Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Forgiveness doesn't erase the past but releases your future!

Why forgive when someone has hurt you intentionally and shows no sign of remorse? Does forgiving someone mean that your past hurt is erased and the issues are resolved? Is forgiveness an easy ‘thing’ to do? What happens when I choose not to forgive? Does the inner angst, hurt, anger and even hatred slowly disappear? The reality is that bad unresolved issues of your past will continue to haunt you and pull your life down.

Forgiveness is impossible to do without first having experienced forgiveness and grace! The oft quoted ‘to err is human and to forgive is divine’ is so true. My natural inclination isn’t to forgive but to seek revenge or just out right explosion of anger and hatred. I’ve recently had a couple of friends who have lost loved ones to unfortunate gang violence where the innocent bystander who is the ‘good guy’ just happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

I know that the outcome of the Dylan Roof intentional massacre of the nine during a Bible Study at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston shocked everyone. I listened to the verbal expression of forgiveness of the family members of the nine that were murdered. Their forgiveness didn’t excuse nor minimalize the heinousness of the crime but ultimately showed their relationship with God that gave them the power to forgive. The end result isn’t that their loved ones are brought back but they can experience a peace that frees them to live without being consumed by anger and hatred.

The power of forgiveness is difficult to describe unless you have personally experienced it. I listened to a young teen express their heart ache over a ‘bio dad’ that had continually hurt their mother and them. The ‘bio dad’s’ hope was to see his teen respond when he said ‘I love you’. The difficulty is that this teen couldn’t bring themselves to say something that they didn’t mean. We talked about the fundamentals of forgiveness. Why forgive someone who is truly evil and has caused real harm and damage?

The difficulty is that everything inside you wants to scream out WHY and it’s not fair. The hurt and damage has been done so why would anyone choose to forgive someone who is truly unrepentant? Yet, the damage that has been done in the past will just be multiplied by your unwillingness to forgive. The sad reality is that the anger, hatred and bitterness that are the byproduct of the evil that has been done to you end up controlling you. Yes, the more you think about and allow the past to impact your present life the hurt of this individual continues.

The most amazing experience in life is to come to grips with your own brokenness and hurt you have caused to others. I know as a young Christian I didn’t comprehend the hurt I had caused to God and my parents over my rebellious choices in life. As I learned by the example of friends that being able to verbalize my faults or sins helped me see my need for God’s forgiveness. The power of grace is incredible. Why would God forgive me when I don’t deserve any type of pardon? Why is it the case that God chooses to continue to forgive me when I haven’t learned my life lessons?

As I listened to this teen talk about their life experience I knew that forgiveness wasn’t necessarily what he wanted to see happen. Yet, amid the anger and pain of the past the teen could see that he/she had to decide. This decision would color the rest of their life! The ‘bio dad’  in prison clearly has the hope that when he is released he could reunite with his teen(s).

The power of forgiveness helps you or I let go of the past that has controlled us to be free to experience a life that can make a difference. The tragedy of not forgiving is that you might end up committing a similar type of offense as what happened to you because of the anger and bitterness that has grown up in your life. The impact on the individual who harmed you potentially is amazing. Your choice to show grace and mercy instead of hatred will ultimately touch this person’s life. The byproduct of you stepping out and taking a risk is that the cycle of hurt can stop.

I agree that forgiveness doesn’t guarantee my teen friend’s future with his dad. Yet, the power that forgiveness will play in this teen’s life is ‘priceless’!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Lesson from St. Valentine for our President.

I would be the first to admit that I hadn’t done any research on the history or legacy of Valentine’s Day. Upon doing a google search I discovered a couple of amazing facts about the legend of this amazing individual. Our president didn’t have a great day yesterday clearly having to defend himself against fake news, the resignation or firing of one of his key cabinet members, the withdrawal from another key nominee and his last-minute press meeting. Yes, the announcement of another candidate for Labor Secretary was great news seeing this was the first Hispanic nominee for his cabinet but most of the press conference was for self-defense.

Clearly St. Valentine, if history is correct, was an individual who was more concerned about others than his reputation or his life. How is it possible that POTUS ‘winged’ his last minute planned press conference, notice not meeting that lasted for more than an hour? It would appear after his long-winded defense of his smooth-running team that a little bit of honesty might bid better for himself than an ongoing attack of the press, fake news and avoiding the truth. St. Valentine was willing to stand up to the Roman Emperor of his day against an edict that young soldiers couldn’t get married. He was willing to put his life on the line for these soldiers who were called to put their lives on the line yet couldn’t marry. Imagine what could happen if POTUS were to have the same mindset and set aside ego, brand, business pursuits and serve the average American Citizen that does pay taxes instead of ‘hob nobbling’ with his billionaires he has selected for his cabinet?

I admit that I too struggle with the perception people have about me and at times can be at odds with a kid over some silly little tiff or battle that a day from now will seem foolish. Yet, St. Valentine’s example is one that would aide our POTUS when it comes to standing up against foreign leaders who clearly don’t have the best interest of the world or US in mind! The insecurity of most Jr. High Guys does come back to the size of their hands and stature in face of someone that has called them out. The opportunity for all of us is to stand up to the modern-day bully that could ultimately destroy our freedoms and democracy! The difficulty is that our POTUS is more concerned about crowd sizes and winning the popular vote than addressing the threat of a Russian Ship off our eastern border.

One of the great life lessons from St. Valentine is that he would be willing to give anyone a second, third or fourth opportunity to figure out the real meaning of mercy, grace and justice! He valued all life not just his own as he stood up to the injustice of the Emperor of his day. The ultimate sacrifice that the secret service, FBI, CIA or special ops agent could make one day for our recently elected president is significant. I’m commanded not suggested to pray for those in authority over our government regardless of my personal views. Yes, I need to have an attitude adjustment to see God protect, prosper and teach our leaders of today.

As I handed out Valentine Candy this week it struck me how one of my grandmas, who is an immigrant and citizen, spends her day teaching English while playing Bingo with some friends!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Open Your Eye!

I live in the land of incredible sunrises and sunsets. Yet, too often my head is stuck in my iPhone either responding to a text or just looking at social media. I’ve grown accustomed to having my wife always ream me for not looking up instead of being focused on the path or ground around me. It’s tragic that most spend their lives with their head buried in the sand missing out on real life!

Yes, I can actually remember life before PC’s, Mac’s or smart phones. I spent most of my college and grad days typing on this ancient Smith Corona Typewriter. Relationships were based upon actual conversation instead of this text or messaging world that dominates. I was taken back that one of my more intelligent teen gals actually had a long-distance relationship with a guy that she had never met face to face. I couldn’t imagine how you could truly know this person and forget talking about being close to your BF or GF?

It’s always humbling for me to admit that I don’t have perfect eye sight, not bad but wearing by glasses especially at night means that I actually can read the various street signs instead of faking it or reading the signs as I pass them. Why would anyone not want to have great eye sight and be able to see the incredible sunsets or the Grand Canyon or my favorite place Yosemite and Half Dome?

It’s amazing what you can see when you open your eyes and put your iPhone in your pocket. I confess to the fact that it’s too easy to even drive with your phone stuck on your dash and still be distracted when driving.  I will never forget how my dad’s eye sight improved greatly after his cataract surgery. He made the comment that he could now actually read his newspaper instead of just looking at the pictures. Sadly. too often I have self-imposed cataracts that blind me from seeing the beauty of life because of my fixation with my phone looking at updates.

Maybe it’s time to put down the phone, turn off the radio, TV or video device and have an actual conversation with the one you love for the best Valentine gift possible!!