Tag Archives: Faith

Forgiveness

I recently blogged about the possibility of forgiveness as an event. As it happens, I’ve also come across notes that I wrote on this subject a couple of years ago. Here they are with only minor edits for readability.

Forgiveness is something that I’ve struggled with quite a bit as an adult. I’m generally an easy going guy, so many offenses roll off of me. It takes a lot to get me angry, but when I get really get angry it can take years to push through. If I were to run into a particular former boss, or an ex-girlfriend I probably wouldn’t come across as easy going. There are a couple of things that are helpful for me to keep in mind though. I do have to remind myself of these things.

First, I’m the one that’s negatively affected by my holding on to the offense. Lack of forgiveness is how people end up becoming bitter & hard hearted. That boss I mentioned laid me off 12 years ago, even if he still remembers there’s no way he’s as upset by it today as I am. I’m the loser here, by holding on to something in the past I’m limiting what I can see right now. Put another way, I’m the greatest benefactor when I forgive.

Second, forgiveness does not mean forgetting. Forgiveness is for my own benefit, to free myself from the animosity of harboring anger towards another. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the other person. I can choose to remain friends with the other person or not, independently of the choice to forgive. If I choose to break the relationship, it doesn’t mean I haven’t forgiven them. I have forgiven the ex-girlfriend, but I will not give her another opportunity to hurt me. A really powerful example of this for me is punishment for crimes. Forgiving someone for committing a crime doesn’t mean that they don’t get punishment. If everyone involved, victim, attorneys, judge & jury each forgave them, it would still be appropriate and just for them to receive and serve out a sentence. We don’t forget the crime, but forgiveness releases us from it controlling our thoughts.

Third, forgiveness isn’t an event, it’s more of a process that may need to be repeated. I forgive, gain a sense of peace, then days or weeks later (sometimes years later) I’m somehow reminded of it and my temper flares like it just happened… I have to forgive again, from start to finish all over again. I’ve forgiven both the boss and the girlfriend dozens of times, and yet writing this I’m reminded of the injustice and need to do it again.

My first three points are anecdotal. My fourth & final point is that its part of God’s plan. In Matt 6:14-15 Jesus says that we’ll be forgiven as much as we forgive others, and if we don’t forgive then we won’t be forgiven. Paul exhorts the Colossians to “bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances…” in 3:13. Knowing this, its reasonable to believe that God will help us with forgiveness. In fact I think this is part of His plan, for us to work together in community and learn forgiveness against one another while leaning on Him. I see this as somewhat like exercise, the more we forgive the easier it gets to let go of offenses.

The notable exception to all of this is forgiving God Himself. That’s a category unto its own and I’m probably no help there. I do believe that its appropriate to pray through your relationship with God at all times, even in anger. Forgiving God for perceived offenses is pretty tough. I’ve only dealt with it once and honestly don’t know how I got through it.

If you’re interested in reading about this, try The Art of Forgiving by Lewis B. Smedes. This is his 2nd book on the subject and it really helped me during the summer after a particularly difficult layoff. Pay attention to which book you get though, Smedes first book on forgiveness (called Forgive and Forget) was terrible. I didn’t connect with it at all.

I think my third point above (repeatedly forgiving the same offense) needs more exploration. Sometime soon I’ll tie this together with my previous note and reach a conclusion. This is something that I’ve considered for years, so hopefully I’ll be able to do that soon.

Turn Around

Last week I read something that has challenged my thinking. I have had a pamphlet called How to be Free From Bitterness for at least 15 years. A friend called me last week, we were talking about forgiveness so I decided to review this to see if it would be worth sharing. The entire pamphlet is awesome. It covers general forgiveness, relationships with parents, controlling your tongue, and more. I definitely recommend it if you’re struggling with forgiveness. One aspect of it has stuck with me.

Several times through the material, the author (Jim Wilson) encourages the reader to confess their behavior and/or attitude, then forsake the pattern. He paints this as an event. You have confessed and forsaken that, now you’re done with it.

My life is so much more complicated than that. Which strikes me as very lame.

I wouldn’t characterize myself as a bitter person (but, really, who would say that about himself?). I do gripe about day in & day out annoyances. I do get frustrated with the people that I’m close to. I don’t carry grudges and I do strive to keep short accounts with people. Having said that, there are a couple of long standing grievances that I haven’t shaken in years. I don’t mean that I haven’t forgiven (I have). Quite the opposite. I forgive. Something reminds me of the injustice, so I forgive again. Years later they repeat the behavior, so I forgive again.

I have spoken to the parties involved. I have prayed. I have read books. I have forgiven. Then something will trigger this and I start the process over. This has been going on for years. Now, sometimes I bring it up and sometimes I don’t.┬áThis has definitely had an impact on those specific relationships. It’s probably fair to say that this has colored my view of relationships in general.

