Day Twenty-Eight Reflection

 
 

Day Twenty-Eight Reflection

This is What Love Looks Like

Reflection By Jan Kwiatkowski

Facebook and other social media platforms have an amazing capacity to keep people connected, from sharing family pictures, cute kitten videos, humor, information, inspiration, to planning events, social media has tremendous power to connect. I’ve also seen the potential social media has to empower people to objectify, distance, and disconnect—­such as when one person “unfriends” or “blocks” a family member or friend following a disagreement. Whether it’s a momentary reaction or a more permanent choice, blocking or being blocked is a powerful rejection of a relationship and our human capacity to heal and forgive.

In the Gospel passage that is read each year on Maundy Thursday, we have the familiar and beautifully intimate story of the Last Supper and Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Jesus knew that one of his disciples would betray him to those who would crucify him. Jesus knew that Peter would deny him three times. Jesus knew that those whom he loved most in this world would abandon and hurt him the most deeply. And yet Jesus still chose to show up for the Passover meal.

Jesus could have made any number of other choices. He could have chosen to “block” himself from his disciples and the hurt that was to come. He could have unfriended his beloved friends and not shown up to dinner. But he was willing to break bread with the people who would hurt him the most. He, as master and teacher, was willing to take the servant position and wash the feet of those who would hurt and betray him. Jesus didn’t have to do any of this … except that this is what love looks like. And Jesus was willing to risk for the power of love.

We are human. We have been hurt, and we have caused hurt. It is a painful and challenging part of our human experience. While we cannot escape the hurt, we do have a choice about what we do with it. Forgiveness, especially when we have been deeply hurt by those we love the most, is a process. Sometimes, it can be a long process. And that is okay. In order to fully forgive, we have to fully acknowledge the depth of the hurt, and that can take time.

The important thing is to show up and be willing to engage and work with whatever the process of forgiveness is in our own lives. The important thing is to not “block” the possibility of forgiveness.

When we have been deeply hurt, sometimes the most honest prayer is: “Help me be willing to show up and work the process of forgiveness that is ahead of me.” A healthy first step could be to humbly and humanly acknowledge that we need to ask for help to be willing to do what love requires us to do.

Making it Personal
: Is there someone or some situation in your life that you hope one day to choose to forgive? How might you pray about your hurt and being willing to forgive? Is there a person in your life that you hope, one day, will be willing to choose to forgive you? How might you pray about this today?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Twenty-Seven Reflection

 
 

Day Twenty-Seven Reflection

Hurt People, Hurt People

Reflection By Scott Stoner

Jake Owensby shared in his reflection that the turning point in his decision to forgive his father was the spiritual counsel he received from a priest about his resentment. This wise priest encouraged Jake to think about the brokenness in his father, pain that no doubt contributed to his hurtful actions.

There is a saying that “hurt people, hurt people.” It is often the case that people who hurt others have been hurt themselves. Reflecting on how someone else’s brokenness is often behind their hurtful actions in no way excuses the behavior, but it can expand our perspective and understanding.

Becoming aware that it is often a person’s brokenness that causes them to hurt others or even to do things that hurt themselves, while in no way justifies their actions, can help to soften our heart when thinking about the pain that has been caused. It is much easier to choose to forgive with a softened heart than with one that is still hardened by anger.

Choosing to practice forgiveness toward someone who has hurt us because of their own hurt begins to break the cycle of “hurt people, hurt people.” When we are hurt, we can choose to pass that hurt on to another, or we can make the sometimes more difficult choice to forgive, thus ending the cycle of injury.

Making It Personal:
What do you think of the idea that “hurt people hurt people”? Have you experienced that, either with another person or with yourself? Have you ever found it easier to forgive yourself or someone else because you realized that their, or your own, brokenness was a factor in the hurt that was caused?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Twenty-Six Reflection

 
 

Day Twenty-Six Reflection

Forgiveness is Good Medicine

Reflection By Scott Stoner

Yesterday we explored one answer to the question, “Why make the choice to practice forgiveness?”: because our faith calls us to do so. Today we focus on a second reason: practicing forgiveness is good for our well-being. Jake Owensby wrote in his reflection on day twenty-two that in addition to his faith being a reason for forgiving his father, there was another reason, too. “I needed to unlearn the practice of resentment and replace it with the practice of forgiveness. For my own sake.”

