Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Learning to Forgive

Learning to forgive is one of the most important things you can do to improve your own mental, physical and spiritual health. Holding a grudge hurts us. There is medical evidence that resentment and bitterness harm us physically, emotionally and spiritually. When we hold onto resentment we close our heart not just to the person who hurt us but we close our heart a little to everyone. 
When we forgive we turn our pain into growth, both psychological and spiritual.  Forgiveness requires us to stop judging others and to realize that we each hurt each other. We cannot make the other person learn something. We can’t make them express remorse. No matter what the other person does, it is up to us to forgive. Holding onto our pain blocks our healing. 

Forgiveness is a process and it takes time. We may need to talk over our anger and pain with someone else or write about our thoughts and feelings before we can forgive. When we don't forgive we are imprisoned by the past. Not forgiving leaves us under another's control.  We are controlled by the other person's behavior and locked in a repetitive response of rage and revenge. The present is consumed by the past. Forgiveness frees the forgiver.

Some of the steps to forgiveness are:    
1. Admit to yourself that you are hanging on to resentments. Recognize that no one can take these resentments away except you. You cannot do this by denying they exist, but rather by facing them.

2. Allow yourself to remember in specific detail the times you were hurt or wronged. Notice the anger and blame that smolders in your resentment. In order to forgive the mistakes or "sins" of others we must first admit to ourselves how much they hurt us or disappointed us. This is a painful process.
3.Write about It or tell a counselor or pastor. Counseling may be necessary if your resentments won’t budge. Gradually open up with more and more honestly as you delve further into your story.

4. Look for the good in yourself and in those who hurt you. Make a list of the good traits.  Watch the other person and yourself and note small loving or admirable moments. You may also recall some happy times with that person. Pay attention to what caused him/her to be hurtful. This is not to excuse the person but so you can understand him/her.

5. Ask God to help you forgive. Forgiveness is a letting go process. It takes time. Forgiveness requires tenderness and love. Remember how much Christ suffered to forgive you. The book Forgiveness: Following Jesus into Radical Loving by Paula Husted will help you learn radical forgiveness.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

Blessings, Dottie

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Meek Will Inherit the Earth!

Matthew 5:5  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:5 God blesses those who are gentle and lowly, for the whole earth will belong to them. NLT

I want to be gentle – it sounds so kind and loving. But do I want to be lowly or meek? These qualities are not considered desirable by our culture. Is meek the same as weak? No, it is not. So what is meekness? “Showing mildness or quietness of nature” says my on line dictionary. Here are two quotes from Lloyd Ogilvie who defines meekness in reference to this scripture.

“Gentleness [meekness] is neither recklessness nor cowardice, neither brashness nor lack of boldness. It is the perfectly timed, appropriately expressed, consistently reliable quality of those who do not go off in all directions but are under the guiding control of truth.”

“The inner sign of meekness is profound quietness that waits on God. The outer manifestation is freedom from destructive anger and debilitating wrath.”

Studying this makes me realize there is quiet strength in meekness.

The Meek Will Inherit the Earth!
Meekness and humility don’t come naturally. Teach me to be gentle and humble. Teach me not to think too highly of myself. I’m a work in progress in all of this. I know when I listen to you I am much more at peace. I pray for “the profound silence that waits on God” and that I will be “under the guiding control of truth.” You are the way, the truth and the life. Those who wait on you will receive the blessings of the kingdom on earth. And we’re ready for that Kingdom to come! We’re your adopted sons and daughters - your heirs. What a promise!

Blessings, Dottie

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Best Books About Church - Part 4

This is my fourth post in a series on best books about church. The links for the others are below.

Extreme Church Makeover: A Biblical Plan to Help Your Church Achieve Unity and Freedom in Christ by Neil T. Anderson is an excellent book about how to achieve church unity. Anderson describes a biblical plan involving corporate repentance that will lead to freedom and unity in Christ. Anderson’s thoughts on spiritual warfare and overcoming historic baggage in a church, ring true to me as a clinical social worker and as a church member.

Anderson says “If the [church] leadership lacks an adequate theology of resolution, they either lower their standards and expectations or live in denial and continue to muddle along with business as usual. We have learned that Individual freedom must come to the leadership before organizational freedom can be accomplished. The church Body cannot rise above its leadership.” (pg12)

This dynamic book can help transform and unite church leadership and the church as a whole.

The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship that Actually Changes Lives by Peter Scazzero describes the ingredients for a church to be authentic and healthy. The book is in four sections - Discipleship’s Missing Link, Biblical Basis for a New Paradigm of Discipleship, Seven Principles of an Emotionally Healthy Church and Where Do We Go from Here? Scazzero presents a brilliant and needed strategy for life changing discipleship.

I have seen many churches copying each other, attempting to be like the well known mega-churches. So I especially liked this comment:

“It takes great maturity for a church to identify opportunities and to choose not to take advantage of them. Each church, like each small group, ministry, and individual, has God-given limits. How many services should we have on Sunday? What about a Saturday night service? Others are doing it successfully and growing. If we are two hundred people, why not become four hundred or eight hundred, or ten thousand? I always assumed continued numerical growth for every local church was God’s will. It is not.” Pg 141 

Christian leaders and laymen should read this book.

The Gospel as Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices, edited by D.A. Carson & Timothy Keller, features chapters by influential Christian leaders from a variety of denominations. Their purpose is to clarify, unify and strengthen the gospel message in the church today. Their hope is that this will stem the tide of cultural in roads into our faith and practice. It's an excellent resource book for concerned Christians.

“On this Rock I will build my church.” Matt.16:18
Blessings, Dottie 

See previous links to Best Books About Church:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Valuing Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is a special day celebrated in many Christian churches. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the beginning of the 40 weekdays before Easter. Lent is observed in many Christian churches as a period of prayer, fasting, confession, repentance, and self-denial. It echoes the 40 days in the wilderness Jesus spent fasting and overcoming temptation. It also assists Christians in focusing on Jesus resolute journey leading to his crucifixion and resurrection. We learn to identify with his unwavering obedience. We recognize the price he paid for us.

Our faith journey, described in Changing Churches, began in a United Methodist Church - a church that observes Ash Wednesday. Throughout our years there, Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of a solemn and holy time of reflection. While searching for a church in 2008 we attended an Ash Wednesday service at another Methodist Church. I noted in my journal:
We sang six verses of "Just as I Am" and "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood." The hymns, responsive readings, confession, and pastor's message, touched and filled us. We received ashes in the shape of the cross on our foreheads and took Communion - opening and recommitting ourselves to Him. What a sacred event!

Prayer Journaling
In 2004 the teacher of my ladies Bible class mentioned journaling Psalm 51 (about David's sin), one phrase at a time, for the forty days of Lent. This proved to be a sobering but valuable exercise. In order to build up the church, Christians must change and grow. We must face our own sin and repent. The next forty days are a good time to focus on this in prayer.

Understanding the Church Calendar
For those not in a liturgical church, Mark Galli's explanation from his book Beyond Smells and Bells, may help you appreciate the emphasis on the church calendar. He writes:
The church calendar aims at nothing less than to change the way we experience time and perceive reality. . . . Advent signals the new year. For the church, the annual rhythm is not winter, spring, summer and fall, but Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. . . . The church calendar is not about the cycle of life - school or sports or harvest time - but about the movement of history toward a glorious goal. We celebrate the past events of history not merely to remember them, but note how they infuse the present with meaning and power, and point us to our future hope.

Let this be a Holy season for all Christians to ponder and pray and deepen our faith.
Blessings, Dottie

This post first appeared on Faithnotes here.