Wilson invites the reader to a clean slate. Confess then forsake and be free. Turn around and take a new path. I want that.

So the question that I’m wrestling with is, have I allowed my life to become too complicated to recognize freedom that’s available to me?

Over Now

After leaving my last company, I still had the chore of collecting my last paycheck. The management team is notorious for creativity in non-payment, so it wasn’t easy. I finally started contacting attorneys and preparing for a lawsuit.

The process of a trial is unbelievably draining. I avoid conflict by nature anyway, so arguing in front of a judge does not sound like fun to me. My anxiety level has been pretty high over the past few weeks as I prepared.

Once I was certain that I had a case, I sent the management team a letter with a proposed payment plan and gave them two weeks to reply. It only took them one day. The CEO wrote a brusque reply saying that I would be paid immediately, chastised me for threatening legal action and reminded me that I was never an employee.

I have to admit, I was pretty tempted to post my letter and his reply here. I think most of my readers would get a kick out of it. I finally realized that the only thing in his entire note that matters to me is the fact that I’m getting paid. I’m glad that this is over.

For a complete twist of events, my new boss got me a sweet birthday present! Not only does he pay me on time, there’s an unexpected gift! This came on the tails of the terse exchange mentioned above, so the fact that he wanted to give me anything at all floored me. But, its not just any gift, he did some research and got me something he new I’d like.

God is good. I’ve been praying about my job and paychecks for literally over a year. The intensity of my prayers has increased over the past month while preparing for a legal battle. He answers by giving me a job, paying me in full and giving me gifts.

Next time you catch me having little faith, send me a link to this post. Seriously.

Waiting

Tonight I went to one of the most meaningful & creative worship services that I’ve attended in a long time. Mosaic hosted an advent service titled alt.worship, and it really was fantastic.

The main theme was waiting, and that’s exactly what we did. We had to wait to go the section of the building which Mosaic inhabits, then we sat in a waiting area until we were called to go into the sanctuary, and then we had to wait for the message. The waiting, in fact, WAS the message. Some music was played over the P.A. and we were shown several quotes, images and passages while we waited, all kept in the theme of waiting. We were then invited to visit several multimedia tables with thoughtful and inspiring prayers and passages, which we had to wait in line to see. And finally, for communion we had to wait to be seated at table draped with a tablecloth and set for a full meal, and were served the bread and wine.

And, right on par with everything that I know to be true of Mosaic, the art was great. The images that we were shown were compelling and conveyed their message of waiting. The music was engaging without being distracting. The passages and readings that they had for us were interesting and concise.

I can promise you that I’m not doing a very good job of explaining all of this. The entire service was SO creative and inspiring. The one thing which I appreciated most about it, was that there was no explanation, no defense of the message, no point of application to take from it. You took from it the experience of waiting, and were encouraged to think though what that means in the context of your relationship to God. The pastors put a lot of thought and energy into creating a quality service, and then left it to the Holy Spirit to speak to you through it. Brilliant.

Ricochet

A crazy bad thing happened on Saturday evening. I was invited out to a ranch near Lampassas for a Texas style 4th celebration with BBQ, beer and fireworks. When we got there, I got excited because there were some targets set up and people were shooting guns as well.

I was a little bit anxious, being around people that I didn’t know and shooting guns. I’m usually not nervous around guns, we had them around the house all through my childhood, and I have been hunting several times. When I was a teen it was common for friends and I to set up some type of wooden target and then blow it to smithereens.

By coincidence a friend and coworker was there also, so we visited for a few minutes and he introduced me to the others. I stood back and kind of took the scene in while going through a little mental checklist about shooting. And as I was standing there, several alarming things occured to me. I wasn’t putting the pieces together very quickly, but over time I was becoming increasingly alarmed.

Someone offered me a gun, but I wasn’t comfortable with the scene yet, so I decided to go to the cabin and spend some time at the BBQ pit until I started to understand my sense of alarm. I had only taken a few steps in that direction when I turned to look back, and my friend/coworker was walking behind me. He was really pale, and had blood on his shirt.

Several people came around to help get him in the cabin. It turns out that a fragment of a bullet had ricoched off of one of the targets, and struck him in the chest, just below the collar bone. Fortunately he was alert and in good spirits. He was talking and joking with everyone, and kept asserting that he wasn’t in much pain, but felt nauseous. After a few minutes of deliberating about whether to drive him into a hospital, or call an ambulance (we were pretty far out in the country), we decided to call 911.

At this point I was becoming really freaked out. I stepped outside with some friends to pray. I don’t remember what we prayed, but I know that it was more a sense of urgency than anything else.

Once the paramedics arrived, it only took them a few minutes to determine that he had been seriously injurred, and they decided to call for a life-flight helicopter. He was flown to a hospital in Austin for emergency treatment.