According to the Mayo Clinic website, a world renowned academic medical center, the benefits of practicing forgiveness include:

  • Healthier relationships

  • Improved mental health

  • Less anxiety, stress, and hostility

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Fewer symptoms of depression

  • A stronger immune system

  • Improved heart health

  • Improved self-esteem


This is quite an extensive list that points directly to how practicing forgiveness is not just a gift we give to the person we forgive, but is also a gift we give to ourselves. 

Making It Personal
: What was your response to the quote from St. Francis: “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned”? What do you think about the list of benefits of practicing forgiveness from the Mayo Clinic? Think and/or write about a time when you experienced any of these benefits after you let go of a resentment and forgave someone, or forgave yourself. 


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Twenty-Five Reflection

 
 

Day Twenty-Five Reflection

No Keeping Score

Reflection By Scott Stoner

If forgiveness is a choice, then it follows that at some point we will ask, “Why make the choice to practice forgiveness?” The reflections for both today and tomorrow will respond to this question by exploring two different motivations for choosing to forgive.

As people of faith, our first answer to this question is that our faith teaches us to do so. Jesus offers numerous teachings on forgiveness, including the one above from the Gospel of Matthew. The message here could not be any clearer: when it comes to forgiveness there is no keeping score; we are to offer forgiveness without ceasing.

Jesus’ teachings about forgiveness flow directly from his radical teachings about love, where he calls us not just to love those who love us, but to love our enemies, to love those we find extremely challenging to love. Extending this to forgiveness, Jesus calls us to forgive, even when we don’t necessarily feel like it, even when it’s difficult.

Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness also calls us to honest examination, like when he asks, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). Sometimes it is our resistance to letting go of resentment that becomes a log in our own eye, blocking our ability to see that forgiveness is a choice. Jesus goes on to ask us to remove the log in our own eyes so that we can more clearly see the way of love that is the way of Jesus.

Making It Personal: How strongly does your faith guide your choice to practice forgiveness? Have you ever made a hard choice to forgive, not because you felt like it, but because you felt called to do so by your faith? Do you see a connection between the scripture that speaks of “the log in our own eyes” and choosing to forgive?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Twenty-Four Reflection

 
 

Day Twenty-Four Reflection

Practicing Forgiveness as a Choice

Reflection By Scott Stoner


Robert Enright, one of the leading researchers on forgiveness, is the founder of the International Forgiveness Institute. He is also the author of Forgiveness is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope. On the website of the Institute he offers the following definition of forgiveness:

When unjustly hurt by another, we forgive when we overcome the resentment toward the offender, not by denying our right to the resentment, but instead by trying to offer the wrongdoer compassion, benevolence, and love; as we give these, we as forgivers realize that the offender does not necessarily have a right to such gifts.

In this definition, we clearly see that forgiveness is a choice. When a person chooses to let go of their right to be resentful, they can begin the process of forgiveness. This is a choice because it involves making a conscious decision to release the “right to the resentment.” 

The definition goes on to say that to offer compassion and love to someone who has offended us is to offer that person a gift. And, as with any gift, forgiveness is always a choice; it is always a gift we can choose to give or to withhold. 

Making It Personal: 
Reread Robert Enright’s definition of forgiveness. What stands out for you as you read this? Does his definition connect with your own experience? Do you think it is missing anything? 


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Twenty-Three Reflection

 
 

Day Twenty-Three Reflection

Practicing Forgiveness as a Choice

Reflection By Scott Stoner

There is a paradox when it comes to forgiveness. If someone has done something that has hurt us deeply, we have to decide whether or not we will choose to forgive them. At the same time, because they have wounded us deeply, it often feels like they are the last person to whom we want to, or should, offer forgiveness.

In yesterday’s reflection, Jake Owensby poignantly described his struggle as a new parent to forgive his abusive father for the pain he had inflicted during Jake’s childhood. Jake’s anger and resentment blocked his ability to forgive his father, and only after he sought spiritual guidance did he realize this and could begin to let go of his resentment.

