-disgust, and self-pity over this specific past event by spending time in front of a mirror using this script. Self-Forgiveness Mirror Script:

  • I forgive you for (the past event).
  • You are a human being subject to making mistakes and errors.
  • You do not need to be perfect in order for me to love you.
  • You are a good person. I love you.
  • You deserve my understanding, compassion, and forgiveness.
  • You deserve to come out from behind the wall you have built around yourself as a result of this (past event).
  • I love seeing you, talking to you, and listening to you.
  • You no longer need to condemn yourself for this (past event).
  • You are forgiven. I love you and I am so happy to have you in my life.
  • I forgive you because you deserve to be forgiven. No one needs to hold onto such a burden for so long.
  • You deserve a better life than you have been giving yourself.

Step 4: Once you have forgiven yourself fully over the past incident, repeat Step 3 addressing one at a time all the past or present incidents of hurting self or others for which you need to forgive yourself.

Step 5: When you have exhausted your list of incidents for which you need self-forgiveness, you will be on the road to self-recovery. If you have problems in the future, return to Step 1 and begin again.”

Scripture

Mark 11:25 says, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him…” This includes ourselves! If we have anything against ourselves, we must forgive ourselves.

I Corinthians 13:4 says, “Love is patient, love is kind…” In order to be complete and whole, you must develop a healthy love of ourselves. So, we must be patient with ourselves, and we must be kind to ourselves.

Ephesians 4:31 & 32 says, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving…” and Colossians 3:8 says, “…put off all of these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language…” This applies to ourselves, as well! We must let go of the bitterness and anger we feel toward ourselves. We must speak kindly and gently to ourselves. And we need to stop saying evil things to and about ourselves.

Closing Thoughts

We are all human. We’ve all made mistakes. As we’ve discussed before, forgiveness has a direct impact in our health, and it allows us to live life centered around love. In order to live life fully, and to love completely, we must also learn to love and to forgive ourselves.

If you struggle with issues around self-forgiveness, I urge you to pray and meditate on the Scriptures, as well as the situation; visit the Messina’s website; and follow the steps as they are fully outlined.

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Storms of Life – Teaching

Quote

The storms of life no more indicate the absence of God,
than clouds indicate the absence of the sun.
~John Blanchard

Thoughts

Even on the darkest days, when the skies are filled with nothing but black and gray clouds, and the sun is completely blotted out, has the sun ceased to exist? No, of course not.

So it is with God. We have all faced challenges – storms of life. We may be going through a storm right now. And, we will most assuredly face storms in the future.

When we are in the midst of these storms it’s easy to feel as if God has abandoned us. We feel alone, scared, anxious, depressed, and a whole host of other feelings. It often seems as if God isn’t there. And if He is there – he must not care very much. Worse yet, we may even begin to wonder if God even exists.

It is during these times it’s important to ally ourselves with friends, family, and fellow believers. That, to me, is precisely why we come together each week.

Yes, we come together for worship. But, even more than that, we come together for fellowship.

Michelangelo said, “My soul can find no staircase to heaven unless it be through earth’s loveliness.” We don’t have to have the four walls and a roof, or a place we call “church” to worship. We can worship God while sitting alone, under a tree, and enjoying His beauty and grandeur all around us.

We choose to come together to build the relationships with others; to share our God-experience with one another. And, it is these relationships, these friends, to whom we can turn when we’re experiencing the storms of life. These cherished friends are there for support, to lend a shoulder and an ear, and to remind us we are not alone.

As we discussed before, God is Love. God and Jesus are One. Christ is in us. God’s love is made manifest through our relationships with one another. Jesus is alive and with us when we take Him into our hearts, and when we share His love with each other. And, as long as we carry Him in our hearts, we are never truly alone.

Thinking on this, I am reminded of the writing by Mary Stevenson titled, “Footprints in the Sand”:

“One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints. Other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life when I was suffering anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord, “You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there have only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you.”

Keeping this in mind, and reaching out in fellowship with each other, can bring us much comfort during the storms. I believe God and Christ bring us together for just this purpose. Our fellowship allows us to live and love as Jesus did – and to carry each other during the low periods of our lives.

In my own life there have been numerous storms – loss of job, my granddaughter’s death (4 years ago today), loss of parents and siblings, homelessness, overcoming addiction, and even an adverted suicide attempt. Each and every time, through the Spirit of His love, exactly the right people have come into my life at exactly the right moment. During those times, there truly were only one set of footprints in the sand.