After leaving the BBQ I came back into Austin and went to the emergency room and found his fiance. She told me that he was already in surgery, but doctors were optimistic. It was after midnight at this point, so I went home and tried to sleep. She called me again the next morning to tell me that he was out, healthy, alert, and recovering.

This is the most tangible evidence of a living God that I can ever remember seeing. It is literally a miracle that he is alive today. The doctors found that the fragment knicked one of his arteries, and came to a stop just before entering his lung. Amazingly he developed a blood clot on the artery, which kept his internal bleeding to a minimum.

Taking all in all of this evidence, there is no logical reason for him to still be alive. We witnessed a miracle on Saturday night, by all accounts he should have died right there. I sang with all my heart yesterday morning in church and it didn’t feel like enough.

Pottymouth

A couple of weeks ago I posted in a comment that I think that cussing is funny. Since then I have intended to post my thoughts on why foul language is funny, and doesn’t have to be offensive. But I can’t.

The truth is that I crack up at foul language all the time, its just funny to me. Not calling people bad names or swearing at them (unless its in jest), but using cuss words to express strong emotions or to add emphasis to a statement. Even as a kid I thought it was hilarious. My parents can tell you some stories.

For instance: a couple of years ago a friend and co-worker started catching himself cussing at meetings and with clients without realizing that he was doing it, so he decided that it needed to stop. We talked about it and he decided to put a swear jar in his cube. The intent was that every time he said a foul word he’d put some money into the jar. This went on for about a week before he got angry with the process. So, instead of putting money in the jar he would hold the jar up to his face and swear “into” the jar.

This CRACKED ME UP! I couldn’t help it. I’d be working in my cube and hear this muffled “f#@^ $i#* @&^ report!” and I’d just loose it. I couldn’t quite make out what he was saying, but the image of him holding a jar up to his face and letting it rip still cracks me up. I could tell dozens of other stories, but you get the point.

I recognize that this isn’t one of my more impressive traits, and I appreciate it when people call me out. Left to my own devices, I’d gladly wallow in my own crapulence (no, that’s not a bad word, look it up). Last night I was playing cards with some friends and I caught myself a couple of times. I could tell that it made one person uncomfortable, and I was convicted.

Here’s what scripture has to say on the subject:

Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Proverbs 4:24

But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
Colossians 3:8

Um, but…
when…
Its not that…

Dang. I can’t get around that. There’s no room for an ambiguous interpretation.

Swearmart (KLH gets the credit for that word) is now closed. But, I’ll say this. If you want to help me then call me out when you hear me swear. And if you want to make me laugh…

Reading: about 42 different textbooks plus Ender’s Game.

Listening: Dave Matthews Band and Jimi Hendrix. If I ever write another song, its going to be just like “If 6 was 9”.

I Don’t Trust God

I am a christian, which is to say that I trust Christ as my savior. And yet, over the past several months I have not been living for him. I am saved by grace and fueled by egocentrism. What a mess!

I do not mean that I am necessarily pursuing things that are not of Christ. I’m sure that if an outsider were to observe my life, that I might appear quite holy. I attend church regularly, I am part of a bible study group, I read scripture regularly, I participate in a Christian community, and I pray.

What I mean is that Christ has not been the central focus of my life. While I do all of the things listed above, I do them at my convenience, not as part of a disciplined lifestyle. When I don’t feel like attending church, I skip. When I’m too tired to pray, I don’t. When scripture doesn’t hold my attention, I put my bible down. And probably more serious, I haven’t prayed about many of the large decisions in my life. The result is that I am no longer passionate about most of what I’m doing, I’m just going through the motions.

This shift wasn’t immediate. It has been a gradual change over a period of years. I guess the lesson for me in this is that my feelings follow my actions. Much as with any relationship, if I want to be excited about my time with the Lord, then I need to invest myself. And if I passively attend church or read the bible, then I won’t get much from it.

I need to turn this around. In spite of my lack of faith, I do believe that God cares about the details of my life, and I also believe that I’m the one that pays the price when I let this slip.

I find encouragement in scripture. Abraham is noted as a man of faith (Heb 11:8-17), and yet he didn’t trust that God could provide a child through his wife Sarah, so he had his first son through her maidservant (Gen 16). Also, David, though he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed (2 Sam 11), is called a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).

I don’t take from these passages that I’m going to end up being a spiritual giant, or necessarily be remembered for my faith. But rather, if these great men can slip and still be considered valuable in the eyes of God, then that’s great news for you & me!

So, I have a plan. I’m reading scripture on a regular basis, I’m keeping a prayer journal, and I am starting to be intentional about discussing my spiritual condition with those that are close to me. This is one of my goals for 2005, to get my spiritual life back on track.