Jake’s story of forgiveness is personal and thus unique, yet all of us have stories of how we have been bruised by life. Perhaps we weren’t injured by our parents, but if we live long enough, someone will hurt or betray us, and we will then have the same choice that Jake had. We will then have to decide whether to hold on to our hurt and resentment, or to begin the process of letting it go, and doing what we can to mend what is broken.

This week’s reflections will explore the theme introduced by Jake, that forgiveness is always a choice. Will we hold on to our resentment or guilt or will we begin the hard work of letting go of it so that we can forgive and heal ourselves and, perhaps, mend the relationship?

Making It Personal
: What is your response to the quote from Jake? What thoughts do you have about the idea that “forgiveness is a choice”?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Twenty-Two Reflection

 
 

Day Twenty-Two Reflection

Mending What’s Broken

Reflection By Jake Owensby

Our now-thirty-year-old son, Andrew, was still a toddler. My wife Joy and I loved being exhausted rookie parents. Students were quickly filling my intro philosophy classes, so the prospects for tenure looked great. Home life and career couldn’t have been more rewarding.

And yet, a persistent resentment, punctuated by episodes of sadness and self-doubt, pulled at the threads holding the fabric of my life together. My past was unraveling my present.

My parents had divorced two decades earlier. My abusive father had used me as a pawn to injure my mother. Effectively isolated by my father’s manipulations, my mother had only me to lean on as she endured her own fear, outrage, and misery. This all left an enduring mark on ten-year-old me.

I wish I could say that by the beginning of my fourth decade I had gained admirable perspective. But that wasn’t true. I remained angry with both my parents for different reasons. And while forgiveness presented itself as the only reliable path to peace and sanity, the art of navigating that sometimes tortuous way eluded me. Eventually, I sought spiritual guidance from a priest whom I barely knew.

“I can’t forgive my parents,” I told him.

He paused and then asked, “Can you ask Jesus to forgive them?”

In hindsight it’s clear where he was leading me: “Can you recognize that the brokenness they caused in you arose from something broken in them? Can you desire for them the same wholeness that you seek for yourself?”

Paradoxically, his question showed me that my healing involved receiving
God’s forgiveness for my unforgiveness. I had developed the habit of coping with pain by resenting the one who hurt me. Even though others were accountable for the initial injury to my heart, the spiritual practice I had developed was dismantling me from within. I needed to unlearn the practice of resentment and replace it with the practice of forgiveness. For my own sake.

Jesus made this point with his disciples. “Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you … for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” External circumstances can bring us to our knees, but the internal motions of our heart and mind and soul can shatter our lives from within.

Forgiveness has nothing to do with giving others a pass for destructive behavior or being someone else’s doormat. Instead, a forgiving soul recognizes that the world has battered and bruised us all, and still chooses to focus on doing what it can to mend what is broken.

Making It Personal:
What response do you have to the vulnerability that Jake shares in his story about his struggles as a young father? What thoughts do you have about Luke 6:37-38: “Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you … for the measure you give will be the measure you get back”? Can you think of an example of when the measure you gave was the measure you got back?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Twenty-One Reflection

 
 

Day Twenty-One Reflection

Running Toward Love

Reflection By Jan Kwiatkowski

This passage uses the image of a forest fire to demonstrate the power that our words have on one another. How accurately the scripture conveys that the words we speak to one another can provide blessing and nourishment, just as a small fire in the wilderness can help cook our food, or provide warmth and comfort on a chilly evening. James also reminds us that the words we speak to one another can just as quickly destroy and harm. And, like a human-caused forest fire, it does not matter if the hurtful words we use are spoken on purpose, or are spoken because we are being careless; they are destructive either way.

As we continue to reflect on forgiveness within our families, let’s take a moment to reflect on what types of fires we are lighting with our words. Are we lighting fires that provide nourishment and warmth, or fires that cause harm and destruction? Are our words creating a blessing or a curse?