Scripture, too, can be a source of strength. Joshua 1:9 tells us, “…do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you where ever you go.” Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” And in Hebrews 13:5 we are reminded of Jesus’ words, “…I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Closing Thoughts

We will have troubles and struggles – storms of life. Living a human existence means that they are unavoidable. We will experience loss – our bodies will not live forever. We will experience difficulties such as joblessness, homelessness, troubled relationships, addiction, etc. Employers make decisions, we may not always make the best choices, and, sometimes, bad things just happen. But, this does not indicate God is absent. In fact, it is during these times that God is made even more evident. God is always there…His spirit, His love, and His light is working in, around, and through us.

God has provided us with the opportunity to come together in fellowship and to build relationships. When we turn to one another in fellowship, we share His love with one another, we support one another, we care for one another – and we are truly not alone.

Scripture

  • Joshua 1:9
  • Isaiah 41:10
  • Hebrews 13:5

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Dreams & Anguish – Teaching

Quote

Ideologies separate us.
Dreams and anguish bring us together.
            ~Eugene Ianesco, Criminal Minds Episode

Thoughts

Ideology Defined

What is an ideology? An ideology is:

  1. The body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture.
  2. A set of doctrines or beliefs that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system.

As our society has evolved, we’ve created an almost limitless list of ideologies.

Politics

In the political arena we have parties – Democrat, Green, Libertarian, Peace and Freedom, and Republican – just to name a few. Within each of these we find new ways of identifying ourselves – left, right, centrist, liberal, conservative, etc. And we tend to take these even further; for example, social liberal and fiscal conservative. Then, of course, there are core beliefs such as Communism, Capitalism, Socialism, Fascism, Marxism, and a whole host of other -isms.

While each of these ideologies have specific doctrines or beliefs to which we find ourselves drawn, they do tend to separate us. Just watch the television ads, or read internet blog postings as we near an election cycle. Listening to candidates and other already-elected officials, one begins to wonder how they can get anything accomplished. Comments from the general public also demonstrate just how separate we can be. The amount of hate-filled, vitriolic statements is staggering. One has to wonder what ever happened to polite disagreement and discourse; treating each other with respect. It seems we’ve gotten to the point where disagreement is viewed as a personal attack; and in return, the other side attacks back, with a vengeance.

Religion

Politics, by no means, has a monopoly on creating separation. Religion, too, has a profound way of separating us. In fact, religious beliefs tend to greatly influence one’s political alignments. Within all major religions there are those that identify as Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Literalist, Progressive, Modern, and Moderate. Differing points of view are frequently expressed with just as much venom as political views, sometimes even more so.

More violence has been committed, and more wars have been fought, over religion than any other cause. Think of the Reformation, the Crusades, the battles in the Middle East. Within the Shiite and Sunni sects of the Muslim religion, each is quite willing to kill the other. And, in the West, our Christian factions are just as venomous.

While they generally don’t go so far as killing those who don’t agree with them (although it has happened), they get just as entrenched in their ideology – “our way is the only way, and if you don’t believe like us, you’re not a true believer.”

Maybe because of the media attention, we tend to think of acts of violence being committed by religious extremists. However, the truth is that violence isn’t only committed by the “Religious Fundamentalists.” As an example, here in Grants Pass, our Christian bookstore has been vandalized; and even had animal blood smeared on its doors and windows.

Dreams and Anguish

Even when separated by our ideologies, there are times when we can put them aside and come together. Unfortunately, this most commonly occurs in times of anguish.

When my son returned from one of his deployments in Iraq, he told me about one of his experiences. He had been sent to work in a detainee camp. The detainees were separated into three groups based on their affiliation to one of the three factions within the Muslim faith. They literally hated each other, and would attach and kill each other for no reason other than their religious differences. However, they did have a common dream – freedom. So, they would come together for one purpose – to attack or kill our troops. The only thing they hated more than each other was “us.” Taking the stance “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” the anguish of being detained, and the dream of freedom, united them in a common goal.

Unification and setting aside of differences is also seen when disasters strike. The hurricanes in the south, the tsunami in Japan, the earthquake in Haiti, etc. all brought people together for a common goal. No one worried about who was Christian, Muslim, Hindu, male, female, straight, gay, fundamentalist, progressive, democrat, or republican. There was only one goal – Rescue, Retrieve, and Rebuild.

Through these types of humanitarian efforts we have proven that it is possible to set aside our ideological differences for the common good. The question becomes, “why does it take a disaster to bring us together?”

A Place to Start

It seems that most of the nastiness, and even violence, stems from an attitude of “if you’re not with me, you’re against me.” Put another way, if you don’t think like me, look like me, love like me, or believe like me, you’re my enemy.

For Christians, there are three Scriptures that would seem to validate this position. The three seem to be similar. However, upon close examination we can see just how different they are.