In his reflection from day fifteen, Bill Miller referred to the familiar saying, “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence,” when he wrote that the Prodigal Son “demanded his inheritance early, just so he could sniff out the greener grass he thought was far from home.” When it comes to family wellness, as the Prodigal Son learned, there is an even truer version of this saying: “The grass is greener where we water it.” If we water the relationships in our lives with kind and generous words, they will grow in ways that are healthy and life-giving. Our words and our blessings are two of the best ways we can water the lives of those closest to us.

Making It Personal
: Is there a family member or friend who could use some words of blessing from you right now? What do you think of the idea that “the grass is greener where we water it”? Are any opportunities for forgiveness presenting themselves in your life right now because of harsh words that have been spoken?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Twenty Reflection

 
 

Day Twenty Reflection

The Power of Words

Reflection By Scott Stoner

This passage uses the image of a forest fire to demonstrate the power that our words have on one another. How accurately the scripture conveys that the words we speak to one another can provide blessing and nourishment, just as a small fire in the wilderness can help cook our food, or provide warmth and comfort on a chilly evening. James also reminds us that the words we speak to one another can just as quickly destroy and harm. And, like a human-caused forest fire, it does not matter if the hurtful words we use are spoken on purpose, or are spoken because we are being careless; they are destructive either way.

As we continue to reflect on forgiveness within our families, let’s take a moment to reflect on what types of fires we are lighting with our words. Are we lighting fires that provide nourishment and warmth, or fires that cause harm and destruction? Are our words creating a blessing or a curse?

In his reflection from day fifteen, Bill Miller referred to the familiar saying, “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence,” when he wrote that the Prodigal Son “demanded his inheritance early, just so he could sniff out the greener grass he thought was far from home.” When it comes to family wellness, as the Prodigal Son learned, there is an even truer version of this saying: “The grass is greener where we water it.” If we water the relationships in our lives with kind and generous words, they will grow in ways that are healthy and life-giving. Our words and our blessings are two of the best ways we can water the lives of those closest to us.

Making It Personal
: Is there a family member or friend who could use some words of blessing from you right now? What do you think of the idea that “the grass is greener where we water it”? Are any opportunities for forgiveness presenting themselves in your life right now because of harsh words that have been spoken?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Nineteen Reflection

 
 

Day Nineteen Reflection

The Difficult Conversations

Reflection By Scott Stoner

It may be that we avoid the difficult conversations that can lead to forgiveness because we don’t know how to have them. Maybe we have tried to have the discussions, but they have not gone well. The above saying, a core teaching in our Living Compass Parent Wellness Circle program, provides a shorthand guide for how to have productive conversations.

Say what you mean.
When we are seeking healing in a relationship, it is crucial for us to “speak the truth in love.” Avoiding or minimizing what we are feeling may buy peace in the short term, but will block healing in the long run. It is vitally important for both parties to speak their truth, to say what it is they need to say to each other.

Mean what you say.
It is essential to be consistent in our words and our actions when we speak to one another. If we say we are going to commit to healing a relationship, then we need to be sure our actions align with that commitment. Reestablishing trust in a relationship requires that our words and actions align.

Don’t say it mean.
When we have been hurt and are feeling vulnerable and defensive, we are more likely to speak in a way that is mean, intended to hurt the other. This will sabotage any attempt we make to forgive and heal. The paradox is that sometimes we think that “saying it mean” will increase our chances of really being heard, when in reality it will have the opposite effect.

Making It Personal:
In general, which of the three recommendations do you find hardest to practice when having difficult conversations: “say what you mean,” “mean what you say,” or, “don’t say it mean”? When you find that you have “said it mean” to someone close to you, are you able to apologize and ask for forgiveness?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Eighteen Reflection

 
 

Day Eighteen Reflection

Blessing Through Forgiveness

Reflection By Micah Jackson

When the young man told his mother that he intended to join the Army, he thought that she might never forgive him. Grief over the loss of the life path she had imagined for him, and fear for his safety, made her say some things that he hoped she really didn’t mean. Shortly before he left for Basic Training, he received a package from his mother. It contained a book of day hikes in the area around Fort Bragg. He knew that she had forgiven him. She was still sad and scared, of course, but at least she had come to peace with what still felt a little like abandonment and betrayal.

I wonder if that might have been what was going through Mary’s head when she decided to break open her jar of pure nard to anoint the feet of her friend and teacher, Jesus (John 12:1-8). When others came to understand that Jesus was determined to go to Jerusalem and would allow himself to be crucified, they all reacted selfishly. Those who rebuked him, or denied the truth of what he was saying, or rashly promised that they would accompany him to death if it meant they wouldn’t ever be without him, were all acting out of sadness, anger, or fear. But Mary, alone among those who followed him, though surely also frightened and scared, anointed his body as if on the day of his burial. Overcoming her other emotions, she was able to acknowledge her understanding of his coming death while he was still alive to experience her love. She forgave Jesus for what he was about to do tohis friends, because she understood what he was about to do for his friends.

So often, when we experience hurt by the actions of another, we withhold our forgiveness because we still want to control the actions of the other person. We think we need them to change their minds, or make it right somehow, or at least to apologize, before we can offer forgiveness. But true forgiveness doesn’t require any of that. Many times, reconciliation is not desirable or possible, and forgiveness doesn’t mean we should continue to accept genuine harm or abuse. But forgiveness does mean releasing our desire for revenge or other kinds of control over the actions or feelings of another. At its best, our forgiveness can even bless the other person as they go, as the fragrance of Mary’s perfume filled the house where Jesus and his disciples shared a meal.

Making It Personal:
Can you think of a time when you changed your response to someone you love because you later realized your initial reaction was hurtful? If yes, how were you able to make that shift?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Seventeen Reflection

 
 

Day Seventeen Reflection

Talk it Out or Act it Out

Reflection By Scott Stoner

Our families know us better than anyone. All of our quirks and foibles are well-known to those with whom we are most closely connected. It is in our families that our vulnerabilities are most visible, and therein lies both the greatest opportunities, and the greatest challenges, to practice love and forgiveness.

If we slightly modify the quote from William Blake, we can capture the paradox of family life: “It is easier to forgive a stranger than it is to forgive a family member.” Why is this? Perhaps because we have much higher expectations of how family members should act and how they should treat us. Our families are also where we bring our deepest emotional needs, and when those needs are not met we can feel hurt and resentful.

When we have experienced hurt within our families, we really only have two choices in how we respond. We can talk it out, or we can act it out. If we don’t talk it out, most likely we will act it out. For example, when two family members choose not to speak to each other, they literally are acting out their hurt rather than talking it out.

To practice forgiveness within our families, we need to be willing to be vulnerable enough to take the risk to talk things out, even when it seems easier to act it out by avoiding the hard conversations. Ephesians 4:15 says, “But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” The words “we must grow up” speak of the spiritual and emotional maturity it takes if we want to commit to the practice of forgiveness within our families.

Making It Personal:
What is your response to the William Blake quote? Do you think this applies to forgiveness within families? What do you think of the idea that when it comes to hurt within our families, we have the choice to either talk it out or act it out?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Sixteen Reflection

 
 

Day Sixteen Reflection

Practicing Forgiveness Within Our Families

Reflection By Scott Stoner

Conflict and opportunities for forgiveness within families have been around as long as there have been families. So it is not surprising that two thousand years ago Jesus told of the conflict within the family of the Prodigal Son. This story speaks to us because we can identify with each of the three primary characters: the younger brother who is in need of forgiveness for the mistakes he has made, the father who has the opportunity to demonstrate forgiveness and unconditional love, and the older brother who feels slighted and taken for granted.

When we experience hurt within our families, we have the same choice as the older brother. Bill Miller describes this choice when he writes that if he so chooses, the older brother can “stay angry, distant and judgmental.” Or, he can choose to “embrace his long-lost brother and join the celebration, forgiving everyone, especially himself.”

Throughout our lives, we have countless opportunities to practice forgiveness within our families, and so this week we will focus on this as our theme, learning more about what forgiveness and reconciliation might look like within our closest relationships.