The Scriptures are:

  • Mark 9:40 – “For he who is not against us is for us.”
  • Matthew 12:30 – “He who is not with Me is against Me.”
  • Luke 9:50 – “…he who is not against us is on our side…”

Mark, the earliest Gospel writer, seems to have the original version of the statement. Mark seems to be saying that anyone who is not actively and negatively against us can be an ally. Matthew changes the meaning into the exact opposite – you must be like me. It’s an “only my way” attitude. Luke goes back to a more Marcan version – an agreement to peaceably work together, live together, and support each other does not depend on unanimity.

Two of the three writers appear to be open to divergence of thought and belief; while only Matthew seems to say ‘either agree with me or you’re my enemy’. Unfortunately, Matthew’s version is the one under which most people, especially Christians, tend to operate. However, Matthew’s view only succeeds in creating barriers.

Are these three Scriptures generally relating to alliances between Christians and non-Christians in their time? Yes. But I believe we can look close and see an even deeper meaning. We can, and we should, apply the principles to all aspects of our lives. I would submit that a place to start in bringing us together, regardless of how we look, who we love, or how we believe, would be to adopt a more Marcan view of Jesus’ words and apply it to all aspects of our lives. In order to fully embrace God, and to live the God-experience, we must embrace and support those who are different.

We must be free to experience God’s love in that way which is right and perfect for us; and we must respect the rights of others to do the same.

Closing Thoughts

Do our ideologies separate us? Yes. But only if we allow them to. Do dreams and anguish bring us together? Yes. But it shouldn’t only be when a disaster strikes. We have the ability to see the good in everyone. We have the ability to see beyond where we’re different, to celebrate those differences, and to find common ground in which to come together. What if our dream was to create a society, indeed a world, in which everyone is respected and honored as a creation of God? What if our dream was to live our lives fully and lovingly, and allowing others to do the same? It’s a choice – and it’s a choice we must begin to make. We must have the courage to Dare to Dream – and to work together to see the dream fulfilled.

Scripture

  • Mark 9:40
  • Matthew 12:30
  • Luke 9:50

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An Abundant Life – Teaching

Quote

Life is short. For many, it ends all too soon. During our brief time in this human existence we should do all we can to enjoy life to the utmost. In a book by Patrick Dennis (also made into a play and 2 movies), Auntie Mame exclaims:

“Life is a smorgasbord and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

Thoughts

I’ve always loved this quote. It reminds me that there is so much to life – so many options from which to choose. Many of us simply don’t. We get “comfortable” with our routines, and we simply let life get in the way of living.

This is true of our spiritual lives as well. There is a smorgasbord of spiritual paths from which to choose – Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. And, within these, there are even more choices.

For instance, there are Shia and Sunni Muslims. Within the Christian religion there are Baptist, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Unity, Latter Day Saints, Church of Christ, etc. And, there are Amish, Quaker, Mennonite; the list goes on and on. There are also many non-denominational and inter-denominational churches.

Each of us is drawn to the path that resonates with us. And, sometimes, we might change or try a different path for a while. Whichever path is chosen, it’s the right and perfect path at that moment in our lives. It is that place where our spiritual needs are met.

Personally, I have chosen the Christian path. I don’t identify with any particular denomination. But, I do believe in God – the Source of all Being. And, I believe that Jesus was so filled with God that He truly is the Son of God.

Abundance

When I think of a smorgasbord, not only do I think of choices, I think of abundance. When you go to a smorgasbord you can literally eat as much as you wish. Abundance literally means overflowing and present in great quantity.

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) God is in Christ (John 10:30 – I and the Father are One). Jesus is the embodiment of God. Since God is Love (1 John 4:16) – Jesus is love. When Paul says, “Christ lives in me…” (Galatians 2:20), he is saying that he is filled with God and with Jesus. He is filled with love.

When we make love the focal point of our lives – when we approach every situation, every person, with an attitude of love, we are embracing God and Jesus within ourselves. Our lives will be abundant – overflowing with God’s love. This, I believe, is what Jesus meant when he promised us an abundant life.

Closing Thoughts

Life should be enjoyed. It is through living an abundant life that we can truly change the world. The only way that can happen is to live and love fully – as Christ lived and loved fully. Jesus is our doorway. When, like Paul, Christ is in us, God is in us. We then must also see God in each other.

We must move past race, politics, religion, economic status, male, female, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender; we must truly value, respect, and love everyone. This is how, as Christians, we live the abundant life that Jesus has promised.

Last night, our Final Friday Reflective Cinema movie was The Grace Card. The theme of the movie came down to just a few lines on a card –

I promise to pray for you every day, ask your forgiveness, grant you the same, and be your friend always.

Honoring these words, fully, each and every day, in each and every interaction and relationship, is where we can start. And, in sharing these words with others, we may help them to live abundantly as well. We will truly be worshipping and honoring God when we can live our lives abundantly, with God and Jesus in our hearts, and helping others to do the same.

Scripture

  • John 10:10
  • John 10:30
  • 1 John 4:16
  • Galatians 2:20

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