Making It Personal:
Think of times when you have identified with each of the three characters in the story (father, older brother, and prodigal son) Have you ever been blessed to receive forgiveness and unconditional love within your family? Have you been able to offer this to others?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Fifteen Reflection

 
 

Day Fifteen Reflection

Pig Pods, Dancing Dogs, and Bitter Brothers

Reflection By William “Bill” Miller

Shortly after I moved to the island of Kauai from Texas, I adopted a very special dog from the Kauai Human Society and named my new Texawaiian poi dog (mutt) Nawiliwili Nelson. Wili became my best friend. His love for me was unconditional, his faithfulness unwavering. His unbounded enthusiasm for life, which I loved, occasionally did land him in trouble, but no matter what he got himself into, it was easy to look past Wili’s faults because I knew he would look past mine. Whether I was gone for thirty minutes or thirty days, Wili would wait for me at the front door, and when I walked in, his happy dog dance catapulted him straight into my arms.

When his special-needs doggie brother, Sinbad, was adopted, Wili never grew weary of showing him how to be a dog. And later, when a pit-bull, Mahalia Jackson Queen Liliuokalani, came to live with us, Wili greeted her with open paws. His attitude reminded me of the One who made bothof us—eternally happy to welcome us home.

When the religious zealots of his day (purebreds) judged Jesus for hanging out with real people (mutts), painfully aware of their own shortcomings, Jesus shared a powerful story of a young man who demanded his inheritance early just so he could sniff out the greener grass he thought was far from home. He had a good time—for a little while. But he ran out of money, meaning, and everything that matters. He got a part-time job feeding pigs. He was so hungry that he even craved the pods the pigs were eating. He came to his senses and set out for home, determined to seek his father’s forgiveness and work off his debts like a hired hand.

What he didn’t know was that his faithful father had waited by the front door the whole time. While he was still far off, his father saw him, flung open the door, and ran full-speed to greet him. He nearly knocked him over! His dad threw a big party and barbecued his tastiest cow. Everyone danced and celebrated. Everyone, that is, except his bitter big brother. The elder brother assumed that, because he had never strayed far from home, his dad owed him something. He was mad at his dad for not throwing hima party. His dad embraced him and assured him of his love, reminding him that when anyone returns home, when one who never thought they could be forgiven is not only forgiven, but given a fresh start—it’s time to party!

We don’t know the rest of the story, but I hope, for hissake, the older brother came to his senses. I hope that rather than staying angry, distant and judgmental, he eventually embraced his long-lost brother and joined in the celebration, forgiving everyone, especially himself. I hope that he danced. I hope that he danced with the joyful exuberance of someone who had finally found a way home.

Making it Personal:
Have you ever experienced a time when you were able to let go of anger, judgment, or resentment toward someone who had hurt you? If yes, how did it feel to let go of that negative energy? Can you think of a situation that you’d like to either offer, or to be offered, a “fresh start”?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Fourteen Reflection

 
 

Day Fourteen Reflection

You Cannot Pour from an Empty Cup

Reflection By Scott Stoner

We pause again here to look back and integrate what we have learned during the past week. Mildred Reyes introduced our theme and practice for the week when she wrote about the importance of making time and space in our lives for practicing self-acceptance and forgiveness toward ourselves.

A core thought found throughout our Living Compass wellness programs is that “you cannot pour from an empty cup.” When we fail to practice regular self-care and renewal, our spiritual and emotional cups soon become empty, and we have little to share with others. This is true when it comes to forgiveness, as well. We will find it hard to offer forgiveness and acceptance to others if we are not regularly practicing forgiveness and acceptance toward ourselves.

The quote from Desmond and Mpho Tutu is a perfect summary of what we have been reflecting upon this week. Read it again slowly, and then reflect on what it says to you in the “Making It Personal” section below.

Making It Personal: As you reread the quote, what stands out for you? As you think back over the reflections for this week, as well as your own notes, what thoughts and feelings were most important to you? What do you think about having a conversation with someone about what you are learning? Is there something you have done, or some action that you want to take, as a result of what you are learning?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Thirteen Reflection

 
 

Day Thirteen Reflection

Forgiveness and Palm Sunday

Reflection By Victoria L. Garvey

Bringing the Gospel reading to life on Palm Sunday in most congregations is a dramatic and powerful experience. Each of the Gospel writers focuses on forgiveness in unique ways in the Palm Sunday readings. Luke includes Jesus’ words, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” On Palm Sunday, we readers/over-hearers are invited into thoughtful and sometimes disturbing contemplation about forgiveness. Not WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?), but who are we really and what would we have done had these events transpired in our neighborhood?

Generally, the congregation gets to play the part of “the crowd” during the liturgy of the passion, a role with which we’re mightily uncomfortable. We’d never have behaved that way. No, not us loyal latter-day disciples! But that first-century “crowd” shows up several times earlier in Jesus’ ministry. On those occasions, they’re always either drawn to him out of interested curiosity or enthusiastically on his side (33 times prior to Gethsemane in chapter 14). Only after Jesus’ arrest does the tide turn, and the crowd moves from support to condemnation because they listened to loud voices muttering fake news, because they were afraid to be counted among the risk-takers, because they feared losing hold of their own tenuous grasp of what was deemed acceptable behavior by their contemporaries.

Over and over, we are reminded that even those closest to Jesus during his ministry are capable of turning away, of betrayal and cowardice. And not just the bit part-ers—the crowd—but also Peter and Judas and the others, including the anonymous disciple who ran away half naked (Mark 14:51-52). For them, we have little sympathy and no prodigal forgiveness. How could they abandon one who’d loved them so freely, taught them so much, invited them to be co-creators with him of a new age in the realm of God?

We embrace our self-righteous non-forgiveness, however, at our peril. I cringe when I think of the times I haven’t had the courage to stand against injustice, when I’ve stayed safely hidden in the crowd, afraid to rally to the support of others who are being unjustly treated or condemned or dismissed as less than worthy. Our pesky Baptismal vows and the life and modeling of Jesus himself, however, call me back, reminding me of the need for my own forgiveness and to get on with this Christian life I have promised to live.

After all, as the Book of Acts and 2,000 years of history teach me, those early betrayers were forgiven their folly, finally and energetically emerging as the founders of the Jesus movement, proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth, doing the works of God and forming new disciples. How about us?

Making it Personal: What is your response to: “Our pesky Baptismal vows and the life and modeling of Jesus himself, however, call me back, reminding me of the need for my own forgiveness and to get on with this Christian life I have promised to live?” Can you think of times when you have not had the courage to stand up against injustice, staying safely hidden in the crowd? Do you need to forgive yourself, as well as to seek God’s forgiveness, for a time when you got “caught up in the crowd” and regret something you said or did (or didn’t say or do)?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Twelve Reflection

 
 

Day Twelve Reflection

Perfectly Imperfect

Reflection By Scott Stoner

I struggled with perfectionism for much of the first half of my life. It started early in school and carried over into youth sports, and then into my young adult life. I had attached my self-worth to achievement and thought that the more perfect I was, the more I would be loved.

I learned in midlife that perfectionism is rooted in a lack of self-love and that as a child of God, I am already loved for simply being who I am. I don’t need to earn that love and acceptance, and I can’t do anything to lose it. This is the lesson the Prodigal Son learned when he returned home after having squandered everything his father gave him.

Social media has many wonderful aspects to it, but one downside is that it can fool us into thinking that other peoples’ lives are perfect, or at least that they are happier and more successful than we are. If we are not careful, the constant and unrealistic comparison of our “insides” to the “outside images” from the lives of others can fuel perfectionism in ourselves.

The advice contained in the quote from author Roy Bennett is the perfect prescription for a healthy way to embrace our imperfect selves. “Embrace being perfectly imperfect. Learn from your mistakes and forgive yourselves, you’ll be happier.” I know the truth of this myself as I have been much happier ever since I embraced that I am, and always will be, perfectly imperfect.

Making It Personal
: Have you ever struggled with perfectionism? Do you find yourself comparing your life with the lives of others and feeling that some aspect of your life is not quite good enough? What helps you if or when you struggle with perfectionism, or comparing yourself to others?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Eleven Reflection

 
 

Day Eleven Reflection

Receiving the Gift of God’s Forgiveness

Reflection By Scott Stoner

As people of faith, our desire and capacity to forgive ourselves is grounded in God’s love and forgiveness for us. We can practice greater acceptance and forgiveness of ourselves, as well, because we know that God fully loves and forgives us. As the words from 2 Corinthians state, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God.”

Have you ever felt uncomfortable receiving a gift from someone? Maybe the gift was an expression of thanks for a favor you did and you felt the gift was far more than necessary. Or you may have felt that what you did was not really deserving of a gift. It can feel very awkward trying to graciously receive a gift that we don’t feel we deserve.

We may feel something similar when it comes to receiving the gift of God’s forgiveness. We may feel like we don’t really deserve to be loved or forgiven by God. This thinking creates a self-defeating loop because if we struggle to love and forgive ourselves, it is hard for us to receive others’, including God’s, love and forgiveness.

Making It Personal:
Has there ever been a time in your life when you struggled to receive and truly feel God’s love and forgiveness? Are you experiencing this in any way in your life now? Examine your response to the passage from 2 Corinthians: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” How might this passage help you to more fully receive God’s forgiveness?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Ten Reflection

 
 

Day Ten Reflection

Forgiveness as a Path to Freedom

Reflection By Scott Stoner

In my work as a pastoral psychotherapist, I encounter two different ways people have trouble forgiving themselves. The first has to do with something specific that a person has done for which they are having trouble forgiving themselves. Quite often they feel deep regret about how they have hurt or betrayed someone, or how they have betrayed a core value within themselves.

A second way I encounter people seeking forgiveness is more general in nature. These people usually can’t identify anything specific they feel bad about having done, but live with a pervasive and chronic sense of not feeling good enough, a sense that they have just never quite measured up to some internal or external standard. Further exploration usually reveals that this sense of not being good enough is related to their having internalized this message growing up, whether in their home or from the surrounding environment and culture in which they lived.

No matter the origin of a need to forgive ourselves, the path to healing is the same. First, we need to acknowledge both to God and, if possible, to someone else we trust, the real pain of not feeling worthy and of our need to forgive ourselves. Opening our hearts in this way creates an opening to receive God’s forgiveness and to begin to “let the burden go, and walk out into a new path of promise and possibility.”

Making It Personal: Have you ever felt your past was a “jailer” that prevents you from being free to enjoy your life in the present? Do you currently experience either way of difficulty in forgiving yourself described above? If so, what has helped or what will help you to forgive yourself?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW:

Day Nine Reflection

 
 

Day Nine Reflection

Practicing Forgiveness Toward Ourselves

Reflection By Scott Stoner

Mildred Reyes wrote in yesterday’s reflection about her experience of going on a silent retreat. Her candid description of why she felt the need for a retreat is something with which most of us likely can identify.

There are many ways in which we can create opportunities to go on an inner retreat, and your commitment to read and reflect each day in this guided retreat is one way to honor your soul’s need to connect with God in a quiet and intentional manner.

When we make time to connect with God, we will often receive guidance. For Mildred, she felt God was saying to her, “Be gentle, forgive yourself, and do not be afraid to wait.” I believe there is a connection between the guidance she received to accept and forgive herself, and the unease she was experiencing that led her to go on a silent retreat in the first place. Often when we are feeling stressed, distracted, scattered, and overwhelmed, it is because we are feeling driven by an underlying feeling of not being good enough. Practicing acceptance and forgiveness toward ourselves will be our focus and practice for this week, and we will explore how it is the foundation of our emotional and spiritual wellness. We will also examine the idea that it is difficult to forgive others if we are not able first to forgive ourselves.

Making It Personal: Can you identify with Mildred’s experience of feeling distracted, scattered and a bit lost, and in need of some time away to re-center yourself? If so, how do you or how might you make some time to reconnect with yourself and with God? Do you see a connection in your life between the ability to forgive yourself and your emotional and spiritual well-being?


Follow along with us on our retreat with our daily reflection and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Creator of Living Compass Wellness Initiative, The Rev. Mary Bea Sullivan, Chair of the Commission on Spirituality, Ms. Kathy Graham, Coordinator of Lifelong Christian Formation and The Rev. Kelley Hudlow, Coordinator of Communications.

In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.

TO JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK DISCUSSION GROUP, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW: